[Taxacom] Why stability?

Richard Pyle deepreef at bishopmuseum.org
Wed Apr 29 14:38:45 CDT 2015

I agree with Nico, and with the direction of this thread I general (but I think it's a bit conflated with "nomenclatural stability" -- at least in terms of how the ICZN Code defines it).

The quick & dirty solution for practicing taxonomists is actually VERY simple, and doesn't require any development of digital/data infrastructure.  That solution is basically this:  In the same way that responsible taxonomists (and determiners of specimen taxon identifications) include the nomenclatural authorship when documenting a Linnean-style name (in a publication, on a specimen label, in a database, etc.); we can get 90% of the benefit of high-granularity taxon concepts resolution if we were consistent about also adding "sensu Jones 1995" [etc.] to our names.  If you prefer, use "sec." instead of "sensu" -- but the point is that this one VERY simple step -- which some taxonomists have been doing already -- allows us to bridge the gap between the fuzzy nomenclature-only concepts to the much less fuzzy Taxon-name-usage (TNU) instance (i.e., more precisely implied taxon concept).  And (BONUS!) -- this convention is reasonably friendly to human cognition!


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of
> Nico Franz
> Sent: Wednesday, April 29, 2015 9:11 AM
> To: Stephen Thorpe
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Why stability?
> Thank you, Stephen.
>    I think it helps us to think of systems with different levels of taxonomic
> resolution granularity as variously succeeding or failing in providing specific
> reference services that we inter-subjectively need. Many us have been trained
> on, even written dissertations with, the Linnaean system. The system has
> apparently, and to a considerable degree, succeeded in providing the reference
> services that we demand from it.
>    A finer classificatory mesh can frequently provide more services than a
> coarse one, if and to the extent that the mesh resolution matches up with
> nested sets of entities in nature. If the mesh is too fine, or over time the
> abundance of changes (almost a direct consequence of high initial
> resolution) becomes hard to track for us cognitively, then this a constraint from
> the other side.
>    Linnaeus, who to my understanding was perhaps more in the business of
> mesh formalization (qua ranks) than resolution fine-tuning (having worked off
> of a rich body of pre-existing, working taxonomic meshes), promoted a certain
> degree of granularity. Had that proposal been utterly unworkable for our minds
> and reference needs, and/or corresponded only minimally with select,
> hierarchically sustained phenomena in nature, then I'd hope (not being much of
> a relativist about systematics) that we would've come to adjust the resolution
> level; maybe along the lines of your bird proposal.
> Given the way we are, and the way nature is, I believe that many alternative
> systems would provide fewer important reference services to us, and so it is not
> accidental that we are not switching over to them.
> Cheers, Nico
> P.s.: A related reference:
> http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1525/aa.1973.75.1.02a00140/abstract
> On Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 4:32 PM, Stephen Thorpe
> <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
> wrote:
> > Richard:
> >
> > But genera have arbitrary boundaries, at least in part. Lumping vs.
> > splitting is entirely subjective, independently of any phylogenetic
> > considerations (such as paraphyly). We could have 1 genus for all
> > birds, for example, and it would be a monophyletic genus.
> >
> > Stephen
> >
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