What is a lepidopterist?

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Tue Jan 29 03:24:50 EST 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Walker" <MWalker at gensym.com>
Subject: RE: What is a lepidopterist?

> Not to be controversial, but I don't entirely agree with Ron.  I wouldn't
> call everyone who has an interest in animals a "zoologist".  Likewise,
> term "lepidopterist" is better reserved for those with a strong link to
> scientific activities - regardless of any professional affiliation.
> Similarly, I do agree that formal education is NOT a requirement - nor,
> I've mentioned, is net swinging.  The bottom line: if you think you're a
> lepidopterist, then you are.
> Mark Walker.

And these differences in opinon/definiton are certainly allowed.  The
problem comes in when, let's say, Mark starts an organization devoted to
bats.  The group grows and has a lot of members.  Mark has been telling his
mambers that they are batters and not zoologists.  (He has also told his
group that zoologists mostly just kill bats for fun or study - which is not
needed any more as we known basically all there is to know about bats.)
Being that this is all his membership have been exposed to in
terminological definitions, they now insist to all that they are absolutely
not zoologists. They are batists.  One day one of the batty people happens
to pick up a copy of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature and
just hapens to go to the glossary and find the following.

"zoologists. n. Anyone, regardless of profession, who studies animals."

Since bats are animals he relaizes that the term zoologist is a very broad
non specific term and that it has thus been wrongly defined to him.
(Several chapters in this story skipped at this point)  The final chapter
has the individual excommunicated from the batty group for claiming that
while they are indeed batty specialists they are also zoologists by formal

One man's opinion is just that a personal opinion - view.  When it becomes
the dogma of a group or society, if it is in error, we end up with things
like communists calling their elections "democracy".  And then having that
communist regime turn around and say that what they have is democracy and
what we have in the west is not.

Lepidoptera and Coleoptera are latinized terms.  There have long been
lepidopterists and coleopterists in clubs and societies composed of such.
A coleopterist is simply a latinized way of saying beetle interested
person.  A lepidopterists is just a butterflist or moth-er.   That is all
they mean and have ever meant -- until recent history when negative and
divisive connotations have been introduced and applied to the term
lepidopterists.  There are people now who would strongly object to being
called lepidopterists - I'm like, where in Hades did that come from?

A very true story.
Several years ago there was a single white mom in my church who had a
little boy of 5 who had just started school here in the South.  One of our
associate pastors was black.  His family and this lady and son were good
friends.  One day at breakfast the little boy refused to eat his cereal.
The mother asked why.  The little boy said it was because Fred (the black
man) had eaten out of it before.  The mother was still perplexed and asked
further.  Then the little boy said, Mom Fred is black.  The mother was
extremely angered as she had not brought her son up this way as the boy and
the black kids and families had always gotten along fine.  She said this
next phrase, and I will never forget it.  "Who told you Fred was black?!"

The child was five, he had eyes and obviously knew who was black, white,
Latino,  Asian etc.  Someone (likely a kid at school) had injected racism
into this innocent kids though processes.  Indeed who told you Fred was
black?  Who told you lepidopterists were - "different from us",  "to be
avoided",  "not what we want to be",  "ok on their side of the leps tracks
but don't belong over here with our kind".  Are there whispers behind our
backs at the meetings?

"Well, he seems like a nice person, but he is a lepidopterist you know."

"Oh, I didn't know that.  Good thing you told me I was about to invite him
to the outing this weekend.  And we know we don't want those kind of people
along.  And even if they don't bring a net you know they will just come
back later and kill everything.  You know all they want is our women
(butterflies).  They even smell different than us - must be the killing
jars.  Too bad, he seemed so nice.  I'm glad you told me he is a
lepidopterist and not one of us."

Sorry, but I don't see this as just a simple matter of which terminology
one wants to use in defining themselves.  As I said in my initial post,
there is an underlying problem here -- and it did not exist at all 15-20
years ago.   Bigotery _has_ moved into lepidoptery and it needs to go.

Ron Gatrelle


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