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RE: The iguanodont paper



Tim Williams writes:
 > Take the example of the old Dinosauria, which excluded
 > birds. People made all sorts of sweeping statements, such as:
 > "Dinosaurs never became aquatic or marine" and "All dinosaurs
 > became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous".  We now know that
 > both statements are untrue, and (more importantly) were *never*
 > true, given that birds are a subset of dinosaurs.  But if we were
 > to have a taxonomic group that was limited to the *traditional*
 > dinosaurs (i.e., without birds), these clangers would return with a
 > vengeance.

Woah, woah!  Tim, this is ridiculous.  To say that these ideas "were
never true" is absurd.  They were perfectly true according to the
understanding of the term "dinosaur" that was unanimously held at the
time.  That reformers have subsequently come sweeping in and
reassigned that name to mean something different cannot be a licence
to rewrite history.  Those statements were perfectly accurate when
they were made (and, we should remember, would still be considered
accurate by the overwhelming majority of people today).

This is exactly analogous to my redefining The Beatles to include
George Martin, and then saying:

        Take the example of the old Beatles, which excluded
        George Martin. People made all sorts of sweeping
        statements, such as: "Beatles never produced records
        by Kenny Rogers" and "All beatles came from
        Liverpool".  We now know that both statements are
        untrue, and (more importantly) were *never* true,
        given that George Martin is one of the Beatles.  But
        if we were to have a taxonomic group that was limited
        to the *traditional* Beatles (i.e., without George
        Martin), these clangers would return with a vengeance.

If we're going to go around redefining venerable terms, let's at least
show a little respect for those who came before rather than writing
them off as the perpetrators of "clangers" and "statements that were
never true".

 _/|_    ___________________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor    <mike@indexdata.com>    http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  "Clear use of function pointers is the heart of object-oriented
         programming" -- Rob Pike.