Pharyngula

Nick Matzke, one of the world’s leading experts in detecting absurdities in creationist texts, has discovered a real howler from Casey Luskin. Luskin is complaining that he, Junior Woodchuck lawyer for an intellectually bankrupt propaganda mill, can’t find the wrist bones in Tiktaalik when Neil Shubin, world-class paleontologist, is directly describing them. This is, admittedly, a fairly high-level discussion by Shubin, but it’s amusing that Luskin isn’t tripped up by the science — it’s his command of the English language that lets him down.

When discussing Tiktaalik’s “wrist,” Shubin says he “invites direct
comparisons” between Tiktaalik’s fin and a true tetrapod limb. Surely
this paper must have a diagram comparing the “wrist”-bones of
Tiktaalik to a true tetrapod wrist, showing which bones correspond. So
again I searched the paper. And again he provides no such diagram
comparing the two. So we are left to decipher his jargon-filled
written comparison in the following sentence by sentence analysis:

1. Shubin et al.: “The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have
homologues to eponymous wrist bones of tetrapods with which they share
similar positions and articular relations.” (Note: I have labeled the
intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik in the diagram below.)

Translation: OK, then exactly which “wrist bones of tetrapods” are
Tiktaalik’s bones homologous to? Shubin doesn’t say. This is a
technical scientific paper, so a few corresponding “wrist bone”-names
from tetrapods would seem appropriate. But Shubin never gives any.

“Waaaaah,” whines Luskin, “Shubin didn’t tell us the names of the corresponding tetrapod wrist bones!”

Only he did. I guess “eponymous” is too difficult a word for a Junior Woodchuck.

Shubin is saying that there are bones with the same positions and articulations with neighboring bones in tetrapods and Tiktaalik, and that they have the same names. They have a small wrist bone that articulates with the ulna called the ulnare, and they have another bone called the intermedium. They have the same names.

Here’s a nice diagram, color-coded and everything, just for Casey. Here are some fish:

And some tetrapods:

These clowns at the DI would be much funnier if more people would realize that they are performance artists with little talent and no expertise, except in lying and tripping over their own shoes.


Carl Zimmer has also noted Luskin’s absurd error.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    July 14, 2008

    Hey, here’s a random thought:

    If most of the drive-by trolls aren’t capable of scrolling down the page, maybe a couple sciencey posts (reposts from the archives?) will frighten them off. I generally do that with math-heavy posts to drive away the extra readers I pick up after I’ve been Pharyngulated. . . .

  2. #2 Lago
    July 14, 2008

    There are several different names given to the same set of bones in the wrists in tetrapods. For example, there are standard type names like Shubin gave that are distal, proximal ulnare and so on, and there are ones for mammals in general, which are sometimes shared with the ones given for humans in general.

    This all comes from a time when different groups in different regions and disciplines named the same homologous bones by different names. Some people familiar with human wrist bone names alone often get confused and think the same bones are different based on the different names. The idiot mentioned above does not grasp that Shubin is using the same names for both Tiktaalik, as well as tetrapods in general because he is confused on this…

    Again, ignorance is bliss…

  3. #3 mjfgates
    July 14, 2008

    Yow. Sauripteris‘ hand/fin thing looks DARNED weird. Like it had evolved the “wrist” part for weight-bearing, but not the “finger” bits to help deal with uneven ground or whatever fingers did for those particular salamanderish guys yet.

  4. #4 OctoberMermaid
    July 14, 2008

    Jesus, even I knew what “eponymous” meant and I’m not even a lawyer OR a scientist.

    Crazy!

    What a dope.

  5. #5 PZ Myers
    July 14, 2008

    Yeah, you can get really confused if you look at a human anatomy text — everything is renamed!

  6. #6 Sili
    July 14, 2008

    It doesn’t work Blake. I’m just a bit slow working my way through the QM preliminaries (it’s been too long). What really slows me down, though, are all those bloody links.

    Re Lazy Cuskin:

    Landlady showing flat to promising young author:
    - So have I read anything you’ve written? Your name doesn’t ring any bells.
    - Oh. I use a pseudonym.
    - I don’t care, young man. As long as she’s out of here by ten!

  7. #7 Andrew Cooper
    July 14, 2008

    So where did the wrist diagrams come from? Reference?

  8. #8 Lledowyn
    July 14, 2008

    Amazing. Little Casey finds a few words that he can’t understand, and instead of going to a dictionary, or some other source to find out what they mean, he throws up his hands, calls it “jargon,” and complains that the article doesn’t explain anything. The label IDiot fits rather well to this fellow.

  9. #9 Shaden Freud
    July 14, 2008

    Luskin is so ignorant I can’t even muster a LOLcat for the situation.

  10. #10 ERV
    July 14, 2008

    In all fairness, ‘eponymous’ is a hard word.

    But I cant believe Luskin passed kindergarten after this:

    “Digits are part of fingers or toes that have a grasping capability. It’s tough to grasp something with one bone in your finger, so these don’t deserve to be called digits.”

    There you go, ladies and gentlemen. Contrary to what you learned in elementary school, dogs, horses, whales, etc do not have ‘digits’.

  11. #11 Bob Vogel
    July 14, 2008

    I’ve purchased and read Neil Shubin’s book. As a non-scientist, I can’t quite absorb the details but yet understood most of it. (it was an excellent read)

    What I really appreciate with this post is PZ’s unrelenting attention to what’s important in the face of all the other shit he’s facing with the cracker thing.

    Bob

  12. #12 Reed A. Cartwright
    July 14, 2008

    Damn it, PZ! Why are you putting all these atrocious science posts on your blog. I thought this was supposed to be an anti-cracker blog. You risk alienating your anti-cracker readers with stuff like this.

  13. #13 Aaron Golas
    July 14, 2008

    Casey also seems to have trouble with the meaning of “translation,” there. (Hint: it doesn’t mean “frustrated tantrum.”)

  14. #14 Orac
    July 14, 2008

    As a physician, I’m particularly amused by this. Lots of human body parts have eponyms, but over the last two decades there has been a real effort to do away with them. However, physicians are resisting, apparently having a hard time saying things like “uterine tubes” instead of “Fallopian tubes.”

    Surgeons especially love eponyms, because it means they get to name anatomic structures after surgeons, pathologists, or anatomists. Consequently, we have Cooper’s ligament, the foramen of Winslow, Gerota’s fascia, the ligament of Treitz, Meckel’s diverticulum, Zenker’s diverticulum, and all manner of other bits of anatomy or pathology named after their discoverers.

  15. #15 The Science Pundit
    July 14, 2008

    Duh! Any REM fan knows what eponymous means. :-D

  16. #16 JohnB
    July 14, 2008

    Poor Luskin, the Emily Litella of creationism. I don’t think he’ll follow this up with a sheepish “Nevermind”, though.

  17. #17 Capital Dan
    July 14, 2008

    A LOLcat isn’t the answer. We need LOLuskins now.

  18. #18 Holbach
    July 14, 2008

    Screw Luskin; give him a cracker!

  19. #19 Sven DiMIlo
    July 14, 2008

    Indeed, Orac. My favorites (because they remind me so much of the oaths Dr. Strange used to utter):
    the Sheath of Schwann
    the Sphincter of Oddi

  20. #20 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    That’s not really what “eponymous” means, however. “Synonymous”, or, of course, “homologous,” would work.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  21. #21 Shaden Freud
    July 14, 2008

    #17

    True…he needs to join the ranks of the LOLcreationists. In fact, I expect Quidam is on the case as we speak.

  22. #22 Ric
    July 14, 2008

    Bwahaha! That’s beautiful. Luskin is a moron.

  23. #23 Lago
    July 14, 2008

    The ones Sven used are still used a lot, and easily recognizable, but some of the ones Orca used I had never heard before, and was surprised what common anatomical elements they were referring to when I looked them up. They sure used to love to complicate things huh?

  24. #24 Lord Zero
    July 14, 2008

    Cute diagrams… its sad than their IQ are
    not high enough to grasp their meaning, but
    i guess i will use it as a reminder myself,
    so your work its not wasted.

  25. #25 Jeff Arnold
    July 14, 2008

    Don’t you know that using complex, scientific language in scientific papers is just another example of the BIG SCIENCE conspiracy?!?!

    Obviously there is nothing supporting the scientists’ claims if the non-scientists don’t understand the big words they use!

  26. #26 Alex
    July 14, 2008

    #21

    Thanks for the link Shaden. It gave me more than a chuckle.

    Teh gawd peepl iz crizazie!

  27. #27 DaveH
    July 14, 2008

    I always chuckled that German texts tend to use “Epistrophius” rather than “Axis” for the second cervical… was it only adopted after 1945?
    “I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it” Basil Fawlty.

    BTW, the terms used in human anatomy are canonical and the only correct terms. Get used to it, fish-botherers.

    Keep laughing at them Prof Myers!

  28. #28 Iason Ouabache
    July 14, 2008

    This is exactly why you shouldn’t send a lawyer to do a scientist’s job.

  29. #29 Zeno
    July 14, 2008

    At least “eponymous” is an obscure word to most people. Right-wing talk-show hosts can’t even distinguish between “precipitous” and “immediate”. No nuance, those people. Oh, and they think Hinduism and Buddhism are monotheistic!

    Gods and know-nothings

  30. #30 BlueIndependent
    July 14, 2008

    @ #15:

    True dat! Great compilation album.

    @ #20:

    I think the reason “eponymous” was chosen was because the first part of the word, “epo”, refers to that which generated the part names, the “epicenter” or origin of those part “nyms” or names. Synonymous and Homologous refers to things that may serve a similar function, but are not necessarily the same thing in construct. For example, a bat can “see” with sound, which means their ears are homologous to our eyes, even though they are different forms. Shubin is saying the Tiktaalik parts are essentially the same pieces from tetrapods.

    That’s my understanding of what’s going on, but I realize i may be off a bit.

  31. #31 CrypticLife
    July 14, 2008

    It’s been a while since I took the LSAT, but I don’t recall it being a very vocabulary-focused test, comprised mostly of logical analysis and reasoning sections. It did, however, also have a reading comprehension section.

    I suspect Junior Woodchuck did relatively poorly on all three sections.

  32. #32 allonym
    July 14, 2008

    This is exactly why you shouldn’t send a lawyer to do a scientist’s job.

    More to the point, this is exactly why you shouln’t send Casey Luskin to do any job.

  33. #33 allonym
    July 14, 2008

    *shouldn’t

  34. #34 AdamK
    July 14, 2008

    Glen – “Eponymous” means “named after,” “synonymous” means “meaning the same thing,” not “being the same word.” (They don’t mean the same thing. :) Synonymy is about words, not anatomical structures or other objects.)

    “Homologous” means “having the same origin or function,” but the author is using shorthand to identify the names of the bones, not their functions. The usage here is correct, although “eponymous” has other uses in other contexts.

  35. #35 AdamK
    July 14, 2008

    Andrew Cooper:

    There is a link in the text to the source of the diagrams. It’s blue and underlined. Imagine that!

    I’ll leave it to your creative mind to figure out which one it is.

  36. #36 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    I think the reason “eponymous” was chosen was because the first part of the word, “epo”, refers to that which generated the part names, the “epicenter” or origin of those part “nyms” or names. Synonymous and Homologous refers to things that may serve a similar function, but are not necessarily the same thing in construct. For example, a bat can “see” with sound, which means their ears are homologous to our eyes, even though they are different forms. Shubin is saying the Tiktaalik parts are essentially the same pieces from tetrapods.

    That’s my understanding of what’s going on, but I realize i may be off a bit.

    Yes, thanks, that could well be the case. The only trouble is that “eponymous” simply does not mean that, at least not in any context in which I’ve seen it used. I do not believe that Shubin used the term properly, unless it has some specialized meaning to which I am not privy.

    An eponym is the name of a person, whether real or fictitious, which has (or is thought to have) given rise to the name of a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item. An eponymous person is the person referred to by the eponym. In contemporary English, the term eponymous is often used to mean self-titled, as in “Metallica’s eponymous ‘black album’”. The word eponym is often used for the thing titled. Stigler’s law of eponymy suggests that Eponyms are usually false, i.e., things are rarely named after the person who discovered or invented them. An aitiology is a “reverse eponym” in the sense that a legendary character is invented in order to explain a term.

    from Wikipedia’s entry for “eponym”.

    Two things to add: 1. If we were to broaden the sense of “eponymous”, it could perhaps fit Shubin’s usage. 2. It is not all that difficult to figure out what he means by it, just working from the usual meaning of “eponymous”.

