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Re: Baucus Bill

>On Thu, 28 Sep 1995 12:37:44 -0400 Jeff Poling said:
>>   I always say that in a free society you err on the side of freedom.  You
>>can cry that fossils on public land belong to the public, but they will end
>>up only as the toys of paleontologists and museum curators.  Few actually
>>end up on display.  The government should be in the business of MANAGING the
>>access of private citizens to resources on public lands , rather than
>>restricting it only to a priveleged or educated elite.
>Few fossils end up on display because display is not the object of scientifc

   That's correct, it is not.  Which means the only people with access to
these fossils, and therefore who will get an pleasure from these fossils,
are a priveleged few ("priveleged" is not used in a pejorative sense).

>Paleontologists and museum curators do not consider fossils as

   I never said that professionals CONSIDER them toys, and perhaps it was an
unfortunate choice of words.  But the fact remains that these will be the
people with access to the fossils, not the public to whom these things
supposedly belong.

>I am constantly amazed by the anti-science views held by certain members of
>this supposedly science oriented list.

   My views are hardly anti-science.  I am not saying it is wrong for
scientists to have access to this material.  I am not saying they are
committing evil.  I am not even saying that what they are doing is a waste
of time and resources.  What I am saying is that they should not be the ONLY
people with access to fossil treasures.

>You obviously know nothing of
>paleontologists or of museums.

   Certainly I do.  Their motives and professionalism bears not one whit on
whether I think they should have exclusive access and ownership rights as
pertains to fossils. 

>By insulting scientists, the majority of
>whom support amateur collecting, you are only hurting your cause.

   There are no insults to scientists in that post unless you focus on the
word "toys" and totally ignore everything else I said in that post.  Even
the comment about a "priveleged or educated elite" isn't an insult.  Those
who have access to all these fossils ARE priveleged (in the sense that they
have access that the rest of us probably never will have), ARE educated, and
ARE the elite of our society.

>We would
>know very little about dinosaurs if anti-intellectuals spewing libertarian
>nonsense decided it was permissable to collect any site of scientific
>importance and turn fossils into meaningless curios.

   I seriously doubt that fossils are meaningless curios to anybody except
those driven by pure profit.

>I suggest that amateurs
>and professionals work together rather than allow people with an odd political
>agenda attempt to polarize them into separate camps.

   Whouf.  Hell of a thing to say after a you post an essay full of
inflammatory rhetoric.  Characterizing a defense of freedom as an odd
political agenda is hardly non-polarzing.

>Fossils are not
>mere curios to be bought/traded and made into jewelry and dust-gathering

   I agree somewhat on this point.  That doesn't mean I think the solution
is yet more government regulation or restrictions on who can and cannot own

>If a fossil ends up in a museum, there is a chance that
>someday it will be studied by a scientist, even 100 years from now. An
>important fossil in an amateur collection is lost to science.

   Baloney.  I am certainly aware that a fossil collected without recording
the taphonomy of the site could be a major loss to the scientific community,
but the fossil itself has not similarly disappeared off the face of the
earth.  Some people might not allow scientists access to their collection,
but I bet most people would be more than willing to allow access to their
collections if asked.  If they don't, maybe it's people characterizing their
desire to collect and own fossils as "anti-intellectual", "libertarian
nonsense" and an "odd political agenda" that turns them off.

>the vast majority of fossils are common enough that no one objects to it
>being in private hands. By pushing this issue with rather strong rhetoric,
>people like Mr. Poling will end up alienating the scientific community and
>amateur paleontology will end up regulated as harshly as archaeology.

   I suspect that the "harsh regulation" of archaeology goes far beyond an
alienation of the scientific community.  I suspect it has a lot to do with
American Indian and other groups considering archaeological digs of such
things as burial mounds to be grave robbing.

   I would not be at all surprised if it's the paleontological community
that should be careful not to alienate the amateur community.  I suspect
that they are a very large and very vocal bunch.  And I doubt that lawmakers
could be convinced, in the face of such opposition, that the same kind of
regulation is needed for the bones of T. rex as are needed for the bones of
American Indian ancestors.

>short, amateurs should be learning about the science of paleontology, not
>just collecting dust gatherers.  Professional paleontologists in turn should
>be educating the public.

   And both should be finding ways to work with the greatest freedom
possible, not advocating as many restrictions as possible.

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