[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]
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: email@example.com