    I guess I could say one more thing outside of the meaning of “eponymous”–Luskin, if he presumes to speak on these matter, should know that the same terms are used across related organisms. He doesn’t have to rely on the meaning of “eponymous” to understand, except that he regularly “discusses” what he does not understand.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  37. #37 Divalent
    July 14, 2008

    Hmmm, perhaps there is another definition of “eponymous” out there that means “same name”, but these are all that I could find (from 4 different sources at dictionary.com), and none seems convey that concept:

    - The hypothetical individual who is assumed as the person from whom any race, city, etc., took its name; as, Hellen is an eponym of the Hellenes.

    - A name, as of a people, country, and the like, derived from that of an individual.

    - giving one’s name to a tribe, place, etc.: Romulus, the eponymous founder of Rome.

    - given as a name, giving one’s name to something

    - being or relating to or bearing the name of an eponym

    - Of, relating to, or constituting an eponym.
    [Eponyn: A word or name derived from the name of a person. A person whose name is or is thought to be the source of the name of something. "Constantine I is the eponym for Constantinople"]

    The common element in these defintions seems to be something that is named for a *person*.

    Glen D suggested “Synonymous”, but that means having the same (or similar) meaning.

    Not that I follow current usage (nor do I read Rolling Stone). But I must confess I don’t understand Shubin’s usage in that sentence.

  38. #38 mayhempix
    July 14, 2008

    Luskin needs a “Wrist Watch” that tells him what century this is.

  39. #39 kid bitzer
    July 14, 2008

    it’s not so hard, divalent:

    the tetrapod’s bones are “eponymous”, because they are the originals from which tiktaalik’s bones get their names.

    just as ‘hellen’ is eponymous for the hellenes, because he was the original from which that tribe took its name.

    so there’s nothing unusual about shubin’s usage.

    but can i make a different point?

    what the hell does it matter what *names* you give the bones?

    when you look at those diagrams, the similarities between eustenopteron’s wrist, tiktaalik’s wrist, and tetrapod wrists are just **stunning**.

    i mean, to fail to see the significance of this is not merely to fail a vocabulary test, it’s more like failing a vision test.

    can luskin read the letters on the eyechart, for godsake?

    oh. probably not.

  40. #40 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    Glen – “Eponymous” means “named after,”

    Yes, that is why I noted that it is not correct.

    “synonymous” means “meaning the same thing,” not “being the same word.” (They don’t mean the same thing. :) Synonymy is about words, not anatomical structures or other objects.)

    No, it is not exclusively about words. One may say “the university is synonymous with learning”, which loosely means that the same word can be used for the physical existence of the school as well as for “learning”. It’s not necessarily true, of course, but that would be what is meant. That’s because the etymology is not entirely divorced from all of its meanings.

    Hence one could claim that bones are synonymous, and be within that meaning of “synonymous”. It is not how the term would ordinarily be used, of course.

    “Homologous” means “having the same origin or function,” but the author is using shorthand to identify the names of the bones, not their functions. The usage here is correct, although “eponymous” has other uses in other contexts.

    It may be correct, however I have not seen it used in that way before (a short check on Nature’s website only showed Shubin using the word in that way, though it was only a short check). I know what he means by it, of course, but the bones are not given the same name because one wrist bone is named for a wrist bone in another species, but because they are the “same bones”.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  41. #41 PatrickHenry
    July 14, 2008

    Casey is my favorite of all the Discoveroid bloggers. He’s the easiest to rip to shreds. But I usually pounce when he tries to discuss something abstract. He doesn’t handle ideas very well. When he attempts to actually critique some science, as he did here, it’s usually so tangled (and wrong) that it’s not worth the effort, and no one pays any attention to him anyway. I suspect even the other Discoveroids laugh at him.

  42. #42 janet
    July 14, 2008

    Glen is correct: this is not a proper usage of “eponymous.” Yes, the word does mean “named after,” but it refers to the *person* after whom an object, literary work, etc., is named.

    From my American Heritage dictionary: “Eponym. n. 1. A person whose name is or is thought to be the source of the name of something, such as a city, country, or era. 2. Medicine. A name of a drug, structure, or disease based on or derived from the name of a person.” That’s the entire definition.

    So if, for example, you were discussing Alzheimer’s disease, it would be proper to refer to “the eponymous discoverer of the disease.”

    Still, it should have been obvious what Shubin meant.

  43. #43 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    Well I guess one can say that Tiktaalik doesn’t have a wrist, hence its “wrist bones” are eponymously named after bones in wrists.

    Only I don’t see it, because I believe that it would be considered to have a “wrist”, if not Casey’s “true tetrapod wrist”.

    Anyhow, I’m sure that’s what Shubin did mean, because arguably the Tiktaalik did not have a “wrist” as such.

    PZ does write as though “eponymous” means “having the same name”, though he may not have intended to mean that. I think we can be relatively certain that Shubin used the term “eponymous” simply because the bones are named for a wrist that arguably Tiktaalik lacks.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  44. #44 Martin
    July 14, 2008

    These clowns at the DI would be much funnier if more people would realize that they are performance artists with little talent and no expertise, except in lying and tripping over their own shoes

    I demand you take back this slanderous statement right away! Discovery Institute are clearly rubbish at lying as well (though, granted, quite adept at tripping over their own shoes).

  45. #45 Lago
    July 14, 2008

    “Epistrophius”

    Ha! I knew that one! (Though I think it is eus,,,)

  46. #46 John Pieret
    July 14, 2008

    Have you seen his previous article

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/07/national_geographic_uses_fish.html

    … where he apparently thinks (admittedly it’s hard to tell with someone so confused) that both flatfish eyes migrate from the side of the head onto the the “top” of the head?

    The fossils that were found were little fish fossils that are species of flatfish. Known living species of flatfish (like the yummy flounder, sole, or halibut) are unique in that as adults, the eyes sit on the top of the head, rather than on the sides of the head, like most fish. But young flatfish DO have eyes on the sides of the head–their eyes migrate to the top during development. Now observe the meager scope of evolutionary change allegedly documented by these fossils: they have some skull features similar to known living flatfish, but their eyes remain on the sides of the head, like normal fish. As the abstract of the paper says, “Most remarkably, orbital migration was incomplete in Amphistium and Heteronectes, with eyes remaining on opposite sides of the head in post-metamorphic individuals.”

    Forgive me if I’m not highly impressed with the degree of “evolution” documented by these fossils. Do they explain how halibut and sole evolved to have eyes on the top? Not really. The eyes on these fossils weren’t in an “intermediate” location, halfway from the sides to the top. Their eyes are on the sides on the side of the head, like normal fish. The only interesting thing about these fossils, as far as evolution is concerned, is that they share some other skull features–the asymmetrical eye sockets–that are unique to “eyes on top” flatfish.

    I’ve been meaning to blog about it but I’m not sure it’s right to make fun of the handicapped.

  47. #47 amphiox
    July 14, 2008

    Orac, I’m with you. There was nothing more soul-destroying in my medical training than having to remember. all. those. stupid. names. (That and 2am call.)

    PZ, what do you mean by “expertise” in lying? The goal of lying is to be believed. These guys are stone-cold three-stooges level blundering incompetents in the arts of falsehood. They may do it often, but they sure don’t do it well.

  48. #48 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    Glen is correct: this is not a proper usage of “eponymous.” Yes, the word does mean “named after,” but it refers to the *person* after whom an object, literary work, etc., is named.

    In science journals, however, “eponymous” is indeed sometimes used for entities named after other (sometimes non-personal) entities. There, at least, it need not be named after a person.

    So to name “wrist bones” after the “wrist” is what he means, and it does fit with scientific usage. It’s confusing, because there seems no reason to bring up the origin of the term “wrist bones” where he does, and PZ did write in a manner that would suggest that “eponymous” means homologous (like I said, that may not have been his intention).

    But yes, Shubin is telling us the obvious fact that “wrist bones” are named after the “wrist” in tetrapods.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  49. #49 Lago
    July 14, 2008

    What Shubin means is:

    “The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to eponymous wrist bones of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations.”

    These two bones that are named intermedium and ulnare are homologous to the bones of the same name found in tetrapods…

  50. #50 hje
    July 14, 2008

    Reminds me of the phrase used by a character on Kids in the Hall: “Where do you idiots come from to get your heads so terribly crushed!”

  51. #51 Dale Husband
    July 14, 2008

    Have you ever noticed that the posts on “Evolution News and Views” never allow comments by the readers?

    Nearly all of the articles posted there are meaningless crap! Anyone can string words together for the purpose of denial. It’s when you strictly depict reality that you are actually doing something worth reading.

  52. #52 ice9
    July 14, 2008

    ‘Eponymous’ isn’t Luskin’s only diction sin. He later mocks Shubin’s use of the word “presage”, even including a dictionary definition and link to criticise the word choice. Luskin kindly provides the M-W definition of ‘presage’–but he chooses the noun definition, though Shubin uses it as a verb. Luskin no doubt wanted the occult connotation in the noun definition (he later flippantly substitutes “foreshadow”). ‘Presage’ is most commonly used as a verb, but, sadly for Mr. Luskin, Merriam Webster gives us “predict” as a synonym and it makes perfect sense. The verb definition requires another click to get. Casey Luskin, take your choice: Lazy, stupid, corrupt, or some combination of all three.

    And, re eponymous–strict definition requires that it be the name of a person associated with the thing that becomes the commonly used name of the thing–diesel, tarmac, macintosh, etc. But in common usage the word finds another role: specific becomes generic. (not quite the same as synecdoche, substituting specific for generic.) I grew up calling pop ‘coke’–leading lots of waitresses to ask me this question: “What kind of coke do you want, honey? We got Teem, Seven-up, Nehi Orange, and Royal Crown.” (for one of my favorite infographics of all time, see http://infosthetics.com/archives/2005/08/pop_versus_soda.html)
    Given the implied passage of time and difference in the organisms, it seems that eponymous is actually a creative and thoughtful way of referring to the bones as analogous and same-named.

    ice

  53. #53 Crudely Wrott
    July 14, 2008

    On a Richter scale of Embarrassment, this burlesque is measured as an 8.1 During an 8.0 to 8.369* event, widespread damage is done to ego stability, skin temperature above the shoulders increases at a rate of 0.5 degrees C. per second, reddening of the neck and face is rapid enough to be clearly seen progressing upward, and voluntary muscle contractions that turn the body away and seek sanctuary become difficult for most people to resist. Latent effects, occurring for a period of hours to weeks or longer can include outbursts of anger alternating with passionate claims of astonishment often accompanied by prolonged periods of sulking. While time is usually the best treatment for embarrassment from 4.141 to 8.898 on the scale, anything above 7.5 should be treated as potentially dangerous to credibility and public trust, depending upon the severity and length of the periods of sulking. The risk is compounded when the sulking is interrupted by further angry outburst typically characterized by inchoate accusations and denial of fault. Close attention to such cases should be paid by all who regularly come into contact with them.

    *from a old rhyme:
    Three six nine
    The goose drank wine
    The monkey spit tobacco on the street car line.
    The line broke
    And they all got choked
    And they all went to heaven in a little row boat

  54. #54 DaveH
    July 14, 2008

    I think that Shubin (et al) is stressing that the bones in Tiktaalik have the same articular relations as those of the tetrapods and therefore he (et al) named them after those bones. Therefore, in this case, they are eponymous.
    Slightly unusual use of the word (the eponymous fibula is a Roman cloak-pin shaped like a bird’s legbone) but legitimate IMHO.

  55. #55 clinteas
    July 14, 2008

    @ Sven,No 19:
    Ceasing on the rare opportunity to be a spelling nazi :

    Its the Sphincter of Odd,
    which in latin becomes sphincter oddi

  56. #56 ice9
    July 14, 2008

    sorry, the pop vs. soda map link went presage eponymous.

    try this

    http://popvssoda.com:2998/countystats/total-county.html

    ice

  57. #57 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    Me earlier:

    Anyhow, I’m sure that’s what Shubin did mean, because arguably the Tiktaalik did not have a “wrist” as such.

    Just to be clear, it’s not really because one might argue that Tiktaalik doesn’t have a wrist. Shubin was simply saying that “wrist bones” are eponymous with (from?) “wrist”. Possibly he was acknowledging the ambiguity of “wrist” in Tiktaalik, but directly and literally he was simply stating that “wrist bones” are called that due to the “wrist” in tetrapods (if possibly not all tetrapods).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  58. #58 Mister Troll
    July 14, 2008

    Junior Woodchuck? That’s an insult to the Junior Woodchucks!

    Actually, you should seize the Junior Woodchucks mantle for yourself. The organization (at least in the Barks/Rosa strips; I don’t really remember Duck Tales but don’t really want to) always went around awarding buckets of medals (literally) and titles galore. Best organization ever.

    PZ could be the G.R.E.A.T.O.C.T.O.P.U.S., the Guru of Reality-based Evolution And Taster Of Crackers That Orthodoxy Prevents Us from Satirizing.

