[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

alberto ballerio philharmostes at yahoo.it
Thu May 16 15:03:39 CDT 2013

I basically
agree with what Neal wrote. It's not a duty of ICZN to become a kind of
"taxonomic police": we do not deal with taxonomy and therefore we
cannot fight taxonomic vandalism (which in most cases means Code-compliant bad
science and not vice versa). At most we can fight "nomenclatural
vandalism" (e.g. "homonymy hunters" and a few other cases),
through Code emendations or decisions using plenary powers, provided that we
can find an acceptable (or better "objective") definition of
nomenclature deals with the scientific names of animals and these names are
just labels to denote scientific discoveries. While the process of naming is a
legal matter and needs rules, the process of making scientific discoveries is
not a legal process and cannot be regulated by creating white lists, big
brothers and other kinds of scientific censorship. 
Therefore  I don't really think that a "white
list" of journals could be the solution. The same applies to LANs: these
are a powerful tool  for having a CLEAN
nomenclature, i.e. a nomenclature where all name spellings, authors, dates,
types are fixes once forever, but, once again, this process deals with names
and not with the scientific discoveries they denote.
I also do
not agree with incorporating the code of ethics into the Code: this will
transform the Commission into a true court and the cases into true trials with
a burden of time and hard work which is beyond any reasonable expectation from
a body made by part time volunteers (furthermore, paradoxically, this will
greatly advantage vandals, who usually have much more time and energy for
advocating their ideas than serious scientists, who cannot waste their time in
childish quarrels). 


 Da: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
A: Wolfgang Wuster <w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk> 
Cc: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Inviato: Giovedì 16 Maggio 2013 1:01
Oggetto: Re: [Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Well, it could be argued that Hoser's present indulgences disqualify him from being taken seriously in future, should his work improve (unlikely enough), but you read too much into my words ... I was leaving that open ...

At any rate, the problem remains in defining "community", "peer", etc. Ultimately it comes down to inclusion/exclusion of people, chosen by other people. There is nothing to stop Hoser creating a community of peers, who review his work, but he will choose like-minded individuals for the community. On the other hand, hard-nosed professional types whoo are only in it for the $$$ will choose their own too! I suggest that nobody has the right to decide who is in and who is out ...

From: Wolfgang Wuster <w.wuster at bangor.ac.uk>
To: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> 
Cc: "taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> 
Sent: Thursday, 16 May 2013 10:45 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

On 15/05/2013 23:14, Stephen Thorpe wrote:

It is impossible to solve the problem. I would be more inclined to agree with you and call for a total ban against some people, like Hoser, except that the problem isn't as simple as that.
See, that's something I would oppose - if he does at some point produce a "proper" description in a journal not controlled by himself, then it should stand just like anyone else's.

There is no clear dichotomy between good and bad taxonomy. It is a continuum. I have seen too many "scientists" from "reputable" institutions publishing rubbish in "reputable" journals, and getting their mates/colleagues to pass it through peer review. The only possible solution, though it probably runs too much counter to current "trends", is to simply consider authorship of names as a mere technicality, with no significant merit to the namer. That way, Hoser can continue wasting his life on mere technicalities if he so wishes, but there would be little motivation for him to do so, and no real harm to anyone else. If he creates a new genus for every species of herp, then the names of any subsequently recognised new genera (based on described species) will likely bear his name as author OF THE NAME, but this is just a mere technicality, of no consequence ...
That's fine in principle, but I just don't think it is compatible with human nature. That's partly because the concept of "discovering a new species" is centered on naming it (I suppose could be amenable to modification in terms of the vocabulary used in connection with biodiversity discovery), but also because as humans we attach great importance to names - it's just the way we are. If species had numbers rather than names, then I don't think anyone would get emotional about them.

On the other hand, Doug Yanega's imaginative and insightful suggestions, particularly the idea of a community-based step-by-step LAN system, would potentially be able to address many of the issues raised here without impinging on the freedom of the majority of taxonomists unaffected by vandalism. The current system *is* unfair towards those working on affected taxa.  What those of us involved in the Kaiser et al. paper want more than anything else is to stimulate a discussion that involves thinking outside the box to find solutions to an old problem while ensuring that these solutions do not disrupt or hinder the work of others.


Dr. Wolfgang Wüster  -  Senior Lecturer
School of Biological Sciences    Bangor University
Environment Centre Wales
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Tel: +44 1248 382301  Fax: +44 1248 382569
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