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Re: nomenclature

I previously claimed that I would let this topic die, at least from my
standpoint for the time being, because I simply must turn my attention to
other matters.  But two responses that came in over the weekend impressed
me enough to get back into it.

First of all, let me say that I never thought I would be able to start a
revolution in nomenclatorial practices.  I just wanted to explain the
impact that some of these practices have in the non-paleontological
world, and point out that we are not a kingdom in ourselves, wherein we
can ignore what the rest of the world thinks about us.  I have seen the
reaction by the "person on the street," whose favor I think we should,
for our own ultimate good, nurture.  The general reaction, by those in
the present group who chose to express one, is "the public be
damned--we're going to do good science."  I reiterate, I don't think we
need to damn the public to do good science.  I think it is within our
capability to find better ways of doing things.

Bob Myers suggested that I really just want to abandon scientific names.
However, I assure you all that I am not too timid to say that, were it
the case.

I was actually a little surprised to find that some newcomers to
paleontology, who ought to be questioning the status quo, are among its
staunchest defenders.  Why we should be defending practices that haven't
changed since the 1800's is beyond me!  So that's MY opinion!  But, when
in Rome, perhaps we should do as the Romans do--I don't know.  Of course,
we all know what happened to the Romans!

Paul Sparks came mighty close to offering an explanation of the problem I
think exists (4/27/96; 12:51a):

>So how to get around all the latin and greek and sort of get to the
>meat is his real problem.

It appears to me from some of the earlier responses that some
paleontologists think that the names are, in part, the "meat" of the
subject.  I think that when people who control the purse strings of
research dollars discover that big bucks are spent doing research to
prove that something needs to be "renamed" (call it what you will--this
is the effect), we aren't going to get many of those research dollars.
Who knows?--we might ultimately be forced to form our own organization,
headquartered in some remote location out of the mainstream, such as
Montana or Long Island, to make traveling exhibits on dinosaurs to raise
money to finance dinosaur research.  (Yes, I know there must also be
other reasons for the dearth of dinosaur research dollars.)

Paul pointed out:

>His job, as it were, is to start some light of interest in these new
>students of our love of life (dino life that is).

It wouldn't take any of you long to discover that you can turn out that
"light of interest" that virtually everyone has going into such a course
because of the burdensome nomenclature.  There must be a way to nurture
that interest, rather than squashing it in "paleobabble."  Sociologicaly,
that's a form of intimidation--we're the in group, talking in language
that excludes them.

And finally, Paul asked:

>Where, Norm might ask, does he go to find the truth as seen today by
>the mainstream scientists. I don't know and I think he doesn't know
>either...[snip]...The textbooks are not the answer, just think how
>many things have changed in 1995.

To which Tuck responded (4/27/96; 9:28p):

>See Fastovsky & Weishampel's _The Evolution and Extinction of the
>Dinosaurs_ (Cambridge University Press, 1996. 441 pages, 265
>illustrations, 14 color plates. ISBN 0-521-44496-9).

Check out Fastovsky & Weishampel's book!  It seems to be the latest word,
yet _Rioarribasaurus_ isn't in the book--it's _Coelophysis_.  Neither is
_Marasuchus_, but _Lagosuchus_ is.  Presumably, the next edition will
have both _Coelophysis_ and _Rioaribasaurus_, and both _Lagosuchus_ and
_Marasuchus_, but I think it is fine the way it is.

The paleoecology and paleobiology sections of that book are great, but
the sections on history of discoveries and on diversity and phylogeny are
unreadable by the layperson, in my opinion, because each one exceeds the
limit of non-sense syllables and words people will tolerate in so few
pages.  Those names mean something only to people who already know what
they are.  This sort of thing is analogous to a book on physics intended
for non-scientists in which the theories and relationships were expressed
in differential equations.  Why not--that's the language of physics!
But, in fact, it's simply impenetrable.

Thanks again to everybody for their thoughtful responses.

Norman R. King                                       tel:  (812) 464-1794
Department of Geosciences                            fax:  (812) 464-1960
University of Southern Indiana
8600 University Blvd.
Evansville, IN 47712                      e-mail:  nking.ucs@smtp.usi.edu