Wed Jul 24 14:37:31 CDT 2002

>>>From: Thomas Lammers [mailto:lammers at VAXA.CIS.UWOSH.EDU]
These create an environment in which individualists may feel right at home,
you often have have to shoot from the hip and follow your instincts and
intuition, rather than have ironclad protocols to be followed.<<<

I agree.  While a gathering of architects may design different bridges, they
are all subject to the same loading factors, etc.  A given piece of cement
needs a known given density of supports.  A given diameter bolt will resist
a known amount of pressure.  The stresses on a given joint are calculable
according to the configuration of the structure.  These are the laws of
physics.  And engineers are subject to the other kind of law--they are
required to pass inspection by using X number of footings going X feet deep
for this kind of soil, using X number of bolts per square foot for a cement
pad of X dimensions, etc.  Makes it a whole lot simpler to get agreement.
There's the legal way or no way.

Engineers deal with exactly-known values for their variables.  They have a
knowable absolute truth.  While the truth of who's related to whom is
theoretically knowable, I suppose, it most certainly is not yet known.  And
how different is "enough" to be called a different species or genus or other
taxon is purely subjective.  The best we can hope for is a rule of thumb
that becomes acceptable by convention.  But my rule of thumb is just as
valid as anybody else's rule of thumb, so I will use my own and you can all
agree to my convention.  So there!  You can't make me change!  Nyah, nyah!

Robin K Panza
Section of Birds, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
4400 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh  PA  15213  USA
phone:  412-622-3255
fax:  412-622-8837
panzar at

At 11:51 AM 7/24/02 -0600, you wrote:
>I do not know what it is in biologists that makes us such mavericks.  A
>few weeks ago, at a Board of Directors meeting of the Alberta Society of
>Professional Biologists, I commented on an observation I had made:
>If there is an engineering problem, and there are 10 engineers, somehow,
>they come together to solve the problem the best way.  On the other hand,
>if there is a biological problem, and there are 10 biologists, there will
>be 10 solutions, and no one is willing to give to another.
>I commented further that I did not know if it was the training of
>engineers that made them be able to work together, or whether people who
>can work together go into engineering.  Conversely, I do not know if it is
>the training for independent work that makes maverick biologists, or
>whether mavericks go into biology.
>The comment from the Treasurer of the ASPB said that a friend of his had
>said, "Getting biologists to work together is like trying to herd cats!"

Thomas G. Lammers, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Curator of the Herbarium (OSH)
Department of Biology and Microbiology
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin 54901-8640 USA

e-mail:       lammers at
phone:      920-424-1002
fax:           920-424-1101

Plant systematics; classification, nomenclature, evolution, and biogeography
of the Campanulaceae s. lat.

"Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that stood his ground."
                                                               -- Anonymous

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