Bill, I respectfully have to differ. While you can use any lens / camera combination artistically, a set application may well call for a specific lens. Birding is a great example - lots of people try to take photos of birds at the birdbath with a short zoom, and just blow it up on the monitor. This doesn't compare well against a long lens. Even in "true" long lenses, the difference between a 400mm and an 600mm (or so) lens is quite remarkable for this application. The longer lens helps the photographer get more out of their skills in this case.
Also, given that you emphasized the artistic values of photography, why restrict the recommendation to zoom lenses? I started out with a 50mm lens and used nothing but that for months. I think we agree that a large part of the art is thinking and imagining your way around obstacles and limitations. I only mention the beginner's prime lens approach because it's a good way to really drill on the fundamentals of exposure while simplifying learning the camera's own programmatic quirks.
Ultimately the zoom recommendation is making a very specific kind of recommendation to the user, and I think there's no harm in revealing the wider range of choices to a beginner. Especially in the case that somebody is serious about using certain lenses for applications, starting out with the equipment they'd end up buying later will only save them money. For example, I fooled around with a 120-400mm zoom which has only cost me money (although the lens I use in its place wasn't released until last year, but that's a kind of rare case).
The first question has to be what kind of photography a person wants to engage in. If you want maximum flexibility and lower carrying requirements, generally a person will benefit from a zoom lens (although I might ask what "flexibility" means - sometimes flexibility means a lens with a macro setting, or the ability to use a teleconverter). If you want maximum artistic control, a stable of prime lenses will be very helpful. Expenses and reality probably land us somewhere in between.
Bill Ng wrote in post #14473717
The reality is that no one can answer these questions for you [...] The only way you'll know what you need is to start with a few inexpensive lenses and see where they take you. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.
It looks to me like you set out to do just that - answer the questions - with the zoom recommendation, which is inconsistent with your own advice!
Just to make it clear what I'm about, I think that everybody goes down the same path - with some detours, and making allowance for creative differences - in learning photography. But the best way to learn what really works is to read everything you can on different lenses, view images, compare prices, and then make a decision. A good photographer can provide the technical advice, but that's about it.