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Re: A conversation with Larry Martin



The BANDit mindset is typological.  They cling to the view that a bird
is a certain "type" of animal, and any animal that has features
sufficiently bird-like (= avian) must therefore be a bird.  This
typological mindset is apparent in the statement:

      "I suppose that we could define birds as animals who have or
give evidence of have
       having an avian wing.... This brings dromaeosaurs and
oviraptosaurs into the avian
       fold."

This same typological mindset surfaced in Burnham (2007):

     "The caveat is that the evolution of birds is now
      tied to this new paradigm of flight origin whereby
      maniraptoran "dinosaurs" (e.g. _Microraptor_) are
      not only the progenitors of flight, but possess
      fundamental avian attributes, and therefore, must
      actually be birds themselves (Martin 2004;
      Feduccia et al. 2005)."

Thus, under this rationale, being a bird is like being a member of an
exclusive club.  If you have enough "birdy" features, you gain
admission.  The BANDits are bouncers.

Scientifically speaking, a superior approach (phylogenetic taxonomy)
is to classify taxa based on common descent, and not be hooked on what
a bird *should* be.  Unfortunately, common nouns like "bird" tend to
have a great deal of typological baggage that goes back to the days of
Linnaeus. The BANDits are quite happy to hang on to this baggage. But
phylogenetic taxonomy jettisons this baggage, and classifies taxa into
clades, without any pre-conceived judgements regarding what a bird
*should* look like.

This relates to Mickey's point about the continual re-use of old ideas
by BANDits.  They prefer the Old Ways, because woolly thinking was all
the rage back then (until around the 1980's).  Now, phylogenetic
taxonomy organizes taxa into clearly defined clades, and forces you to
be explicit about relationships between taxa.  With phylogenetic
taxonomy, you can't get away with vaguely defined groups or
hand-waving about which groups might be closely related simply because
it 'makes sense to me' (like birds and _Longisquama_).  (The 'me' is a
BANDit in this case... not myself.  _Longisquama_ has about as much to
do with the origin of birds as a Burmese python.)

As noted by Mickey: "their recent papers try to claim the category of
'dinosaur' is controversial and nebulous."  This is an old idea; but
it gives solace to the BANDits, because it means they can be vague and
imprecise when advancing their views on avian evolution.

Finally, typological thinking also leads to the cardinal sin that
pervades a lot of BANDit literature: the notion that a "trees-down"
origin of flight is incompatible with a dinosaurian origin of flight.
They have entangled the ecomorphological origin of flight with the
phylogenetic origin of birds - which should be treated as two separate
hypotheses (although certainly linked).  Because BANDits are so
fixated with the concept that dinosaurs were terrestrial, they cannot
wrap their collective head around the idea that certain dinosaurs
might have climbed trees. If a dinosaur did climb trees, it can't be a
dinosaur, because dinosaurs were terrestrial... so goes the BANDit
mantra.  If critters like _Microraptor_ had wings and climbed trees,
then (allegedly and typologically) they can't be dinosaurs; they must
be birds.  This is nonsense, of course.  But that's never stopped a
BANDit before.






On Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 4:48 PM, Mickey Mortimer
<mickey_mortimer111@msn.com> wrote:
> At least I think he never brought up the supposed lack of supradentaries in 
> maniraptorans again.  One theme I noticed in Martin's replies was that he 
> just didn't care about a lot of relevent issues, which would be fine if he 
> didn't trumpet heterodox ideas.  Another was that his knowledge of dinosaurs 
> is from the 70s or so.  An annoying theme among BANDits is continuing to 
> bring up BAD ideas that were proposed long ago and are no longer believed, as 
> if they still harm the hypothesis.  Just try to read a BANDit paper without 
> hearing about Ostrom wrongly identifying Deinonychus' semilunate as a radiale 
> in the 60s, or his "fly-swatting" Archaeopteryx idea from the 70s.  But that 
> may be related to their own reuse of ideas no matter how often they're 
> discredited.  Jason mentioned how the temporal gap problem was refuted 
> quantitatively in 2001, but just try to find a BANDit that acknowledges that 
> paper's existence.  These all combine to suggest a mentality that is 
> fundamentally stuck in the past and unconcerned with details as long as a few 
> guidelines are true (non-dinosaurian birds that developed flight in the 
> trees, asa ABSRD).
>
> Yet I think given another decade or so, Martin would have come around.  Ditto 
> for Feduccia.  Notice Martin was open to avian ornithomimosaurs, 
> alvarezsaurids and tyrannosauroids.  And notice how their recent papers try 
> to claim the category of 'dinosaur' is controversial and nebulous.  In 2025, 
> an old Feduccia will probably be saying sure maniraptorans are birds and 
> related to tyrannosaurs and sauropods, but who really knows if these things 
> are dinosaurs, or if "dinosaur" is a useful term at all.  After all, Seeley 
> (1887) said "Dinosauria has no existence as a natural group of animals" and 
> "I see no ground for associating [Saurischia and Ornithischia] in one group, 
> unless that group includes Birds, Crocodiles, Anomodonts and Ornithosaurs."
>
> Mickey Mortimer
>
> ----------------------------------------
>> Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2013 12:47:55 +0200
>> From: david.marjanovic@gmx.at
>> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
>>
>>
>> I can't comment over there, so...
>>
>> > As I say in my post, as much as I criticized Martin on this list, I
>> > don't know many other scientists who would take the time to write
>> > such a long and detailed exchange with an unknown undergraduate
>> > amateur.
>>
>> Sure. But, judging from your blog post, he did quit in the middle of it.
>>
>> Yes, you were an unknown undergraduate amateur, and Martin was
>> presumably paid to publish peer-reviewed papers with an impact factor,
>> not to reply to you. Time is limited, that's fine. _However_, the
>> questions you brought up are so important (not just "were", but still
>> are!) that I'd have expected him to address them in one of his following
>> papers -- or at the very least conference presentations. To the best of
>> my knowledge, he never did that in nine years, and neither has Feduccia
>> or Lingham-Soliar or anyone else in that camp ever done it. Why
>> aren't... at least the tail fins of aquatic salamanders from the Yixian
>> and Jiufotang Fms preserved as individual frayed collagen fibers that
>> look like feathers? Why?