[Taxacom] taxonomic names databases

Tony Rees tonyrees49 at gmail.com
Tue Sep 6 17:44:50 CDT 2016

I have to say I am with Doug here, which is why I previously cited the
example of the APG (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group) evolving "consensus"
classifications of angiosperms, from 1998 to the present (now at APG IV).
At each point, the subtext of releasing APG I through IV is, "here is the
best we can do at this time; it is better than we had before, and no doubt
will be superseded at some point again, but we present it as a system for
use in a standardized manner by those who wish to do so".

Meanwhile research goes on, new data are accumulated and pondered on with
the possibility to influence the next iteration of the system, and indeed
any particular release is generally accompanied by statements to the effect
that "treatment of this group is conservative at present although there is
already evidence that it may need to be changed in the future..."

I do not see the problem with this approach: taxonomic/phylogenetic
research in the background (engine room), iterative taxonomic treatments as
periodic products (outputs) for museum and herbarium clients such as the
one described by Doug, plus other syntheses e.g. in textbooks, taxonomic
guides, encyclopedias including Wikipedia, Wikispecies, etc., data systems
such as GBIF, and more, to use as desired. If divergent view exist, then
the consensus classification can still be created while noting the
divergent views (happens all the time).

In the APG series of treatments, the only flaw I found was that APG II
introduced a number of "optional" families - use if you want, or don't. A
terrible idea, rectified in APG III...

Regards - Tony

Tony Rees, New South Wales, Australia

On 7 September 2016 at 07:56, Doug Yanega <dyanega at ucr.edu> wrote:

> <snip>
> As a corollary, instability of classification also makes it much harder to
> communicate with non-taxonomists, at many levels. If we have to preface
> every single thing we say, or write, when communicating to non-taxonomists,
> with a comment like "Bear in mind that there is no consensus as to what
> names we really should use for the organisms I'm about to mention..." then
> that just makes taxonomists look like complete idiots, at a time and in a
> political climate where anti-science sentiment is strong and getting
> stronger. Nothing makes taxonomy look more *irrelevant* than being unable
> to give a straight answer. If you go to a museum or library, or read a
> field guide, you want clear organization, and expect answers, not a lecture
> in epistemology. If I can't answer a simple question regarding a butterfly
> someone found in their yard without expressing that there are three
> possible species names, two possible genus names, and three possible family
> names, then while my response might be a "sound reflection of our science,"
> it won't reflect well ON our science, in most people's minds. All a layman
> is going to take away from that experience is "Taxonomists don't know what
> the heck they're talking about," and I can't say I'd blame them.

> While it may be true that SOME people don't need a synthesis, this does
> not mean there is NO need for a synthesis.
> Sincerely,

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