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RE: birds are birds, dogs are dogs



The last thing I want to do is to drag this out more than it needs to be.
It has been discussed before.  I had planned to make my outrageous
statements and shut up.  But with every group of largely new discussants,
some new slants appear.  Here are comments from several people.

><<stupid! >> 
perhaps the use of the word "stupid" in written english is somewhat
different from its italian use, so i may be wrong.....nonetheless i think i
can feel offended in some way, can't ?<
No, this was not an insult.  It was a joke.  It has to do with American
politics, and George Bush the elder.  Sorry this does not translate well.
(Now I am waiting for the comment on the internationalism of this list.)

>I think the lesson that is often being communicated is the more subtle 
message of strict cladists that paraphyletic groups are inherently bad.<
 This was not my point.  If you grabbed your neighbor by the arm as he/she
walked by and asserted that "strict cladists believe paraphyletic groups are
inherently bad," which of course wouldn't mean a thing to him/her, that
would be about like asserting that a canary is a dinosaur.  You're just
flaunting your "superior" knowledge, using some secret code words to do it.

>But that doesn't change the reality of it, and there's
absolutely no real reason to not call birds dinosaurs<

Well, if we want to communicate for some other purpose than proving that
birds are dinosaurs, rather than just riling people up, then we won't call
them dinsoaurs.  Why make things hard, and why risk alienating people?

>What is boils down to, at least as far as I can tell,
is a bunch of lazy social biases.<

See, you DO think you're superior to the ignorant, boorish public.

>Why don't you just call it "Tweetles"?  That's certainly more specific than
calling it a canary.<

You're overdoing it.  You can answer the question.


>      Just don't expect the rest of the world to say birds ARE dinosaurs.  
Most don't want to be saddled with all that cladistic "context" spilling 
over into the vernacular.  That birds are dinosaur descendants (using 
dinosaur in its traditional paraphyletic sense) is context enough for most 
non-biologists.  And most of them (and many biologists as well) don't like 
cladists insisting that the vernacular meaning of "dinosaurs" and "reptiles"

be changed.  Just because you believe paraphyly is a "sin" (so to speak) 
doesn't mean everyone else has to go along with you, and I wouldn't expect 
the backlash to go away anytime soon.<

This is my point.  Thank you.

>Another example: if with a new, ipothetical extinction, all mammals
disappear from the Earth apart bats, they will be always considered
mammals, the only survivors of this group. For analogy the actual bird must
be considered dinosaurs. The mesozoican diversification of the dinosaurs is
comparable with the actual mammals variety.<

I use this very analogy in my classes and in presentations I make on the
connection between birds and dinosaurs.  Birds are to (other) dinosaurs as
bats are to (other) mammals.  One of my points here is that if you label a
bat as merely a mammal, the image that imparts to any sensible person will
not be that of a tiny flying animal; more likely it's the image of a dog or
cow or human.  Likewise, if you label a bird as merely a dinosaur, the image
will be that of a huge lumbering monster.  We should try to communicate
better than that, and, as Tom Holtz said, appropriately for our audience.
Birds are descended from dinosaurs--everybody can accept that.  But to my
audiences, birds are birds!  Which is absolutely true and correct.  To say
otherwise is not only unnecessary, it is wrong.  Are they dinosaurs, too?
Of course--they are the BIRD kind of dinosaur.  That explanation works.