[Taxacom] The Draft BioCode (2011)

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Sat Jan 29 06:14:18 CST 2011

From: "John McNeill" <johnm at rom.on.ca>
Sent: Thursday, January 27, 2011 2:16 PM

> Werner Greuter, Secretary of the ICB has prepared the following
> explanation of The Draft BioCode (2011) particularly in relation to the
> existing Codes of biological nomenclature:
> Explanatory prologue
> As compared to its predecessor of 1997, the new, 2011 version of the
> BioCode has been substantially rewritten to take past experience into
> account. It no longer aims to replace the current (special) Codes, but
> instead it endeavours to provide an over-arching common framework for
> them. It is therefore to be used alongside the special Codes, as their
> complement, and is ready for immediate implementation.  [...]

A mention of this new strategy (of "no longer aim[ing] to replace 
the current (special) Codes, but instead [endeavouring] to provide
an over-arching common framework for them.") looks indeed 
to be necessary to understand many of the changes in the 2011 
draft BioCode (as compared to the 1997 draft BioCode).

However, it is hard to see how this is supposed to work out. 
Any single particular aspect of any single particular name can 
only be governed by a single nomenclatural Code: the termination 
prescribed for a subfamily in the name of a botanical taxon can 
only be set in one place. If a Special Code adopts a retroactive 
change, the new BioCode will automatically have to follow suit, 
or nomenclatural horror will occur. In these respects the new 
draft BioCode appears to be at best redundant?

Conceivably there could indeed be a complementary role, 
for aspects not governed by the "Special Codes", but I don't
really see this happening in practice. Suppose the BioCode 
wants to institute registration, but the Special Codes don't: 
will this not mean that the unregistered names will exist in
a kind of limbo, counting for priority (and homonymy) 
in one nomenclatural universe, but not in the other?

What is left is the vision: it may indeed be workable to
require that all publications that establish new names
include a description written in either in Latin or English, 
but this visionary aspect could equally well have been 
included under the concept of a BioCode to replace 
all existing Codes (and indeed was part of the 1997
draft BioCode).

Another point is the inflation of terms; the draft BioCode
uses many terms also used in the zoological Code but in a 
different sense. If these two Codes are to be used side by
side (applying to the same names), but utilizing the same
specialized terms in noticeably different senses, this 
appears likely to raise confusion. This may well be even 
worse for general terms such as "homonym": not only 
is a botanical homonym something quite different from 
a zoological homonym, but a draft BioCode homonym
is something different yet again.

The idea of a single Code to replace all other Codes was 
considerably more neat, even if such a replacement was not
likely to happen in the short term.


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