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Re: Nomina Dubia Part II: Rapator

On Sun, May 30, 2010 at 5:54 PM, Tim Williams <tijawi@yahoo.com> wrote:
> When we split or lump genera, nothing is being tested. ÂNevertheless, we are 
> still doing science.
> For example, if somebody finds that _Hesperosaurus_ and _Stegosaurus_ are 
> sister taxa, and consequently decides to lump them in the same genus, they 
> must first build a case using the available evidence for regarding 
> _Hesperosaurus_ as a species of _Stegosaurus_. ÂSo although it's not testable 
> (because ultimately it is a subjective decision), I would still regard it as 
> 'doing science'.

Gotta disagree there. That's doing taxonomy and doing nomenclature,
but it's not really "doing science". At best, you might say it's doing
science as a byproduct, because in the course of building your
(rhetorical) case, you are collecting and presenting observations, and
those observations could be used to test hypotheses elsewhere. (And of
course, nomenclature aids science by allowing us to communicate with
precision -- at least, ideally....)

>> As soon as you can't answer the
>> question "if I were wrong, how would I know?" any longer,
>> you're not doing science.
> That's a little harsh.

I don't find that harsh -- what is science, if not a body of knowledge
gleaned from tests?

> Some scientific questions have no "right" or "wrong" answer. ÂIs 
> _Brontosaurus_ the same as _Apatosaurus_? ÂThe evidence suggests "yes"; but 
> we're never going to KNOW for certain.

I'd say that's a taxonomic or nomenclatural question, not a scientific
question. There's no such thing as "the answer" -- only opinions. We
could be omniscient and still argue about it.

(Now, if those names had explicit definitions, THEN it would be a
scientific question.)
T. Michael Keesey
Technical Consultant and Developer, Internet Technologies
Glendale, California