[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Tue May 14 17:56:52 CDT 2013

On 5/14/13 2:35 PM, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> Perhaps, be we also need a unified system of taxonomy and nomenclature, i.e. not one which subgroups (like herpetologists) want to tailor to their own best interests, because everyone's best interests are not the same, and you can't please all the people all of the time. We really don't want factionalism in taxonomy/nomenclature, and we particularly don't want factions deciding what is or isn't "scientific" (or rather, they can do so, but they can't ram it down other people's throats outside the faction)...
Umm... actually, while I wouldn't phrase it the way you did, this is 
exactly what the Code's provisions for LANs are intended to achieve. If 
a critical mass of taxonomists within a given discipline can come to a 
consensus as to how they wish nomenclature to be applied to their group, 
then the Code allows them to set a Code-approved standard where THEY 
decide which names are or are not valid, regardless of what the Code 
says (see Art. 79.4), or anyone outside of their discipline. 
Effectively, whatever status is given to a name within the context of a 
LAN trumps anything that may appear in the Code itself. So, yes, if 
there was a herpetological LAN, they could exclude whichever taxon names 
they wish to, even if their wishes run counter to the Code, and all 
non-herpetologists would have to use the names that the herpetologists 
tell them to. However, in order to be fully Code-compliant, the time and 
effort required to produce a LAN proposal is extremely costly to those 

The problem that this paper addresses, in effect (though maybe not 
explicitly), is why should one or two unethical people have such an 
impact that it would take man-years of labor to undo the damage they've 
done? Their alternative solution is to simply pretend the offending 
works (and names therein) do not exist, and get everyone in the 
community to refuse to cite them. Giving crackpots the "Silent 
Treatment" may seem crude, but I cannot say that it would be 
ineffective, and I cannot dispute that it would be inifinitely simpler 
than producing a LAN. At least until we can draft the next Code, this 
approach could work - as long as the herpetological community is willing 
to support it.


Doug Yanega      Dept. of Entomology       Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314     skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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