[Taxacom] Paper on taxonomic standards in herpetology

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed May 22 03:50:34 CDT 2013

On 5/21/13 11:25 PM, Raymond Hoser wrote:
> Doug, I am quite alarmed at certain parts of what you have written.
The feeling is mutual, then.
> 1 – You seem to have accepted the demonstrably false and evidence free 
> claims of Kaiser et al. (better known as Wuster et al.) as fact.
I have read more of your papers than you apparently think I have. They 
constitute fairly damning evidence of at least one sort, as they are 
full of self-aggrandizement and political diatribes that have no place 
in scientific literature of any sort, taxonomic or otherwise. That, 
however, is nowhere near the central issue (though it does seem to be 
one of the reasons they claim your works should not be interpreted as 
being published for the purpose of establishing a permanent scientific 
record; that is, there is evidence that you have a different purpose in 
mind, that is personal and political rather than scientific).
> Their blog, as it best described, published in a journal one of the 
> authors is an editor at, bypassing effective peer review and editorial 
> control or ethics
Pot, meet kettle.
> The preamble stating evidence based, peer reviewed papers are the 
> acceptable medium is not disputed and has not been by anyone in the 
> recent past.
That is an extremely interesting statement coming from someone who does 
not publish in peer reviewed journals. If you do not dispute this is the 
acceptable medium, and support making peer review a criterion in the 
Code, then, unless I'm sorely mistaken, all of your papers would be 
> Doug, you also seem to accept the demonstrably false claim by Wuster 
> here, of widespread support for the Wuster et al. / Kaiser blog from 
> the wider herpetological community when the evidence is in fact to the 
> contrary, (beyond the statement of the undisputed obvious in the 
> preamble).
You act almost as if you are the only person who has ever been accused 
of taxonomic vandalism, and therefore believe that the larger issue to 
which I refer is centered upon YOU, specifically. You are, personally, 
not quite that important (just as mine is only the opinion of a single 
Commissioner who may well not represent the others). Yours is just the 
most recent, and hence most visible, example of a problem that has been 
ongoing, in various disciplines, for hundreds of years. Namely, whether 
the taxonomic community is capable of policing itself, and in what 
precise form that policing should be most effectively and fairly 
implemented. We do not have to continue following the practices and 
policies that have been followed up to this point, however, and that is 
the larger issue.
> You have confirmed also herein that the ICZN has not issued a 
> statement in support of the blog and yet Wuster and co have repeatedly 
> stated publicly this is the case!
The Commission is unlikely to issue any public statements that either 
support OR condemn actions taken outside of the Code's jurisdiction. You 
will note, for example, that (unless I have missed or forgotten 
something) there has never been an official statement from the 
Commission regarding the unilateral actions of many lepidopterists who 
refuse to recognize the Code's provisions requiring the changing of 
adjectival species-level names to agree with the gender of the genera 
into which they are placed; i.e., there are other people who have been 
following a practice that is outside of the Code for several years now, 
and the Commission has said nothing. We cannot prevent the community 
from doing what they want to do, though individuals such as myself can 
attempt to communicate with such individuals/groups if and when we feel 
there may be some constructive purpose served by entering into a 
dialogue (as Frank Krell and I did at a recent meeting of the 
Lepidopterists' Society).
> So you know yourself, that Wuster and co are habitual liars.
Even if that were true, it would only have bearing upon your personal 
case, not the larger issue. Nonetheless, it would be interesting if we 
could have a poll of all the world's publishing herpetologists, I think. 
With any luck, such a thing might even be possible in the near future.
> Doug, you write here with tacit acceptance of the false claims of 
> taxonomic vandalism by myself and others deemed like by Wuster et al., 
> and including all non-peer reviewed works and names from the 1800’s 
> including the likes of herpetological taxonomist Fitzinger and others, 
> who have already seen some of their many names superseded by junior 
> synonyms of the Wuster gang, causing unprecedented instability and the 
> need (sooner or later) for the ICZN to waste time and effort ruling on 
> each and every name that the Wuster gang seek to usurp by way of 
> submission to resolve issues of stability and priority.
Actually, this is precisely what LANs are designed to avoid; the 
Commission only has to approve the LAN as a whole, rather than pass 
judgment on all of the acts subsumed within the LAN itself. Those acts 
can be in direct contravention of the Code, just so long as everyone 
supporting the LAN agrees that this use of the Plenary Power is their 
explicit intent. In effect, a LAN is a Declaration of Independence for 
whatever discipline submits it, by which they tell the Commission that 
they wish to control their own destiny. Also, do not forget that in the 
present Code, stability often trumps priority, and this is not 
