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

Ashley Nicholas Nicholasa at ukzn.ac.za
Fri Sep 6 06:06:34 CDT 2013

Curtis Said "When you reply to a question about your opposition to "NAMES in common use" with a discourse on species, it's hard for me to pinpoint where the miscommunication occurred."

Yes I do apologise Curtis -- but your email seemed condescending when it probably wasn't? I actually think you & I share many common ideas. Unfortunately, the idea of Names in Current Use (although pragmatic) is just too open to abuse. 

Names may not be hypotheses but they do carry hypotheses from which they cannot (and should not) be disconnected; even if sometimes misconstrued. Hence the use of "pro parte" and "sensu" in taxonomic treatments. I tried to suggest a consensus classification in a published paper many years ago for the Apocynaceae-Asclepiadaceae problem. I was, quite rightly, taken to task for this stupid idea. The names in a list reflect a particular species hypothesis and the users of these lists (often times not taxonomists or even scientists) look at them as "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth". Which they are not by a long, long way. They are only the compilers opinion and this is often a biased one. Species of the genus Sutherlandia come to mind. The botanical community is split on whether to continue using this hypothesis or to sink them all under Lessertia. There is no consensus -- so who decides which goes onto the list? 

Things get quantum leaps worse when it becomes an issue of national pride. Botanists in one country may prefer to follow a different name and its attached hypotheses to the same species which is given a different name but the same hypothesis in another country (and I am not thinking about the 'A word' here). The names color and colour come to mind. They have the same meaning but the actual names are not the same. This happens with species too. 

I have also seen, first hand, dictatorial science taking place (sadly one of my own countrymen comes to mind) but, and I emphasise/emphasize (;-) this, such scientific dicatorialism is not (sadly) uncommon. List of Names in Current Use will eventually boil down to those that shout the loudest getting their names put onto the list. Sorry, but for me the data speaks louder than the taxonomist -- even if it runs counter to consensus!


-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Curtis Clark
Sent: 05 September 2013 21:49
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Binomial Nomenclature - was: "cataloguing hypotheses & not real things"

When you reply to a question about your opposition to "NAMES in common use" with a discourse on species, it's hard for me to pinpoint where the miscommunication occurred.

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

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