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Re: the definition of Reptilia
<But we must start with a solid science foundation (however arcane it may
be) and then worry about the
best way to educate the public in less arcane terms. However, I do
understand that we can't sit in elitist ivory towers and just ignore the
needs of society at large or throw unnecessarily arcane terminology at them
like an intellectual prima donna. That usually will backfire sooner or
We're pretty close to being in agreement, but...
The word 'arcane' was selected because of its connotations:
<Known or understood by only a few'>
and in addition:
<requiring secret or mysterious knowledge; "the arcane science of dowsing">
I would complain about the use of the word 'science' in the example provided
by the author in this dictionary.com entry, but you get the idea. I used
the word to indicate a danger.
The difficulty with the 'two vocabularies' solution, one meaning of Reptile
for the public and one for science, is the creation of a group of initiates.
It's bad enough to have the necessity for jargon to describe
concepts/observations unknown to the public at large; worse, it's inherently
condescending to have a 'real' definition inconsistent with the one used for
When Darwin proposed his revolutionary idea (revolutionary because of the
expansion of factual knowledge and NOT because of the degree to which it
would upset the public), his language was clear and his argument was
carefully expressed in everyday (or quotidian) logic. He also distinguished
between the idea itself and the possible logical consequences of that idea
on philosophical issues like the 'value' of the human person. And then the
idea was explicated and defended in public because public understanding was
known to be important.
He didn't say, 'Here's an idea for people who have spent a minimum of 10
years acquiring hidden knowledge. The understanding of anyone outside this
circle should be acknowledged, but they needn't know or accept what we're
One of my teachers was a man born in Ireland who attended the University of
Heidelberg. In a philosophy class the Professor discovered that the only
language all his students had in common was Latin, so the class was taught
in that language. I can see how a specialized language in science should be
developed so that everyone has an equal awkwardness/facility. In fact, this
argument implies not only that names of animals and parts of the body should
be based on Latin or Greek, but also that all scientific papers should be
published in Latin.
In these terms, jargon at least has the defense of widening rather than
restricting access to knowledge.
If scientists are willing to change vernacular to a scientific vocabulary to
increase comprehension for each other, they should be willing to go from
jargon to vernacular for the public at large. And the public understanding
should be acknowledged whenever a choice in approach is available, as in the
classification system used.