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Keep protista

Charles J. O'Kelly okellyc at megasun.BCH.UMontreal.CA
Fri Mar 25 18:45:41 EST 1994

In article <9403251215.aa00868 at cc.dordt.edu>, mahaffy at dordt.edu (James Mahaffy) writes:
|> If there is no strong need to change the name please stick with the
|> names that have been used a lot.

Sorry James, but John Corliss called the events of the past decade "the Protist Revolution" 
for a reason.  Many, perhaps even most, of the "traditional" names in circulation for protist
groups ("Phytoflagellata", for instance) represent taxonomic errors orders of magnitude
greater than calling whales fish.  And you wouldn't last long making that mistake while 
teaching vertebrate phylogeny, eh?

|> I am not a protista specialist, but I
|> spend a lot of time teaching Zoology.  Whatever their phylogeny we still
|> need names to associate with the whole 
|> group, when introducing biology
|> students to the invertebrates.  There is too much tendency for splitting
|> and new names as it is and that DOES NOT HELP COMMUNICATION with the
|> non-specialist..  

Perhaps protistologists could do a better job communicating what we know about protist groups
to the non-specialist.  This forum is a start.  However, perhaps the non-specialist looking in
and demanding stability in names and concepts should realize that, at present, we can't deliver!
We know just enough about protists to know that previous hypotheses, and names, are hopelessly
wrong.  But we are still arguing - sometimes heatedly - among ourselves as to what the -right-
phylogenetic reconstructions, and the right names, are.  Until we get closer to the right
answers, I will not hand out names I don't believe in, even though students demand simple, easy
labels to memorize.  For me to do so would mean telling lies, big time.  In this case, I cannot
in good conscience subscribe to the Murphyism, "a simple, workable falsehood is more useful than
a complex, incomprehensible truth."  I hope we live long enough, and the funding in this field
lasts long enough :-(, for us to make the truth more comprehensible.
|> -- 
|> James F. Mahaffy                   e-mail: mahaffy at dordt.edu
|> Biology Department                 phone: 712 722-6279
|> Dordt College                      FAX 712 722-1198
|> Sioux Center, Iowa 51250

Charley O'Kelly
Mad Protistologist
okellyc at bch.umontreal.ca

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