    Well, not bad for a first start.

  59. #59 Mr. Tyzik
    July 14, 2008

    #50

    Reminds me of the phrase used by a character on Kids in the Hall: “Where do you idiots come from to get your heads so terribly crushed!”

    CRUSH, CRUSH!!!

  60. #60 pcarini
    July 14, 2008

    Why can’t any of these goddamned Lawyers For Jesus learn to read for comprehension?

  61. #61 BobC
    July 14, 2008

    Poor Casey Luskin. It must be rough being a liar for jebus and not knowing what you’re talking about. Fortunately for Luskin his customers are even more stupid than he is.

  62. #62 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to eponymous wrist bones of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations.

    Yes, back to this tiresome passage again. It’s not a well done passage, really, but I should have had it directly before me when I commented on it.

    He really isn’t using the word “eponymous” correctly there, because he’s suggesting that the “homologous bones” of Tiktaalik are named after “wrist bones of tetrapods” (and I shouldn’t have read it as I did before, even though it makes the use of “eponymous” correct that way).

    Yet because the bones are not “named after” other tetrapod wrist bones, but are given the same name because they are genetically “the same” bones, they are not “eponymous” in the ordinary scientific sense. They’re merely homologous, or synapomorphic.

    To say that they are “eponymous” would suggest that they are not homologous, only named after similar organs. That is to say, one might indeed have “eponymous” convergent organs, where unrelated organs are named after similar but genetically different organs. Parts of bat wings and bird wings might thereby be “eponymous” (as are the “wings” themselves), because they would not be homologous (some homologies exist).

    I cannot see any real justification for saying that the bones are “eponymous”, when they are in fact homologous. To be fair, he no doubt used the term in order to point out where the terms are coming from–previously known organisms. Unfortunately, using the term as he does would tend to suggest that the bones are not “the same bones” due to evolutionary relationships.

    It would be like saying that the anatomy of chimp body hair is eponymous with that of human body hair. But no, chimp body hair anatomy is not “named after” the anatomy of human body hair, it is named the same because it is “the same” as we mean that phylogenetically and taxonomically. To use “eponymous” as he does is confusing, unless it were reserved for terms used for convergent but non-homologous “naming for.”

    For example, the fin of a dolphin and a fin of a fish might be eponymous, because they are not “the same” evolved parts (though homologies occur), rather the dolphin’s fin is eponymous with the fish’s fin (well, that succession seems likely to me)

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  63. #63 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to eponymous wrist bones of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations.

    Yes, back to this tiresome passage again. It’s not a well done passage, really, but I should have had it directly before me when I commented on it.

    He really isn’t using the word “eponymous” correctly there, because he’s suggesting that the “homologous bones” of Tiktaalik are named after “wrist bones of tetrapods” (and I shouldn’t have read it as I did before, even though it makes the use of “eponymous” correct that way).

    Yet because the bones are not “named after” other tetrapod wrist bones, but are given the same name because they are genetically “the same” bones, they are not “eponymous” in the ordinary scientific sense. They’re merely homologous, or synapomorphic.

    To say that they are “eponymous” would suggest that they are not homologous, only named after similar organs. That is to say, one might indeed have “eponymous” convergent organs, where unrelated organs are named after similar but genetically different organs. Parts of bat wings and bird wings might thereby be “eponymous” (as are the “wings” themselves), because they would not be homologous (some homologies exist).

    I cannot see any real justification for saying that the bones are “eponymous”, when they are in fact homologous. To be fair, he no doubt used the term in order to point out where the terms are coming from–previously known organisms. Unfortunately, using the term as he does would tend to suggest that the bones are not “the same bones” due to evolutionary relationships.

    It would be like saying that the anatomy of chimp body hair is eponymous with that of human body hair. But no, chimp body hair anatomy is not “named after” the anatomy of human body hair, it is named the same because it is “the same” as we mean that phylogenetically and taxonomically. To use “eponymous” as he does is confusing, unless it were reserved for terms used for convergent but non-homologous “naming for.”

    For example, the fin of a dolphin and a fin of a fish might be eponymous, because they are not “the same” evolved parts (though homologies occur), rather the dolphin’s fin is eponymous with the fish’s fin (well, that succession seems likely to me)

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  64. #64 inkadu
    July 14, 2008

    Another raging internet battle between “homologous” and “eponymous.” Lets see if this one breaks science blogs.

    And as a reminder to all you young’ns out there (though obviously people who remember Orange Nehi are excluded): Junior Woodchucks in the Disney universe are homologous to the Cub Scouts. I’m just old enough to remember that from watching “Duck Tales” in the 80′s.

    Also, I’m slightly dissapointed that nobody has posted a WHOIS search on Luskin yet during this entire thread — no IP address, no originating server, nothing. I’m calling 1800FLOWERS to complain about this.

  65. #65 Carlie
    July 14, 2008

    However, Luskin didn’t say “Ha ha, Shubin didn’t use ‘eponymous’ correctly!” What he said was “I have no idea what any of this means, even though most people can parse it out fairly well”. Regardless of whether the word usage was entirely correct, it was really easy to tell what he meant.

  66. #66 pcarini
    July 14, 2008

    Me @ 60

    Why can’t any of these goddamned Lawyers For Jesus learn to read for comprehension?

    Bah. I thought I had totally just coined the term. Damn you wowbagger!

  67. #67 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    July 14, 2008

    Also, I’m slightly dissapointed that nobody has posted a WHOIS search on Luskin yet during this entire thread — no IP address, no originating server, nothing. I’m calling 1800FLOWERS to complain about this.

    *snicker

  68. #68 epsilon
    July 14, 2008

    “If most of the drive-by trolls aren’t capable of scrolling down the page, maybe a couple sciencey posts (reposts from the archives?) will frighten them off. I generally do that with math-heavy posts to drive away the extra readers I pick up after I’ve been Pharyngulated. . . .”

    Call me a geek, but that made me go check out your site. I don’t think it’s possible to have too much math for me.

  69. #69 Zetetic
    July 14, 2008

    #60
    Why can’t any of these goddamned Lawyers For Jesus learn to read for comprehension?

    That was hilarious!

    It’s so irritating that the DI doesn’t allow comments on their articles. I guess there’s no intelligence allowed.

  70. #70 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    For example, the fin of a dolphin and a fin of a fish might be eponymous, because they are not “the same” evolved parts (though homologies occur),

    Small issue: Only the “pectoral fins” (as they’re sometimes called) of dolphins have much homology with fish (pectoral) fins, at least so far as I know. The dorsal fins of dolphins, which are more regularly called “fins”, would not seem to be homologous with those of fishes in any way worth mentioning.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  71. #71 Dan Phelps
    July 14, 2008

    Luskin isn’t the only one not to understand Your Inner Fish. See:
    http://www.brazzilmag.com/content/view/9553/1/

  72. #72 Ann
    July 14, 2008

    Returning (or turning for the first time) to the science itself, rather than the language, I’d like to ask some very basic questions. I’m fascinated by evolution and genetics–although I’m a non-scientist–and I’m just trying to understand the arguments more thoroughly. An illustration of the four legs of a table and of a dog, for instance, would tell us something about geometric stability (or possibly symmetry), but we couldn’t claim a relationship.

    If these bones were not given the same names, and if the illustrations were not color-coded, what aspects of the bones themselves suggest an evolutionary relationship, if indeed such a relationship is being implied?

    My limited knowledge produces only a circular argument: “They’re the same bones so we’ve given them the same names and color-coded them. How do we know they’re the same bones? They have the same names and colors!”

    So what is it about, say, the intermedia of Panderichthys and Limnoscelis that tells us they’re the “same” bones? Or perhaps more basically, how is “same” being defined here?

    Thanks in advance for any enlightenment!

  73. #73 afarensis
    July 14, 2008

    Funny thing is, he had a dictionary open to look up “presage”, yet it didn’t occur to him to look up eponymous as well…

  74. #74 pcarini
    July 14, 2008

    @Ann:

    I don’t know the technical details myself, but the article the images came from originally would be a good starting point:

    http://www.devoniantimes.org/opportunity/tetrapodsAnswer.html

    I particularly recommend the “Fins to Limbs” section, and the references at the bottom of the article – especially the “Image Credits” which will tell you which of those papers contain the most pertinent information.

  75. #75 khops
    July 14, 2008

    Is anyone else watching the home run derby tonight???

    So the announcer was just describing whoever was doing well, and is going on about how this guy used to be a drug addict, and he found religion and now he’s winning the event. So the announcer says “it’s a lousy night to be an atheist.” WTF WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITh ANYTHING? Can you imagine that would have aired if the announcer had said “it’s a lousy night to be a muslim/jew/hindu/christian”?

    If you, like me, are bothered by this, please tell ESPN:
    http://proxy.espn.go.com/espn/contact?country=united%20states

    I already expressed my displeasure to them.

  76. #76 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    If these bones were not given the same names, and if the illustrations were not color-coded, what aspects of the bones themselves suggest an evolutionary relationship, if indeed such a relationship is being implied?

    It is not always easy to tell which are homologous. For a long time there was a dispute over which digits show up in bird wings. Here’s just the abstract of one study that came to the conclusion that the most anterior digit corresponds to digit 1, rather than to digit 2 in other amniotes:

    Vargas and Fallon (2005. J Exp Zool (Mol Dev Evol) 304B:86-90) propose that Hox gene expression patterns indicate that the most anterior digit in bird wings is homologous to digit 1 rather than to digit 2 in other amniotes. This interpretation is based on the presence of Hoxd13 expression in combination with the absence of Hoxd.12 expression in the second digit condensation from which this digit develops (the first condensation is transiently present). This is a pattern that is similar to that in the developing digit 1 of the chicken foot and the mouse hand and foot. They have tested this new hypothesis by analysing Hoxd.12 and Hoxdl3 expression patterns in two polydactylous chicken mutants, Silkie and talpid2. They conclude that the data support the notion that the most anterior remaining digit of the bird wing is homologous to digit 1 in other amniotes either in a standard phylogenetic sense, or alternatively in a (limited) developmental sense in agreement with the Frameshift Hypothesis of Wagner and Gautier (1999, i.e., that the developmental pathway is homologous to the one that leads to a digit 1 identity in other amniotes, although it occurs in the second instead of the first digit condensation). We argue that the Hoxdl2 and Hoxd13 expression patterns found for these and other limb mutants do not allow distinguishing between the hypothesis of Vargas and Fallon (2005. J Exp Zool (Mol Dev Evol) 304B:86-90) and the alternative one, i.e., the most anterior digit in bird wings is homologous to digit 2 in other amniotes, in a phylogenetic or developmental sense. Therefore, at the moment the data on limb mutants does not present a challenge to the hypothesis, based on other developmental data (Holmgren, 1955. Acta Zool 36:243-328; Hinchliffe, 1984. In: Hecht M, Ostrom JH, Viohl G, Wellnhofer P, editors. The beginnings of birds. Eichstätt: Freunde des Jura-Museum. p 141-147; Burke and Feduccia, 1997. Science 278:666-668; Kundrát et al., 2002. J Exp Zool (Mol Dev Evol) 294B:151-159; Larsson and Wagner, 2002. J Exp Zool (Mol Dev Evol) 294B:146-151; Feduccia and Nowicki, 2002. Naturwissenschaften 89:391-393), that the digits of bird wings are homologous to digits 2,3,4 in amniotes. We recommend further testing of the hypothesis by comparing Hoxd expression patterns in different taxa.

    cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=16878877

    As you can see there, they (and many others) turned to ontogeny (embryogenesis) to come to their conclusion. Often fossils are used to support one hypothesis over another one.

    Sometimes it’s real easy to tell from comparing anatomies of living organisms. One could say that evolutionary theory largely came from homologies that are quite easy to understand, as in ape and human anatomy. There, one basically can just look in similar places for similar bones, with little or no ambiguity. One also would have little or no trouble deciding homologous bones between modern birds and archaeopteryx, though a few bones might be more problematic.

    As you might notice in the illustrations, the humerus us quite similar in all of the tetrapods, and is somewhat similar to some of the fish humeri (? the plural). The radius is fairly easy to compare across the tetrapods, due to position and to some degree the shape. The various forms of the intermedium are not easy to identify as such, at least not for the untrained person. I would suspect that not every bone in every illustration is completely certain.

    The fact is that a variety of ways are used to identify and cross-check homologies. Counting the bones is one technique used, so that if the same number of bones in a “wrist” exist in fairly closely related species, one would usually expect the same bones to exist in each “wrist”.

    Apparent evolutionary relationships would be considered as well. Then, as I noted previously, ontogeny is frequently used when questions of which bones are “the same” remain after comparisons of (in my example) skeletons leaves questions remaining. Often ancestral relationships are visible in the developing embryo (the pharyngula stage, esp.) which are obscured in the adult animal.

