[Taxacom] The Gillman & Wright proposal revisited

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Tue Dec 8 18:49:28 CST 2020

On the train this morning, I had a discussion with Shane Wright regarding his proposal to restore indigenous names in taxonomy. On the one hand, Shane downplayed the issue, saying that it only applied to iconic taxa, so less than 5 percent of all taxa (though that is still a lot of name changes!) He just wants, for example, kauri to be Agathis kauri, tuatara to be Sphenodon tuatara, etc. The rationale behind this proposal is however what is perplexing me. Shane seems to think that current naming practices in taxonomy are a significant barrier to inclusivity, as if names are discouraging and alienating young people of indigenous backgrounds from participating in taxonomy. Personally, I very much doubt if calling kauri Agathis kauri will make any difference at all. The very nature of Western science may not sit well with traditional indigenous wisdom, but abandoning Western science in favour of a return to that would fairly obviously drag the world backwards and I doubt even Shane wants that, so I suspect that the whole thing boils down to making symbolic gestures of a largely cosmetic nature, in the name of inclusivity and other similarly pc concerns. What actual difference would this proposal make, other than having taxonomists waste time on unnecessary name changes? Who is really driving such agendas and what are they really trying to achieve and for whom?

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