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Re: Serenogram

Does anyone else see a problem here?  This is why I chose not to go into 
paleontology, but in my case the same things were happening with 
Cretaceous clams 25 years ago (but without the cladistics).

I guess my tirades against nomenclatorial practices are getting a bit 
trite.  But I have also had some "outrageous" ideas that seem to have 
been dismissed with little more than a reaction like, "What an idiot!".  
For example, I once suggested that paleontologists should just diagram 
everything, like electrical circuits.  The latter may have many complex 
interconnections ("nodes"), but none of them are named; if a alternative 
path is found to make the circuit work better, just make a new 
connection.  There's no waste of intellectual energy arguing about what 
to call the connections, and which came first is irrelevant.  However, 
there are places and times in taxonomy where more energy is spent keeping 
everything straight than forging into new territory.

In this case, the material at hand (meaning both the physical objects in 
question as well as the literature treating it) seems to exceed in 
complexity the ability of competent minds to gain command of it (with the 
exception of Tom Holtz!).  It's worse than the tax codes, although I once 
drew that comparison.  At least the tax codes are anchored in objective 
words (but when Clinton, for example, says he can't answer a question 
until you explain what you mean by the word "is", this argument seems to 

Taxonomic nomenclature might be more properly compared to the attempt to 
put names on the individual brush strokes in a painting by Renoir.  It is 
utterly subjective, and one stroke seems to blend into another, but where 
do you draw the line?--there clearly are places where one painted object 
grades into or abuts against another.  This could probably never be 
resolved among different minds, no matter how long they studied the 

Yes, I see that neither analogy is quite right.  If you read the 
archives, you will see Tom's responses to similar comments I have made in 
the past.  Paleontologists want their names, and they will have them.  
Just watch the mad rush to create more, and have another drink!

Could it be that Nature abhors names?  Just because taxonomy is a 
time-honored tradition doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Norman R. King                                       tel:  (812) 464-1794
Department of Geosciences                            fax:  (812) 464-1960
University of Southern Indiana
8600 University Blvd.
Evansville, IN 47712                      e-mail:  nking@usi.edu