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Socialistic Paleontology



Hello All,

Let me begin by asking my fellow Americans, also concerned about the
trend toward the comercialism of fossil specimens, where do we draw
the line between individual liberty and the need for study and
preservation of important specimens?

Caitlin R. Kiernan writes;

> And while my criticism was not directed at landowners, I should add
> that believing that vertebrate fossils are a natural resource that
> must be protected by federal legislation, even when those fossils
> are found on private lands, makes me no more a socialist than my
> conviction that landowners should be prevented from hunting
> endangered species that happen to be living on their property. Or
> that federal air and water pollution regulation apply to their
> land. And so on. And so forth.

The fact is this is the very definition of socialism. Although it is
not "politicaly correct" to point such thinking out for what it is, a
spade is a spade, ( no racial intent implied, description of digging
tool). 

[ Roger, I was planning to ignore the e-mail you sent to me, but since
  you want to drag this out, let's analyze your claim.  This is from
  your mail:

     Webster's Dictionary defines socialism;
     A system in which people as a whole, and not individuals, control
     and own all property.

  You asked me to show you your error.  All right, then, your error is
  in assuming that because someone thinks that fossils belong to
  everyone then it means you can correctly label them as people who
  think "all property" belongs to "people as a whole".  To be blunt, I
  think you are grossly overreacting and threatening to turn a
  potentially productive discussion into a flamefest.  Please try to
  show more discretion.  Thanks. -- MR ]

An endangered species of extant life must be protected or our
planet's biodiversity is lessened and we as a global society suffer
loss, but one more Edmontosaur rib sold to the highest bidder harms
nobody. Air and water that flow over or through ones land are the same
resources we all share, and these are natural social issues that
existed before any government. To use such points to argue for social
ownership of fossils ignores the fact that society as a whole or in
part suffers no direct harm from the sale of legally obtained
specimens. Access and knowledge may be delayed, or even lost, but the
price of freedom comes at a price for everyone, even
paleontologists. It seems none of us can claim a measurable personal
loss as the result of fossil sales. If you claim t!  !  !  his to be
untrue cite the constitutional right(s) that are specifically
violated.

Our nation's (USA) founders tried to establish a simple line of
reasoning when such conflicts occur, and that is that as long as an
individuals actions do not interfer with any other individuals rights
then the government has no authority. What individual's rights are
obstructed by the private ownership or sale of fossil material?

Don't get me wrong, I wish all important specimens could be studied
and described until we know all there is to know about
them. Legislation, however, will not make it so, just look at the drug
abuse problem. I suspect the socialization of fossil material as
suggested would dramatically increase the "black market" value and
exploitation of said resource both on private land and public
alike. We must also consider that if these fossil specimens are made
property of the state then the state will ultimately decide who does
examinations and descriptions, and the data itself will be the
property of the state. Do we want the state to form our opinions for
us, and pick only paelontologist that meet the state's criteria? Just
as there is a seperation of church and state, I feel there should be a
seperation of science and state, and for the same reasons.

Selecting "choice" institutions to "own" these fossils also fails to
address a whole new set of problems. Countries go to war and bomb each
others cities into dust. Remember the Spinosaurus in Berlin. Had that
specimen resided in a baron's estate off in the black forest we might
still have a chance to learn from it. Complete trust in any
governmental body is both foolish and dangerous, whether it concerns
personal freedoms or fossilzed remains of ancient life.

Do I have the answers to these other questions? No way! Do I strongly
believe that our dwindling individual rights should be vigorously
defended? Passionately so! There has to be an alternative way to
strike a balance between the rights of landowners and the need for
access by the scientific community without removing another facet of
freedom we enjoy here in America.

"and the man in the back said, "everyone attack"

Roger A. Stephenson