[Taxacom] Why Defend the Code?

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Oct 9 22:32:27 CDT 2015

You just can't resist, can you Scott? "Sincerity, I can fake that!" Anyway, Hoser really is an attention seeker, and all this must be really getting him off! I'm not entirely certain of the best way to solve the "Hoser problem", but allow me to comment on the published plea to the ICZN that you have co-authored with a whole bunch of others, including, I see, entomologist Manfred Jach (who has tried in vain for years to stop Dew Makhan from publishing, for similar reasons). The main point which makes me cringe is passages which fundamentally misunderstand zoological nomenclature! For example: 

>An example of developing dual nomenclature is Hoser’s attempted resurrection of three rattlesnake genera (Aechmophrys, Caudisona, and Uropsophus) from the synonymy of Crotalus, along with the description of new genera and subgenera<

Resurrection of genera from synonymy is taxonomy, not nomenclature! In fact, it is just a matter of rejecting published synonymies (i.e. if the scientific evidence for a proposed taxonomic change is thought, by the reader, to be insufficient, then the reader has every right to ignore it - this is the difference between science and dogma!) The ICZN has absolutely no mandate to interfere in such matters (i.e. matters of validity as opposed to availability). Anybody is free to reject proposed subjective synonymies, or to accept them as they choose. This has nothing directly to do with the Code or the ICZN. There simply isn't a single "officially valid name" for any taxon, except by default. So, if you are going to go in mob-handed against Hoser, at least get your facts right!


