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Is the Study of Dinosaurs Science?
I have been working the past few weeks on an elementary school curriculum
unit on dinosaurs, and someone commented to me that a county/district
level administrator had complained: "Dinosaurs are not science. I wish
they would take them out of the curriculum." I haven't had a chance to
ask the administrator why he/she felt that way, but thought I would poll
the readership here for their comments and responses as supporting testimony.
My guess is that the administrator feels that the study of dinosaurs is
not science because so much of the popularly visible aspects of
paleontology is speculation. We speculate about: 1) whether dinosaurs
were warm- or cold-blooded; 2) whether the dinosaurs became extinct
because of climate changes or a meteor impact (or diseases et al); 3)
whether birds are dinosaurs; 4) whether the front legs of Triceratops
and other quadrupeds were oriented directly below the body or slightly
sprawled; 5) whether carnosaurs were scavengers or predators... You can
fill in more "speculative questions" about just about anything from color
to diet. Considering that so much is speculation that may never be
resolved, this administrator probably thinks the study of dinosaurs is
very unscientific and of questionable value in a public school setting.
I personally feel that children can use the study of dinosaurs as a
springboard to exercising basic math and science skills from measuring
height, length, weight to classification and evolution.
I am interested in responses from the folks on this list to the argument
that the study of dinosaurs is not science. Please indicate whether you
are a professional paleontologist, geologist, oceanographer, astronomer, etc.
(I suppose one could argue that [from the administrator's perspective]
cosmology is not a science because trying to determine the origin of the
universe is largely speculation.)
----- Amado Narvaez