Message 2005-01-0001: Re: Death of the PhyloCode?

Wed, 22 Dec 2004 14:55:49 +0100

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Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2004 14:55:49 +0100
From: David Marjanovic <>
To: PML <>
Subject: Re: Death of the PhyloCode?

This post seems to have ended the discussion... I'd just like to mention 
that I agree with its arguments and their convincing presentation (because 
it isn't yet in the archives, I've appended it below).

Perhaps relevant to this topic, I have now uploaded the (very small!) 
PowerPoint files of my talks in Paris. They can be found near the top of my 
homepage, Without the text, however, they are probably 
not worth much. I'll try to upload the text, too, in separate files.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to everyone! :-)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jonathan R. Wagner" <>
To: <>
Cc: [...]
Sent: Saturday, October 23, 2004 2:23 AM
Subject: Death of the PhyloCode?

> Pardon the long post. Please bear with me...
> By extension of the arguments in Joyce et al., there is no unequivocal,
> historically accepted *concept* for any taxon. Despite this imprecision,
> most workers apparently subscribe to one of a small number of "clusters" 
> of
> fundamentally similar concepts for taxon names. Under the PhyloCode, we 
> ask
> systematists to accept a single concept for all time. The bulk of the
> objections to the PhyloCode have centered on the fixation of a definition
> that does not correspond to the concept to which the author of the 
> critique
> subscribes.
> We might assume that any well-constructed definition should please at
> least a fraction of workers. However, the crown-clade convention asks
> scholars to adopt concepts that have NOT been traditionally accepted. I
> suspect every expert has his "breaking point": the number of unpalatable
> taxon concepts he can accept before a proposed taxonomic system becomes 
> too
> cumbersome or objectionable to use. What will happen as we step farther
> from the current "box" and adopt concepts (or names) not generally 
> accepted
> by anyone?
> I accept the prediction of others that the taxon concept issue may well be
> the death of the PhyloCode. Under the rank-based codes, a worker can 
> simply
> ignore the taxonomic decisions of those authors who use the "wrong"
> concepts for taxa. Resistance to Phylogenetic Nomenclature in general
> suggests to me that people consider this flexibility more desirable than
> having stable definitions (as noted in print by Bryant and Cantino).
> I previously accepted the crown-clade convention: we do have to pick one
> concept to hang the name on, why not pick one that serves a purpose? That
> purpose is the de facto "correction" of nomenclatural messes made by
> others. However, doesn't it demean our colleagues to assume that we must
> alter nomenclature, rather than believing they have the capacity to use
> nomenclature properly?
> I appreciate the efforts of many members of the ISPN to formulate a Code
> that is, in many ways, an ideal nomenclatural system. As with most things,
> it is impossible to optimize two attributes, idealism and practicality, in
> the same document. We should decide as a group whether we want to solve 
> all
> of the problems of nomenclature at once, and risk the Code being 
> abandoned,
> or solve just one problem (explicit definitions) and concentrate on 
> gaining
> widespread acceptance.
> If we decided to optimize for acceptance, the Code's best hope is
> horizontal transmission and/ or sneaking in under everyone's noses. In
> order for "sneaking" to occur, the Code must be transparent, such that it
> can be used without drawing any attention to itself. In order to sell the
> Code to others, it should be simple, ask for minimal changes, and offer
> benefits in exchange for the sacrifices it asks. Kevin Padian's proposals
> at the Paris meeting, as well as the points made by Jason Anderson and
> others regarding crown clades and panstems should be formally 
> reconsidered.
> Any rules or suggestions that indicate a particular name, type of name, or
> formula for newly coined taxa violate nomenclatural freedom and should be
> abandoned.
> If we want to create an ideal system, this should be decided now, so that
> those who want to see an acceptable Code can consider re-allocating their
> time appropriately.
> Wagner
> My sincerest apologies to Jason or anyone else if I have inadvertently
> repeated their arguments without appropriate citation. 


Feedback to <> is welcome!