On Sat, 10/10/15, Scott Thomson <scott.thomson321 at gmail.com> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Why Defend the Code?
 To: "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 Cc: "Taxacom List" <TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>, mivie at montana.edu
 Received: Saturday, 10 October, 2015, 2:39 PM
 Well I am
 going to stay out of whatever personal issues are going on
 here, I too have been criticized on occasion for my
 interpretations of the code. I am not here to argue with
 I too agree that our
 system of nomenclature is under attack, but not just attack
 it is suffering from complacency. One of the reasons I put
 in a comment recently with such a large authorship was not
 just to impress anyone, I wanted to show that there is
 support for the ICZN and its code, from non taxonomists.
 Many of the authors of that comment are not taxonomists.
 These people also want stability, not the stability we
 define in the code, they want the code to stand as it has
 for many years as this pillar of how we name our species.
 But they cannot tolerate what has been happening
 Please do
 not jump to the conclusion I am just referring to
 herpetology, I am well aware of cases in other groups of
 organisms and cited some in fish in my comment. I am aware
 this is or has occurred in other organisms
 I see several
 major issues for the code and in my response to Harvey and
 Yanega I tried to outline some. First of all is the code
 does need to evolve with the times, I know there are efforts
 to come out with a new version, however, it also needs to
 evolve within reason. Yes there is no absolute compliance to
 the code, we follow it willingly, unfortunately not everyone
 follows it the same way. This is in part due to sections
 that do need tidying up, their language clarified, we are
 all aware of this. I am hopeful that in the revisions of the
 code that the confusing or ambiguous language is being
 Another major
 issue is how little taxonomy is taught these days, and what
 is taught does not cover nomenclature very well if at all. I
 try to teach the code, I even write a blog on it, it's
 not easy and many biologists do not have a great
 understanding of the code. I will say that based on my
 experiences of trying to explain the code to many
 biologists. My blog has had 3000 views from just under 2000
 visitors in the last 12 months. Its no rock band site for
 numbers, however, I think that does show there are people
 interested and its certainly more than I expected, I receive
 many questions about the code since I started writing it
 also. This means people still want to comply with the code,
 they still want it there. We said in the comment that
 Nomenclatural Taxonomy is at a tipping point. If the code is
 not presented and followed in a way that is scientifically
 and ethically viable then it may not last, which I think is
 a tragedy, and there are alternatives on the table. This is
 the tipping point, people are considering alternatives. But
 they do not want to, they feel they have to.
 So I am not trying to add to a
 public criticism but we need to stand up for this code and
 apply it. We need to make sure all biologists understand it.
 Taxonomy needs to be taught again. 
 Please forgive my moment of
 On Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 9:12
 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
 And that
 "correspondent in New Zealand" wouldn't be
 called Rich, by any chance, would they? You know, that
 well-known, objective, humanitarian/philanthopist ...
 On Sat, 10/10/15, Michael A. Ivie <mivie at montana.edu>
  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Why Defend the Code?
  To: "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>,
 "Taxacom List" <TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
  Received: Saturday, 10 October, 2015, 12:28 PM
  Well, since that first line
  was taken from an email from a correspondent
  in New Zealand, and was not my line, and not
  attached to any name,
  clearly it must not
  apply to you, because after all, you have an
  honorary something.  You see, Stephen, not
  everything is about you.
  10/9/2015 5:13 PM, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
  > Putting to one side the personal attacks
  aimed at me, and the associated false claims (e.g., I do
  have "no position", I have an honorary
  I actually agree with Mike that "our system of
  nomenclature is under attack", and that this is a
  problem to be solved. I disagree with Mike that the way
  solve it is to mindlessly defend the Code as it is. The
  needs to change in order to solve this problem.
  Specifically, it needs to be simplified so that
  numbers of people don't just throw their hands up
  despair about it and walk away. Claiming that anyone
  half a brain can easily understand the Code is only going
  frustrate those perfectly intelligent people who find it
  be more difficult. Make it easy to do nomenclature, and
  problem will solve itself.
  > Stephen
  > On Sat, 10/10/15, Michael A. Ivie <mivie at montana.edu>
  >   Subject: [Taxacom] Why Defend
  the Code?
  >   To:
  "Taxacom List" <TAXACOM at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
  >   Received: Saturday, 10
  October, 2015, 12:02 PM
  >   This may have been
  precipitated by a
  >   recent
  set of events, but it is
  >   targeted at a broader group
  of messages that put me over the
  >   edge on the
  >   last one.  No individual
  person, living or dead, if
  >   specifically
  >   referred to below.
  >   I just received a private
  email asking why I would waste my
  >   time
  >   challenging someone with no
  position, no credibility and
  >   well known as a
  >   pedant and seeker of
  >   Why indeed.  Because I am an
  educator and a
  >   systematist.  It is time
  >   all wake up to a few
  things.  First, our system of
  >   nomenclature is under
  >   attack.  Few students are
  given a class in its use,
  >   most are told the
  >   rules are difficult and
  arcane.  This is giving rise to
  >   a movement to
  >   simply do away with
  >   Second, compliance with our
  Code is voluntary.  There
  >   is ZERO
  >   enforcement available.  We
  are just a thin line from a
  >   break to anarchy.
  >   Therefore, when someone wants
  to, repeatedly, claim the Code
  >   is poor, is
  >   difficult, is not well
  thought out, or otherwise in need of
  >   endless
  >   negative blather, there are
  people who read that.
  >   Hundreds more are
  >   exposed to this forum than
  ever post to it.  If such
  >   negativity comes
  >   from someone who projects a
  facade of expertise, people may
  >   even believe
  >   him or her.
  >   I understand the Code is not
  perfect, but it does
  >   work.  It does require
  >   diligence, and takes time
  from other activities that may be
  >   more fun,
  >   but it is not that hard.  We
  need to reinforce in the
  >   minds of our
  >   peers, and especially the
  younger members of our profession,
  >   that using
  >   the Code is what is expected,
  and it is not something to
  >   dread.  And,
  >   when mindless attacks are
  made claiming it is defective,
  >   difficult or
  >   irrelevant, we must defend it
  >   Mike
  >   --
  >   __________________________________________________
  >   Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D.,
  >   Montana Entomology
  >   Marsh Labs,
  Room 50
  >   1911 West Lincoln
  >   NW corner of
  Lincoln and S.19th
  >   Montana
  State University
  >   Bozeman,
  MT 59717
  >   USA
  >   (406)
 994-4610 (voice)
  >   (406)
 994-6029 (FAX)
  >   mivie at montana.edu
  >   _______________________________________________
  >   Taxacom Mailing List
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  >   The Taxacom Archive back to
  1992 may be searched at: http://taxacom.markmail.org
  >   Celebrating 28 years of
  Taxacom in 2015.
  > .
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  Montana Entomology
  Marsh Labs, Room 50
  1911 West Lincoln Street
  corner of Lincoln and S.19th
  Montana State
  Bozeman, MT 59717
  994-4610 (voice)
  (406) 994-6029 (FAX)
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