    And questions remain about exactly which organ or bone is homologous with another in many cases. Likely not all questions about homologies will be answered, ever. Yet homologies were undeniable to many creationists prior to the development of evolution (creationist Owen established the idea of homology in the English-speaking world).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  77. #77 Lago
    July 14, 2008

    I wrote a small thing on the above mentioned by Glen D. I do not know if this link will work or not:

    http://web.mac.com/acantho/iWeb/Site/Blog/B4C05E61-C320-4F82-8B9E-7D1E518BA28D.html

  78. #78 Glen Davidson
    July 14, 2008

    Oh, I should just state explicitly, with respect to my last post, that evo-devo moves beyond the older “embryological” analysis of homologies from merely observing which features appear and develop similarly, to actually figuring out how genes are forming the organs and systems. The abstract that I quoted is an example of that.

    Meaning that in living organisms, genes can now be used to enhance the understanding of how homologous organs arise. It’s not a matter of “one gene per organ” or anything like that, just that most developmental programs are fairly conservative and operate in similar ways.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  79. #79 noncarborundum
    July 14, 2008

    That’s not really what “eponymous” means, however. “Synonymous”, or, of course, “homologous,” would work.

    Yes, it is, more or less. It means that the names of the tetrapod wrist bones have furnished the names of Tiktaalik’s wrist bones, in accordance with this definition:

    giving a name to something: having the name that is used as the title or name of something else, especially the title of a book, play, or movie (Encarta)

  80. #80 janet
    July 14, 2008

    I’m not a prescriptive grammarian (most of the time), so if biologists use “eponymous” to mean “a thing named after another thing,” I suppose I must accept this silly, watered-down usage. But it does seem to me that if you’re going to ridicule someone for not knowing the meaning of a word, you should at least be aware that the meaning you think the person ought to know isn’t actually in the dictionary.

    Luskin is a fool; PZ gets a small lash with a very wet noodle.

    Apropos of nothing, my daughter’s new pet name is “cuddlefish.”

  81. #81 Lago
    July 14, 2008

    Again, Glen D is correct. It is a matter of, not one gene one trait, but genes spelling out the name of the trait.

    Say several genes are expressed together, and then those genes are in sequence with the same genes as well as others in a row. Let me make up an example that is purposely over simplified. Imagine you have a set of Hox genes being expressed, and in the first segment of the animal the genes are expressed Hox 1 Hox 2 and Hox 3. In the next segment the genes are Hox 1 Hox 2 hox 3 and Hox 4 along with BMP gene. These genes make patterns shared both by the same species when expressing a trait, as well as in related species. The genes can be seen as outlining the name of the trait like having a B gene and an O Gene and another B gene to get “Bob.” When we see the same name, it is sorta like seeing the same guy “Bob.” Now this trait is seen as the same just like it seen as the same by placement and function. But you say placement and function can change? Yes, this is true, and we will often variation in how these genes get expressed that show how things were changed and how they stay the same. This is sorta like seeing a slight change in the Hox gene expression but with more similarities than not. We see this in the retention of the region of the pectoral girdle where we realize the gene expression for the cleithrum is still found in mice, even though placental mammals have long lost this bone. It is sorta like finding our “Bob” traits renamed “Rob.” We can see the relationship with where it came from, just as we see the modified hand of a bat, and bird, despite their differences. The bat wing and the bird wing share not only the idea of a wing which evolved independently, but also share the basic tetrapod structures like humerus, ulna radius, carpals, metacarpals and phalanges. These elements have, not only the same name and basic relationship to one another, but also have the same corresponding set of gene expressions for the same areas, (carpals for carpals, ulna for ulna). Are there differences? Yes, just like Bob is different from Rob…

    wrote that fast hope it makes sense..

  82. #82 TSC
    July 14, 2008

    Enough to necessitate a Tiktaaliks Anonymous meeting.

  83. #83 Nicole
    July 14, 2008

    Be nice, I didn’t know what “eponymous” meant before today either, although I could eek out “name” from “nym.” Oh, and I own a dictionary. If you can’t get it from the sentence context, look it up!

  84. #84 MikeBok
    July 14, 2008

    #75 – I was wondering if anyone else saw that. I choked on my beer when the announcer said that, but what can I expect, professional athletes and sports commentators don’t get paid for their smarts…

  85. #85 Celtic_Evolution
    July 14, 2008

    @ #75

    Well, it turns out Josh Hamilton lost the Home Run Derby after all. I guess at the end of the day, God hates Josh Hamilton, and it is apparently a GREAT night to be an atheist.

  86. #86 bullfighter
    July 14, 2008

    “Eponymous” is not synonymous with “homonymous”. Only the latter means “having the same name” and that’s the word Shubin was looking for; his use of “eponymous” is completely incorrect. (Shouldn’t scientific journals have editors?)

    To use “homologous” at such a descriptive stage might be question-begging. As I understood the passage, Shubin is demonstrating homology; he can’t assume it.

    Seeing how confusing those words are to readers and writers alike, why not just use “same-named”? It is much clearer.

    So yes, Luskin should have understood the intended meaning despite incorrect usage, but the primary responsibility for the misunderstanding is Shubin’s.

  87. #87 Dave W.
    July 14, 2008

    Wow, Glen, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone overthink something as much as you’re doing now. Yes, the literary definition of ‘eponymous’ is so strict that it implies a source for the name. So strict that only one of the two following phrases could be considered correct:

    A: Cujo and his eponymous boook…
    B: Cujo and its eponymous dog…

    Very strictly speaking, neither one is correct because Cujo isn’t a person in either case.

    Lots of people appear to understand ‘eponymous’ to have a meaning that simply hasn’t made it into the dictionaries yet: “having the same name.” This meaning doesn’t include the implication of a source, nor does it require a person to be involved. And it’s the meaning I learned long before I learned the restricted literary meaning.

    But with the non-dictionary meaning in mind, I submit that this sentence,

    “The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to eponymous wrist bones of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations,”

    and this sentence,

    “The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to the intermedium and ulnare of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations,”

    are precisely the same in meaning. However, the latter, less-poetic-sounding version includes four more letters and an extra space. Sure, Shubin could have saved you, Glen, a lot of work (and Luskin a lot of embarrassment) by using the latter version while only making a small amount more work for himself, but he shouldn’t have had to. Dictionary makers need to catch up to usage on this particular word.

  88. #88 Lago
    July 14, 2008

    Bullfighter,..Shubin did not claim they mean the same thing at all. He wrote this:

    “The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to eponymous wrist bones of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations.”

    Which basically means this:

    These two bones that are named intermedium and ulnare are homologous to the bones of the “same name” found in tetrapods…

    His use of the word means, “Same name”

  89. #89 janet
    July 14, 2008

    @79 Now look at how Encarta defines “eponym.”

  90. #90 Thanos
    July 14, 2008

    Then there’s always etymology to consider since we are overanalyzing this boner by DI.

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=eponymous&searchmode=none

  91. #91 janet
    July 14, 2008

    @87 “Person” doesn’t necessarily imply “human.”

    And as to overthinking things, I think my point above still stands: if you’re basing your condemnation on the premise that someone doesn’t know the correct definition of a word, you should make sure you know the correct definition. If “eponym(ous)” did appear on the LSAT, it would carry the meaning you dismiss as “technical.” (Precise technical language, who needs it?)

  92. #92 Kseniya
    July 14, 2008

    Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?

    Who’s brain is in Casey Luskin’s skull?

  93. #93 Celtic_Evolution
    July 14, 2008

    @ Janet #87

    So… does that invalidate PZ’s criticism, in your mind? (Not implying you think it does or doesn’t… just wondering).

  94. #94 Celtic_Evolution
    July 14, 2008

    shoot… that was Janet @ #91… sorry.

  95. #95 Kseniya
    July 14, 2008

    Whose. Whose.

    Whose.

    Sheesh.

    It’s one of those days….

  96. #96 Hessenroots
    July 14, 2008

    I always wondered what sort of people used picture menus at restaurants…

  97. #97 DANMCPEEK
    July 14, 2008

    MR. MYERS CRITICISM OF MR. MATZKE’S COMMAND OF THE ENGLISH IS WEAK GIVEN THE COMMONLY ACCEPTED DEFINITION OF EPONYMOUS. PERHAPS IT IS MR. SHUBIN WHO SHOULD HAVE CHOSEN A MORE APPROPRIATE WORD.

  98. #98 bullfighter
    July 14, 2008

    Lago #88:

    His use of the word means, “Same name”

    Almost right – that’s what he thought it meant. Obviously I know what he meant, as I asked why he didn’t simply write “same-named” and avoided embarrassment. His problem is that “eponymous” doesn’t mean “same-named”, so his attempt to use it was reminiscent of Humpty-Dumpty.

  99. #99 Dahan
    July 15, 2008

    Oh my!
    See, I am amazed at the abilities of people like Casey Luskin. Really! I mean, who among us here could stand to be consistently and continually pwned time after time, shown to be ignorant and pathetic, and yet come back for more, time and again.
    I know I wouldn’t have the stomach for it.
    So give up the props for Luskin. A man who vaguely reminds me of Ron Obvious (Monty Python).

  100. #100 Amplexus
    July 15, 2008

    Here’s my theory about lawyers and “Intellegent design” Feel free to invoke it or name it after me.

    The reason why so many lawyers are in the ID community is because LAW is based with a focus on intent. Someone is prosecuted to prevent further criminal behavior. “attempted robbery” “attempted murder” “intentional tax fraud” are some examples. A shrew lawyer is well served to try to decode intent in any series of event and to package carefully selected circumstantial evidence to convict or exonerate someone. The end goal is to take the events and discard any contradictory evidence to fabricate a big conspiracy and present that theory in court.

    In law you are expected to give a one sided argument and defend at all costs your case. In court emotions, opinions and personal testimony are admissible. This runs counter to the scientific method

    This comes at a price. A career lawyer might apply these principles to the natural world and intuitively formulate a grand conspiracy wherein evvey facet of the biological or physical world must be the result of conscious agenct by someone with desires and drives.

    I could rattle off a list of lawyers that are IDiots or apologists. Josh McDowell, etc.

    I think i’m on to something here.
    -Amplexus

  101. #101 Celtic_Evolution
    July 15, 2008

    @ DANMCPEEK

    PZ doesn’t criticize Mr. Matzke… he criticizes Mr. Luskin. Please read more carefully.

    And whether or not Mr. Shubin could have used a different word doesn’t invalidate the argument that a person knowledgable about the subject matter to be making such a harsh criticism of the material should have had no trouble understanding the intended meaning, enough so not to have levied the ridiculous argument he did.

  102. #102 Brad
    July 15, 2008

    Thanks to pcarini #74 and Lago #77 for the article links.
    One thing jumped out at me when I looked at those limb diagrams: The limbs of Neoceratodus, Glyptolepis, and to a lesser extent, Latimeria, sure are reminiscent of spinal bone arrangement. Are limbs homologous to spinal column?

    Tiktaalik’s limb retains more of the ancestral central axis of repeating segments than the other tetrapods. No surprise there if it is older. Comparing Tiktaalik to Neoceratodus, it looks like T.’s ulna, ulnare, and two central radials correspond to N.’s mesomeres, while the radius, intermedium and most of the radials correspond to N.’s radials.

    This is even more interesting than arguing about crackers!

  103. #103 Kel
    July 15, 2008

    Why is it the people who make the most asinine comments are the ones who feel the need to use only upper-case letters?

  104. #104 Kseniya
    July 15, 2008

    Even if Shubin has misused “eponymous”, Luskin still fails, embarrassingly, to grasp the obviously intended meaning.

  105. #105 HP
    July 15, 2008

    There’s a “the dictionary” now? When did that happen?

    Seriously, I think that ScienceBlogs and LanguageLog should have some kind of formal blogger exchange program.

    Physical scientists are always slagging away on social sciences, and every time they do, they waste everybody’s time and wind up looking foolish. There’s a whole ‘nother world of rigorous, formal research out there! Ignore it at your peril.

    Everybody thinks they’re an expert on language, just because they use it every day. It’s worse than listening to physicists talk about musicology.

    (I don’t have any problem with Shubin’s use of “eponymous,” and anyone who does doesn’t understand how language works.)

  106. #106 Dustin
    July 15, 2008

    Isonymous homologue.

  107. #107 Dustin
    July 15, 2008
  108. #108 raven
    July 15, 2008

    So what is it about, say, the intermedia of Panderichthys and Limnoscelis that tells us they’re the “same” bones? Or perhaps more basically, how is “same” being defined here?

    You use the shape and arrangement in relation to other bones. In other words, the wrist bone is connected to the arm bone which is connected to the shoulder bone. Grade school stuff.

