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A sure sign you're launching an unscientific discussion (was Re: Taxonomic philosophy)



While I can empathize with someone feeling the frustration of arguing
from a minority position, there are times when I think we must step
back and ask whether or not our approach is likely to help us achieve
our goals.  Toward that end I will analyze part of a message written
by "Ken Kinman" <kinman@hotmail.com>.  Ken is not the only person I
perceive to be wading into unproductive territory, but he appears to
me to be the most flagrant here at the moment.  To whit Ken writes:

> They are probably just too attached to the sister species concept

> Actually, they don't have "tomophobia"---it is paraphylophobia,

> It's not cutting that bothers them, since they slice up their trees
> like everybody else.  It's that paraphyletic removal that scares
> them,

> they respond to it without considering, much less understanding, the
> advantages).  It's sort of like a knee-jerk reaction.

In all of these quotes (taken from a single message!), Ken is
attributing thoughts to others, and generally characterizing the
(sometimes unspecified) people to whom he refers in a negative light.
I submit that when your discourse focuses on inferences about what
other people are thinking, or worse why they might be thinking those
things for reasons unrelated to data then your discourse is no longer
about science.  If you try to make points by appealing to
psychological maladies on the part of those who disagree with you
then it's hard for a dispassionate observer to accept that your
argument will stand on its own merits.

I challenge everyone here to read through their own messages and strip
them of any references to rationales others might have for disagreeing
with you.  We're here to talk about the science of dinosaurs.  The
culture surrounding particular methods and conclusions will ultimately
fade away, and hence isn't worth worrying about.  Make your arguments
using facts and reason, and don't concern yourself with the
shortcomings (real or imagined) of the people with whom you are
arguing.  They're ultimately irrelevant distractions.  If you look
through a message you're writing and find that it is mostly about
other people rather than evidence you should probably delete your
message without sending it.  Or perhaps you might consider looking for
a list dedicated to the sociology of science and modifying your
message for an audience that would consider such a message
appropriately topical.  In a forum like the dinosaur list where we are
supposed to focus on science rather than personalities, such a message
is more likely to annoy, inflame, irritate, disturb whatever than it
is to promote a constructive conversation.  Therefore I'd rather not
see such things here.

Thanks for your cooperation,

-- 
Mickey Rowe     (rowe@psych.ucsb.edu)