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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 Reptiles.
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 me with.
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.
------ Ken



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