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nerds, scientific accuracy, etc. RECAP & PROPOSAL



I was surprised by the large response to my post on the portrayal
of science, paleontology, dinosaurs, and nerds in the movies. No
one took serious issue with anything I said, although there seems
to be little aggreement about what constitutes the most serious
part of the problem. Allow me to recap and offer some impressions.

1. Dinosaurs in science fiction movies. There is wide disagreement
about how damaging JP was to the public's accurate perception of
dinosaurs. Some even argued that JP should have been free of factual
error. I don't think this last position is realistic given "artistic
license."

Response: The accurate portrayal of science is so important to the
future of science that I believe that every effort should be made
to help film-makers do the best job possible, notwithstanding
the inevitable "artistic license" problem. Who should coordinate
such an effort? The Dinosaur Society? SVP? AAAS? Such an effort
should also include followup. Teachers (parents) shouldn't have to
find out from their students (children) that an Apatosaurus and a cow
do not chew the same way. Anyone have any thoughts about this?

2. Dinosaurs in scientific documentaries. Surprisingly, there was
about the same range of tolerance for accuracy in documentaries as
in JP. Spielberg never claimed to be presenting fact, but I have
a real problem with documentaries on PBS that distort or misrepresent
the facts or the prevailing opinion of the paleontological community.

Response: Maybe some of the readers of this post can help us out with
this one. Does anyone know the E-mail addresses for Nova (WGBH, Boston),
PBS, (Washington, DC), CBC (Ottawa?), or BBC (London?)? Then, if you
don't like what you see, let them know! If you're sick of seeing
Bakker on Nova, tell them to use Holtz, Carpenter, or someone
else :-). As Ray McAllister corrected pointed out to me in a recent
post, when we complain to each other, we preach to the choir.

3. Some dinosaur models are O.K., but many aren't accurate or up-to-
date. This has been true for years. Although I haven't been directly
involved in this thread, it certainly is part of the greater problem 
covered by this post.

Response: The Dinosaur Society (or some other group) should get busy 
and identify those models that are most accurate and those that
are inaccurate or out-of-date. If such information were posted here
and updated periodically (perhaps as an FAQ-type posting), then 
distributed to nature and science shops, teachers, educational supply
houses, museums, etc., I'll bet this problem would all but disappear.
I think most merchants have good intentions and would carry better
lines if given some good information.

4. Most who responded agree that the public's perception of science
and scientists leaves a lot to be desired.

Response: Some of the posts advocating community involvement (via Boy
Scouts or museum programs) sound great to me. Many people may not be
aware of such efforts already underway. Is anyone interested in seeing
a list compiled, kept updated, and posted here periodically? I know
I'd be particularly interested in summer programs (public visits to
digs, etc.)--I have a 10-year-old who would love to see an authentic
dinosaur dig.

Comments, anyone?

Larry


-- 
*---------------------------------------------
*Larry S. Bowlds        lbowlds@geosociety.org
*Geological Society of America
*Bulletin Managing Editor
*(303) 447-2020, ext. 147        
*---------------------------------------------