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Re: Picavus litencicensis->Ideas for Short Dinosaur Presentation

On 20/02/2012, at 1:03 PM, Tim Williams wrote:

> Paul P <turtlecroc@yahoo.com> wrote:
>> I mean, we don't want any kiddies out there thinking that
>> birds are just boring old birds and not dinosaurs.
> I'm puzzled as to why this birds-are-dinosaurs (BAD) thing is such a
> BFD.  Birds are dinosaurs, just as bats are mammals.  An emu, a
> toucan, or a hummingbird are all birds.  They are also dinosaurs.  We
> routinely refer to them as 'birds' because 'bird' is a convenient
> category, especially in everyday vernacular usage.
> But if we want to view birds through the prism of phylogeny, then
> birds are theropod dinosaurs.  Either way, birds are not boring.  I
> think it was Tom Holtz who said that context is important here.  The
> fact that birds are now recognized as a subset of theropod dinosaurs
> does not stop them from being birds.

Objections to the use of vernacular terms like "bird" and "dinosaur" seem to 
arise from a concern that these folk taxa are somehow essentialistically 
defined (see De Queiroz 1992, Gauthier and de Queiroz 2001, Gelman 2008, Gelman 
and Hirschfeld 1999). But dinosaur itself arose out of science (Owen), as did 
mammal (Linnaeus), and it seems to me that the technical nomenclature is a way 
in which vernacular terms are redfined by what philosophers call "the division 
of linguistic labor" - experts can change ordinary language. Not alone, of 
course, and not by fiat, but using such events as a way to influence popular 
thought, and educational ideas.

de Queiroz, Kevin. 1992. Phylogenetic definitions and taxonomic philosophy. 
Biology and Philosophy 7 (3):295-313.
Gauthier, Jacques, and Kevin de Queiroz. 2001. Feathered dinosaurs, flying 
dinosaurs, crown dinosaurs, and the name “Aves”. In New Perspectives on the 
Origin and Early Evolution of Birds: Proceedings of the International Symposium 
in Honor of John H.Ostrom, edited by J.Gauthier and L. F. Gall. New Haven: 
Peabody Mus. Nat. Hist., Yale Univ.

Gelman, Susan A. 2008. Essentialist reasoning about the biological world. In 
Neurobiology of "Umwelt": How living beings perceive the world, edited by A. 
Berthoz and Y. Christen: Springer.
Gelman, Susan A., and Lawrence A. Hirschfeld. 1999. How biological is 
essentialism? In Folkbiology, edited by D. L. Medin and S. Atran. Cambridge MA: 
MIT Press.

John Wilkins | john@wilkins.id.au
Associate, Philosophy, University of Sydney
"Were all men philosophers, the business of life could not be executed, and
neither society, nor even the species, could long exist." William Smellie, 1791
Species: A history of the idea http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/11391.php