[Taxacom] taxonomic names databases

Paul van Rijckevorsel dipteryx at freeler.nl
Wed Sep 7 03:00:23 CDT 2016

Leaving aside the question of how desirable such a
One True Tree, enforced by a Superstate, or some
other Higher Authority, may or may not be, this is not 
the reality we have now.

What we have now is a wealth of information, organized
around names established by tradition, and governed
by Codes of Nomenclature. What seems called for,
in my view, are databases that represent that reality,
making appropriate links, that is, links accurately
reflecting the relationships (which are many).

Apparently, aggregators all too often succumb to the lure
of the One Shop Stopping, All-Encompassing Portal,
into which input is shoehorned any which way (not rarely
'creating' species which don't exist).


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Tony Rees" <tonyrees49 at gmail.com>
To: "Doug Yanega" <dyanega at ucr.edu>; "taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2016 12:44 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] taxonomic names databases

>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 will be superseded at some point again, but we present it as a system for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
> https://about.me/TonyRees
> 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.
> </snip>
>> 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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