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RE: anti-social Tyrannosaurs




> -----Original Message-----
> From: Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. [SMTP:th81@umail.umd.edu]
> Sent: Friday, December 11, 1998 8:35 AM
> To:   troodon1@worldnet.att.net
> Cc:   dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject:      Re: anti-social Tyrannosaurs
> 
> At 06:26 PM 12/10/98 -0600, Tim Bollier wrote:
> 
> Last things first:
> 
> Gee, to whom could that be directed...?  :-)
> 
> Well, I don't "play teacher", I AM a teacher.  As such, I do like to keep
> things accurate.  It was all in good fun, though, as Dwight Stewart
> himself
> admitted.  Also, as it was such a common mistake, I felt it was important
> to
> get it on the list, because he wasn't the only one who does it.
        ####################################

        Many moons ago I taught calculus &
        classical physics.  I find myself correcting my colleagues math &
        physics misstatements, almost instinctually.  They basically take it
        lightheartedly & my intentions are constructive.  Tom's intentions
are 
        the same.  Also, like most mathematicians, I can't spell! :-)  But,
I usually
        remember to check my dictionary.  Though the spell-check I installed
        on my email SHOULD help.  Unfortunately, Paleontological terms are
        not part of it's lexicon.
        ###################################
          
> (Also, I don't tend to correct people's non-scientific grammatical
> mistakes,
> except while editing or grading papers.  Heck, I make plenty myself.  But
> taxonomy IS part of science, and does have a bearing here).
> 
> >   If we only believe in the facts we can touch, then Newton, Einstein,
> >Darwin,Sagan, and Dr. King were only dreamers and not visionaries. We
> often
> >need visions by great people so we will know what we are looking for as
> well
> >as why.
> 
> Although the guys above are heros of mine, at least one (Sagan) would
> argue
> on some of this idea of yours.  While beliefs are important, for they
> certainly help guide us, it IS only the facts which drive Science.  For a
> REALLY good discussion on this, see Sagan's book "The Demon-Haunted World:
> Science as a Candle in the Dark".  I highly recommend it to everyone.
> 
> Along these lines, I may *believe* a lot of stuff about dinosaurs in
> general, and tyrannosaurs in particular.  However, some of these are just
> that: beliefs, dreams, and so on.  Because of this, I won't dwell on these
> on the list:  get a few drinks in me, or get me out in the field, or get a
> few drinks in me out in the field, and I'll spend hours talking about my
> speculations on the life and times of the tyrant dinos.
        ############################

        I think all scientists have various belief systems.  The important
thing is to not
        allow that to set up a "filtering paradigm" that effects judgement.
In physics,
        it is often said (& was said by a friend of mine recently) that we
have more
        theories than data.  :-)  Well, we have a lot of data & a lot of
theories to interpret 
        that data.  The Hubbell has hurled data at us like crazy.  I'm
working on 0.15
        um semiconductor technology that has been all but burying me in
data.  
        I believe one of my "pet" semiconductor theories has been pretty
much disproven
        by my own data.  It happens!   Did a wince a bit at the data as I
started crunching
        the numbers?  Honestly: yes.  Was I tempted to "spin" or fudge the
numbers: no.
        If the data proves your theory was wrong, then you move on to a more
conformal
        theory.  It's only human to have an emotional "investment" in an
idea.  The discipline
        of science requires (or SHOULD require) that we transcend that.  As
a professor of
        mine in Grad School said over & over; "Work from data.  Speculation
should be
        based on data."  
        ###########################

> Too many paleontologists (particularly ones who get in the mass media a
> lot)
> do not distinguish between their personal beliefs about dinosaurs and
> their
> world, and what can be demonstrated scientifically.  The lay public often
> doesn't know how to distinguish the two, and take as gospel anything these
> individuals say.
> 
> This is just as bad as the pre-Dinosaur Renaissance tacit acceptance of
> dinosaurs as cold-blooded, stupid, malformed monsters.  We should always
> be
> clear in distinguishing what we can demonstrate from the evidence, what we
> can infer from comparative anatomy and behavior, and what is idle
> speculation (appealing though it may be).  We should do this in general,
> and
> we should do this here in particular, as this is not a "dinosaur chat
> line";
> it is, as Mickey Rowe has to point out every so often, a list dedicated to
> dinosaur *science*.
        ####################################

        This happens in all sciences.  We have "superstars" in physics too.
Some are 
        household names.  I know a few of these people & most are
responsible, grounded
        scientists, BUT... Well, I believe we all know what Dr. Holtz is
referring to. :-)
        ################################