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Fact, opinion or just BUNK?

On Fri, 1 Dec 1995 02:16:06 -0500, Ronald I. Orenstein wrote:
>Can we say "possibly" secondarily flightless?  "Allegedly" secondarily
>flightless?  Secondarily flightless  according to George Olshevsky and Greg
>Paul (and ANYONE else???)?  This is certainly not generally accepted as far
>as I have ever heard.
>I don't mean to nitpick this to death but obviously this list is read by
>many non-scientists (including school children) who may be encountering
>these messages for the first time and treat statements like the above as
>though they were proven facts.  I think it behooves us to label hypotheses
>or personal views, or we will be behaving no more responsibly than the
>writers of Jurassic Park who have now convinced a generation of filmgoers
>that T rex's vision was based on movement and Dilophosaurus spat poison.
In my opinion...  the above suggestion is anything BUT nit-picking!

I feel Ron makes a VERY IMPORTANT point here.
There ARE many students (some very young too) whose love of dinosaurs
has brought them (most as quiet observers) to this list.  Many ARE able to
'filter out'the facts and near-facts from the bulk of speculation, 
opinion and fantasy, but some ( as I have observed in classroom situations) 
seem to take what's written here as fact (or truth) and pass it on to others 
as 'real' or factual, when often, there is little or no basis in fact or truth 
to substantiate what's been written.

I do realize that today's instant electronic communication requires a
certain level of "type it as you think it" freedom, but I also feel that 
we have to be a bit more mindful of "what we've actually written... 
after we've thought it", and how it might be received by the wide range of 
potential users of this list.

For a lot of list members (both young & old) the majority of  'vocal posters' 
(to the list) are regarded as 'experts' in the field of: paleontology... 
dinosaurs... etc. While this is not necessarily a complete truth, I'll be the 
first to say that there IS a great wealth of knowledge, experience, and
important discussion taking place here most of the time.  Having said that,
I've also got to say that there is good share of intelligent sounding "BUNK" 
that gets tossed around here too! The trouble with that (beyond being annoying) 
is that some of that "BUNK" ends up getting passed on as 'valid stuff' to 
a very dino-hungry, impressionable public (especially children... our next

Here's another reason for concern (with regards to this particular topic):
Because of the 'traditional manner" in which many teachers RELY on text 
(in forms like: textbooks, newspapers, magazines, electronic articles, etc.) 
as a key part of the educational process...
TEXT (as in: typed or printed materials) and consequently... what the text 
says... often goes unchallenged (and therefore, becomes 'personally' factual 
to the reader or learner).

Borrowing from Ron's example of:
 "...T rex's vision was based on movement...".  I can tell you, firsthand, 
that (following this weeks TV rebroadcast of the movie Jurassic Park) students 
were discussing 'dinosaurs', and several actually used the movie (and book) to
"prove" their arguments to be correct.  Until I (as casual observer) stepped 
in and challenged their proof, the other students had begun the process of 
giving in and adopting the 'movement-stuff' as legitimate, in part, because 
of this seemingly ingrained idea that "... THEY wouldn't allow it to be
(in the movie and/or book) if it wasn't true."  Well, I did what I could to
de-bunk ... and get them back to examining, thinking, and rethinking, but 
it's going to take a lot more... on the part of... each of us for the long 
term.  TEXT remains king... and as such... goes unquestioned far more
often than it should.

SO... maybe... we ought to take a few extra minutes (if necessary) to
read... and reread the text we are about to post to the list.  It probably 
wouldn't hurt if we double checked to be sure that our content has been 
properly identified as theory, fact, opinion... etc.  

I believe we'll be better understood by those who know us... AND 
far less likely to be passing on possible misinformation to those who don't.

========          Ken Ferrante          ========
========     Technology Coordinator     ========   
======== WTSD & PRSD - New Jersey - USA ========
========    kferrant@njlink.pppl.gov    ========