[Taxacom] The Doug Yanega Opinion

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Wed Oct 9 16:36:32 CDT 2013

On 10/9/13 1:43 PM, Richard Wells wrote:
>  From what I can see a gaggle of self-appointed gate-keepers of taxonomy are now even attempting the perversion of the Rules of the Code of Zoological Nomenclature to achieve their ends by publishing and promoting the standards proffered in the Kaiser et al paper, and virtually nothing is being done about it by the Commissioners of the ICZN !
To the extent that some of what has been printed amounts to calling for 
a "boycott" of names, that explicitly falls outside of the jurisdiction 
of the ICZN, so we are not in a position to "do anything about it" 
(except, possibly, changing the Code itself in the next edition so the 
Code of Ethics [Appendix A] can actually be used to invalidate names). 
In the meantime, we cannot force people to use the names that the Code 
indicates should be used. To the extent that some of what has been 
printed invokes the Code to declare names unavailable due to violations 
of Article 8.1, that is a matter where so far the Commission has not 
made any rulings, and it is unclear whether it would be supported or not.

I, for one, would be very interested to know how the taxonomic community 
as a whole feels about the prospect of Appendix A being formally 
incorporated in the form of Articles in the Code, such that names 
published in violation could be declared unavailable. Right now, there 
is ample evidence that many of Hoser's works violate points 2, 4, 5, and 
6 of the Code of Ethics (4 out of the 5 possible breaches categorized), 
and therefore unlikely to hold up should such a change be implemented. 
Yes, I am fully aware of the wording of point 7, and I will even state 
it here: "The observation of these principles is a matter for the proper 
feelings and conscience of individual zoologists, and the Commission is 
not empowered to investigate or rule upon alleged breaches of them."

The point is this, however: the Code is, ultimately, written by 
zoologists who are acting as proxies for the remainder of the community. 
If it is the opinion of the community that the Commission SHOULD be 
empowered to declare works that are unethical (using certain criteria) 
as being unavailable, then the Code can be changed to reflect this 
opinion. But there is obviously no simple way for the Commission to 
determine what that community opinion actually is, other than the 
limited interface we have via mailing lists (such as this one or 
ICZN-L), and specific publications such as opinion pieces. In that 
respect, I have yet to see an opinion piece (or even an e-mail) refuting 
Wuster or Kaiser or their colleagues that was not written by one of the 
people whose works they have been condemning. As such, I fail to see why 
I or anyone else here should believe that public opinion is on your 
side, nor conclude that the status quo must be upheld rather than 
re-examined. Is it indisputable that adherence to the letter of the law 
should forever render an author or their work immune to public censure? 
I think we are seeing increasing evidence to the contrary.

If there were a petition circulated, asking for zoologists to sign if 
they felt it should be possible to declare names unavailable due to 
ethical considerations, I wonder what percentage would sign, especially 
if they were shown examples of the kinds of works that are at issue?


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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