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You may already have got this one time, which I  admit could be more than 
enough... However, as I omitted to send it in plain  text, some may not have 
it, so there it is again. 

Hi  dino-guys!

Some of you dino list veterans might remember my name... As a  (probably 
uninteresting, I admit) reminder for you, and as an introduction for  the 
newer members, I have been in and off the dino mailing list for the  last 5 or 
6 years or so, most of the time as a lurker, sometimes as an active  
participant. When I was 15 years old, I often sent silly and ill-informed  
which some of the most merciful among you sometimes dared to answer.  One year 
later or so, I was undertaking a vast phylogenetic study of abelisaurs,  which 
soon extended itself to all of Theropoda, and would soon have come to the  
ambition of encompassing all life if I hadn't starting to think about other  
things, to the point that some fellow dino-buffs on vrtpaleo asked if I was  
working on my thesis... 
Well, not all of it was pure bullshit: I was the one  who compiled the 
specimen list for the Dinosauricon website (I also had a quite  inaccurate 
Lexovisaurus skeleton reconstruction on display there), which I hope  might 
have been 
useful for a few people, but I could well be wrong. Anyway, most  of my paleo 
time then was used for reading heaps of books and papers  (paleontologists use 
to be very cooperative when you are looking after ages old  reprints, mostly 
American ones...), not writing. After those quite incoherent  youth years, I 
started to study (much more seriously) social sciences and got  unsubscribed 
two years. Now I'm back, still a student in social sciences,  but, with some 
more time at my disposal, rediscovering the pleasure of following  day after 
day those so well educated discussions about dinosaurs. By the way,  I'm also 
participating in translating some parts of the outstandind Palaeos  website 
into French, so if there are any French-speaking people here, feel free  to 
a look and bring in some comments, critiques or even participation if  you 
ever feel like it.
Enough for an introduction. I was reading the  discussion following Nick's 
intervention in favor of getting rid of silly  postcranial characters and 
fragmentary taxa in theropod phylogenetic analysis,  and was suddenly cought by 
need of telling what I think about all this. Mind  you, not as a theropod, or 
even dinosaur, expert, but as someone interested in  the subject and who's 
been peering from outside for quite a few years  now.
The first thing I'd like to say is a question: why all this obsessional  
frenzy about cladistics and phylogenetic taxonomy? The cladistic methods and  
point of view gave us invaluable new insights on phylogeny, evolution and  
when it got started. OK. I'm glad we can take for granted that  tyrannosaurs 
are coelurosaurs, as an example. That's science, and that gives us  new 
insights on dinosaur evolution, diversity, etc... It certainly was a good  
thing to 
nuke the old crumbling linnean tree and get rid of "thecodonts" and  
"carnosaurs", which were mostly synonyms of ignorance.
But IMO that doesn't  mean old-fashioned two hundred pages long monographs of 
careful anatomical  description should be replaced by short Nature or Science 
papers with almost  nothing in them and some unreliable sixty taxa tree at 
the end. I know this also  depends on money, research credits, and anyway 
everydoby wants to be as modern  and up to date as possible... But I dare to 
this is NOT science. For me,  dinosaur paleontology is mostly anatomy, 
stratigraphy, paleobiology and  paleoecology. The first two items are the dry 
and hard 
data on which the other  two more attractive ones are based.
But where does phylogenetic systematics  fit in there? I personnally don't 
think not getting the researcher late for  tea-time should be the overriding 
criterion to evaluate a method. I don't mean I  support the idea of calculating 
dozens of useless trees that will get outdated  next week. I completely support 
Nick's position in that I think we should mostly  limit phylogenetic research 
to the identification of solid patterns (with or  without postcranial 
characters, that's not my point). But after this is done, I  can't see the 
utility of those numerous analyses. You add some abscure  species known from 
teeth and one caudal vertebra and the tree gets  completely changed... Get rid 
of some characters you don't like and  Corythosaurus might appear as a brand 
new ankylosaur! I'm not exagerating so  much. I keep thinking that human 
thought is somewhat superior to computer  calculations, and that careful, 
anatomical studies completed with  detailed stratigraphic work can also give 
some useful picture of evolution. I  think we'd know more about bird origins by 
REALLY describing ANY of those Yixian  feathered findings than by building 
heaps of cladistic trees by slightly  modifying some already used and 
I think that Madsen's  monograph on Allosaurus is more useful and reliable 
than a bunch of zeroes and  ones stuffed into some computer program. Or why are 
paleontologists still  publishing papers to update the anatomy of such well 
known beasts as  Dromaeosaurs or Acrocanthosaurus? I think Nick is right at 
pointing that part of  the rampant phylogenetic instability comes from 
too fragmentary taxa,  but doesn't it come also from inadequate study of those 
reasonably well  preserved specimens we have at hand? 
Don't get mistaken. I do like  phylogenetic systematics, and I think the 
never to be achieved project of  reconstructing the tree of life is a good one. 
But I can't accept the idea that  we learn more from adding some quickly 
described (or even barely diagnosed)  taxon to a matrix for computer processing 
from a real, scientific, thorough  description drafted by human thought. I do 
think we might figure out many things  about phylogeny if we started thinking 
about it instead of having computer  programs do the work for us.
As a student in social sciences, I have got  quite a good knowledge of the 
good and bad points of quantitative and  qualitative methods. Cladistics are a 
quantitative method, everyting being based  on the NUMBER of shared 
apomorphies, and the like. When reading sociology works,  I tend to strongly 
studies based on pure statistics, while I believe  interviews of "real" people 
often thrilling. Is it that silly to say that we  could somewhat turn back to 
actually thoroughly interviewing fossils instead of  comfortably use some 
unreliable statistical method? And, more generally, is it  really more 
interesting to know where Torvosaurus fit on the cladistic tree than  to know 
what it 
looked like and how it lived?

If this badly organized and  too long manifesto startles some thought, 
approval, critique or laugh in any of  you fellow list members, I'll consider 
it to 
be a somewhat useful bit of bad  paleo English. Now, I'm waiting for your 

Félix Landry