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Re: F-W's Book- Amateur vs Prof and esoterica (Long)

Tompaleo@aol.com wrote:
> Hello All,
> I've been following (for the most part) the three  hot topics currently
> bouncing around on this list some of which have cross-posted to and from
> other lists, and have been mulling over when and if I should jump into the
> fray. (I know that just makes  your day for some!). Thanks to John Wager?s
> recent posts regarding cladistic shorthand,
> one possible answer to these vexing questions came to me...
> To briefly recap the problems which I refer to, and paraphrasing...
> 1) The Amateur vs. Professional thread and semantics applied therein thread
> 2) The problem with the media's power to "popularize"  scientifically
> incorrect  or inaccurate "facts" as law thread,
> Which leads to
> 3)The use of Paleontological jargon and vernacular ("Scientifically Correct";
> "SC").
>  Let me start off by first stating that I am not trying to start a flame war,
> nor am I singling any one person or group with the following  but I will be
> blunt where I feel it is necessary.
> Once again we encounter the old argument of SC vs. "popular" culture.
> Naturally, the overwhelming body of opinion falls between two camps which
> also naturally clade out to amateurs (lay persons, avocational?s etc) and
> professionals ( academics, grad and undergrads and the like) who unite at a
> common node (Paleontologists). Then there is that outgroup (fossil dealers
> and privateers but I won't get into that right now. For more info, see my
> Paleontologist classification posting on the list's archives from 93' I
> believe).
> It has occurred to me the fundamental problem of our time with regards to SC
> is getting our message out. Getting the message out in it's proper context,
> vernacular and when possible, pronunciation but where the content of the
> information is digestible to the masses. How do we do this? We take a lesson
> from Spileberg and his media minions. Pop culture is not created over night.
> It is a product of endless audio/visual bombardment of the public with their,
> the media's, editorialized, sanitized, politicized and often hyped ad nauseum
> repetition of the same old crap, over and over again until it (whatever they
> want to program into us)  becomes second nature. This I believe is the
> fundamental power of the media. It has resulted in a lethargic,  largely
> disinterested, couch-potato public which feeds on televideo trash!  Of course
> there are exceptions but they are few. And, I only speak, in this case, about
> the problem here in the US based on MY observations.
> While we ( the scientific community) do not own our own theaters, tv, or
> radio stations with which to disseminate  scientific information ( other than
> journals) to the public we do have a powerful recourse, one that will help us
> lead the way into the 21'st century and hopefully, to a better informed
> public which in turn should improve the public's perception of scientists in
> general.
> I have said this before in several related rants against the Media. We have
> the Internet! We now have the ability to compete with the media nearly on par
> if we only take the time to use this medium to our advantage! As personal
> computers get faster making high definition graphics and other video effects
> comparable to movies and video and "Net" and Web access becomes available to
> more individuals and schools, we will have an unprecedented and possibly the
> only opportunity we will ever have to get the word out _in_the_
> form_and_manner_ we want it to be. Witness personal Web pages constructed by
> many of us currently on the list! Here is your chance to be heard! to make
> your points without editorial bias from the media! Witness the advent of
> on-line journals. Journals accessible to anyone! To make this idea come to
> fruition we MUST take a page from the media's own play book. Using the
> Internet (sensu lato) we should lead by example (as has been previously
> suggested). By this I mean  that we return to our scientific roots when we
> communicate with each other via mailing lists , on our own web pages, and
> anything that is accessible to the lay public, in the proper context and
> vernacular that is utilized by OUR field. And keep using it regardless of the
> whines of a few out there who complain of it being too esoteric. By doing
> this we would actually be doing those that read our posts a service by
> teaching the reader  if not indirectly , by our example alone. They will be
> encouraged to investigate, look up or research things and above all, they,
> (we) all benefit.  Those that for whatever reason object to the nomenclature
> will either adapt or go extinct. As long as paleontologists are the driving
> force behind this medium, then we have a fighting chance against the 'narley
> dudes' of  pop culture. If we stick to our guns, and not give in to this
> contemptible, mentally bankrupt "pop culture" maybe a few people will take
> notice.  No member of  this list is here because they were forced to and my
> belief is that it will weed out "the men from the boys" so to speak. The best
> way for students, amateurs and lay persons to learn paleontology, if, that is
> why you are on this list,  is by _doing_ paleontology with all it's nuances.
