Of names and committees and people and ?

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX Norbert.Kondla at gems3.gov.bc.ca
Mon Apr 3 12:32:10 EDT 2000

Another example of how communication between people is never perfect. My
response: I have no interest in blaming anyone for anything and I do not
think that I have done so on this topic; the only lumping I did with
taxonomy and nomenclature was using the two different words in the same
sentence; I did not say that neither is a science; what constitutes 'hard'
evidence (or even evidence) is a matter of opinion and agreement on
definitions; what constitutes a 'decent' (vs an indecent??) taxonomic
journal is a matter of opinion; emotive words that communicate values - like
good and bad - should really be left out of these discussions; I enjoy
intellectual activity and hope that other people also enjoy intellectual
activity--- and even better, the real butterfly flight season (overwintering
nymphalids do not count) is now underway in the West Kootenay area, with
Callophrys augustinus iroides, Celastrina (ladon) echo and Strymon melinus
on the wing this past weekend.

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrew Mitchell [mailto:am16 at ualberta.ca]
Sent: Friday, March 31, 2000 5:02 PM
To: leps-l at lists.yale.edu; Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX
Subject: Re: Of names and committees and people and ?

Norbert Kondla wrote:
>5.	Nomenclature and taxonomy is not rocket science; it strikes me as
>more dynamic opinion than science.  And one could argue that it is not even
>science if one defines science as that which involves use of the
>experimental method.  From my perspective this whole topic is about
>decision-making and consensus-building --- or the lack thereof :-)

To lump "taxonomy" in with nomenclature and say that neither is a science
smacks of anti-intellectualism. While some taxonomy papers (mostly in low
impact journals) are indeed thick on opinion and thin on hard evidence this
is just bad science. So blame particular authors, reviewers and editors,
but don't slate taxonomy. Taxonomic questions can be addressed with the
scientific method as even the quickest glance in a decent taxonomic journal
will confirm.

I agree that taxonomy is not rocket science in one sense though (not the
sense you meant):  Taxonomy is a lot harder because definitive answers are
extremely difficult (but not impossible) to get.  It's not just a case of
plugging numbers into an equation to determine whether your rocket will
generate enough thrust to carry a payload into orbit. Instead one must
reconstruct historical events in the evolutionary history of life from
sometimes conflicting clues.


                                                \   /
Andrew Mitchell                        _____     \ /     _____
Department of Biological Sciences     /     `)_  O^O  _(`     \
CW-405 Biological Sciences Building  /         \( = )/         \
University of Alberta               (           ( = )           )
Edmonton, T6G 2E9                    <---------//_=_\\--------->
Canada                                \       / |___| \       /
                                       \     /  |___|  \     /
Phone: (780) 492-0587                   *___~   |___|   ~___*
Fax: (780) 492-9234                              \_/
E-mail: am16 at ualberta.ca                          U


More information about the Leps-l mailing list