Message 2001-02-0055: The root dichotomy of PhyloCoders [Re: Fwd: codes]

Sun, 11 Feb 2001 18:40:07 -0600 (CST)

[Previous by date - Re: Fwd: Re: codes]
[Next by date - Codes]
[Previous by subject - The Pancompromise?]
[Next by subject - The starting phase of the PhyloCode and other issues]

Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 18:40:07 -0600 (CST)
From: "Jonathan R. Wagner" <znc14@TTACS.TTU.EDU>
To: Philip Cantino <>
Subject: The root dichotomy of PhyloCoders [Re: Fwd: codes]


        When I first read Dr. Hillis' post I was rather disturbed by its
implications. However, having read Dr. Cantino's response, I see now that
both he and Dr. Cantino (and Dr. Moore), and probably all of us are
approaching the same problem from directions so different that points of
commonality are getting lost. Although recetnt posts seem to be resolving
this, to some extent, I think we need to regain a broader perspective. If I
may offer an attempt at a consensus view of the roots of consensus and
discord in this discussion:

        1) We all (at least those who have opined in this matter) agree that
a phylogenetic system of nomenclature is optimal, and we would like to see
it employed.

        2) None of us wants to *force* anyone to use the PhyloCode, and we
know we couldn't even if we did want to.

        3) All of us want to be able to continue systematic discourse with
those who do not want to use the PhyloCode.

        4) All of us believe that rules governing species nomenclature are
vital to the PhyloCode, excepting those who do not believe that species
constitute a category of real entites.

        Additionally, I believe we all *can* agree on certain points, but
they have not been clearly made yet:
        4) It would be ideal for our work (under the auspices of the
PhyloCode) to be valid outside of our own circle. This translates directly
to: we want other people to use our species names.

        5) Our system should have some "reversability" to it. Dr. Hillis has
argued for the PhyloCode being constructed so that non-practitioners can use
the taxonomy within it. Dr. Cantino has argued for a long-term
reversability, so that we do not commit ourselves to a nomenclature which
may eventually be abandoned, and find some of our lives' work either lost or
extremely difficult to recover. These amount to the same idea, although
couched from fundamentally different perspectives (see below).

        Points where we seem to differ:

        A) Some of us want the PhyloCode to be viewed by others as "the next
logical step" in biological nomenclature. These people (David Hillis and
myself among them) might argue:
                A1) species names should be interchangable with those used
by other workers.  In other words: we should not have to "do everything
twice" in order for it to be official in multiple codes. This requires that
our naming of new species is AUTOMATICALLY valid under the ICZN code (and
presumably other codes), and that format does not allow dots, dashes, or
other frills. Our friends will be able to use our nomenclature because it is
minimally different from their own.
                A2) Phylogenetic systematics has gained widespread support,
so much so that it is now the rule rather than the exception, through the
insistance and commitment of its students. Although we certainly cannot
dictate the nomenclatural schema of other workers, we should commit
ourselves to, and personally work for the advancement of, this scheme. If we
cannot commit to the PhyloCode, how can anyone else?
                A3) a deliberate *replacement* scheme is best served by
causing only subtle changes to the most cherished rulesof the old, and
minimizing the impact of the new scheme on the daily work of all workers who
use biological nomenclature. While Dr. Cantino is correct that abandonment
of the binomial is a significant change (although a hyphenated or dotted
form can also be a uninomial!), it is one easily grasped by outsiders, as we
leave the specific epithet intact. Indeed, the fact that the species epithet
cannot exist on its own in traditional taxonomy is often a puzzlement to
students and young people, a fact we would all do well to remember.
                A4) Because a system of this kind is naturally incomplete if
it does not include species, and because species are (to many of us) vital
to the formulation of a complete nomenclature, the PhyloCode should not be
released without them (personally, I am willing to give on this one,
although I find Dave's points persuasive).
        B) Some of us (evidently including Dr. Cantino) advocate a
maintainance of the "status quo," a tacit acceptance of the fact that we
will not convert everyone immediately. Although I am not one of these
people, I think they might argue:
                B1) Because both systems will be operating concurrently, but
they will have fundamentally different methologies, we should endeavour to
distinguish the names used under each scheme in a readily discernable
manner. In this manner, everyone will be clear on the criteria to be applied
to each name.                 B2) Because both systems will be operating
simlulatenously, we may have to become comfortable with putting extra effort
into using them both. At least our use of each system will be explicit, and
perhaps therefore will show our direct support for the PhyloCode (so
there!). Our friends will be able to use our nomenclature because we provide
the "Cliff Notes" version in the language of the ICZN (or whatever)
                B3) Because so many workers will not use the new system
anyway, and it is better to explicitly differentiate the terms under which
each name is used, there is little need to emphasize agreement between the
systems. Indeed, it might even be counterproductive.
                B4) Because the species nomenclature of the PhyloCode *must*
be a major change from traditional formats (see Cantino et al.), and since
alpha-taxonomy is so fundamental to biological science that such a change
will invite the scrutiny of all parties, and further because of the
fundamental disagreements regarding how it should be employed, we should
hold off on a model for species nomenclature until the PhyloCode has been
established. Later, when the intial uproar has died down, we may indulge in
the supreme iconoclasm.

        I apologize that these points are so heavily weighted towards my
"side" of the debate. Of course, the reason for presenting them is to
attempt to redirect discussion toward a productive conclusion. In that
light, please feel free to tear them down one by one! :)

        Unfortunately, I feel as David Hillis does, that we are going to
have to eventually take sides on this issue, that there is no happy middle
ground. Personally, I feel that it will be easier for the "B group" to ADD
distinctiveness to their use of the Code then for the "A group" to try to
explain it away when they didn't want it there in the first place. But I
would think that, wouldn't I? In terms of the original concept of
phylogenetic nomenclature, I think "A" is somewhat closer to *applications*
advocated by the original papers. However, the "B" group has some very
practical points, and if De Quieroz and Gauthier had been concentrating on
building a practical system instead of promoting a (very good) idea, we
wouldn't need a PhyloCode (and, indeed, they might not have published for
another ten years, and half of us would still disagree with them one way or
the other).

     Jonathan R. Wagner, Dept. of Geosciences, TTU, Lubbock, TX 79409-1053
  "Why do I sense we've picked up another pathetic lifeform?" - Obi-Wan Kenobi


Feedback to <> is welcome!