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Re: The Last Dinosaur Book(long)



Title: Re: The Last Dinosaur Book(long)
>From: Dinogeorge@aol.com
>
[snipped]

> Another problem I had with this book was the frequent use of the noun phrase
> "the dinosaur" throughout, as if there were such a thing. There is no such
> thing. There are many kinds of dinosaurs, none of which may legitimately be
> singled out as "the dinosaur." When one says, "the dinosaur," which dinosaur
> does one mean? Tyrannosaurus? Apatosaurus? Velociraptor? Iguanodon?
> Pachycephalosaurus? Triceratops? Some kind of nonexistent hybrid of all of
> these? Some kind of mental or metaphysical construct of an "ideal dinosaur"?
> This is balderdash. And it is very easy to correct this deficiency, in most
> places: Simply substitute the plural, "dinosaurs," and change the surrounding
> grammar to correspond. This would then, for example, render the sentence
> quoted above more sensible: "You are certainly correct in stating that I am
> skeptical about your claim that dinosaurs are best understood as totem
> animals."
>
In all fairness, I think this point is not a valid one. You must separate the public and scientific images of dinosaurs; in the first case there is without question such a thing as 'the' dinosaur (single) as a metaphor for obsoleteness, sluggishness, etcetera . As I've tried to argue before, the relation between both identities of 'dinosaur' (public metaphor and scientific object) is a very thin one. Popular conceptions and prejudices are very difficult to change, and the same goes for popular imagery. As an example: our image of a 'train' is still a steam engine, whereas steam engines are all but abandoned in the modern western world. The same phenomenon occurs in the case of the 'dinosaur'. This popular image has little or no bearing on the identity of actual animals that we study.


Ilja Nieuwland.