From a review by W. Ford Doolittle of the book by Colin Tudge, Sunday (6/18) New York Times Book Review Section:
Either we call birds reptiles or
we cannot have such a group as the class Reptilia, because it spawned
creatures (in fact two whole classes, Aves and Mammalia) that we don't
call reptiles. Disputes about this still rage in the academic
literature because there are still those who hold that similarity, if
strong enough, should trump relationship, that classification is not
just about genealogy.
Tudge explicates the cladist doctrine quite clearly, while personally
adopting an intermediate position (suggesting that we simultaneously
recognize a Reptilia that includes mammals and birds and a
''Reptilia'' that doesn't, and would be what most people mean by
reptiles). This is the kind of casual ambiguity with which most of us
are already comfortable -- without the typographical trickery. I doubt
that Tudge's terminology will be embraced by professionals.
It is the application of molecular
approaches, as much as cladism, that has transformed the
classification business. Modern museums of natural history spend as
much on DNA sequencing machines as on fossils, and people who can
recognize animals and plants by sight alone are, sadly, ever rarer and
less in demand.
I'd be sorry to think the second statement is true. Should I?