[Taxacom] I'm furious over article: On typeless species and the perils of fast taxonomy

Michael A. Ivie mivie at montana.edu
Tue May 10 17:37:58 CDT 2016


Stephen,

Limiting myself to your point #2, at least in North America and Central 
Europe, entomology has been well served by many truly excellent amateur 
taxonomists who are welcomed by the professionals as equals worthy of 
respect and admiration.   I am not talking about the likes of LeConte 
and Horn back in the 19th century, but those alive and active today.  
There are also professionals that lack that respect and admiration by 
their peers.  Even in your neck of the woods, Broun was a professional, 
Sharp was an amateur.  That chestnut simply does not fly.

Mike

On 5/10/2016 4:30 PM, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> Cris said: "I also think there is a troubling political side to this case. All 14 authors are from the same mega-diverse country"
>
> My reply: Yes, I think you are correct that there is a troubling political side to this case, but nothing to do with Brazil. In BZN 73(1)(2016), there is another hard-hitting critique of the controversial new fly description, this time by three Swiss (Switzerland not being particularly "mega-dicerse"!), who appear to have a similar agenda, though they conduct their criticisms somewhat more collegially. Reading between the lines, I detect two possible underlying concerns which may be motivating the reaction against holotypes designated via photos:
>
> (1) This might endanger continued funding to museums which look after type specimens; and
>
> (2) This might encourage amateurs to describe new taxa.
>
> Well, I'm not sure what I think about (1). I don't think that it is a big deal. Instead of insisting upon a global ban of description from photos, one might better lobby to the effect that description by specimen is better, which I don't think anyone denies! Also, I very much doubt that funding responds in such a simple way to single factors influencing how taxonomy is carried out in practice.
>
> As for (2), it COULD BE a good thing! It all depends on whether or not the taxonomy is done adequately. It is way too simple to think that all and only professional taxonomists can do taxonomy adequately. I suspect that it really has more to do with control. Traditional professional taxonomists just can't handle the thought of losing control over who can do taxonomy, and who can have access to types, etc.
>
> The most important thing is that arguments for or against are based on good reasons, not misinterpretations/manipulations, etc. Even the BZN article misrepresents the disadvantages of photos. Their same argument could be just as easily applied to argue against the description of new taxa from fossils or non-perfect specimens in some way. A determined faker, as I already pointed out, is by no means limited to photographic manipulation!
>
> And there is also the issue of peer review: again I ask how 14 authors, at least 2 reviewers and an editorial team for a supposedly good journal all managed to let such basic errors slip through?!
>
> Cheers, Stephen
>
> --------------------------------------------
> On Tue, 10/5/16, Cristian Ruiz Altaba <cruizaltaba at dgcc.caib.es> wrote:
>
>   Subject: Re: Re: [Taxacom] I'm furious over article: On typeless species and the perils of fast taxonomy
>   To: "Stephen Thorpe" <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
>   Cc: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>   Received: Tuesday, 10 May, 2016, 6:29 PM
>   
>   
>   Hi Stephen,Well, I for one am
>   prepared to say publicly that photographs are evidence. So
>   we are two already. A reply should be written.
>   The point on faking evidence is not mine. It is in
>   Santos et al, when they argue that an image can be
>   manipulated (and not a holotype, alas). I should add that
>   too many taxonomists naïvely think that photographs are
>   superior to drawings. It depends on intention, of course.
>   However, at least in malacology, it seems most reviewers
>   prefer a fuzzy photograph over a crisp drawing --obviously
>   ignoring the art of Photoshop. And what is taxonomy about,
>   altogether. (A nice path is in the works of Lou Grande, who
>   depicts complex fossils with good photographs side-by-side
>   with accurate drawings of the same specimen).
>   I also think there is a troubling political side to
>   this case. All 14 authors are from the same mega-diverse
>   country. They want to stress the need for support towards
>   museums. Yet, they got a red herring instead. It is
>   worrisome that they do not accept the possibility of
>   expanding their taxonomic tools, even when it is perfectly
>   clear that the pace of (old-fashioned) description is orders
>   of magnitude below the (current) estimated rate of
>   extinction. This is a globally relevant issue.
>   All the
>   best,Cristian
>   
>   
>   
>   -----Stephen Thorpe
>   <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> ha escrit: -----
>    
>   Per a: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>,
>   Cristian Ruiz Altaba <cruizaltaba at dgcc.caib.es>
>   
>   De: Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
>   Data: 10/05/2016 12:43AM
>   
>   a/c: <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
>   Assumpte: Re: [Taxacom] I'm furious over
>   article: On typeless species and the perils of fast
>   taxonomy
>   
>   
>   
>   Hi Cris,
>   Judging from the off-list replies,
>   this issue would seem to be a "sensitive" one,
>   with all who replied in full agreement with me, yet not
>   prepared to say so publicly. So far, it seems like only
>   dipterists have taken notice, but the taxonomic issue are,
>   of course, quite general. It is odd that nobody is forcing
>   anyone to describe new species from photos, yet Santos et
>   al. seem to want to impose a ban on anyone doing it! There
>   are certain parallels with homophobia! As for the photo
>   faking argument, I think you may have slightly misunderstood
>   their point? Yes, drawings and verbal descriptions can also
