Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nomenclature or moneyclature ?

By tradition, the person who discovers something new is free to name it whatever he/she wants...it's one of the perks of being a scientist. Sometimes it can be quite funny. Take for example the protein "Sonic hedgehog", named after a popular video game (Sonic the Hedgehog by Sega). Another interesting example...three round fungus beetles, Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi and Agathidium rumsfeldi and were named by entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly Miller in honor of President Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Personnaly I could have come up with better names...but it's their right...they found those beetles they get to name them! By the way, they got a call from George W. for this.... (!)

A better example right here on Vancouver Island. Malaspinanema goateri, Cordonical gibsoni and Hammerschidtiella hochi are all parasites living in the gut of cockroaches and were named by Aaron Jex in honor of his Malaspina professors: Tim Goater, Allan Gibson and Matthew Hoch...cute story! Unfortunately, there is a way of naming new species that disturbs me...by auctioning.

Last saturday I was sitting in my kitchen, with my morning coffee and the Vancouver sun (this is where I got the idea for this blog post). It struck me...money really can buy anything! On Thursday, September 20th in Monaco there will be an auction, The Blue Auction, and the highest bidders will be naming new species such as this one (opening bid: $400,000) and this one (opening bid $100,000). Honestly, I do not agree with that. I think science is about passion, about dedication and about patience. Science is not about pride and narcissic values...it's about finding the truth. Buying a name for a new species has, to my humble opinion, more to do with marketing. What if Coca-Cola, Apple or Volkswagen buys the name? Is that impossible? Not at all....The Golden Palace Casino (online gambling) bought the rights ($650,000) to name a new primate: Callicebus aureipalatii (Golden Palace in latin)...it's now some kind of mascot and total disrespect for nature! They even called it the "Golden Palace monkey..."

Please bring back science to the people and the scientists who share a real concern about the species they discover and education....Frankly, I do not care about the silly names...they make a nice story...

Image source: http://img.timeinc.net/time/daily/2006/0611/christies_1113.jpg

8 comments:

Nessa said...

wow. that's outrageous! I don't think that naming new species should ever be purchaseable by corporations... it's just wrong...

Dominic B. said...

Money talks.....what else ca I say!

Mithrandir said...

Kudos to Dominic for including Sonic the Hedghog! My favorite game to the old Sega system . Some say the only reason they bought a Sega.

As for the naming of those beetles (named after complete failures) are those beetles somewhat deficient? If so they were given the right name.

Finally the corporation should only be aloud, if they do it somewhat creatively. For example, the Save on Foods Arena is a terrible name. Where as GM Place has a good ring to it. At least name the species something catchy.

sarah m. said...

wow. i honestly never knew that scientific names could be purchased!!! Why not remove the purity of science all together, turning it into yet another corporate giant. Just what our society needs, something else owned by Wal-Mart for example. If money can buy something as sacred as science then there is no way to measure the magnitude of what could be in-store for our future generations.......

argh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clint said...

Naming a fungus beetle after Dubya seems highly appropriate. Too bad it wasn't a dung beetle :)

nikks said...

GREAT blog Dominic! Wow, that whole scenario makes me sick to my stomach. It just goes to show that anything can be bought in our society - it sickens me. Just one more motivation to NOT support corporations in our world, and to support the little guy.....what is our world coming to?

Liz said...

I also find the idea of an individual or corporation buying the right to name a species disgusting.
But after some reflection and a look at The Blue Auction's website I started to see the issue a bit differently.

According to the auction website, "the proceeds will benefit marine conservation programs associated with the long-term preservation of such species as well as other environment and biodiversity-related programs."

The idea of a fish species being named after a corporation is disturbing, but if the money made were to help protect that species and others, I think that the good would outweigh the bad in this situation.

Wouldn't it be better to have a Coca Cola fish swimming around than to allow that species to anonymously go extinct?

The words we humans use to refer to a fish makes no difference to the species itself, (though it may offend idealists such as us), while human behaviour regarding it's habitat can affect it profoundly.

If selling the rights to name these species parts narcissitic people (or even greedy corporations) from large ammounts of money that can be used for good, I'm all for it.