    In addition with a more and more complete fossil record, we can trace through time how these bones change from a lobed fin to a human arm, bird or bat wing, or dolphin flipper. Plenty of transitional fossils, of which tiktaalik is one.

  109. #109 Lago
    July 15, 2008

    Bullfighter…

    Maybe I should not have said = to “Same name” but rather used the phrase, “Given the same name for similar reasons”

    This would not be the meaning of the word, but the word in context…

  110. #110 Dave W.
    July 15, 2008

    Janet @91, technically, you’re correct and “person,” of course.

    However, I must say that I never dismissed anything, and certainly not on technical grounds (the word “technical” doesn’t appear in my earlier post). The literary meaning of the word ‘eponymous’ really is much more strict than the non-dictionary meaning. That’s no reason to dismiss it, it just seems pretty clear that Shubin wasn’t giving it that meaning.

    Unless a “person” can be a bone. In which case, naming Tiktaalik‘s bones after the bones that are generally in about the same places on tetrapods makes perfect sense without the loose definition, PZ would be in the clear, and Glen would still have been overthinking (Diesel was nothing like his engine – I hope – so eponymity only implies similarity in name, nothing else).

  111. #111 Lago
    July 15, 2008

    Brad

    The elements developed in those limbs have very similar mechanisms involved that we see in vertebrae development, but this is not to indicate they are derived from one another. Most elements in a vertebrate that is sequential in any manner use similar mechanisms to develop.

    Also, limb development is not easy to go into. I should write an article on that as well and post it, but it would take a while. Let’s just say that what you see for the structures in the tetrapod limb are not what they appears to be at first glance. The axis needs to be known, and when you do know it you see that the limb with digits is developed in an almost folding manner onto the limb itself. There is a repeat branching patter that folds creating a false sense of where the axis lies. If I can draw it out I will try and post it, but probably not tonight…

  112. #112 Kseniya
    July 15, 2008

    It’s also pretty amusing to see a lawyer complain about a “jargon-filled” explanation.

  113. #113 Brad
    July 15, 2008

    Lago

    Thanks, That’s good enough for now, although I’d be happy to learn more details someday. I’m a non-biologist who finds this stuff very interesting, and I know just enough to know there’s a hell of a lot I don’t know.

  114. #114 Pierce R. Butler
    July 15, 2008

    Discotute version of this posting:

    … one of the world’s leading experts … Casey Luskin… world-class paleontologist… Luskin isn’t tripped up by the science…

  115. #115 Steven
    July 15, 2008

    Casey got crackered.

  116. #116 mandrake
    July 15, 2008

    . The axis needs to be known, and when you do know it you see that the limb with digits is developed in an almost folding manner onto the limb itself. There is a repeat branching patter that folds creating a false sense of where the axis lies.

    IIRC, Carl Zimmer gives a somewhat lengthy but clear explanation of this in At the Water’s Edge.

  117. #117 Tatarize
    July 15, 2008

    Homologs to their eponyms. That’s not allowed. A different name for every bone in every species is the only way you can exist in the world without foisting Darwin on the little IDiots.

  118. #118 janet
    July 15, 2008

    @93-94

    No, it doesn’t invalidate PZ’s criticism. It’s clear from context what Shubin meant. Or should be.

  119. #119 janet
    July 15, 2008

    A couple of people seem to have missed my primary point, which is not that Shubin’s use of “eponymous” is wrong, but that if you’re going to point at someone and say “ha ha, he doesn’t know what eponymous means, what a dope!” you should make sure that you fully understand how the word is used. Years ago, when I pronounced the word “dour” as “doo-er,” a friend “corrected” me, saying that it was pronounced “dower.” I showed him both pronunciations in the dictionary, and he then accused me of being picky or petty or persnickety — even though he was the one who corrected me in the first place. See what I’m getting at, here?

  120. #120 brokenSoldier, OM
    July 15, 2008

    See what I’m getting at, here?

    Posted by: janet | July 15, 2008 2:04 AM

    I see your point, but I’d offer as a counter that someone critiquing a paper like Shubin’s should possess an adequate base of knowledge in order to do so. And since it has been said on here that – though narrowly incorrect in the purely technical sense – it was obvious what Shubin meant by the remark, Luskin’s criticism was shown to be uninformed concerning the subject of the paper, i.e. he posed a question that had been answered in a passage he simply did not understand. Had he known the meaning of the word – not solely the rote definition, which I’m not sure he knew either – then he would have been able to understand the statement Shubin made, which would have in turn satisfied the major criticism he raised.

  121. #121 Peter Ashby
    July 15, 2008

    Oh yes, the wierdness that is human anatomy. I am a mouse anatomist and the big problem here is fairly fundamental. Humans are 180 degrees out. What is ventral in a mouse (like it’s sternum) is anterior in a human whereas anterior in a mouse is the same as rostral. It gets interesting there because in the mouse rostral/caudal is reserved for the primary body axis whereas anterior/posterior is used for secondary fields, like the limbs.

    But that does not run true everywhere. For eg the muscle Tibialis Anterior (right next to the front of your shin bone, holds your arch up) is also so called in the mouse/rat, but it’s Tibialis Cranialis in the sheep (cranial being an alternative for rostral). It is also tasty and tender in properly cooked lamb shanks.

    So in comparitive anatomy you just get used to all this and handle it on the fly. So Shubin is being kind to Luskin by using a non anatomical jargony term.

  122. #122 DLC
    July 15, 2008

    So, Luskin should avoid studying anthropology, biology, medicine or electronics. . . right.
    Wonder how he does with case law ?

  123. #123 Mike in IN
    July 15, 2008

    I’m glad that I’m not only person here catching the atheist comment during the home run derby (…or maybe I’m glad that I’m not the only person here that follows baseball). I can’t comprehend the logic behind the atheist comment at all. If god is swinging Josh Hamilton’s bat for him this year, isn’t that worse than the steroid cheats? (His god probably has more pressing matters than a home run derby.) Josh Hamilton’s is a great story; it shouldn’t be cheapened by diverting the credit from his dedication and hard work. Being a fan of the Minnesota Twins and unassuming Canadians, though, I’m glad Justin Morneau ended up winning (even though they will be changing the rules before next year’s derby to prevent a repeat of last night’s end result).

  124. #124 Nick Gotts
    July 15, 2008

    Why is it the people who make the most asinine comments are the ones who feel the need to use only upper-case letters? – Kel

    Very considerate of them, I’d say: it marks the comment as one that can be safely skipped, or read in expectation of an amusing absurdity.

  125. #125 GunOfSod
    July 15, 2008

    completely off topic (kind of), but anyone interested in transitional forms may be interested in developments in Flatfish Evolution:
    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/33976/title/A_wandering_eye

    I guess we just discovered a whole series of new gaps in the fossil record now. Sigh.

  126. #126 alex
    July 15, 2008

    These clowns at the DI would be much funnier if more people would realize that they are performance artists with little talent and no expertise

    PZ! don’t you lump those goons in with us actual performance artists thank you v much!

  127. #127 Dave Godfrey
    July 15, 2008

    If the DI want to look credible they need to keep Luskin quiet. His criticism of the National Geographic’s reporting of the recent flatfish paper is equally silly. (There’s no indication that he’s actually read the original, which was in an obscure journal called Nature) The heads are asymmetric, but not as asymmetric as modern ones, which isn’t transitional enough for him. The mind boggles.

    Skipping past the “eponym”, “homonym”, debate, I’m just happy to see an updated image of Panderichthys‘ limb with the humerus done properly. It wasn’t until last year that they’d been able to CT scan the fossil and reveal that the previous reconstruction- which looked totally out of place in that sequence was wrong. The new reconstruction fits the trend much better.

  128. #128 PZ Myers
    July 15, 2008

    If you’re trying to critique Shubin’s argument by nattering over precise dictionary definitions, then please don’t try to read Shakespeare or have a conversation with someone on the street. Language is a lot more flexible than that.

    Luskin is claiming that Shubin did not say what the names of the wrist bones in tetrapods were. He clearly did, and they are the very same names he used; the Tiktaalik wrist bones were named after the homologs in tetrapods. This isn’t that hard to grasp, unless you are completely at sea on the subject being discussed and are trying to parse the explanation word by word.

  129. #129 dreamstretch
    July 15, 2008

    I suggest everyone read a book on sociolinguistics. It really makes you appreciate how language changes and stop you being pedantic about the “correct” usage.
    Also, it’s not a cracker; it’s a wafer.

  130. #130 Ian
    July 15, 2008

    Let’s face it, Luskin and his ilk have a problem with reality, period. It’s not just with words or science.

  131. #131 thalarctos
    July 15, 2008

    where he apparently thinks (admittedly it’s hard to tell with someone so confused) that both flatfish eyes migrate from the side of the head onto the the “top” of the head?

    Heh, in Alaska, my vert endocrinology professor once saw that kind of anatomical ignorance sink a fishing boat. They had landed some monstrously-huge flatfish, probably a halibut at the high end of the bell curve, and it was thrashing around uncontrollably on deck, to the point that the entire boat was getting into serious trouble.

    One of the fisherman grabbed a gun and began firing into where he thought the fish’s vital organs were. He was still firing into soft tissue, and the fish was still thrashing undisturbed by the shots, as the boat got swamped.

    Good thing for Luskin that he sinks himself only metaphorically.

    Oh yes, the wierdness that is human anatomy. I am a mouse anatomist and the big problem here is fairly fundamental. Humans are 180 degrees out. What is ventral in a mouse (like it’s sternum) is anterior in a human whereas anterior in a mouse is the same as rostral. It gets interesting there because in the mouse rostral/caudal is reserved for the primary body axis whereas anterior/posterior is used for secondary fields, like the limbs.

    I had the wonderful good fortune to have a brilliant human anatomist as one of my mentors for my doctoral comparative anatomy information system, shortly before he retired. It was not often that I saw him completely surprised, but it did happen once, on a conference call with mouse biologists about the structures we were modeling. I don’t remember the exact context, but it was similar to the one in the article below:

    Mice with a prostate specific deletion of Sox9 showed a lack of ventral prostate development and abnormal anterior prostate differentiation [Thomsen MK, Francis JC, Swain A. The role of Sox9 in prostate development. Differentiation. 2008 Jun 13.].

    The look on his face at the concept that–on their own anatomical terms–mice have both a ventral prostate and an anterior prostate, which are completely different from each other, was unforgettable.

  132. #132 Christophe Thill
    July 15, 2008

    Luskin: “Where’s the wrist? From what I can tell, Tiktaalik doesn’t have one.”

    Welcome to the latest mutation of good old argument from personal incredulity. I propose we call it: the argument from cluelessness.

  133. #133 CosmicTeapot
    July 15, 2008

    If you want to look at some definitions, go to a fly by trolls site, serious knutt:

    http://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/2008/07/02/sirius-knotts-a-definition-of-terms/

    It is a bit short at the minute, so maybe we can add a few. He does use ‘strawman’ and ‘darwinism’ a lot, and he definitely uses ‘strawman’ incorrectly.

    For his definition of the “no true scotsman” fallacy (8th comment down), go to:

    http://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/the-church-of-pz-wackaloon-myers-ideological-child-abuse/

    I think I’ll adopt him, and keep posting there every now and then, just in case any lost souls (like Walton) should wander by.

  134. #134 GunOfSod
    July 15, 2008

    #129

    “…stop you being pedantic about the “correct” usage.
    Also, it’s not a cracker; it’s a wafer.”

  135. #135 dusty59
    July 15, 2008

    obviously this evolution stuff is all made up… I can’t find the eponymous bone in any anatomy text!

  136. #136 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 15, 2008

    I think the reason “eponymous” was chosen was because the first part of the word, “epo”, refers to that which generated the part names, the “epicenter” or origin of those part “nyms” or names. Synonymous and Homologous refers to things that may serve a similar function, but are not necessarily the same thing in construct. For example, a bat can “see” with sound, which means their ears are homologous to our eyes, even though they are different forms. Shubin is saying the Tiktaalik parts are essentially the same pieces from tetrapods.

    That’s my understanding of what’s going on, but I realize i may be off a bit.

    Or two, or three.

    The first part of the word is epi “above”, and the second is onymon “name”. When two vowels collide in Greek or Latin, the first one goes away.

    Bat ears are somewhat analogous to eyes. Bat wings and insect wings are analogous — they both work as wings, but bat wings are derived from vertebrate forelimbs, while insect wings are derived from arthropod epipodites or something. Bat wings and human arms are homologous.

    Bat wings and bird wings are homoiologous: they are analogous on a homologous basis — they are analogous as wings, but homologous as forelimbs.

    I hope that helps!

    Anyhow, I’m sure that’s what Shubin did mean, because arguably the Tiktaalik did not have a “wrist” as such.

