Unbiased souls

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Mon Sep 3 00:17:01 EDT 2001

Mike Gochfeld wrote:

Ron wrote compellingly about his taxonomic committee and the membership
of "unbiased" persons.

I am always skeptical about "unbiased" . I wonder if he has a definition
of this with which all could aggree.

Do it mean "without opinion"  or "without experience" or "unsure of what
is right or wrong".

I suspect that most of us have biases. Perhaps it would be useful to be
assured that individuals laid their biases on the table rather than
pretending that they were checked at the door.   Being aware of ones
biases and acknowledging them is particularly helpful.

For example, can someone be truly unbiased about being a lumper or a
For example, my bias is, "when in doubt split". Lumping invariably (I
think) results in a loss of information [even if the lumper turns out to
be right].  Who wants to study a subspecies anyways [yet that's what we
usually study when we think we are studying behavior or physiology or
ecology of "a species".

And one the molecular systematists tell us that taxon a is or isn't
specifically distinct from taxon b because of x % genome difference,
isn't that mere inserting a new bias (that there is a relatively
constant criterion across taxa, based on a fragment of the genomic

Mike Gochfeld

Very good. Two things. It may have been premature to bring this subject
up - but it is up. Second, most should know by now I am certainly biased.

So where to start. As much as I have a problem with common names I am also
a realist and think the inevitable is that we (all of us) are moving toward
a  "standardized" list for common names. One of the three on line TILS
names sections will be that list. If it were to be posted today most of the
scientific (to subspecies) names would have "none" or "multiple" beside
them in ref to The common name of that taxon. In other words until a name
really is The one "everyone" agrees on it will not qualify for the TILS
listing. Therefore the decision of what name in listed there really has
nothing to do with TILS as in a position or decision. It will be only a
mirror of what YOU ALL decide is The common name. Monarch and Mourning
Cloak may be the only ones there for a long time :-) (It is for the N.
American Common names only.)  This is not in competition with anyone or any
group. It is somewhat naive and idealistic but we are in no rush.

The TC-ISBN (Technically Correct - Index to Scientific Butterfly Names) is
totally under the supervision of Harry Pavulaan. (I have personally
disassociated myself from all of the actual listing processes on all three
lists - that is the first step in taking bias out of the mix - get rid of
the opinionated strong willed leader - me.) However and whoever Harry
accomplishes this is his business. It was his idea not mine. He has been
working toward this for a long time and TILS is simply the black board. The
technically correct part - and this is what takes away the bias - is that
all ranks and alignments will be totally and simply based on the latest
published scientific research. There are some what ifs here - you all will
have to ask him about those.

The WUDBN (WEBsters' Unabridged Dictionary of Butterfly Names) is a huge
project under the auspices of Chris Durden. It automatically has no bias as
it is "just" every name ever applied to a given taxon - and in
chronological order and frequency  sections. It is the WEBsters' as it will
depend heavily on your (the www. websters) contributions. He has been
working on this for some time and TILS simply provides the facilitation.

We need and want lots of input and help. The best way bias is removed - is
to have all biases represented  at the table - and to have a meaningful
voice. They neutralize each other and a rational consensus is the result. I
suppose that the good thing about being a little premature in letting folks
know about all this is allay suspicions and to encourage everyone to swamp
Harry and Chris with letters and emails :-) Glad it is not me - it would
take away from my online editorializing time.
Ronnie G.

PS  TILS is open and willing to have these lists expanded to the rest of
the world's regions. We have already made some contacts in that direction.
As TILS president, I will help Chris and Harry screen individuals to insure
they are also as unbiased as possible - and simply want a fair, broad and
on line accessable list of names.  If others are doing similar or the same
thing - it does not matter to us. We are not trying to be the only voice
nor say that only "our" lists are correct - except the WUDBN as it is
impossible for it to be incorrect. It can only be incomplete as it includes
all names and synonymies.


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