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Re: The Last Dinosaur Book(long)

In a message dated 5/3/99 11:29:51 PM EST, wjtm@midway.uchicago.edu writes:

<< To Dinogeorge from Tom Mitchell: replies in <<  >>
 Now that I've practically finished reading the book, I must say that, while
 it contains some interesting notions, I found it quite useless in telling me
 why I, myself, happen to be interested in dinosaurs.
 I couldn't care less
 what view the ignorant public has of dinosaurs, or whether or not dinosaurs
 are some kind of totem for the masses.
 <<Then why did you bother reading this book?  The dust jacket alone should
 have told you that it was not for you.>> >>

I bought the book because I thought it might help me to understand why I 
personally am interested in dinosaurs. That's one reason of several, anyway 
(I'm not one of those people who will buy only books that contain material 
I'm likely to agree with and find congenial; I also read and enjoy books that 
irritate me and force me to look at opposing and even infuriating points of 
view). Unfortunately, as I said, I didn't find the answer. I already know 
that I'm not interested in dinosaurs because they're large (most were not), 
or fierce (many were not), or extinct (all but modern birds are), or some 
combination of these three attributes. After reading the book, I'm still not 
sure whether these are even the reasons that dinosaurs interest the ignorant 
public at large, either. The book's windy discussions of these issues left me 
unsatisfied; hence my complaints.

Speaking of complaints (here we go again; sorry): The book's discussion of 
dinosaur monophyly--and/or lack of it--misses one very important point. That 
is that dinosaurs have recently been, and indeed are still (as far as some of 
dinosaur paleontology is aware) in the process of being, >legislated< into 
monophyly. There is no issue of dinosaur monophyly or polyphyly anymore; they 
have been >declared< a monophyletic group in their latest definition, which 
is: the common ancestor of Triceratops and extant birds, and all of its 
descendants. The issue now is whether a particular animal falls into this 
exact group (and is thereby a dinosaur) or not. Whatever Ornithischia and 
Saurischia, or whatever two groups one may subdivide Dinosauria into, might 
be, since they're both branches of the Tree of Life, they must once have had 
a common ancestor, and >this< is where Dinosauria begins. The taxon 
Dinosauria has been made into a natural group by fiat, and the time of the 
"schizoid" dinosaur is past.