Butterfly Names

Cris Guppy & Aud Fischer cguppy at quesnelbc.com
Sat Apr 1 01:11:35 EST 2000

I will throw one more opinion into the "debate": 
(1) Forming the "Names Committees", whether for common names or scientific names, in the hope of establishing uniformity is doomed to failure because the processes and results presently discussed are superficial AND WILL NOT EARN RESPECT. Respect is the only reason a list will be followed by others, without respect the list will be ignored by anyone who knows that alternatives are possible.
(2) The closest thing there has been to a standard scientific name list for the last century has been a North American checklist compiled by one or more respected authors. Such checklists are generally produced every 20-30 years or so, because that is roughly the spacing required to reflect changes resulting from new published literature over that time. No one directs the process, instead one or more people decide to take on the task as one of their scientific contributions.
(3) No such checklist is ever fully accepted, but it is generally well respected as being the result of dedicated effort. Each checklist forms the basis for individual taxonomic views, because the author(s) have EARNED the respect by carrying out a very tedious and diffiicult task to the best of their ability.
(4) NABA could EARN respect by producing a list of common names, including ALL historic and modern usages, and with a careful and IMPARTIAL assessment of which name is the most appropriate for each butterfly. The impartial assessment should be based on a clear set of criteria, including historic usage, modern usage, the origin (etymology) of each name, the appropriateness of a name for a butterfly, the degree to which the general public in different parts of North America use each name, etc. Properly done such a list would EARN RESPECT, and respect would in turn tend to result in acceptance of the recommended names. Without earned respect, NABA lists will continue to be ignored except by those who do not have the knowledge base to realize that other names are possible and perhaps better.
(5) The independant Scientific Names Committee also needs to EARN RESPECT. I suggest there are two avenues to earning respect (a) produce a quality annotated checklist to replace Miller and Brown as updated by Ferris, and/or (2) publish scientific papers that address each issue (Don Lafontaine - where are the details of your genitalic work for the Butterflies of Canada?). These are the normal ways in which butterfly taxonomy has been advanced to date, and they are ways that earn respect and therefore acceptance.
(6) The present approach by NABA and the independant Scientific Names Committee to produce assorted lists by edict, and expect that they will be paid attention to by the scientific community is quite simply wrong. The scientific community, including skilled amateurs, will simply laugh, turn their backs and proceed to "do their own thing". And why shouldn't they? YOU HAVE NOT EARNED THEIR RESPECT.

Cris Guppy
4627 Quesnel-Hydraulic Road
Quesnel, B.C. V2J 6P8 
(250) 747-1512 (h) 
E-mail: cguppy at quesnelbc.com
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