[Taxacom] Pop article on taxonomy's decline

dipteryx at freeler.nl dipteryx at freeler.nl
Fri Jan 28 04:34:01 CST 2011

Van: Richard Pyle [mailto:deepreef at bishopmuseum.org]
Verzonden: vr 28-1-2011 10:01

> OK, Paul -- you are simply wrong here.  GNI has a
> "marketing department"?!? That's the most ridiculous thing 
> I think I've heard in months.

Glad to set some kind of record.

However, GNI does give the impression of having a marketing 
department (trying to sell the idea by inflated statements),
even if it should only exist as a compartment in somebody's 
* * *

> The problem has absolutely *nothing* to do with marketing, 
> or trying to get money, or trying to mislead anyone, 
> or trying to pump up numbers, or any other such nonsense. 
> The problem is that we, as a taxonomic community, do
> not have a consistent definition of what we mean by "name".  

There are consistent definitions of what we mean by a 
"name of a taxon", clearly laid down in the respective
nomenclature Codes. That there are also lots of other names
(personal names, vernacular names, product names, etc) will 
be obvious, but not really relevant. 

But there is a whole world (disregarded) of information 
on organisms that is not tied to these names of taxa.
* * *

> Most people I talk to think of a "name" in the same way that 
> GNI represents it: nothing more than a text string purported 
> to represent an organism.  By this definition of "name", 
> "Aus bus" and the spelling variant/misspelling "Aus
> buus" are two different "names".  

Most people I talk to just run away screaming when seeing 
the way that GNI represents things.
* * *

> Botanists and zoologists each have their own definition of 
> what a "name" is. Most botanists would say the following list 
> represents two names:

> Aus bus
> Aus buus
> Xus bus

> Most botanists think of the combination as the "name", and 
> (I think) most would treat "Aus buus" as an orthographic variant 
> of "Aus bus", but the same "name".

Well, that would depend (what is its type?).
* * *

> To many (not all) zoologists, the list above contains 
> three names: the genus-group name "Aus", the genus-group name 
> "Xus", and the species-group name "bus" (which has a spelling 
> variant of "buus"); to them, combinations are not "names", 
> they are combinations.

That may be, but unless I am sadly mistaken, according to the 
zoological Code "the name of a species" is a combination, which 
leaves personal (or shared) idiosynchrasies of expressing oneself 
as just that.
* * *

> And there are other ways that different people define what 
> a scientific "name" is, in different contexts.

Yes, "scientific name" is a term that often means 
"Latin name of a species".
* * *

> And, as was ranted here on Taxacom not too long ago, 
> some people think the "name" includes author and/or year, 
> and some (most) don't.

As you know, as laid down in the Codes, a name of a taxon does 
not include authorship.
* * *

> [...] So your comment about "marketing ploy" -- at least in 
> the case of GNI -- is pure absurdity.  I was in the room 
> when GNI was conceived, and I know for a fact that how a GNI 
> "name-string" (as we call it) is defined has absolutely 
> nothing whatsoever to do with marketing.  

Actually, that is not at all conclusive. Many people carry their 
own marketing department around inside them and it operates 
automatically, no awareness required.
* * *

> In fact, I argued strongly that there should be no human interface 
> to GNI, because I worried that people would stumble on it, and not
> understand what its real purpose is (i.e., an index of UTF-8-encoded
> text-strings purported to represent scientific names, as literally 
> represented in the source, with or without authorship, year,
> and other qualification characters; to be used by computer 
> algorithms, not humans). 

Perhaps more people would understand that that is what GNI is if the 
website said so, instead of claiming to be an "Index of scientific 
names provided by all Name Repositories (19,384,364 names total)"?


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