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Re: Response to Gould?

I agree that there are a lot of misconceptions out there that need correcting. The old notion that Dinosauria (non-avian) are huge lumbering slow-moving dimwits needs to be dispelled. Lots of progress has been made on that, and the younger generations will not have such notions to any appreciable extent (thank goodness).
However, the cladists' expansion of both Dinosauria and dinosaurs to include birds was a big mistake even in the eyes of many professional systematists. On that you can expect continued opposition from both professionals and the public. This is a completely different thing from the other examples your were discussing.
P.S. In fact, saying "birds are living dinosaurs", not only irritates a lot of people, but it probably actually tends to help perpetuate the erroneous notion that non-avian dinosaurs were slow-moving dimwits and that is the reason they went extinct. Throwing birds and non-avian dinosaurs into one big "Dinosauria" makes it harder to overcome such misconceptions. Something else to think about!
From: chris brochu <cbrochu@fieldmuseum.org>
Reply-To: cbrochu@fieldmuseum.org
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Re: Response to Gould?
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 18:27:32 -0500

Eric Lurio wrote...
> Indeed, there are thousands of books for children not all of them good, but
> they are there, that portray dinosaurs as huge and extinct. Dinosaur isn't
> just scientific jargan, it's a common name for a group of exinct beasties
> that are well known to everyone. Centuries of usage have consolidated the
the meaning of the common term.

There are lots of kid's books that call spiders, centipedes, and any and all terrestrial arthropods "bugs." A professional entomologist would disagree - "bug" implies a member of a specific clade of insects. True, to be really precise, a taxonomist would use the proper clade name and not "bug;" but the meaning of the word "bug" does mean different things in entomology texts and popular books. Would you argue that the entomology texts have to change, because popular meanings are different?

I've also seen popular books that use "ape" and "monkey" interchangeably
and call blue-green algae "plants."    Heck, the book of Deuteronomy
includes bats in the litany of forbidden-to-eat birds.

Bottom line:  popular meanings are a very poor guide to how scientific
terms should be used.  Dinosauria has a proper scientific meaning; I am
fully aware that popular books do not use it consistently, but I would
rather roll up my sleeves and work to get popular books to use terminology


Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

phone 312-665-7633
fax 312-665-7641
electronic cbrochu@fmppr.fmnh.org

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