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Re: Historical Paleontology & Reception of _PDW_



>On the other hand, some of the criticisms that were raised of the book (both
>in published reviews and at meetings, like SVP) include:
>I) Concern about major taxonomic revisions (including new species, novel
>generic-specific combinations, and a major reorganization of Theropoda as a
>whole) being done in a non-peer reviewed, non-techincal format;

My own recollection was that this was the chief point of the criticism, and
with apologies to Greg Paul (I very much enjoyed the book and found it most
stimulating, speaking as a dinosaur amateur), I do think that if, indeed, (a)
the taxonomy presented was markedly different from that generally accepted and
(b) it was not backed up by publications in peer-reviewed journals, the point
is a well-taken one.  When I buy a book like this, with a title like this, I
expect it to be a basic survey of what is known - a reference work that I can
use to branch out into other areas of the literature, and as such the more
conservative and "standard" the arrangement the more useful it will be -
whatever the author's own taxonomic views, or the rightness of such views, may
be.

For example, the "Handbook of the Birds of the World" adopts a quite
conservative taxonomy, but devotes space to alternate views so that the reader
can find his or her way.

A semi-popular or popular survey of this kind is simply not the place for such
a thing IMHO unless, perhaps, it is made very clear what the standard taxonomy
is.  I suspect that if the book had been arranged upon standard lines, with a
supplementary chapter giving (and justifying) the author's own arrangement, it
would have been more widely accepted.  I know that there is a lengthy and
well-written chapter on theropod evolution in general, but that is not quite
the same thing; a comparative table of different taxonomic arrangements would
have helped the uninitiated (like me).

With that, I had better say again that I read the book from cover to cover and
consider it a most valuable addition to my library.  And I would be curious to
hear the author's view as to why he decided to present a novel taxonomy in
this
fashion (and I have no views whatever on the rightness or wrongness of his
taxonomy, though I am more skeptical about secondary flightlessness than he). 
And, of course, if I am wrong and he did actually publish his taxonomy and the
justification for it in a journal or refereed museum publication, then I
apologize for the above!

And finally, I am saying all this mostly because I would dearly love to see
Greg Paul produce a revised edition of this work, and comparable volumes on
other dinosaur groups.  My comments are very much intended as constructive
criticism of a book that deserves a better fate, and, I think, revised and
updated in the current climate, would get it.
--
Ronald I. Orenstein                           Phone: (905) 820-7886
International Wildlife Coalition              Fax/Modem: (905) 569-0116
1825 Shady Creek Court                 
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5L 3W2          mailto:ornstn@inforamp.net