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Re: On Names and topicality...
It was written:
(snipping from the snip for brevity's sake):
> > Tom's conventions about the meanings of taxonomic names are (so
> > I can tell) within the mainstream of contemporary science. As such,
> > if you really care about science (as something that scientists do)
> > then you should accept the spirit of Tom's usage *in the context in
> > which Tom is writing* (I hope you can now see the relevance of the
> > quote!) In that context, dinosaurs are reptiles. Finished. End of
> > story. If you don't like that (or anything else related to
> > phylogenetic taxonomy) then you should probably complain on a
> > different list -- either one that deals more generally with
> > nomenclature or one that exists for some reason other than to
> > contemporary science.
> I don't see the logic here. Since, as you point out, Tom is part of
> network of people who define these conventions, it would seem to me
> he's the perfect person with whom to have such a conversation. When
> speaking of taxonomic groups not in general usage I'll be content to
> and listen, but since the term in question is one which sees extremely
> broad usage I think folks beyond the taxonomic community ought to
> say in how (or if) it's applied. At the very least biologists who
> with these animals in their work ought to have a say; limiting the
> participants in such a discussion to cladists doesn't make much
> Anyway, it's an evolving discussion, and as long as it remains
> and doesn't suck up too much bandwidth I think it should be left
I don't think anyone is questioning your right to challenge the
utility of the nomenclature.
For that matter, Tom (or Tim, as some like to call him), may very well
be the perfect person to discuss this with.
However, content on *this* list is supposed to center around dinosaur
phylogeny and physiology, with taphonomy thrown in for goo measure
because it's just so much fun. This, it seems, does not extend to the
reasons workers give particular labels to certain clades or how much
utility those names have for science as a description of the natural
Of course, to reiterate, your points may very well be absolutely
valid. Or maybe your's and Tom's have equal weight and you will be
locked in eternal struggle like those guys both played by Frank
Gorshin on Star Trek.
And of course, it's still perfectly interesting, and worthy of a few
posts, especially because we actually get to ask the people who give
the names, or who have the most immediate need to use the names, why
they did/do so. But once we get past their answer and persist in
asking, "but why *that* name? It is icky. Why, I ask. Why why
why?", we are straying a bit too far from the evolution and lives of
such list favorites as Tyrannosaurus and the flamingo.
Off topic? Hell, it's my middle name. I know it's tempting when
something comes up that we actually know something about to jump in
and contribute, though tangential at best to the list subject. I've
done it once or twice on law-related issues, no matter how absurdly
tangential to the discussion they were, then felt faintly embarrassed.
(Note that automobile accelerators are now being discussed at some
length on the dinosaur mailing list.)
You're not going to read some haughty 'get back on topic' rant from
Mr. Dinosaur TV Week. But anyway, there's my take on why several
people have gently or less-than-gently noted that the discussion may
be more central to the purposes of a different crowd, something like
mailing list, or whatever list/newsgroup most closely pursues that
"In our youths, our hearts were touched with fire."
--Oliver Wendell Holmes
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