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  Re: The Dark Side of Taxonomy, part III: "Resistance is
From: Endangered Species <especies at ix.netcom.com> on 1996.12.30 at 15:38:30(26)
At 11:28 AM 12/29/96 -0600, NAME \"Wilbert Hetterscheid\" wrote:
>Ladies & people,
>It is obvious that understanding the dark world of name chan-
>ges is a many-headed monster to conquer for taxonomists. The
>latest contributions to the debate (Herman, Hermine, Jim
>Waddick) merit some comments:
>Herman (25 December): I am sorry that your English didn't
>allow you to understand the finer details of my contribution
>but since we know each other personally, I will tell you more
>in Dutch when we meet again. A few points though that may be
>of interest to others as well: I agree that an ongoing debate
>between "guttatum" and "venosum" would seem to be a sign of
>improper work and it MAY even be so! However, one of the main
>problems taxonmists have with the nomenclature rules of the
>Botanical Code is that the rules are NOT always unambiguous. I
>consider it the main flaw of a code that purports to support
>stability in nomenclature. You wouldn't believe the endless
>debates over the interpretation of certain rules in the Code.
>It is deeply regrettable that this is still happening. Recent-
>ly I asked an opinion on the discussion list TAXACOM about a
>Latin diagnosis of a newly described Amorphophallus species
>from China. The diagnosis consisted of ca. 20% Latin words,
>50% hybrid words (Latin/English) and the rest English. The
>code requires "A LATIN diagnosis", so I assumed that this name
>was therefore invalidly published because the diagnosis was a
>mixture of two languages and one speech-inability. To my utter
>surprise, I found that some taxonomists (and some with BIG
>names!) "interpreted" the Code rule so as to ALLOW for percen-
>tages of other languages than Latin. Now HOW am I to know this
>as a reader and user of the Code?? The result is that I think
>the name is invalidly published but at the same time it is
>accepted in Index Kewensis, an authoritative listing of new
>species names!!!! THAT is what drives people crazy. I am sorry
>I have to apologise for my colleagues about this but there it
>is. The outcome of the TAXACOM debate is like 50% for, and 50%
>against! WHAT a great help it is to have that Botanical Code!!
>Other questions by Herman:
>- a proposed name change as part of new scientific enquiry is
>published in a scientific journal. There's no High Court that
>decides whether a scientist is right or wrong. Philosophically
>there is often no such thing as "right" or "wrong" in scienti-
>fic debate. There is "bad" and "good" hypotheses and often a
>majority decides what is "bad" or "good".
>- there ARE however international nomeclature committees that
>deal with name change proposals that are AGAINST the rules of
>the Code but seem important as tools in stabilisation. Suppose
>that everybody uses Sauromatum venosum and I found that it
>ought to be S. guttatum and I feel that the whole world would
>suffer from that proposal, I might ask this committee to
>decide to conserve S. venosum AGAINST the rules of the Code.
>So there is a kind of judge in all this. The decision of that
>committee will be ratified by an international congress every
>five years, so there IS some democracy (taxocracy?) in our
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