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

Ashley Nicholas Nicholasa at ukzn.ac.za
Thu Sep 5 07:57:08 CDT 2013

Yes I do understand these things and the practical issues involved. However, names are not just names -- they represent someone's hypothesis (good or bad). Hypotheses do not disappear just because names become synonyms -- this is bad empirical science! The problem is that species hypotheses cannot be verified or falsified because species are mental constructs (extremely helpful mental constructs) and not real objects. Have you ever taken an entire species (every individual) into the laboratory and objectified it? Species hypotheses are abstractions very often from limited data. Taxonomists do their best under the circumstances. If you want certainty, which these lists demand, then become a dictator -- as they seem to live in a very certain world! I personally embrace scientific uncertainty and find it has enriched my understanding of the world  (and universe) I live in; even if it has not stabilized it for me. I follow the Code (and always will) even if I cannot respect it after the Acacia fiasco. Yes there are badly typified species hypotheses, but this does not seem to concern taxonomists who quite happily use the code to change the type even if it is a good one with priority. Rule-by-consensus (see you message below) often seems to override the Rule-of-conscience. However, that is an aside -- I do not wish to open that can of worms here. 

By all means have rules to govern names but do not abuse these to govern what hypotheses should be accepted and which should not. I am sure Galileo would understand my point. While we are on this subject -- cladograms based on gene sequences are also only hypotheses and not the truth. I am not knocking them as they are highly informative and insightful -- and very exciting. However, we must not confuse hypotheses/ideas/tradition/analyses or superstition with the truth (whatever that is).

All the best

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman/.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] on behalf of Curtis Clark [lists at curtisclark.org
Sent: 05 September 2013 03:44
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Binomial Nomenclature - was: "cataloguing hypotheses & not real things"

On 2013-09-04 7:41 AM, Ashley Nicholas wrote:
> Dictatorial lists of names in current use are an anathema to me as they go against the very way empirical science should work.

"Names in current use" does not mean circumscriptions in current use. It
means that obscure names from the past, often based on inadequate types,
can't be resurrected to trample widely understood names in, uh, current
use. They're just names.

  Implementation is fraught with problems, of course, but I'm not sure
why you object. And it is hardly any more "dictatorial" than any other
parts of the codes of nomenclature, which are IMO the only
constructively working examples of anarchy and rule-by-consensus.

Curtis Clark        http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark
Biological Sciences                   +1 909 869 4140
Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona CA 91768

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