Beauty etc/Re: lep names

James J Kruse fnjjk1 at
Wed Jan 31 16:33:47 EST 2001

> Similarly there are differing views about what constitutes scientific
> evidence for a taxonomic decision and even differing views of what science
> is.
> - decisions based on scientific evidence; yes, absolutely but I have
> learned from a lifetime of crafting decisions with other people that all
> evidence is open to differing interpretations and that first one must
> get agreement on what is relevant evidence in the minds of the people
> making the decision.
Okay. How about scientific evidence defined as a quantifiable property?
This quantifiable property can be morphological, molecular, ecological,
behavioral, etc...
Key word that Norbert mentions is 'interpretations' of said quantifiable
properties. I think that a committee might find some consensus of what may
be deemed 'reasonable'. Here's where the debate may be joined.
> butterfly taxonomy will need to be handled with the understanding that there
> is more than empirical data or particular definitions of science at play.
Emotional attachment? Perceived or actual academic snobbery resulting in
knee-jerk rejection of proposed nomenclatural changes or even terminology?
I can see these as current relevant problems.
> - rest of zoology has abandoned subspecies ? I frankly was not aware
> that this was so but if that is the case; I do not care.
Perhaps I am alone in my concerns on this matter. If you look at the
amount of literature published over the years describing new subspecies,
workers in all other groups have greatly reduced or ceased this activity
since the 1960's. For example, There have been very few (there might be
a recent description I don't know about, otherwise I'd say NONE) or no
new subspecies described in the Pompilidae (spider wasps, to use an
insect example) since 1963. But with butterfly workers, these subspecific
descriptions rise exponentially since about 1960 into an outright orgy in
recent years.
There is a large bank of literature, coinciding with the discontinuance of
the practice of naming subspecies in other groups, that thoroughly
addresses the usefulness of the subspecies as a taxon. I can provide a
short list to those interested. A pretty good summary may be found in:
James, Frances C. 1970. Geographic size variation in birds and its
relation to climate. Ecology, 51(3): 365-390.
> - so closing thought before taking a walk; the debate on names should
> use the best available science but science alone will not close the
> debate nor give us all the answers. Decision making is a matter of one
> or more human beings making a choice from two or more decision options.
> Data and agreed upon conventions for running the data through an
> algorithm is not necessarily the same as making a decision and as often
> as not, only provides fodder for more interpretation and debate.
I heartily agree with this, and thank you Norbert for delaying your walk!
In short, the construction of a list of taxa is like a slice of time,
representing our current knowledge and/or interpretation of the data. A
drawing of a line in the sand, if you will. Of course this should be
editable, and presumably would be edited with the next try some 10-20+
years down the road after we've had a chance to gather more data, or cool
off, whatever the case may be.
James J. Kruse, Ph.D.
Curator of Entomology
University of Alaska Museum
907 Yukon Drive, PO Box 756960
Fairbanks, AK  99775-6960
Phone: 907.474.5579
Fax: 907.474.1987/5469
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