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Re: More instability? (*Eudibamus*)
<Also, the use of certain vulger terms for groups of taxa as being enforced
in either cladistic or so-called "eclectic" paradigms cannot be allowed: its
the method of science that determines the public opinion, not the other way
around, for surely we are not so dense as to assume that once a little fat
man in a cleric's robs five hundred years
ago setting down on paper his opinion on what the word "reptile" should mean
is not the basis for our scientific interpretation of a reptile in either
the broadest sense, or the strictest sense, or anywhere in between. I guess
here the greatest difficulty is in the idea of what a
"reptile" _should be_, not _is_.>
A name is a designation for something, not the thing itself. All
definitions of 'reptile' are selected (pun intended) on the basis of
principle, what the designator 'should be'.
One alternative is the scientific definition, and there are alternative
scientific definitions. Another alternative is the historical, what science
in the past and people in the past chose to call a reptile. Still another
alternative is the 'popular' definition, which may be stated as an easily
identifiable, populous, widespread group. Reptiles are one such group,
We're considering a situation in which one scientific definition stands in
opposition to other definitions, scientific historical, and popular. Given
certain principles, it is correct; accuracy is not an issue. However, given
other criteria for choosing a definition, it would be less acceptable than
The key issue is whether there should be a single definition for the entire
population. Should a group have their definition, acknowledging that other
groups have other definitions? In that case, someone who uses a definition
professionally, for example, would have to be careful to define terms
outside the 'home' group of professionals. Or the need to define terms
could be eliminated if the definition varied with the audience.
The alternative is that one group should persuade almost everyone else to
share their criteria for defining groups. In that case, it is possible that
they would be successful. It is also possible that they would fail, and
hostility might be generated by the attempt.
I don't have an answer to these issues I can urge everyone else to accept,
though I do have a greater comfort with one definition of 'reptile' than
others, I admit.
So, we have the questions about how definitions like 'reptile' should be
generated, and what to do after you (and others) have decided on this
definition. Looking forward to this discussion.