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Re: a rose is a rose (Philidor's questions)
<As for your phrases "lazy social biases" and "pettifogging elitism", these
are two extremes (on opposite ends of a continuum) representing very few
people and with most people on a sort of bell curve in between. And
although there will always be a sort of split between popular names and
scientific names, I think the problems can be minimized by recognizing fewer
formal scientific names (and use coding to store much of the phylogenetic
Whoa! '[L]azy social biases' was a quote. I invented 'pettifogging
elitism' as an equivalently discourteous way to refer to the opposing
The problem discussed is what happens when the two different approaches,
everyday logical (you know what birds are, look at them; they are a separate
group, obviously) and scientific (birds are a subset of dinosaurs) come into
conflict. The original posting from 'majestic cheese' described opposition
from people insistently holding the everyday logical view. It's not
difficult to imagine someone holding the scientific view becoming insistent
that birds be spoken of--and taught and written about--from that point of
If that happens more seriously, then you may get 'lazy social biases' and
'pettifogging elitism', in other words name-calling and resentment.
Some people on the list, including you, have suggested methodological
compromises and others have suggested acknowledging the popular assumptions
in setting parts of scientific classification. While both are means of
resolution, I'm wondering, as you appear to be, if the middle of the
scientists' bell curve is interested. After all, given their premises and
logic, they are correct, as far as I can tell.
Even acknowledging the vernacular use of a term like 'bird' while not using
it inside the scientific circle may not avert hostility to scientists as a
group and thus science when defined as what scientists do.
<The unknown parent (common ancestor) has two children, Greataunt Katharine
(Archaeopteryx) and an unknown sibling (ancestor to the rest of the birds).
We assume Katharine is very very similar to the unknown parent and sibling.
We probably will never have fossils of the direct ancestors (unknown sibling
and common ancestor), but Katharine gives us very good idea
what they were like (even if Katharine is really just a distant cousin
further out on that branch).>
(Nice to see my Grandaunt Katherine being mentioned. She was a wonderful
person and I like the ancient Egyptian idea that someone is invigorated when
their name is remembered.)
Anyway, you're a genealogist. I tell you I am a descendant of families
A,B,C, and someone related to Grandaunt Katherine. The first thing you're
going to ask is what family she was born into. I tell you her maiden name
and she effectively disappears from your research. You are now checking 4
See, the bird definition should include names at the same level. If I
defined something as between you and all insects, wouldn't that appear
incongruous? This difficulty is logical, not biological. If you tell me
there are about as many species in the two parts of the definition my
question will be completely resolved.