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Re: What's the problem???


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Posted by Kenny Wray on January 10, 2003 at 15:17:36:

In Reply to: What's the problem??? posted by chrish on January 10, 2003 at 10:57:58:

:What's the problem with having a standardized list of common names? I don't really understand the objections. If you don't want to use common names, don't. No one is mandating their use.
But if we don't use them then there is no point in having them, as I will never know what you are talking about and you will never know what I am talking about! I have seen many names on both "current" standard names lists and I can't figure out for the life of me what some of the critters they are talking about are, outside of that it is a whiptail. In order to know what you are talking about, I would have to take the time to learn the list! If that's the case, then everyone should learn the scientific name (starting young preferably). I don't think anyone can argue against the tenets of having a binomial nomenclature system. Even with a current Standard Common Name, it will not stand the test of time as language evolves and slang changes meanings. In addition, we would have to have a standard common name for every species of herp worldwide and for each language (not in the least practical) for it to be as effective as scientific names. The argument that it has worked for birders, I believe, is weak as it really hasn't done much except to allow bird watchers (who span many generations and disciplines) to communicate about where they saw this or that. How big of a contribution is this really when one considers that the farmer down the road won't use it, my mom won't use it (but she'll still use cardinal, crow, bluebird, blue jay, etc.), and most academics won't use it outside of the occasional discussion (I am not an ornithologist, but I use scientific names, but not common names outside of the few I learned when I was young).

As for drawbacks of Scientific Nomenclature: 1) systematics/taxonomy will constantly be in a fluctuation, as you cannot standardize taxonomy because it is tied to classification, which is nothing more than a hypothesis of proposed (conceived) realtionships. This is not necessairily a bad thing when done properly and knowing synonymies is always a valuable part of the process (as would be knowing the synonymies of common names when using the older, valuable texts that were pre-standardized names). 2) Scientific names give instant insight into systematics (which is one of the reasons I am a proponent of some subspecies (= races) being recognized as such), where as standardized common names don't. For instance, Bullsnake tells you nothing about the intimate relationship with the Gopher Snakes. And neither would be guessed to be allied with the Pine Snakes. But, if you followed the recent discussion on the current state of fluctuation in the genus Pituophis, it doesn't matter which camp you agree with, we all instantly know that pines, bulls, and gophers are allied beacuse they belong to the same genus.
It really boils down to "teaching old dogs new tricks" (for lack of a better analogy). Some people do not want to learn scientific names because it requires them to think (not being facetious here). Let's honestly look at it, they are interested in natural history, supposedly, yet they do not want to learn the scientific names which require no more time or effort than memorizing facts of the life history etc. I also think that standardized common names breeds lazynss into the next generation who are at a point when learning things such as new languages are relatively easy.
Just my thoughts,
Later, KW



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