Subject: Re: Why is Scheme not a Lisp?
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Wed, 13 Mar 2002 00:18:24 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Erik Naggum
> So by saying "Scheme is not a Lisp" I do not deny the historical and the
> evolutionary commonality up to a particular point, I am just saying it in
> the same sense as "Homo sapiens is not a simian", although some would
> probably spend all day arguing that any evidence of evolution has yet to
> show up in, say, the Middle East.

* Thomas F. Burdick
| Terrible, terrible example, and I'm jumping on it hoping to beat others
| to the punch.  The rest of your post was quite good, I just hope the
| ending example doesn't color your conclusion for others[*].
| [*] Totally OT: _Homo sapiens_ is an African Ape, certainly a simian.
| We're far closer evolutionarily to chimpanzees and gorillas than either
| of those are to orangutans, not to mention New World monkeys.  There's
| really no debate here (if you want debate, ask if chimpanzees and bonobos
| should be genus Pan or Homo...)

  But that is the whole point.  There are so many things that are true only
  of homo sapiens but not of other simians that talking about people as
  "simians" is completely worthless.  So it certainly seems you missed my
  point entirely and got hung up the exact same taxonomic snag that has
  caught the Scheme freaks who want it to be a Lisp.  In particular, my
  stab at the warring idiots in the Middle East was intended to communicate
  what it would mean to call somebody a "simian" today.

  Put another way: arguing that Scheme is "a Lisp" is like arguing that it
  is "a programming language".  On the one hand, of course it is.  On the
  other hand, of _course_ saying this does something in a discussion where
  people already know what a programming language is and that Scheme is one
  of them.  Take this scenario: You discuss the merits of several
  programming languages with a group of friends, and then you make a huge
  point out of Scheme being a programming language.  There are basically
  two ways to react to this: either (1) you are an annoying idiot who has
  failed to grasp what people have been talking about -- and gets whatever
  beer is left poured over your head, or (2) you are an arrogant bastard
  who denigrates every other programming language by effectively arguing
  that Scheme is the only one that _really_ merits that name -- and gets
  whatever beer is left poured over your head.  People assume that when you
  say something, it has greater value to you than to shut up, so if you
  something that is either blindingly obvious and irrelevant, it does in
  fact communicate hostility to any _thinking_ audience.  (I do not care
  much about unthinking audiences, who sometimes react very differently to
  redundant idiocy and empty, meaningless statements -- some even vote for
  the guy.)

  In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none.
  In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.