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Re: the definition of Reptilia
HP Schenk concluded:
<I also think most people can understand that birds came from
reptiels, but they wouldn't necessarily consider birds to be
reptiles, any more than they would consider humans to be amphibians
because we had an ancestor that would have been considered an
The issue here is the degree to which science should respond
to the obvious, when what is obvious cannot be demonstrated factually
incorrect. A naming convention is not factual, and if scientific
knowledge and discussion are not to be made unnnecessarily arcane,
then the intuitive understanding of the public, which starts
with observation, should be considered as much as possible.
And, contra HP Kinman, the characteristics (I'm using the more
general word here) that most people would use to distinguish
birds from lizards are not entirely osteological. The first
consideration should be conceptual, rather than solving the problems
of classifying specific individual animals whose available remains
Jefferson's comment that the differences among major groups should
be visible to the glance of a traveler on horseback and his hesitation
at including bones in a classification scheme do provide a balancing
I agree wih him (HP Kinman) that assuring Archie is a bird by
including him/her in the definition appears to be creating problems.
Maybe the definition of a bird is going to have to lose its
teeth, specifically. Watching with interest.
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