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Re: nomenclature

On Apr 30,  8:51am, King, Norm wrote:
> Subject: Re: nomenclature
> 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.

No, I don't think that's it.  The meat is the *relationships* of the
animals to each other.  For better or worse, those relationships are
reflected in the names.  If you want to avoid this situation, I really
do think you need names that are not dependent on the exact relationships
of the animals.

No one is proposing renaming species just because they didn't like the
name or they felt like confusing the public.  All this "renaming" comes
from changes in our knowledge of the animals, especially their

> 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.

I can't help but think that you illustrate my points with this.  While
differential equations are, indeed, impenetrable to the average person,
they are necessary to a complete understanding of the physics.  They
don't go away because they are hidden behind long verbal explanations,
and no physicist would ever argue that they shouldn't ever be used just
because the average person cannot understand them.

The complications of the "renaming" situation are there and real.  You
can hide it also, but you can't make those complications go away so
easily.  Terminology is, as you suggest, the differential equations of
paleontology.  It's more than just paleobabble, just as differential
equations are not just physicists trying to hide their knowledge.

It still seems to me that some form of non-scientific name is necessary
if you want to hide this, or else restricting yourself to discussing
higher-level taxa only.  Hypsies and bone-heads, indeed.