The Pedantic Scientist

Another excellent episode of Dr Who, this time sorting out relations with the Silurians, who are described as Homo reptilicus. Interesting name. Species are described in what’s known as binomial nomenclature, with the genus name first, and species name second. Thus Homo sapiens is in the genus Homo [humans and closely related, but now all extinct, relatives], and the species sapiens [thinking]. So Homo sapiens is “thinking man”.

This binomial naming assumes evolutionary relationships, so Homo sapiens, and Homo habilis for instance, shared a common ancestor. The point, for the pedantic scientist, is that the Silurians evolved long before we did, and from reptilian stock. Their genus name would have to be the reptilian group from which they evolved, so it wouldn’t be Homo. Their species name would be their “defining characteristic”, which in this case must be that they think.

They are not reptilian humans, they are thinking reptiles. So it’s not Homo reptilicus, it’s Reptilicus sapiens.

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6 Responses to The Pedantic Scientist

  1. Robert says:

    I thought “sapiens” meant “skilled” – and that humans are technically Homo Sapiens Sapiens (Very Skilled Apes). Maybe my A-levels biology teacher was not up to speed on his Latin. Online dictionaries tell me sapiens means wise. (The very wise ape? Pah!) Perhaps the Homo Reptilicus should really be Therizinosaurus Credo Sentienta?

  2. tehagingfanboy says:

    Homo habilis was “handy man”. I consulted a latin speaker on this one and sapiens means “wise” as in being able to understand the concept, i.e. “sapience”. Therizinosauridae strike me as being too specialised, although I would imagine that an intelligent reptile could well have evolved from a theropod. The whole setup must have been very complicated, as there are at least three different species of Silurians (the old one, the new one and the Sea Devils) whose intelligence and technological sophistication were very similar. As for your “Pah!” comment – I assume that you’re speaking for yourself?

  3. Robert says:

    I would not describe humanity as wise, in any way, shape or form… I’m half surprised they did not call our species Homo Deus. Who is “they” by the way? Who had the right to name our species? When did we discover ourselves? I think it should be put to a vote. Me, I’d vote for Homo Vulgaris. Maybe, at a stretch, Homo Creo. (All endings are of course wrong. I do not speak Latin…)

  4. theagingfanboy says:

    Hmmmm… interesting. “They” are everyone who wants to be one of “them” [Harry Harrison]. It’s an accepted scientific consensus to call humanity Hom. sap. I’m sorry that none of your friends or family are wise, in any shape or form. Are you sure?

  5. Brian says:

    “They” are everyone who wants to be one of “them” [Harry Harrison]. Ha! Long live ‘Bill the Galactic Hero!’ Well, the first two books anyway (the ones written by Harrison). As for the good Dr, this was one of the worst episodes of the recent revivial. Bring back the Sea Devils!

  6. theagingfanboy says:

    t’s nice that somebody remembers Harry Harrision. I’ve often thought about that quote; it explains management structures so well. I liked the Sea Devils too, I seem to remember that they had some nifty hand-held beam weapons of some kind. Jon Pertwee and Jo Grant in 70s fashions. What’s not to like?

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