[r-t] A simpler approach?

Philip Earis pje24 at cantab.net
Mon Oct 27 09:21:41 UTC 2014

"...would a simpler approach be:
1. Have a set of simple and clear rules that cover the 99% of what is rung.
2. Have a special cases list for the methods that are worthy of ringing but
fall outside the rules. As well as the usual method stuff, the list could
include  a reason why it is included in the special cases.
3. The Methods Committee be custodians of the rules and special cases 
list...I realise there would still be room for debate about what goes on the 
special cases list, but the discussion would be limited to the merits of the 
special case...is this a sensible idea?"

Without wishing to be ruder than normal, I think this is a real stinker.

If you take the approach that the purpose of any decisions should be to 
record what is rung, it's a huge concern and intractable barrier to have the 
whole system based on a "value judgement" made by the custodians of the 
decisions on whether something is "worthy of ringing". This is the principle 
problem we have at the moment.

Look again at your point (1) - "Have a set of simple and clear rules that 
cover the 99% of what is rung" - don't you see that this means there will be 
continually problems and conflict in the future when people play around with 
new arrangements of changes that fall outside the current decisions?  Your 
approach is not future-proofed at all...quite the contrary, it sets up 
battles every time something new is rung. The change ringing community has 
more important battles to fight than artificially creating conflict year on 
year because of value-judgements being hard-wired into the decisions.

Let's use an analogy - the system in biology of classifying species.  Now 
imagine that in the 1750s when Carl Linnaeus came up with his taxonomy, or 
at any point since then, or even today, the whole system was essentially 
frozen so that new species couldn't be classified. You could make an 
argument for this - clearly if "99%" of the life-forms you currently observe 
on the planet are covered by the existing system it superficially looks like 
it does a reasonable job.  But it's a rotten rotten approach to taxonomy. 
Suppose a very rare new animal was discovered next year that didn't conform 
to any existing species or even genus.  Biology would be a laughing stock if 
either a committee of fuddy-duddies made a decision on whether it was worthy 
of classification, or if they decided it had a passing resemblance to a 
frog, even though it had wings, so it would be botched into the frog family. 
Or perhaps it could be called a non-frog frog.

Can you see the parallels with ringing, both with the current system and 
what you propose?

It's not an abstract point.  On the current Methods Committee, you have 
people who arguing (and to give some credit to Robin Woolley, at least he 
has the honesty to do it publicly on this list rather than hiding away) that 
some of the exciting new things that have been rung in recent years are "not 
worthy" of classifying, feeling that as there have not been huge numbers of 
peals rung of them they can happily drop outside the official naming system.

I've been banging this drum for a long time.  The good news is that at this 
year's CC meeting, there was a motion put from the floor that there needed 
to be a high-priority "fundamental review" of the existing decisions to 
ensure they were not prescriptive and containing value-judgements, mandating 
the Methods Committee report to the Administrative Committee at its next 
regular meeting (you can see the minutes on page 14 of the document at 

Unsurprisingly, Tony Smith (Chair of the Method Committee for most of the 
past 30 years) argued strongly against this, prer-empting any action even by 
stating "the proposal would...result in very little change".  However, the 
proposal was carried.  I've heard nothing since then - without doubt the 
dinosaurs and vested interests will try to quietly put this into the long 
grass.  Please can someone on the Methods or Admin Committee (both 
represented on this list) give an update as to the progress that has been 
made since the CC meeting?

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