    No, Tiktaalik has at least some, perhaps all, carpals, and thus at the very least half of a wrist. What is arguable is whether it has metacarpals and fingers.

    It didn’t have a serious wrist joint, but neither did, for example, Acanthostega

    Ha! I knew that one! (Though I think it is eus,,,)

    Indeed.

    Shubin was simply saying that “wrist bones” are eponymous with (from?) “wrist”.

    No. He was saying that “intermedium” is eponymous with “intermedium” and “ulnare” with “ulnare”.

    PZ could be the G.R.E.A.T.O.C.T.O.P.U.S., the Guru of Reality-based Evolution And Taster Of Crackers That Orthodoxy Prevents Us from Satirizing.

    Congratulations!

    And I don’t know Duck Tales, but many of the Italian stories (main publication venues: original: Topolino; French: Mickey Parade Géant; German: Lustige Taschenbücher) are quite good.

    Shouldn’t scientific journals have editors?

    They do — seriously overworked ones. I’ve seen “tuberocity” appearing in print in Nature, and Science publishes typos, too…

    As I understood the passage, Shubin is demonstrating homology; he can’t assume it.

    Naaah. Homology all the way to Eusthenopteron and Sauripterus has not been in doubt for many decades. Not finding an intermedium and an ulnare in Tiktaalik would have been a major surprise!

    Who’s brain is in Casey Luskin’s skull?

    I cough with laughter.

    The limbs of Neoceratodus, Glyptolepis, and to a lesser extent, Latimeria, sure are reminiscent of spinal bone arrangement. Are limbs homologous to spinal column?

    In a very, very, very basic way, yes: they all express Hox9 through 13 in their development.

    Tiktaalik’s limb retains more of the ancestral central axis of repeating segments than the other tetrapods.

    Contrary to PZ’s labeling, Tiktaalik and Panderichthys are not tetrapods, though that’s merely a matter of where to draw the line.

    Comparing Tiktaalik to Neoceratodus, it looks like T.’s ulna, ulnare, and two central radials correspond to N.’s mesomeres, while the radius, intermedium and most of the radials correspond to N.’s radials.

    Almost. The first mesomere of Neoceratodus is a fusion of radius and ulna, as observed in its embryonic development.

    ——————

    Where the color-coding comes from

    From the pattern. In all of the shown animals, the shoulder joint (which is not shown…) articulates with a single bone, the humerus. At its other end the humerus articulates with two bones*, radius (front) and ulna (back). The ulna articulates again with two bones at its other end, the intermedium (front) and the ulnare (back). Notable exceptions are Acanthostega and Proterogyrinus, in which most respectively all of the wrist is not ossified (compare water-living salamanders, in which the wrist “bones” are cartilaginous).

    * As mentioned above, this holds even for Neoceratodus and presumably for its Devonian relative Glyptolepis. In Latimeria, the humerus articulates with what is identified in the diagram as a radius and a mesomere… let me submit that these are the radius and the ulna.

  137. #137 dusty59
    July 15, 2008

    plus, Ezekiel didn’t connecta them eponymous bone to any other bone in that song we learn in Science-Church.

  138. #138 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 15, 2008

    A curse on the blockquote tag. I’ll go lie down and try to have a nap.

  139. #139 bullfighter
    July 15, 2008

    PZ:

    If you’re trying to critique Shubin’s argument by nattering over precise dictionary definitions, then please don’t try to read Shakespeare or have a conversation with someone on the street. Language is a lot more flexible than that.
    Luskin is claiming that Shubin did not say what the names of the wrist bones in tetrapods were. He clearly did, and they are the very same names he used; the Tiktaalik wrist bones were named after the homologs in tetrapods. This isn’t that hard to grasp, unless you are completely at sea on the subject being discussed and are trying to parse the explanation word by word.

    The problem is that you are ridiculing Luskin for the one (perhaps the only one) thing in which he is technically correct. You could fairly say that he is so lacking in relevant arguments that he resorts to pointless nitpicking and refuses to see the obvious intended meaning of the sentence, and then attacks the distorted sentence he has created by filtering out any meaning behind “eponymous”. His approach is obviously asinine. But mocking him for purportedly not knowing the meaning of the word “eponymous” backfires and undermines the credibility of your critique. (Note that it is different from invalidating the overall logic of the critique, which does not happen.)

    There is a deeper reason you should not dismiss lightly the proper meaning of words: much of the mumbo-jumbo also known as “theology” consists of deliberate or accidental imprecise use of words. The most effective challenges to religious arguments often boil down to one question: “What exactly do you mean by that?” Dawkins is the grand master of that technique, but you use it quite often, too. To be able to fight those duels, we need to keep our swords sharp. Getting into the habit of saying “Dictionaries be damned, the words mean whatever I want them to mean!” is likely to result in some rust spots on their blades.

  140. #140 CosmicTeapot
    July 15, 2008

    Clinteas @ 55

    “Ceasing on the rare opportunity to be a spelling nazi”

    Should that not be “seizing on the rare opportunity”?

  141. #141 TheNaturalist
    July 15, 2008

    For more words that Luskin doesn’t know, he can check out:

    “Shubin, NH and Alberch, P (1986). A morphogenetic approach to the origin and basic organisation of the tetrapod limb. Evol Biol 20, 319-387″

    …where Shubin and Alberch explain how the tetrapod limb is based on a modification of the pattern found in lobe finned fishes.

    Science FTW.

  142. #142 Glen Davidson
    July 15, 2008

    Wow, Glen, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone overthink something as much as you’re doing now. Yes, the literary definition of ‘eponymous’ is so strict that it implies a source for the name. So strict that only one of the two following phrases could be considered correct:

    A: Cujo and his eponymous boook…
    B: Cujo and its eponymous dog…

    Very strictly speaking, neither one is correct because Cujo isn’t a person in either case.

    And I didn’t say that it had to be a person. I’m not “overthinking”, I’m trying to make sense of it, while you’re making stuff up.

    The problem is that the bones are “the same”, they are not “eponymous.” Doesn’t take much thinking to recognize that I noted that crucial point repeatedly, but it’s more thinking than you’ve managed to do.

    Lots of people appear to understand ‘eponymous’ to have a meaning that simply hasn’t made it into the dictionaries yet: “having the same name.”

    First, we don’t have to accept bastardizations of English. Secondly, it’s not a matter of having the “same name”, but of being the “same bones”. It’s usually a given in science that one uses the same name for the “same bones” (or one could say, fitting into the class of bones sharing a common name). To say that they “have the same name” implies that it is not a common name, yet they do have the “same name”.

    But with the non-dictionary meaning in mind, I submit that this sentence,

    “The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to eponymous wrist bones of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations,”

    and this sentence,

    “The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to the intermedium and ulnare of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations,”

    are precisely the same in meaning.

    Only if you think that words shouldn’t be limited in meaning. We chastise creationists/IDists for fucking with the language, I don’t see any reason to find Shubin’s use acceptable, when it could be understood as implying that bones are not the “same bones”. One reason I dislike his usage as much as I do is because it could provide service for the IDiots. We use common names, not eponyms, because that is how the classification scheme works out (Linnaeus made a fairly evolutionary taxonomy, precisely because he understood common names in a way that you seem not to do), and because we have an explanatory theory (evolution) for these common names.

    Sure, Shubin could have saved you, Glen, a lot of work (and Luskin a lot of embarrassment) by using the latter version while only making a small amount more work for himself, but he shouldn’t have had to.

    Sure, why should he use words properly? The fact is that he was aiming for a word that would (as bullfighter notes) avoid saying that the bones are already understood as homologous. Except, of course, that is exactly the working assumption, or they wouldn’t have been given the “same name”, or more properly, a common name. It is unacceptable in science to give names to bones of newly discovered animals if they are not the “same bones”, simply in different species. So while the identification may be tentative, it is indeed identification that is being done, and the various bones thus share a common name, rather than some being eponymous.

    This is what you miss in your entire post. The issue is not that they have “the same name”, it is that (tentatively at least), they cannot do anything but share a common name with other bones that are “the same”. If we followed your claims, we’d say that a MacIntosh is eponymously “a computer” because it is called “computer” just like a mainframe “computer” is said to be. But that isn’t the case at all, the MacIntosh is called “a computer” because, following the rules of nomenclature, it must share the common name “computer” with devices which perform similar functions.

    Or to put it another way, it’s like claiming that Tiktaalik is eponymously a “vertebrate” (or chordate, if you wish), for it is named after previously existing vertebrates. That’s not the case, it is called a “vertebrate” because it fits the definition of a “vertebrate”. “Vertebrate” is not an eponym in the case of Tiktaalik, rather a robot that is called “vertebrate” could (arguably) be said to have that name eponymously taken from the classification of “vertebrate” to which Tiktaalik belongs.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  143. #143 Glen Davidson
    July 15, 2008

    Everybody thinks they’re an expert on language, just because they use it every day. It’s worse than listening to physicists talk about musicology.

    (I don’t have any problem with Shubin’s use of “eponymous,” and anyone who does doesn’t understand how language works.)

    You’re amazing.

    First off, not everyone is an expert on language because they use it every day. You certainly aren’t, in fact you don’t even have an argument, simply a mindless assertion.

    Secondly, it is use that determines language, hence it is appropriate to refer to usage. And as yet, “eponymous” has not been bastardized into meaninglessness, even though you fail to understand this fact.

    Thirdly, you fault others for thinking that they know about these matters, yet you claim to know, and you can’t even make any kind of case for your idiotic claim at all. Colossal hypocrite (as well as banal incompetent) is the common name under which you fall.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  144. #144 Glen Davidson
    July 15, 2008

    Unless a “person” can be a bone. In which case, naming Tiktaalik’s bones after the bones that are generally in about the same places on tetrapods makes perfect sense without the loose definition, PZ would be in the clear, and Glen would still have been overthinking (Diesel was nothing like his engine – I hope – so eponymity only implies similarity in name, nothing else).

    You’re seriously underthinking, as your very own example demonstrates. “Diesel” is the “same name” of both the engine he invented, and of the man who invented it. It is not the common name for that engine and that man, hence we understand his engine to be eponymously named.

    The bones being discussed were tentatively identified as being the “same bones”, hence they were (tentatively) given the common name for such bones. Just as gasoline and diesel engines are given the common name of “engine.” The term “engine” for a diesel burning power unit is not an eponym, it is a “common name.”

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  145. #145 Glen Davidson
    July 15, 2008

    If you’re trying to critique Shubin’s argument by nattering over precise dictionary definitions, then please don’t try to read Shakespeare or have a conversation with someone on the street. Language is a lot more flexible than that.

    The meanings of words are flexible, but limited. That is the point I was making, and for myself, I wasn’t critiquing Shubin’s argument at all, which I took to be so solid as not to need comment.

    Not confusing people about what “eponymous” means is far more trivial, but not a meaningless or worthless sidebar to the important matter.

    Luskin is claiming that Shubin did not say what the names of the wrist bones in tetrapods were. He clearly did, and they are the very same names he used; the Tiktaalik wrist bones were named after the homologs in tetrapods. This isn’t that hard to grasp, unless you are completely at sea on the subject being discussed and are trying to parse the explanation word by word.

    Exactly. And Luskin ought to have known that was the case without any prompting.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  146. #146 Jake
    July 15, 2008

    I know the meaning of the word because I watched the Rapture episode of The Simpsons:

    Homer: Moe, what happened to your eponymous tavern?
    Moe: Yeah, funny thing, that. You said the end was comin’, so I sold the bar to some Japanese businessmen and gave the money to charity.
    Now them orphans got new skip ropes, and I end every day smelling like eel. Cats are all over me. Thank you, though.

  147. #147 Longtime Lurker
    July 15, 2008

    A big “digitus impudicus” to Luskin.

    Re Crudely Wrott@53:

    The line broke
    And they all got choked
    And they all went to heaven in a little row boat

    I always wondered WTF that “lickle” spoken part in UB40′s cover of “Red Red Wine” was-Thanks!

  148. #148 janet
    July 15, 2008

    You know, I’ve been on the verge of taking this blog off my list of daily reads for a while now. I agree with PZ in most essentials, and I find the science really interesting. But the attitude is getting to me. You’re really starting to seem like a crank, PZ: anybody who disagrees with or criticizes you is the enemy and must be smacked down summarily.

  149. #149 Glen Davidson
    July 15, 2008

    Actually, it would be better to say “name in common” or “common designation” for “common name” in #142. Because, of course, “common name” more frequently means the “non-scientific name” or some such thing.

    Not that “common name” is wrong as I used it, just more ambiguous than I like.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  150. #150 Lago
    July 15, 2008

    Wow, if Shubin’s paper has confused you guys this much, maybe vertebrate paleontology is not for you. It is a rather simple paper …

  151. #151 Sven DiMilo
    July 15, 2008

    Its the Sphincter of Odd,
    which in latin becomes sphincter oddi

    That seems to make sense, but, no, in this case the dude’s name really was Oddi.

