[Taxacom] Why stability?

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Mon Apr 27 21:11:38 CDT 2015

"Which leads me to the sudden end. I think that the Linnaean naming system is designed by and for our human minds and ways of communication, to strong measures."  I think this captures most of it, and it is what I have always believed.  Except, not just that the Linnean system was "designed" for this purpose; more significantly it has *endured* because of this function.

Now... an opportunity (perhaps resulting from too much wine at dinner this evening:

Again, the word "stability" means different things to different people.  My interpretation of it, in the context of scientific nomenclature, is about the stability of terminal names.  For example, when people decide to draw lines between sets of organisms that they want to distinguish at the rank of genus, there should be a largely objective set of rules to determine which, among multiple potentially competing names, is the appropriate one to use to label the set of organisms represented by that genus-level taxon.

Likewise, when drawing lines between species-level taxon concepts, a "stable" system is one that provides a largely objective set of criteria to determine which epithet is the one to use among potentially competing epithets.

Unfortunately, many people think of "nomenclature" as inclusive of genus+species combinations.  The botanical Code expressly embraces this.  The Zoological code minimizes the extent of involvement of such combinations in the realm of nomenclature (mostly regarding primary & secondary homonymy, and conventions for representing authorships).  In my mind, the combination of a species-group epithet with a genus-group name in zoology is (except for cases involving homonymy) is a question of TAXONOMY, not nomenclature.  Put another way, in my view, a "binominal" name is not "a name", it is a pairing of TWO names (one genus-group name and one species-group name). I know this is not the exclusive (or even, necessarily, the majority) view -- but I do think it is a defensible view (in terms of the Code, modern informatics, and to a large extent, modern taxonomic practice -- at least in Zoology).

My interpretation (for better, or for worse) is that "stability" in zoological nomenclature is about objective rules for establishing relative priority of competing name (i.e., name-components) -- NOT about maintaining consistent combinations of binominals and trinominals.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of
> Nico Franz
> Sent: Monday, April 27, 2015 2:47 PM
> Subject: [Taxacom] Why stability?
> http://taxonbytes.org/thoughts-why-stability-in-nomenclature-and-at-what-
> cost/
>    I'd be interested in knowing if any scholarly works (I cite Atran) support this.
> And other comments.
> Cheers, Nico
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