[Taxacom] Some thoughts on the "independence" of nomenclature and taxonomy

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Wed Apr 22 17:29:27 CDT 2015

I think part of the problem with this discussion is the ambiguity of what you are implying by words like "nomenclature" and "taxonomy".  There are probably as many different definitions of these words as there are practitioners of the activities they imply.  For example, "nomenclature" might be defined broadly as "the application of text-string names as labels to implied taxon concepts" -- in which case "nomenclature" is deeply entangled with taxonomy.  Or, you might define "nomenclature" more narrowly as the set of rules associated with the application of the Code(s) of nomenclature, in which case the overlap between nomenclature and taxonomy is much more precisely represented by the top figure in your taxonbytes post (i.e., the type specimen and perhaps a few minor implied areas of overlap).

With sufficiently imprecise terminology, we have broad latitude to draw almost any grand conclusions we wish.


Richard L. Pyle, PhD
Database Coordinator for Natural Sciences | Associate Zoologist in Ichthyology | Dive Safety Officer
Department of Natural Sciences, Bishop Museum, 1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252 email: deepreef at bishopmuseum.org

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of
> Nico Franz
> Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 7:03 AM
> To: Richard Zander
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Some thoughts on the "independence" of nomenclature
> and taxonomy
> Thank you, Stephen and Richard:
>    My point was mostly about our preferred language and attitude towards the
> relationship of nomenclature and taxonomy (than about the relationship as
> routinely practiced).
>    I tend to be skeptical of any turn in the history of our field where folks start to
> use terms like neutral, independent, objective, just the observed patterns, and
> similar notions that may in some cases (and to my
> mind) be vestiges or new shoots of (again, to my mind) an over-the-top
> philosophical stance. Beware of claims of neutrality and independence,
> because often enough they may turn out to be "just a different kind of bias".
> Better for science to trade with its theoretical and practical biases openly.
>    The attitude that the rules of nomenclature in no significant ways reflect on
> our (i.e., human mainstream taxonomists') prevailing thinking of what
> constitutes good taxonomy is a biased one, and it is a bias that I would not
> subscribe to. Mind you I am not ascribing that attitude to anyone in particular,
> but again, I am skeptical that the language of independent and neutral
> practices helps us in the long run.
> Cheers, Nico
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