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Re: Lots'a questions after a ref.-tiding-up!

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From: INTERNET:crpntr@ix.netcom.com, INTERNET:crpntr@ix.netcom.com
To: , 102354,2222
Date: Sun, Aug 30, 1998 4:33:27 AM

RE: Re: Lots'a questions after a ref.-tiding-up!

Dinogeorge@aol.com wrote:       

>I don't have the means to visit every damned museum on the
>planet and to examine every damned specimen at my leisure. 

     On the other hand, George doesn't take the opportunity to look closely
at specimens when he 
does have the chance, such as at last year's SVP in Chicago. Tracy Ford
(not a professional 
paleontologist, but a budding one nevertheless) spent a considerable amount
of time in the 
collections at the Field Museum looking at specimens, but George admitted
he did not and had no 
intentions of doing so. That led into our heated argument. 

>My point was that if you have to go back to the actual
>specimens >every time< you want to publish something, then >what the hell
>the point of publishing descriptions<? If you cannot rely and build on the
>published literature and on descriptions made by supposedly competent
>professional paleontologists, why call this a science at all? 

     George unfortunately gives away his lack of understanding about how
science works. 1) In 
the case of the Chinese paleontologists, most of them have had limited
access to western 
literature and not all of them can read English. Can George read Chinese?
If not, then his 
criticism of the Chinese getting it wrong about allosauroid features of
Chilantaisaurus is 
unfair. 2) Like it or not, scientists are human and are subject to human
foibles, including 
seeing what they want to see - one has only to read George's articles to
see the same holds true 
him as well. 3) As for illustrations, you can't always believe what you
see. I sent George a 
color photograph of the scapula of the nodosaur Texasetes to show that one
of the features 
Walter Coombs cites in his description does not exist. The lighting of the
color photograph was 
such as to show that the scapular spine (pseudoacromion process) was
broken, a point Coombs 
denied and what was not apparent from the black and white photograph in
Coombs' paper. I also 
gave George an example of a flawed drawing in one of his own articles, so
he should hardly be 
throwing stones. 
     4) As more and more specimens are found, new interpretation result.
Remember that when Hu 
described Chilantaisaurus in 1964, Jim Madsen was a long ways from
publishing his monograph on 
Allosaurus (1976). Hu did the best he could at the time and it is an unfair
criticism that Hu 
"got it wrong." If George can see farther it is because he is standing on
the shoulders of 
giants. With new knowledge comes new interpretations and a new way of
looking at features - and 
THAT is why you need to look at specimens and not be content with doing
book reports. One has 
only to compare the Madsen monograph on Allosaurus with that of Gilmore to
know that the 
abundant specimens available to Madsen made Gilmore's monograph obsolete.
Even now, with even 
more Allosaurus specimens, Madsen's monograph is obsolete and that is why
Chure is working on 
Allosaurus for his PhD. If any of you are naive enough to believe that THE
definitive monograph 
on any dinosaur is possible, then you are in the wrong field - get into
computer programing, 
just 0 s and 1 s. 
     6) George has for years been very vocal about his tax dollars being
wasted by 
paleontologists because, as he notes, nothing definitive is published. By
tax dollars I assume 
he is referring to National Science Foundation grants. Sorry to pop the
bubble, but competition 
for those grant moneys is VERY stiff. I tried twice to get a grant for
$80,000. The first time I 
got two good reviews and one excellent. Taking the negative comments in
mind, I rewrote it and 
submitted it again. The results were two excellents and one good. That one
good was enough to 
kill it a second and last time. In fact, less than 10 proposals in a 100
get funded, all it 
takes is one less than excellent review. Most of the time you have no
control over who gets to 
review your proposal, since it is supposed to be anonymous.  
     Most of my research has actually been out of my own pocket, so I
usually tie my research to 
travel that is sometimes paid for. Earlier this year, the BBC paid my
flight to London as a 
consultant, and I took the opportunity to extend my stay in order to study
thyreophorans at the 
Natural History Museum. The five days I added to the BBC trip came out of
my own pocket - hotel, 
food, travel, film, film processing, etc. London is NOT a cheap town and my
trip was very 
expensive. I am still paying off my credit card. More recently, I traveled
around Montana and 
Alberta looking at specimens and that all came out of my pocket. What is my
point in all this? 
That all too few of you realize that most of us professional
paleontologists spend hundreds or 
thousands of dollars each year out of our own pockets to look at specimens,
as well as pay page 
charges and reprint costs. Sorry, George, many of us do not have our hands
in your pockets. We 
spend our money out of a love and dedication for the subject, so your
whining gets little 
sympathy from us. I am fortunate that the Denver Museum pays for my trip to
SVP, but that is not 
true for all my professional colleagues. As for our published accounts, we
try to get it right, 
but we are human and yes, we make mistakes. But that is OK. Correcting each
others mistakes is 
what science is all about.

If anyone is interested in seeing the questions that must answer when
reviewing an NSF proposal, 
send an email to stisserv@nsf.gov, with the message "request: get review"
and "topic:review" on 
separate lines

Kenneth Carpenter
Fossil Lab, Dept. of Earth Sciences
Denver Museum of Natural History
2001 Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80205

phone (303)370-6392 fax (303)331-6492

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