Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/270

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from each other. Still worse is the indubitable fact that his own judgment varies. What seems to him well-established at one time may a few months later be incredible, not so much because of new facts bearing on the matter, but because his horizon has enlarged or his point of view become fundamentally changed. As long as nature and human judgment are what they are, it is hopeless to look for perfect stability even in as artificial a thing as nomenclature, except by arbitrary decisions adopted by practically unanimous consent. No code can be devised which will meet all the needs of the case, and most zoologists will continue to call a holothurian a holothurian in spite of the codes, until it is arbitrarily agreed to call it something else. I can not see that the proposed substitution of numbers for names would tend to either greater simplicity, intelligibility or stability. The difficulty is not with the names we have given, but with the objects we have named and the judgments which interpret our definitions. Recognizing then these two fundamental difficulties at the very base of systematic work, I venture to suggest a few principles which would, I think, if universally adopted, increase the clarity and stability of our results. They are more or less generally accepted even now, and I claim no originality in setting them forth. I only hope their formulation may lead to more extended recognition. The first one may be expressed thus:

Naming and describing new species and correcting nomenclatural errors, while valuable and indeed essential, is frankly the most elementary and hence the lowest form of zoology.

The zoologist who, like myself, enjoys collections and finds an unceasing interest in the diversity of animal forms, very easily overlooks this principle, though he will rarely question it when fairly stated. He will grant that after all, names are but handles by which the ever-increasing number of animal units may be shifted and turned and made use of in zoological building, and he will probably admit that the handle is not so important as the unit. It would be well if we went further and acted on the principle that the smoother a handle is and the more perfectly it is adapted to its object, the better and more usable it is. A clumsy name or a meaningless name or a name that has no natural and inherent association with the object is not a desirable name, for it is not a well-formed handle. This is why, in my judgment, the use of the names of persons for zoological units is to be deplored. They rarely have any inherent association with the object, and after a short time they have no significance whatever. Any one looking at the animal can see why a certain oddly shaped sand-dollar was called Rotula dentata, but how many of us know who Rumphius was that the same animal should have been called by another writer Rotula rumphii? The use of place-names has more justification, especially for insular or local forms, but it has led to many meaningless or misleading names