Field of Science

Diagrams that make me cry, part LargeNumber

I was calmly blogging about real content, of course procrastinating simultaneously by writing pieces of stuff for work, as well as planning on possibly contemplating actually doing the readings for tomorrow's paleontology class. In the intro chapter titled "Fossils and Evolution", we get shown the following figure as The Taxonomic System, with a mention in passing the there have been some minor adjustments in the past, such as Three Domains, etc. Of course, such trivial taxonomic nitpicking is apparently of no use to paleontology students, so we'll use the horribly outdated Whittaker 1963 classification which should never be seen outside history of science lectures...

Aaaaaaaaaaah! Gotta love the 3:2 vertebrate:invert ratio too. Apparently bryophytes and 'pteridophytes' don't actually exist either. My own kingdom makes me weep. Also, for personal sanity, ignore the "Protoctista". That's just Margulis trying to feel special. And somehow succeeding outside her own field. (Levin 1999 Ancient Invertebrates and Their Living Relatives. Prentice Hall, NJ)

'Oh but the textbook's from 1999, cut 'em some slack with the volatile ever-changing taxonomy mess!' If they had used the Woese tree, which I have other personal issues with, I'd be fine with it. Of course, Woese tree in 2010 is a bit irritating, but I can still live with that. But...what truly adds insult to the injury, and rubs various salts even deeper into the bleeding wounds of my inner soul – THAT FUCKING PIE CHART!

"Proportions of members of each kingdom living today"

Hang on, gonna go break some furniture with energetic *headdesk* maneuvers. And my forehead with epic *facepalming*. BRB.

...ok, back. Lab benches are quite sturdy, it turns out. I'll just let Star Trek and internet memes take care of this:

Source: The Internets. All of them.

And they teach this as an uncontroversial, neutral fact. When, in fact, reality looks more like this:

Proportions of total marine biomass and abundance occupied by the only noticeable taxonomic groupings. Also, anyone who replaces "eukaryotes" with "protists" must be pretty freaking awesome. And/or actually understand biodiversity. (Suttle 2007 Nature Rev Microbiol)

I don't mean to bash the textbook itself. Aside from the little taxonomical issue there, the rest of the book seems quite interesting and perhaps a great source for paleontology (not being of that field, I have little idea). It just bothers me when something so cheap and simple to fix is left ignored and perpetrated on and on as students fail to learn any better, and teach what the learned, and further students learn that, and so on, ad infinitum, until we're left wondering why modern anthropology graduates seem to think evolutionary biology progressed little since Darwin's time. It's kind of annoying. And detrimental to efficient progress in all relevant fields. Not even asking for a new section in the book; just fix what's already there!

Ok, my blogging spirit is back now. Time to write up actual posts, relying on the creative writing juices (if any) unlocked by the power of RANT.


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