dumbing down effect, recent

Chris J. Durden drdn at mail.utexas.edu
Thu Oct 26 23:36:34 EDT 2000

At 10:31  26/10/00 -0300, you wrote:
>> Ron's comments,
>>     1) When Linnaeus founded the modern system of taxonomy, species names
>> were usually capitalized.
>    Ron, do you mean all species or species which were named after people
? In
>my 1895 Systematic Botany book I can find no species names starting with
>case but know that as recently as 1950 (Gray's Manual of Botany, Fernald)
>species named after people [or a previous genus; e.g. Robinia Pseudo-Acacia]
>started with a capital letter.
- - -
Proper names (gods, patrons, colleagues, places), either posessive or in
apposition were capitalized. Ordinary adjectives were not. Genera were
capitalized because they were proper names de-facto. Purists capitalized
proper specific names through to the '30's with animals and '50's with
plants. Some editors removed capitals from all species in the mid 19th
  Editors require uniformity today, unless one self publishes.
- - -c
>> This was considered the proper method for some
>> time. Eventually this gave way to a systematic "style" where names below
>> genus level all begin with small case letters. Thus, Barnes' use of
>> Gillettii simply manifests the style of his day -- which was
transitional in
>> the utilization of capitols.
>>     2) The formation and implementation of the International Code of
>> Zoological Nomenclature standardized taxonomy and mandated that these rules
>> be followed. This code is retroactive and thus all the old taxonomic
>> presentations were revised as necessary and brought into conformity with
>> code. Thus, gilletti can no longer be written with a capitol G as
>> presented.
>>     3) The use of a double i at the end of the name was also a contemporary
>> "traditional" way of Latinizing a masculine name. Neither Comstock nor
>> Miller/Brown erred in the usage of a single i. This is true for two
>> First, according to the ICZN code, a single or double i ending is
>> to be an identical spelling -- either are accepted so neither is wrong.
>> However, the ICZN establishes the single i as preferable -- which is
>> precisely why Miller/Brown rendered it as gilletti. Miller/Brown "changed"
>> many names in that list to make them conform to the rules of the ICZN.
>> Miller/Brown does not follow anyone. They followed the ICZN. Dyar's
>> gillettei is wrong.
>>     4) There is has been, in my opinion, a general dumbing-down of the
>> scientific aspects of lepidoptery over the last 20 years. Since this will
>> open up volumes, I will stop myself here.
- - ->>
I think a lot of the dumbing-down is due to technological advancements that
remove the observer from intimate interaction with the observed organism.
  If you canoe or walk in to your field area you see more of your organism
and the things that exist with it in habitat. You have time to think about
the observations and re-observe on the spot. If you helicoper or SUV in to
your study site, take a few measurements and pictures before meeting your
scheduled flight out, you miss most of the details and all of the
serendipetous events.
  If you are not living your observations you will have few new ideas that
challenge generally accepted theory. You may neatly fulfill the objectives
of your research and win another grant, but you may never notice something
totally new. 
  Of course there are some individuals who rise above these impediments and
are sharp enough to be creative in their thinking under any circumstances.
To others though it is just a job, done by the book. I have worked with
both kinds.
- - -Chris Durden
>    You have twice stopped short of fully opening this topic [dumbing
down] and
>I wish you would express your views. Perhaps you or other members can shed
>light on this development. It goes beyond Lepidoptery and seems to have
>field oriented biology in general.
>    I am baffled by it.
>Yours truly, DW, Kentville, Nova Scotia
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