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Re: Cladistics (was Sci. Am. - present)

At 01:23 AM 2/22/98 -0000, John V Jackson wrote:

>If you're lucky enough to be able to earn a living out of your hobby, stick
>to your guns and say "the runes say _Velociraptor_ begat _Archeopteryx_."

Just to clear up a common misperception of the field: by and large, the vast
number of dinosaur paleontologists do not work for dinosaur paleontologists.
Chairs of departments of Geology or Biology or Paleobiology or whatever at
museums and universities are (with very, very rare exceptions) NOT people
involved in this debate.  (The chair of my department is a petrologist, the
chair at the paleo department at the Smithsonian is an ostracode
worker/morphometrician/functional biologist, and so forth).

As such, our bosses do not have a vested interest in our research results,
one way or another.  They don't care WHAT results we produce, so long as we
produce results.

My job is not on the line with regards to a particular phylogenetic scheme.
I will still get paid if dromaeosaurids, or troodontids, or
megalancosaurids, or wombats, or... come out as the sister taxon to birds.

(My salary doesn't increase or decrease by the number of taxa I name,
either: another misconception I've seen on the net...).

>Me?  I just want to know the right answer!

Then perhaps I might suggest a field other than science?  We don't get
"right" answers in science, any field of science.  We get the best
approximations we can with current data and methodology, subject to
falsification with new data and methods.  I know some people are
uncomfortable with this, but that's how science works.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:th81@umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661