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Civil Disobedience contra M. Rowe and Cladism
I am no big fan of Gould, but I certainly agree with him on this one.
It seems to me that saying birds ARE dinosaurs is just as much "semantic
tap-dancing" (perhaps more so) than it is to say birds are dinosaur
descendants. And I am truly outraged that strict cladists on this list are
ganging up on Vorompatra for stating the obvious: Mammals also evolved from
The only way you can get around this is to cladistic redefine Reptilia,
and that is exactly what strict cladists have been doing for years, and they
can't even decide among themselves which of their warped definitions should
be adopted. You are like a bunch of bullies fighting on a nomenclatural
playground, and when everyone else is bullied into submission you begin
turning on each other. Well, enough is enough.
Mammals evolved from a reptile. Birds evolved from a different
reptile. Grow up and admit that as strict cladists you are the ultimate
"tapdancers" when it comes to semantics and nomenclature. Saying that
everyone else is wrong because they don't use strictly cladistic rules is
insulting, Ivory Tower snobbery of the worst sort.
In any case, I wish I had classified Diadectiformes as a reptile back
in 1994. This is not based on something simplistic, like reptiles are
"crawly things you kill in your yard". That is an insulting strawman
argument, and such arguments have become intolerable to more and more
people. Don't insult people's intelligence and then naively wonder why
support for funding is eroding.
What really needs to be funded is dinosaur "science"----collecting and
studying the fossils. If strict cladists want to spend some of their time
building phylocode-like castles in the sky, more power to them. However, to
call them definitions that "everyone can understand" is something that many
biologists would find tragically laughable, and that too much time and money
has already been spent on what many regard as an exercise in futility. I am
not in favor of formal paraphyly running amuck, but neither am I in favor of
the extremes of definitional *legalistics* that are being employed to
zealously stamp out every formal paraphyletic group.
Cladistic analysis is something that should be developed, improved, and
funded. I think Dodson fails to see the potential of cladistic analysis,
although I fully understand his frustrations when "strict" parsimony is
touted as a panacea that will cure all our homoplasious ills.
The large body of evidence that birds are descended from theropods is
largely due to COMPARATIVE ANATOMY, *not* strict parsimony, and certainly
*not* cladistic classifications and nomenclature. And to claim otherwise
just makes moderates like Dodson that much more resistant to cladistic
analytical methodologies. Strict cladism is sowing the seeds of its own
downfall, and moderate cladists (like Benton and myself) are clearly worried
about how this is going to impact future funding (not to mention the
nomenclatural chaos that is developing). Why should cladistic analysis (and
taxonomic funding in general) suffer just because strict cladists (an
American clique in particular) have taken strict cladism to such extremes?
Major funding of something like PhyloCode would be a terrible mistake.
Many of us would see it as detracting from REAL science, and diverting time
and funding from more important endeavours. And I don't think you realize
how irritating it is to so many to be called "unscientific" and semantic
tap-dancers. Strict cladists are often viewed as living in glass houses,
which is very risky when those stones start getting hurled back at you more
and more. If this is the last thing I say on this list, will the strict
cladists PLEASE wake up and smell the coffee. You have been repeatedly
warned, and still this Country Club, Ivory Tower attitude continues. In
it's worst form, it is hypocritical puritanism in sheep's clothing.
It has been nice being on this list, and I have learned a lot. But I
suspect this could be my last post. M. Rowe's increasingly hostile e-mails
to me make it pretty clear that he has been itching to throw me off the list
for a long time, and now that I have dared to speak candidly about a severe
problem that afflicts this list (and strict cladism in general), I await an
even more scathing e-mail. But I'm really sick and tired of walking on
eggshells just to avoid being scolded by an overly aggressive moderator.
Censorship by intimidation can only be countered by occasional defiance.
Thus this act of civil disobedience contra what many see as M. Rowe's
heavy-handedness. I await my punishment for whatever he chooses to charge
It's a pity we can't clone Mary Kirkaldy, so we could have two really
good moderators. She does a wonderful job of keeping things under control
(but without impeding serious discourse). This is the kind of balance a
good moderator should strive for, and I applaud Mary for doing it so well.
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