Some scientists are proposing that it’s time for the beetle Anophthalmus hitleri, named after Adolf Hitler by the amateur Austrian entomologist who discovered it, to get a new name. While there’s the obvious reason for changing the name, an article in The Washington Post on Saturday explained that the movement to rename the beetle has found revived interest in order to save the beetle from extinction. For years, neo-Nazis have been collecting the bug for its name, driving the species to the brink of extinction. The issue has sparked a broader debate on the taxonomic naming process for insects. Bioethicist Harriet A. Washington said names based on racist or unethical historical figures were usually “selected by White males who had the power to issue them without thought or regard to others,” she said. “The people who found them offensive did not have a voice or were ignored.” However, in a recent journal editorial, 26 scientists from the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, which sets the standards for naming species, argued that changing names for ethical reasons would be too disruptive to the study of biodiversity.
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