restricted to herpetology, but the entirety of zoological taxonomy. If 
there are names from the 1800s that the community does not wish to use, 
and other junior names are in prevailing use, then the Code may give 
them the authority to ignore the older names without involving the 
Commission (e.g., via 23.9.2) - and even if not, the point remains that 
no one can FORCE anyone to use the older names. Just read Articles 
23.9-23.12 to get a feel for what the Code actually supports. Hint: it's 
NOT strict priority.
> Notwithstanding the tacit acceptance by you here of the false claims 
> of taxonomic vandalism, I am also astounded at your tacit support 
> given here for stepping outside of the zoological code and effectively 
> expressly supporting the taxonomic and nomenclatural vandalism and all 
> the instability it causes, by the Wuster gang.
Again, until and unless the Code specifically addresses some of the 
issues that could be used as defining features of taxonomic vandalism, 
it is not a matter of my acceptance of their claims or not, insofar as 
my concern *as a Commissioner* is with the larger issue. Once the matter 
has moved outside of the zoological Code, it cannot be supported, but 
neither can it be rejected - that is precisely what "outside of our 
jurisdiction" means. As things stand, you're faced with the challenge of 
convincing the herpetological community that you are right and "they" 
are wrong without using the Code as a defense - because you are 
defending your taxonomic opinions (and publishing practices), which you 
admit the Code has no jurisdiction over. My feelings as a taxonomist may 
be different from my feelings as a Commissioner.
> You have also side-stepped the central critical issue of the 
> correctness of my taxonomic papers of the last 12 years, noting that 
> all taxonomic decisions are based on robust evidence and that the 
> obvious and real fear of the Wuster gang is nothing more basic than a 
> dislike of the idea that they will have to use the “Hoser-names” for 
> valid taxa and groups first named by the man they have declared war 
> against for the last 15 years.
Again, the correctness of your taxonomic papers is a matter that is 
outside the Code. It is perfectly possible that a person could publish 
500 Code-compliant names, not one of which represents a valid 
species-level taxon. Having read a few hundred of your new taxon names, 
I admit that as a taxonomist, I find the majority to be singularly 
lacking in "robustness" (typically failing criteria such as, say, 
molecular support, evidence for monophyly, and the sample size upon 
which they are based). But that is TAXONOMY, and when we are talking 
about the Code, taxonomy is NOT the central critical issue - until and 
unless it has carryover into stability. That, unfortunately for you, is 
where the Code and taxonomy are going to overlap; names that are 
controversial can and do cause instability *whether or not they are 
correct, and whether or not they are Code-compliant*, and when they do, 
then you can expect me, as a Commissioner, to take interest. Any 
discussion should focus on that, and NOT the taxonomy /per se/.
> In summary, do you honestly support the mass destabilization of 
> herpetology (and in turn wider zoology) caused by the indiscriminate 
> renaming of hundreds of taxa as advocated by the Wuster gang, 
> (including the serious acts of vandalism I noted in an earlier post 
> here, to which you havenot bothered commenting on) noting that this 
> group includes taxa named more than 12 years ago and includes names 
> now widely in use and noting that to do so is a breach of the central 
> rules of Zoology, being retrospectively made by more than 12 years by 
> a group of self-appointed and unqualified “rulers”.
To the extent that we are talking about names that are genuinely in 
prevailing usage, then I would - all else being equal - not be in favor 
of replacing them, because that violates stability. That "all else being 
equal" clause is rather important, however, because if there is a 
community consensus that they should not be used (for whatever reason, 
be it true or false), then things are not equal, and neither I nor the 
combined "might" of the Commission can do anything but open a dialogue, 
and see what comes of it (and, as I said earlier, I feel that community 
consensus is the highest priority - assuming, of course, that the 
consensus is both genuine and properly-informed; rest assured that I 
realize that you dispute both points, in your particular case, so 
there's no need to remind me). If, on the other hand, we are talking 
about several hundred names which have found little or no use in the 
herpetological literature (other than your own), and there are names 
that ARE in broader use that are junior to them, then the younger names 
would also have stability on their side, even though it isn't 
Code-compliant usage. The point is that in that case, you cannot use 
"mass destabilization" as an argument. It's simple enough, in the end; 
if herpetologists want to use your names, they will, and if they don't, 
they won't. While the Code doesn't support "boycotting", it also can't 
prevent it - and establishing a full-fledged Registry would only serve 
to prevent controversy beyond a certain point; how that would shake out 
depends entirely upon the criteria that would be used to determine 
whether a name was eligible for Registration.


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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