  152. #152 Glen Davidson
    July 15, 2008

    Sad to see the casualties. Lago has lost his connection with reality, sense, and meaning, as well as any ability to respond rationally to the actual visual cues provided…

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  153. #153 JY
    July 15, 2008

    The case is simple: if Casey Luskin knew even the most narrow, literary definition of ‘eponymous’, he *should* have been able to comprehend Shubin’s use of the word in context. That he couldn’t implies that he is either being intentionally obtuse, or doesn’t know even the narrow, literary definition of the word. Thus PZ’s criticism that he doesn’t know the meaning of the word is 100% deserved, and thus digressions about the ‘real’ meaning of the word are 100% irrelevant to his criticism.

  154. #154 Andreas Johansson
    July 15, 2008

    I checked a few dictionaries, and they indeed insist that an eponym is necessarily a person. I guess you learn something new every day, but I rather think it’s time the dictionaries recognized the widened meaning.

    And whatever the appropriateness of Shubin’s word choice, the ulnare etc of Tiktaalik are named for the ulnare etc of tetrapods. Giving the same name to homologuous bones may be eminently sensible, practical, and generally a good thing, but it’s still a convention of naming things after other things.

  155. #155 Glen Davidson
    July 15, 2008

    And whatever the appropriateness of Shubin’s word choice, the ulnare etc of Tiktaalik are named for the ulnare etc of tetrapods. Giving the same name to homologuous bones may be eminently sensible, practical, and generally a good thing, but it’s still a convention of naming things after other things.

    You’re going to have to learn something about science–phenomena are normally classified according to set criteria. That is, if something fits a definition, then it shares a common designation. This is how taxonomy works, not by simply assigning eponymous names. That is to say, eponymous names do exist in taxonomy and in anatomy, but they do not follow (or otherwise relate to) cladistic relationships, certainly not reliably.

    Seriously, if you don’t understand why Tiktaalik is called a “vertebrate”, or a “eukaryote”, then you are unable to understand not only science, but also the general use of the English language. It’s complete bollocks to say that “the ulnare etc of Tiktaalik are named for the ulnare etc of tetrapods,” which claim sounds quite like those of the creationists. The fact is that the ulnare, etc. of Tiktaalik are recognized as being “the same”, or “fitting the definition”, of ulnare, etc., in general. Do you think that paleontology is some kind of exercise in naming, or is it a means of discovery?

    The IDiots claim that evolutionary relationships are assigned, not reasonably inferred, or discovered, as scientists say they are. Real science knows that homologies are recognized, not assigned without cause. You are writing as if it is the IDiots who are correct, not the scientists.

    It’s a basic function of science to use common terms for phenomena that fit set (though not inflexible) definitions. Giving eponyms to phenomena does not follow similar rules, rather the relationships in eponymous designations are basically unscientific. Homologies are not unscientifically determined or ascribed.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  156. #156 Phillip Allen
    July 15, 2008

    @72, Ann asked

    “[...]what aspects of the bones themselves suggest an evolutionary relationship, if indeed such a relationship is being implied?”

    Along with the other excellent replies to your questions, I believe that detailed measurements of gross anatomical features likes articulations, muscle attachment sites, etc., can provide clues to evolutionary relationships. If there are close correlations between anatomical and geostratigraphic data that can provide a (more-or-less) precise time line, relationships between taxa can be inferred with a fair degree of confidence.

    Genetic data are the current gold standard for illuminating evolutionary relationships, and which have in turn led to comprehensive revisions of the taxonomy of plants (the area with which I am most familiar) and animals.

  157. #157 Phillip Allen
    July 15, 2008

    @75, apropos of khops’ post on the ESPN announcer’s shilling for Jeebus, I have read several reports over the past couple of years wherein sports teams are (all too) often outposts of evangelical bullying fervor. Sadly I can’t provide links or citations, though I expect a google search would provide plenty. I recall the problem extends from professional through collegiate to high school teams. Given the Xtians’ proclivities towards younger children, I’d be surprised if it’s not pandemic in Little League and Pop Warner, too. It seems to parallel their infection of the US military.

  158. #158 Ann
    July 15, 2008

    Thanks to those of you who answered my question with interesting information about genetics, etc. And Raven, who patronizingly said “grade school stuff,” you presented a very nice example of question begging. You can’t “trace through time how bones change” unless you can somehow demonstrate that the same bone is being represented, which was my original question. Perhaps my table leg/dog leg analogy went over your head.
    I did quite well in natural science courses in college, thank you; I was looking for an underlying explanation that would serve in discussions with those who dispute evolution. Genetics provides that explanation.

  159. #159 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 15, 2008

    “Ceasing on the rare opportunity to be a spelling nazi”

    Should that not be “seizing on the rare opportunity”?

    The Bierce-Hartman-McKean-Skitt Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation

    But the attitude is getting to me. You’re really starting to seem like a crank, PZ: anybody who disagrees with or criticizes you is the enemy and must be smacked down summarily.

    I don’t understand. Luskin is, demonstrably, a laughable moron, so PZ demonstrates this, points, and laughs. This is the appropriate response. Furthermore, it has the beneficial side effect of giving PZ (never mind several commenters!) an opportunity to introduce the topic of tetrapod limb evolution to his large readership.

    What’s not to like?

    That he insults the Junior Woodchucks? :-)

    Giving the same name to homologuous bones may be eminently sensible, practical, and generally a good thing, but it’s still a convention of naming things after other things.

    And it’s not always done — see hyomandibula(r) and stapes.

    If there are close correlations between anatomical and geostratigraphic data that can provide a (more-or-less) precise time line, relationships between taxa can be inferred with a fair degree of confidence.

    The stratigraphic criterion makes assumptions about the quality of the fossil record that are not necessary. It is therefore rarely used.

  160. #160 Phillip Allen
    July 15, 2008

    OT, but at least it fits the tag!

    Hey PZ! Yur famous (in a good way)! Check out this typically brilliant offering at xkcd:

    http://xkcd.com/435/

    Everyone knows that can be only one biologist. (“There can be only one!” [slice:hack:orgasmic-lightning-effect]) Pity the arrangement puts you so far on the less-pure side, but I’m sure that matters not to your Tentacular Awesomeness.

    BTW: sure, those physicists claim to like being on top, but like quarks, with enough charm you can spin ‘em and make ‘em bottom no problem. They won’t admit it though. Observe them bottoming and they’ll just claim they weren’t really there.

  161. #161 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 15, 2008

    Oops.

    The Bierce-Hartman-McKean-Skitt Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation

    states that any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror.

    You can’t “trace through time how bones change” unless you can somehow demonstrate that the same bone is being represented, which was my original question.

    Did you read the bottom of comment 136 (which falsely appears as quoted because I forgot to close a tag)? Even in fossils, where development genetics cannot be done, homology can be traced by looking at consistent patterns of spatial relationships.

  162. #162 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 15, 2008

    Hey PZ! Yur famous (in a good way)! Check out this typically brilliant offering at xkcd:

    He blogged about it weeks ago, when it was new. As usual.

  163. #163 Dustin
    July 15, 2008

    Wow, if Shubin’s paper has confused you guys this much, maybe vertebrate paleontology is not for you. It is a rather simple paper …

    Pedants aren’t pedants unless they’re feigning misunderstanding. They have to do that or else they admit they have nothing to complain about, and it seems they’d rather play stupid than keep their mouths shut.

    Sometimes you can dispense with them by throwing a copy of a Lynne Truss book in front of a bus in the hope that they will chase after it like a frisbee.

  164. #164 grendelkhan
    July 15, 2008

    It’s interesting to see that, while nearly all modern tetrapod limbs have five digits (well, except for all the birds, right?), their ancestors didn’t–that Acanthostega and Tulerpeton in the diagram have eight and six, respectively (I’m not sure how to count them on Tiktaalik), while Proterogyrinus and Limnoscelis have the standard five–the same five you see on human hands, cat paws, whale flippers and bat wings. I wonder why nature settled on five digits for most tetrapods.

    Or I may be reading this entirely wrong, because I’m just an interested amateur. But is there something special about having five digits that makes it so common, when the number seemed a lot more variable early on?

  165. #165 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 15, 2008

    I wonder why nature settled on five digits for most tetrapods.

    Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that the ones with five survived the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary mass extinction event or something. They are a clade — they share a common ancestor that they don’t share with any 6-, 7- or 8-digited animal.

    Many of these actually have only four in the forelimb — frogs and salamanders for instance –, but that’s clearly derived from the five-digit condition; they are inside the five-fingered clade.

  166. #166 Barklikeadog
    July 15, 2008

    If Casey Luskin is the best they can do then what do we have to worry about? Let the dead bury the dead; to quote someone.

  167. #167 John
    July 15, 2008

    To restate what bullfighter said at #86, but many later commenters have missed:
    If what Shubin wanted to indicate was that the bones in one critter (IANAB) have the same names as the bones in the other critter, he should have used the word “homonymous”.

    If he wanted to indicate that the bones in the one critter were named after the bones in the other critter, “eponymous” is, if not strictly in accordance with the dictionary definition, at least defensible.

    Oh, and if Luskin wanted to indicate his utter lack of the capacity to make intelligent comment on the issue: “Mission Accomplished!”

  168. #168 Glen Davidson
    July 15, 2008

    And of course dinosaurs, and especially the birds previously mentioned, are notable for reduced digit counts. Horses famously run on one digit, although they still have vestiges of two more on each foot.

    But ichthyosaurs ended up with “extra digits”, as well:

    Though aspects of the fin’s internal structure may have been common to all (or nearly all) ichthyosaurs, ichthyosaur fns do vary a great deal in shape. However, one trend that might be observed in the evolution of the ichthyosaur fin is the addition both of more and more elements (hyperphalangification), and of more and more digits (hyperdactylification). A plausible advantage of both conditions might be that a limb surface would become broader if new elements were added to its sides, or longer if more elements were added to its distal-most end. Both patterns would, in theory, be advantageous to an underwater flier.

    darrennaish.blogspot.com/2006/09/did-ichthyosaurs-fly-probably-not-no.html

    They mention the likely advantage of hyperdactylification, leaving no reason to wonder why there are “extra digits.”

    So there’s nothing sacred about five digits, certainly. There perhaps is a question why five-digits are conserved on “feet” as much as they are.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  169. #169 Odie
    July 15, 2008

    Here’s something that really bothers me about Luskin (and a lot of the people that support the Discovery Institute): he should have known that he didn’t understand what the paper was saying, and therefore, he should have known to keep his mouth shut until he had a better understanding of the issue.

    For example, I know very little about biology. The little that I know, I learned independently through my own study because I was interested in it. I love reading this blog because PZ makes biology so understandable, even for someone like me, who has no formal background in the subject. However, I know that my background in the subject is weak, and I know when I don’t understand a certain word that someone used.

    That being the case, I generally defer to the people who understand the field. If I run up against something I don’t understand, I try to figure it out before I start criticizing the writer (like looking up an unfamiliar word). Luskin should have done a little homework before criticizing Shubin.

  170. #170 Ann
    July 15, 2008

    David M. @161:
    My comment #158 was mostly in response to Raven’s answer, which I quoted, not yours. I had asked for the underlying rationale for calling these the “same” bones, and Raven basically said “because they’re the same.”
    And while I appreciate all the effort you clearly put into comment #136, it covered too many issues and used odd formatting, so I gave up trying to decipher it! Maybe when I have more free time…

  171. #171 Smidgy
    July 15, 2008

    Well, just commenting on the blog post, and not even having read the comments, pardon me if this point has already been made. I have zero training or knowledge in biology, at any level (including even simple high-school biology). The quoted part of the description by Neil Shubin seems perfectly clear to me, through simple knowledge of the English language.

    As such, I can confirm that you absolutely hit the nail square on the head, Prof. Myers – the point made by this ‘Casey Luskin’ character is totally without merit, and it isn’t even as if this is due to some obscure or esoteric knowledge of a particular field of biology that failed – it’s a simple lack of understanding the English language. Whilst Shubin’s use of the word ‘eponymous’ is not, technically, 100% correct (I believe the correct word is ‘homonymous’), it is certainly close enough to get his meaning across, and, indeed, it seems that the thing which actually confused Luskin was not the slightly incorrect usage of this word, but a lack of a diagram. If someone needs diagrams to understand something in biology that is so simple that even I can understand it without such diagrams, then he is commenting on something that is completely and utterly outside his area of knowledge, far less expertise.

  172. #172 JoJo
    July 15, 2008

    I got a chuckle from a lawyer complaining about use of jargon.