> Communicating in the vernacular of the field is essential to the field .
> Paleontology is more than just talking about finding fossils, or  reading a
> few  popular books. The terminology utilized by paleontologists was not
> created  because of "elitism" or some other "us vs. them" paranoia. It is the
> language by which all paleontologists communicate. Get a Latin and Greek
> dictionary!  Remember the old saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans"? Would
> it not be prudent and proper for an English speaking individual who is
> visiting a non-English speaking country to at least TRY and learn a few key
> words, phrases and customs of the country being visited? I believe that it is
> terribly arrogant of the person who does not even try! Likewise, when ones
> car is having mechanical troubles, what do you tell the mechanic? The thingie
> is not engaging the whirly-gig and the car wont go? If that's how you deal
> with mechanics, then I've got some good deals on bridge deeds to sell you!
>  You need to know at least _something_ that a mechanic can relate to if he is
> going to accurately diagnose your car's problem.  In the above example,
> knowing your distributor is the problem tells the mechanic and likewise he
> telling you, makes communication of the idea so much easier and you don't
> have to be a genius or even mechanically inclined to comprehend!  Similarly,
> another fundamental aspect of paleontology is the classification of extinct
> species using either Linnaean or Cladistic methods with even more esoteric
> terminology. Here's where John's posts set the light bulb off for me.
> Let me digress momentarily to qualify my position. I am not yet a
> professional paleontologist. I would never presume such credentials at this
> stage in my career. Nor do I consider myself an amateur. But to some  of you,
> I am sure there will be disagreement.  I am currently an undergrad working
>  towards a PhD and hopefully a salaried job in paleo.  And I freely admit
> that there is much I need to learn.  I have been doing field work, largely on
> my own, for over 8 years at the lone remaining Early Cretaceous dino site on
> the east coast and have many well known  professionals to thank for being
> where I am now. Eventually, all of my material will resideat the Smithsonian
> for all to see one day. I keep NOTHING!  Naturally, I am more sympathetic to
> the academic side or more specifically, I am devoted to the _scientific_ side
> of things.
> Which brings me back to the other point. I had barely gotten down the
> Linnaean classification scheme for dinosaurs when I first signed on this list
> when I encountered intense use of  Cladistic nomenclature. I still do not
> understand Cladistics all that well but I have learned far more from posts
> like John's, Tom's and others as well as arguments against it, mostly from
> George, than I have had I only read some book. In fact, such posts encouraged
> me to learn more and of course, and yes, I finally bought a book on
> cladistic. I get several journals and periodicals laced with the stuff  so
> hat I just have to learn the system ! See my point!  This virtual classroom
> we call the Dinosaur Mailing List, is essentially free, presided by some of
> the premier scholars of our time, and best of all, NO TESTS! ( I just had to
> say that!)
> I applaud John's recent posts on cladistic shorthand. This is a perfect QED.
> I would  like to encourage John to continue writing posts in this manner .
> Likewise, I would exhort all members of this list to follow John's, Tom's ,
> and George's example.  If you don't understand something, ask someone who
> does! Look it up!  The tools are there so use them!
> And from Dinogeorge's reply to the following,
> << All the whining about raptor-this
> > >and t-rex that isn't going to change human nature. >>
> >What most people call "human nature" is actually "human stupidity." And no,
> >that's not going to change much, either--except perhaps to increase in
> >quantity and virulence.
> Hits it right on the head! But the other guy has a point as well. So we must
> use the tools we have at our disposal viz. a viz. the Internet, as our means
> to level the field with the mass media. Pound out the SC way repetitively in
> everything we say and do publicly , lead by example, and some of it is bound
> to rub off  After all, wasn't this the way students used to be taught ? We
> cannot stop human stupidity but we can mitigate some of it's effects!
> Regards,
> Thomas R. Lipka
> Paleontological/Geological Studies

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