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birds are birds, dogs are dogs



>From earlier postings:

><I am already having people deride me for calling birds
> "living dinosaurs."  One person just came into my
> office, dropped the magazine on my desk with the page
> turned to Gould's article, and then left in disgust.  Help!>

 and  

>That said, I admit that I too have problems with Birds 
>Are Dinosaurs.  It's just, it's just ... just ... _wrong_.
>Isn't it, though?


This is another of those discussions that never seems to get resolved.  It
is phylogenetically correct to call dogs epitheres.  So, should I tell
everyone I have two epitheres?  Of course not--they're dogs, stupid!  Gould
is right, we shouldn't call them wolves, either, because they are known as
dogs, and that is their most precise label (ignoring breeds for the moment).
Why go to a more inclusive designation, whatever it might be?  Likewise, if
I owned a canary, I should not tell people I have a dinosaur.  It's a bird,
stupid!

I've ranted about this before, as some old-timers on the list may remember.
I think we need to use the labels that have precise meaning to people.
Otherwise we can expect unfavorable reactions.  As for birds, realization
that they are in the dinosaur clade has changed nothing relative to labeling
conventions.  After all, people who think birds are descended from a more
basal kind of archosaur, such as pseudosuchians, have never, to my
knowledge, asserted we should call birds pseudosuchians.

Too many of us are over-impressed with our arcane knowledge, and take every
opportunity to flaunt it to our non-academic friends, neighbors, and
associates, as if it is some kind of inside joke that they are too simple to
understand.  It's a form of social intimidation.  I think the birds as
dinosaurs bit even has some shock value, because it does fly in the face of
conventional understanding.  That makes it even more fun to get in people's
faces.

Call a bird a bird, so we will all know what you're talking about.  Is it
also a dinosaur, at a less precise level of labeling?  Of course, but we
shouldn't be striving for reduction of precision and increase in confusion,
and then berate the people who are getting confused.  A dog is a dog, even
though it is also an epithere and eupelycosaur (as someone suggested here).
Call it a dog, so we'll know what you're talking about!