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Re: Taxonomy thread



> In the past, I've found that when two people A and B are arguing about
> something, and A is trying to convince B that B is wrong, and B isn't
> budging, there are several possible explanations.
> 1) B knows something A doesn't.
> 2) B is too stupid to understand A's explanations.
> 3) B understands perfectly well, but doesn't want to admit he's wrong. 
> 4) A and B are not talking about the same thing. 
> 5) A and B _are_ talking about the same thing, but are taking two
> fundamentally different approaches to the subject. 
> I find it extremely interesting that out of at least twenty messages to
> me on the 'taxonomy' topic, written by at least five different people
> over several days, *no one* even considered any explanation besides #2.

     Hey, those in glass houses...  "<shaking head in disbelief> Before
this exchange, I would have sworn that nobody could be this deliberately
dense..."  Ring a bell?

     Besides, if we thought you were really too stupid to understand, we
wouldn't have bothered trying to explain.  Hate to sound condescending,
but you haven't considered another possibility, #6: A knows something
that B doesn't.  There is very little point for nonprofessionals to
subscribe to this list if they aren't willing to accept that paleontologists 
and biologists which have been practicing the science (more or less)
successfully for some time, and JUST MIGHT have a little more knowledge,
experience, and understanding of the concepts are ALSO members, and are
potential sources of information and explanation.  A lot of the more
silly debates that come up seem to originate this way.  
     I don't place myself among the professionals by a long shot, but
having written one paper where I assigned a mosasaur speciemen to a genus 
and species that has had a few synonyms applied to it in the past (by
Cope and Marsh, no less), I appreciate that the litteral translation of
taxa names is a moot point.  I don't know if you have ever done any really
research into taxonomic history in either biology or paleontology, but if
you have you should appreciate just how large the glut of names which have
been applied to various combinations of organisms in the past really is.
The function of Greek and Latin taxon names is NOT to apply perfectly to
all its members for all time, and hasn't been since the international code
for zoological nomenclature really kicked in.  Scientists don't pull out
thier Latin-English dictionaries and translate taxon names and think they
know everthing about the taxon.  
     Keeping names and shifting the membership according to updates in
knowledge is a more useful and less confusing alternative to producing a
new, "more appropriate" name every time.  You seem to understand how this
concept applies to genera, but your resistance to applying the same
concept to higher taxa, which have much greater diversity of form and
function, is puzzling and unexplained.                  

LN Jeff