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




Well, I suspect this is the first time on this list that there has been a serious discussion of whether Aves should be given Class status (correct me if I am wrong). If so, I think that is productive. Gives those who are not strict cladists, but interested in dinosaurs and birds, to express some thoughts that they might normally not bring up (much less pursue) on a dinosaur list where there are obviously a lot of cladists around.
And as for the phrases Mickey noted below, I would agree that they not science, but an admittedly "flagrant" attempt to point out that psychology can get in the way of science. I think it is unfortunate that many teachers actually teach their students that paraphyletic groups are unnatural, and this needs to be aired periodically for the benefit of those students who wouldn't dare question a college professor who is clearly cladistically oriented.
A student thanked me privately for the post "sister groups don't exist" (June 22?), because she had been confused in biology class, not having been told that sister groups are a Hennigian convention for cladistic analysis. When she read my post it all started to make sense to her. Many students are taught a narrow cladistic line, rather than being given a broader background and allowed to decide for themselves. Many of them will may be the ones who strike back hardest in a some future backlash against cladistics, and I for one have spent a lot of time trying to make sure that any such backlash does not extend to cladistic analysis (which I learned from Peter Ashlock, by the way).
I certainly do not think strict cladists have any serious psychological maladies, but it's certainly my intention to give them and others enough information (if they haven't gotten it elsewhere) to decide for themselves if they might not have been fully informed, and that their belief that paraphyletic groups are all "unnatural" might possibly be the result of their training or even peer-pressure (especially in a field like vertebrate paleontology). I may ruffle a few cladistic feathers once in a while, but I truly believe that a better airing of the cladisto-eclectic disagreements helps to broaden the scientific reasoning of all concerned. Otherwise, I would have no good reason for getting people riled up at me (on both sides).
------Ken Kinman
P.S. And let me reiterate, when I was talking about Feducciaries, "silly spoiled brats", etc., I was not talking about the exchanges on this list----I was talking about the embarrassing Longisquama mess in the public press, which generated much heat, but very little light. At least give me credit for jumping on both sides, even if you think riling up people is unproductive. Sometimes getting a little riled up can be healthy. In my opinion, complacency can be one or the greatest obstacles to good scientific reasoning, and I see complacency on both sides, and as I grow older, I more inclined to criticized both sides. I'm certainly not out to win a popularity contest. and if you get a number of complaints, the list-owners certainly have the power to ban me if I am more unproductive than productive. C'est la vie.
*******************************************************
From: Mickey Rowe <rowe@psych.ucsb.edu>
Reply-To: rowe@psych.ucsb.edu
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: A sure sign you're launching an unscientific discussion (was Re: Taxonomic philosophy)
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 2000 15:55:45 -0700 (PDT)


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
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