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Re: "Raymond" the triceratops

On Wed, 1 Mar 1995, Stan Friesen wrote:

> The main difference is that science is based on verifiability.
> Thus if a paper is published about a specimen, that specimen
> needs to be available for any qualified person to examine to
> check if the author of the paper missed something, or misinterpreted
> something.

Certainly it's very desirable for the specimen to remain available.  But it's 
not a condition for scientific study: you can have perfectly scientific 
investigations into earthquakes, storms etc. that you can't preserve for 
future study.  Scientists in general are not expected to keep their materials
indefinitely and make them publically available.  (Would genetics be any more
scientific if Mendel had dried all his peas?)  Fossils are kept in museums
because it's possible to preserve them, because they contain lots of 
information and because they're uncommon.

> With art, all that is lost if the item is removed from the museum
> is the ability of the public to view the item.  Public viewing
> is the *least* important part of what a natural history museum
> is about.  In fact fewer than 10% of the specimens in a typical
> NH museum are *ever* displayed.

I agree.  Museums, at least public ones, are run to show the public what is
being researched, not to do research on things the public is being shown.  And
rightly so IMHO.

> Also, the problem would be far more significant if this were a new
> species, as the type specimen of a species *must* be available
> for comparison, or it is totally useless. [The rules even require
> a properly deposited type specimen now].

This is true.  Not because biology would be unscientific if we didn't pickle,
pin, or whatever a representative of every species but because it's a useful
convention to reduce taxonomic mistakes.

BTW, do list members feel that there ought to be more debate about 
palaeontological questions like ankylosaur mimicry and less on inaccuracies
in the media and peripheral topics such as hypothesis testing?  (I'm happy 
as it is.)
                                                                Bill Adlam