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RE: Australodocus a titanosauriform and other new papers



David Marjanovic wrote (in response to me: <<>>):

<<"Genera" have baggage, and I argue this as well. They do not mean "clade,">>

<...but they should. That would make a lot of things easier.>

  Okay, David, you hit the nail on the head ... right after I did. I argue that 
if "genera" _are_ clades (which the Linnaean System -- not necessarily the 
enforcement by the ICZN, which I didn't mention -- enforces through its 
traditional hierarchy) then the term "genus" is excessive. The only value to 
the term "genus" is its baggage. I support use of non species clades being 
written as italicized, capitalized terms with effective identical weight (as I 
have been using on my blog for the last year and a half). This includes the 
clade name that is the least inclusive container of the species name 
(typically, superspecies, subgenus, genus, etc.). The separate viability of the 
"genus" and the term itself (used, I might add, by Taylor) is what I am 
questioning. In this, others continue to support the value of this terminology 
and thus imply the baggage.

<No, Paul had already done that. Taylor only resurrected that genus from 
synonymy.>

  No one used the term *Giraffatitan* save Paul (briefly) and very few other 
sauropod workers. It was, in fact, considered a junior synonym of 
*Brachiosaurus* in virtually every single treatment on the taxonomy. This is 
more "genus" baggage. Taylor used the previously valued "subgenus" (argued as 
"real") and recognized its use as a "genus" separate from *Brachiosaurus*. I do 
not state (ever) that Taylor named the taxon.

<The argument is that *Giraffatitan brancai* is better art than *Brachiosaurus 
brancai*.>

  And I argue (here: 
http://qilong.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/taste-versus-science/) that art should 
have no place in Science (in this case, taxonomy) other than the choice of 
order of letters to use as a label (nomenclature). I write:

“Taste” is less useful when we want to assess anything, as “taste” becomes a 
blatant bias in big-s Science. It also leads to people “feeling” that taxa are 
“more different” than others, largely because of the perceived value of a 
character; the value of a character over another two or three chatacters [sic]; 
the location of the species in space or time; and even simply by the relative 
value of how much material is being used to support taxonomy. It can result in 
synonymy or rejection of synonymy, and often for the same reasons. And if the 
same argument can merely be inverted to argue for its opposite, we get a purely 
unscientific principle. That is “taste.”

  Doing otherwise pretends that nomenclature equals taxonomy, and then implies 
or informs phylogenetics.

  Incidentally, I make no claim on *Australodocus* ... if its pieces belong to 
*Tornieria africana,* then bye-bye *Australodocus bohetii*. However, if they do 
not, and if we treat *Australodocus* Remes, 2007 as the least inclusive clade 
containing *bohetii* Remes, 2007 just as *Tornieria* Sternfeld, 1911 is the 
least inclusive clade containing *africana* Fraas, 1908, then separation of the 
species can -- or must -- result in *Australodocus bohetii* even if *bohetii* 
it were the sister taxon of *africana*, giving us *Australodocus bohetii* and 
*Tornieria africana*. By this token, I would support *Giraffatitan brancai* 
even if phylogenetically it was the sister taxon of *Brachiosaurus altithorax*.

Mike Taylor wrote (while I was responding to David):

<In the mean time, the scientific staff of the Humboldt Museum in Berlin, where 
all the Giraffatitan material resides, have been calling it by its proper name 
for some time -- see for example the recent paper on nutrient foramen size by  
Seymour, Smith, White, Henderson and Schwarz-Wings.>

  Where have we been before that followers of a convention were somehow more 
right because they assert it so? This is not Science, this is _cult_. Taylor 
argues that because he is followed in the convention (just as *Brontosaurus* 
was hung onto far beyond it was argued to be a synonym of *Apatosaurus*) that 
he is then _right_ in his assertion that *Giraffatitan* is "its proper name."

  I also believe that it is impossible to appeal to Taylor's objectivity in 
this case if the reasoning for support is an appeal to authority. I do not 
think it possible to win this argument when the opponent simply asserts he 
believes otherwise.

Cheers,

  Jaime A. Headden
  The Bite Stuff (site v2)
  http://qilong.wordpress.com/

"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)


"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion 
Backs)


----------------------------------------
> Date: Tue, 12 Jul 2011 10:16:41 +0200
> From: david.marjanovic@gmx.at
> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: Re: Australodocus a titanosauriform and other new papers
>
> 
>
> > Taylor argued that, arbitrarily but based on Linnaean precedent,
> > elevating a "subgenus" to "genus" was the useful thing at this point
>
> No, Paul had already done that. Taylor only resurrected that genus from
> synonymy.
>
> > Because there is no _science_ inherent in the Linnaean System -- that
> > is to say, in the Popperian sense, it makes no disprovable argument
> > -- its value is reduced. I argue that it becomes art. *Giraffatitan*
> > is art, and so is the "genus." We can also argue about _species_
> > being art, but that's slightly different (and again because it's
> > laden with baggage).
>
> That's all true. The argument is that *Giraffatitan brancai* is better
> art than *Brachiosaurus brancai*.