    I’m a nuclear engineer with a Masters in the field. Recently I was discussing nucleonics with a physicist. We both stumbled over the fact that our jargons, while similar, were different enough to cause some misunderstandings. So I have no sympathy for a non-biologist or anatomist not understanding anatomical jargon.

  173. #173 yorktank
    July 15, 2008

    You know, I’ve been on the verge of taking this blog off my list of daily reads for a while now. I agree with PZ in most essentials, and I find the science really interesting. But the attitude is getting to me. You’re really starting to seem like a crank, PZ: anybody who disagrees with or criticizes you is the enemy and must be smacked down summarily.

    Shorter Janet: I don’t like PZ’s opinion this time.

    Guess what Janet. No one cares. Just leave without wasting time admonishing PZ for having a point of view.

  174. #174 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 15, 2008

    My comment #158 was mostly in response to Raven’s answer, which I quoted, not yours.

    I know. I don’t see why I should care as long as I can answer your question. :-)

    The interesting part of comment 136 starts with the bold headline near the bottom. My mistake was not to close a blockquote tag, so that a lot of what I wrote appears as a quote.

  175. #175 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 15, 2008

    What’s really interesting about ichthyosaur fins is that they only started adding digits after they had lost the thumb without a trace!

  176. #176 Doc Bill
    July 15, 2008

    Luskin should have done a little homework before criticizing Shubin.

    Alas, poor Odie, Luskin did indeed do his homework. Luskin didn’t misunderstand the paper, rather, his criticisms are calculated and, dare I say it, designed.

    The Disco Tute has been freaking out about Tiktaalik since the discovery was announced. Luskin has written several equally bad articles on Tiktaalik desperately trying to downplay its importance as a “transitional” fossil.

    Luskin is very deliberate, although not very good, at what he does which is to raise doubt. When it comes to science Luskin doesn’t know his ass from his elbow which explains why he wipes his elbow once a day. However, Luskin is an expert at detecting what he thinks is a weakness in an argument or presentation and then bungling it.

    With Casey it’s always a sad day in Mudville.

  177. #177 slpage
    July 15, 2008

    Orac:
    “Consequently, we have Cooper’s ligament, the foramen of Winslow, Gerota’s fascia, the ligament of Treitz, Meckel’s diverticulum, Zenker’s diverticulum, and all manner of other bits of anatomy or pathology named after their discoverers.”

    My favorite – the crypts of Lieberkuhn…

  178. #178 amphiox
    July 15, 2008

    grendelkahn #164: I don’t remember exactly where I got this, so it may be wrong, but it has been noted that although the early tetrapods had a wide variety of digit numbers, they all tended to have five types of digits. It’s just that they had duplicates of some of them. Later tetrapods seemed to all settle on the primitive number of five, with one of each digit type. There may have been some selection pressure, or quirk of developmental programming, that favored “streamlining” the digit number into one of each kind.

  179. #179 amphiox
    July 15, 2008

    Normal person of moderate intelligence, on reading Shubin:
    “Hmm, I don’t know what ‘eponymous’ means, but the structure of the sentence, and everything before and after, make it pretty clear that in this context, Shubin wanted to say ‘have the same name as.’ Cool! I learned a new word today.”

    Very conscientious person, on reading Shubin:
    “Hmm, I don’t know what ‘eponymous’ means. It seems pretty clear what Shubin wants to be saying here, but just to be sure, I’ll go look it up in a dictionary.”

    Extremely conscientious person, on reading Shubin:
    “Hmm, I don’t know what ‘eponymous’ means. I looked it up in a dictionary, and doesn’t seem to mean exactly what Shubin seems to be using it to mean. I’ll go contact Neil Shubin or one of his coauthors directly, by e-mail or phone, and ask him what he really meant.”

    Casey Luskin, on reading Shubin:
    “Hmm, I don’t know what ‘eponymous’ means, and I don’t care. I’m going to make up a bunch of stuff and pretend that’s what it means, so I can twist things around to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about.”

  180. #180 Jim Thomerson
    July 15, 2008

    The purpose of scientific writing is the clear, unambiguous and accurate presentation of information. The author should use standard English in a straightforward manner. A paper of general importance is likely to be read around the world, often by workers for whom English is not their primary language. Obscure words should be avoided; and terms used repeatedly rather than substituting synonyms, for example. My Spanish-English dictionary does not contain “eponymous”. I therefore think it should not be used in a scientific paper without an accompanying definition. At least in no paper I publish about South American killifish. Although both writer and reader have an obligation in the transfer of information, the writer has the greater obligation, and is not justified in erecting barriers to the reader’s comprehension.

  181. #181 June Blender
    July 16, 2008

    #180. I second Jim Thomerson’s sentiments. As much fun as it might be to denigrate Luskin, and as much as he might deserve it, I believe the fault here lies with Dr. Shubin, who used unnecessarily complex language to obscure a simple thought.

  182. #182 truth machine, OM
    July 16, 2008

    You know, I’ve been on the verge of taking this blog off my list of daily reads for a while now.

    GBCW.

    You’re really starting to seem like a crank, PZ: anybody who disagrees with or criticizes you is the enemy and must be smacked down summarily.

    WTFAYTA?

  183. #183 Martin Brazeau
    July 16, 2008

    Although I’m a vertebrate palaeontologist myself, I found the papers to be relatively okay on jargon content. But it depends on your view of jargon. Is “ulnare” jargon? Or is that just what the bone is called? There is no colloquial name for that bone, it’s just an ulnare. Terms like “proximal” and “distal” or “dorsal” and “ventral” are precise. You have to use them because the terms “near” and “far” or “top” and “bottom” can be ambiguous when makeing comparisons of animals that can, at times, be very different from one another in some respects. I find it gets really confusing when palaeontologists use terms like “upward” or “on top” when describing anatomy because it’s not always clear what they mean.

    Nature also has very constraining word limits that are difficult for palaeontologists to stay within. Our data is often in the form of pictures and words, because interpret gross morphology. It’s not something that is easily tabulated, or depicted in a graph. We have bulky words and bulky photographs and illustrations. Thus it is not easy to spell out absolutely everything for readers, and sometimes simplifications are left to a short bracketed statement like “The Osteichthyes (bony fishes and tetrapods) is one of the…”. If you want un-readability, try an issue of Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. There, the authors will actually assume you’re another vertebrate paleontologist.

    Thirdly, Shubin’s not at fault. It was Casy Luskin who chose to write his piece on Tiktaalik. He therefore has an onus to understand what it is he is writing about. If an aspect of the paper is unclear, he has to work to try to clarify it before launching into an attack that has no scientific merit whatsoever.

  184. #184 truth machine, OM
    July 16, 2008

    I believe the fault here lies with Dr. Shubin, who used unnecessarily complex language to obscure a simple thought.

    This is stupid. Of course Shubin is generally at “fault” for not being a perfect human being, but the fault here is squarely Luskin’s, for the reasons spelled out by PZ and others.

  185. #185 maureen
    July 16, 2008

    If in a complaint about the use of the word “eponymous” the writer himself uses the word “synonym” – Jim T @ 180 – is it reasonable to leap to the conclusion that the words are coming out of his arse?

  186. #186 GunOfSod
    July 16, 2008

    #183 “Our data is often in the form of pictures and words, because interpret gross morphology. It’s not something that is easily tabulated, or depicted in a graph.”

    Just a wild stab in the dark here, but I was wondering if an analogy could be made with the difficulty in representing particle interactions in quantum physics. If so perhaps there is scope for the invention of some kind of meta graphic representation for morphology in Paleontology similar to Feynman Diagrams?

  187. #187 David Marjanovi?, OM
    July 16, 2008

    I don’t remember exactly where I got this, so it may be wrong, but it has been noted that although the early tetrapods had a wide variety of digit numbers, they all tended to have five types of digits. It’s just that they had duplicates of some of them.

    Never seen such an argument, and I can’t see where it could come from — have a look at Acanthostega, Ichthyostega and Tulerpeton.

    Duplications happen in ichthyosaurs (and regularly occur today as an aberration in development), though they aren’t the only way ichthyosaurs add digits.

    My Spanish-English dictionary does not contain “eponymous”.

    Because it doesn’t need to. Without knowing Spanish, or looking anything up (even in Google), I can tell you with great confidence what this is in Spanish (assuming it exists at all, but it probably does): eponímico.

    But your point stands: the word is probably unnecessary, “homologous” or “same-named” would almost certainly have got across what Shubin wanted to say.

    As much fun as it might be to denigrate Luskin, and as much as he might deserve it, I believe the fault here lies with Dr. Shubin, who used unnecessarily complex language to obscure a simple thought.

    No, still not. The context makes it clear enough what Shubin meant. And besides, Dr Brazeau is (unsurprisingly) right on the principle that Lazy Cuskin simply shouldn’t talk about things he doesn’t understand.

    If so perhaps there is scope for the invention of some kind of meta graphic representation for morphology in Paleontology similar to Feynman Diagrams?

    I can’t imagine one.

  188. #188 Mold
    July 16, 2008

    Luskin is not doing this to impress the literate. He ‘speaks to the choir’, the Dover Skool Bored, if you will. With this level of training and expertise, his statements will be ‘peer-reviewed’ and found valid.

    The fact that he has any sort of degree and is willing to spout DiscoTech nonsense is enough for the Great UnWashed. Recall that his target audience is not achievers or thinkers. They are the ‘vocational track’. The kids that were LeftBehind at the ninth grade. Poor chile, they never got over the fact that the smart ones no longer had to tolerate the ignorance nor the horribly slow pace of instruction.

  189. #189 Dave Godfrey
    July 16, 2008

    “If so perhaps there is scope for the invention of some kind of meta graphic representation for morphology in Paleontology similar to Feynman Diagrams?”

    Other than a simplified version of skulls limbs, etc (like Palaeos’ use of “Bob the Basal Amniote”) to demonstrate which bones are which (and synonyms used in different groups) I don’t think its necessary. Once you’ve got that out of the way you tend to move on to diagrams like the one up top, where you’re looking at real bones.

  190. #190 Jim Thomerson
    July 16, 2008

    Sometime back I explained to a colleague, a developmental biologist, that Ostichthyes includes both bony fishes and tetrapods. Her response, “That’s the stupidist thing I have ever heard.” I suspect if we surveyed all biologists, we might find that she expressed a majority belief (among those who understood what we were talking about). So, if writing for a wider audience, the definition would be useful.

    My Spanish-English dictionary lists Synonym, Synonymize, Synonymous, and Synonymy.

    I particularly don’t like unquantified adjectives: “ascending process of the premaxillary broad, vs ascending process of the premaxillary narrow.” What does broad vs narrow mean? In this instance there were drawings so I could measure them and quantify the terms.

  191. #191 zeno
    July 16, 2008

    In honor of Casey Luskin’s stupidity, I think a “luskin” should hereafter refer to an utterly inane mistake. We used to call this sort of thing a “boner”, but “boner” has sexual overtones that make it an inappropriate word in polite company. However, no one would take offense at the sentence, “Oh, yes, it was a complete luskin.”

    And that’s how Luskin became an eponym.

  192. #192 Smidgy
    July 16, 2008

    Well, Jim, one major way in which your argument falls down is that Shubin did NOT write this in a paper. Luskin was commenting on a book, ‘Your Inner Fish’, written by Shubin, after he discovered that having a background in fish paleontology was actually quite useful for teaching human anatomy in medical school.

    The other major way it falls down is that, even if it was in a paper, surely it is up to the reader of the paper to make sure he actually understands it before commenting on it? If anything, the fact the paper is written in a language other than the reader’s native one only serves to make it more important the reader makes sure any concept or word he does not understand is clarified before making any comment. I know that if I were to read something written in, say, French, if anything was unclear, I would certainly get someone more knowledgeable in the French language to clarify it for me before I made any comment or critique. It is Luskin who decided to comment on and critique the book without making sure he understood it, not Shubin who somehow deliberately made Luskin fail to understand it. As I said, I have zero knowledge or training in biology, and I understood the quoted passage absolutely clearly, so, if that doesn’t indicate that Shubin’s use of language was clear enough, what does?

  193. #193 truth machine, OM
    July 17, 2008

    I believe the fault here lies with Dr. Shubin, for not writing in Esperanto.

  194. #194 Gralgrathor
    July 18, 2008

    Even without the word ‘eponymous’ (he, I’m not a native english speaker), it’s *perfectly* clear what is meant.

    The dude failed for lack of nice, colored pictures. No news there.

  195. #195 Kaycton
    July 23, 2008

    …or maybe they just hate all academics

  196. #196 Desertphile
    May 11, 2009

    “… Jargon-filled….” Oh, the horrors! Imagine: a science paper filled with big scary science words! Oh, the eponym of it all! (Smirk)