>   be faked, possibly even easier than faking photos, but their
>   point was that a preserved type specimen is there to be
>   checked against descriptions and illustrations, which cannot
>   be done if all that you have are photos. This is true, but
>   in practice a determined faker would have many options
>   regardless. They could deliberately damage or even destroy
>   the holotype, and the availability of the new name would be
>   unaffected, with only the description and illustrations left
>   to use for ID. They could refuse access to the holotype if
>   they also had control of the type repository, or they could
>   simply stay quiet and hope that nobody bothered to check.
>   So, while the lack of a checkable specimen is one reason
>   against description from photo only, it needs to be weighed
>   against reasons for. Also, a specimen and even species is
>   only as good as the associated data, and collecting data is
>   very easy to fake, with little or no way to confirm. So the
>   possibility of faking photos doesn't really introduce
>   anything new.
>   
>   Cheers,
>   Stephen
>   
>   --------------------------------------------
>   
>   On Mon, 9/5/16, Cristian Ruiz Altaba
>   <cruizaltaba at dgcc.caib.es> wrote:
>   
>   
>    Subject: Re: [Taxacom] I'm furious
>   over article: On typeless species and the perils of fast
>   taxonomy
>   
>    To: "Stephen Thorpe"
>   <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>
>    Cc:
>   taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>   
>    Received: Monday, 9 May, 2016, 6:46 PM
>    
>    
>    Hi
>   Stephen,The paper is indeed
>   
>    dangerous. I have read it and feel just the way you do.
>    Indeed, the main issue is that the authors
>   believe they know
>   
>    very well the Code... when in fact they obviously
>   don't.
>    
>   
>    Santos et al. want to make a point in support of
>    "old-but-not-outdated taxonomy".
>   However, they
>   
>    also want to dress this quarrel with a legal varnish.
>     
>   
>    Particularly infuriating is their invocation of
>    Fontcuberta's photographic work. He has
>   played a lot
>   
>    with the illusion of truth in photography. He even has
>   a
>    book portraying himself as a follower of
>   Osama Bin
>   
>    Laden, his whole biography with numerous
>   photographs...
>    almost all of which turn
>   out to be false. The only real one
>   
>    portrays what seems a joke: a bottle of something
>   called
>    Mecca-Cola. His point is simple yet
>   worthwhile --it
>   
>    doesn't matter what the support might be, what counts
>   is
>    the genuine sincerity in the message.
>   This we know as the
>   
>    Golde Rule, which holds all of science together. Surely
>   we
>    all could point at one paper at least
>   where taxonomic
>   
>    characters were drawn or reproduced with mistakes (if
>    not intentional fake). Why should we suspect
>   that the
>   
>    photographs by Marshall and Evenhuis are a fake, while
>    taking all works produced by all Brazilian
>   dipeterologists
>   
>    as fault-proof?
>    So what is the point in
>   Santos et al? Hard to tell. At
>   
>    any rate, they end up advocating for field
>   work. Yet, that
>   
>    is exactly how you are most likely to photograph
>   unknown
>   
>    species.
>    I do think that this paper
>   deserves an answer. May I
>   
>    propose a joint reply by several members of this list?
>    All the
>   
>    best,Cristian
>    Cristian
>    R. Altaba
>    EvoCog,
>   University of the
>   
>    Balearic Islands
>     
>    
>    
>    -----"Taxacom"
>   
>    <taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> ha escrit:
>    -----
>   
>     
>    Per a:
>   <neale at bishopmuseum.org>,
>    <samarsha at uoguelph.ca>
>   
>    
>    De: Stephen Thorpe
>    Enviat per:
>    "Taxacom"
>   
>    
>    Data: 09/05/2016 12:29AM
>    a/c: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>   
>    Assumpte: [Taxacom] I'm furious over
>    article: On typeless species and the perils
>   of fast
>   
>    taxonomy
>    
>    
>    
>    Hi all,
>    
>   
>    I'm furious
>    over this new article:
>   
>    
>   http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/syen.12180/abstract
>    
>   
>    
>    They say: However, according to Article
>   16.4 of the ICZN
>   
>    (1999), only holotypes of extant taxa should be housed in
>   a
>    public scientific collection.
>   Marleyimyia xycolopae is
>   
>    obviously an extant species. Accordingly, its type
>   specimen
>    should be deposited in a
>   scientific collection ... In short,
>   
>    Marshall and Evenhuis published a nomen nudum because
>   their
>    discovery is backed only by a
>   photograph and not by a type
>   
>    specimen.
>    
>    
>    Art. 16.4 actually says:
>   
>    16.4.2. where the holotype or syntypes are
>    extant specimens, by a statement of intent
>   that they will be
>   
>    (or are) deposited in a collection and a statement
>    indicating the name and location of that
>   collection.
>   
>    
>    
>    Extant SPECIMENS,
>   NOT extant SPECIES!!!
>    
>   
>    The argument offered against
>    the
>   availability of the name Marleyimyia xycolopae is
>   
>    clearly based on a gross misinterpretation of the Code,
>   and
>    is makes the whole article by Santos
>   et al. utterly
>   
>    pointless! I am extremely alarmed that nobody out of 14
>    authors, at least two reviewers and an
>   editorial team from a
>   
>    supposedly reputable journal could not catch this
>    fundamental error before it went to print.
>   Peer review just
>   
>    doesn't work, it would seem.
>    
>    
>    Stephen
>   
>    
>    
>    
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>   
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>   
>    in 2016.
>    
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-- 
__________________________________________________

Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D., F.R.E.S.

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