[Taxacom] Binomial Nomenclature - was: "cataloguing hypotheses & not real things"

David Campbell pleuronaia at gmail.com
Mon Sep 2 09:21:52 CDT 2013

An advantage of a multinomial system (whether or not each multinomial can
change) is that it provides many more combinations than a single string of
letters.  In taxonomic practice, this allows common adjectives to be
applied to many different genus names while maintaining a difference.

There are at least three challenges to establishing a different system.
First is the accumulated tradition of over 250 years.  A new system must
have adequate compatibility with that tradition to have workable
connections to the existing literature, in addition to the problem of
individual or group unwillingness to change.  Secondly, we have the
tradition that the genus name tells us something about the affinities of
the organism, and dropping that tradition would significantly change the
function of a scientific name.  Thirdly, there is the difficulty of finding
a new system that is not significantly unwieldy.  Far too many of the
Phylocode-type proposals for major modifications to the current system
either do not take a realistic approach to the existing literature (e.g.,
assuming that homonymous species epithets rarely occur in the same
publication, or even rarely in the same phylum) or else seem to have
forgotten that not all users of the system are computers (just make Pinus
albus Pinus_albus2378595678XYGD438756 and everything will be fine).  Such
unwieldy strings are not only hard for humans to remember but hard to

Perhaps the best of both worlds is to have a unique computer tag for each
proposed name, linkable to whatever traditional-style binomen a given
taxonomist believes to be appropriate.

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