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Re: birds are birds, dogs are dogs
I agree with what you said for the most part, but would add one thing.
Some people might use the dinosaur-bird relationship for its shock value or
to show off their knowledge, but that sort of thing is pretty easy to spot.
I think the lesson that is often being communicated is the more subtle
message of strict cladists that paraphyletic groups are inherently bad.
Unlike dinosaurology, strict cladism hasn't made the same inroads into
disciplines like entomology, so you are unlikely to hear the insect
equivalents, like "fleas are scorpionflies" or "termites are cockroaches".
I personally think it is more helpful (and less "in a person's face")
to say fleas evolved from scorpionflies, or birds evolved from dinosaurs. I
believe it is the strict cladist's acquired distaste for any paraphyletic
group that is the greater problem (more so than people showing off their
knowledge or trying to socially intimidate).
From: "King, Norm R" <NKing@usi.edu>
To: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" <email@example.com>
Subject: birds are birds, dogs are dogs
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2000 10:35:01 -0600
>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!>
>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
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,
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
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
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
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!
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