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Re: recent K mammal postings



At 10:57 AM 5/22/98 -0400, John Bois wrote:

>> My recent response to J. Bois might seem a bit harsh to some new readers on
>> the list.  Don't let this stop you from posting serious and sincere
>> questions: we'd love to see them.
>
>I took no real offence at your "recent response".  But I must say the
>present one has hit the spot!

If so, than I apologize.  I felt, after sending out the first one, that it
seemed too harsh.

>> The individual in question here, however, has been posting to this list and
>> several others for a couple of years now on matters concerning Mesozoic
>> mammals.  What is so frustrating is the observation that, despite his
>> obvious interest in the subject, he doesn't seem to have bothered to make
>> even a cursory glance at the scientific literature on the subject.
>
>On what basis do you make this claim?

On the basis that you considered Hedges comments as accurately reflecting
the state of Mesozoic paleomammology.  Since, as you demonstrate below, you
ARE familiar with the literature, why do you even give Hedges comment credence?

It seemed like someone who had demonstrated a keen interested in sauropods
hearing a comment in _Science_ saying "Brachiosaurids had short necks", and
then asking the net if that were true.

>I own a well thumbed copy of
>Mesozoic Mammals.  And I have a copy of Benton, have read The Flaming
>Cliffs, keep up with mammal finds as they appear in the journals...

Which is what is puzzling me the most.  I *hoped* you would have that info,
since you do have a great interest in Mesozoic mammals.  Therefore, you have
the much of the very information you were seeking.  You could see for
yourself that the comment "Paleontologists hardly ever look for mammals in
Cretaceous rocks" is an ignorant statement.  You have, it seems, done more
research than Hedges has on the subject.  Why then would you need to ask the
question on the list? 

>Such comments as Hedges' and Benton's
>are off the cuff.  Are they being careless, provocative?

So it would seem.

>I can't really
>believe it of Hedges (and am startled that you seem to believe it of me)
>that he has never heard of Archibald, Clemens.

You are very right: that was exactly what startled me.  I found it totally
unreasonable that you seemed not to be aware of the work of these and other
Mesozoic mammal experts.  Since you are (sensibly) aware of their work, why
should you have to ask the net is Hedges' comment on that subject was
ignorant: you yourself have the information and the background by which to
demonstrate such.

>You seem to think I am disingenuous when I ask
>questions
>designed to give me a bearing on the relative amount of research going on 
>in the field.

I did not think such: I was simply startled!  I had thought before hand (and
now have it confirmed) that you were aware of the scientific literature on
the subject.  Then you post a question which seemed that you were unaware of
such: that is what was so amazing to me.

>So I read Hedges' comments and think the following:
>this guy submits papers to a respected, peer reviewed journal, he might
>know what he's talking about.

A) Not always a safe assumption, but a fair one.
B) The comments were not actually from the peer reviewed part of the
journal: his actual paper.  The comments were from the news section in
front, which is not peer reviewed and (as both you and Chris Brochu noted)
contain comments which may or may not be meant with a straight face.

Additionally, there are occasional problems in the news items sections of
_Science_, _Nature_, and the like:
As Kevin Padian recently demonstrated in the letter column, in response to
the "News & Views" article concerning the Forster et al. _Rahonavis_ paper,
some of the news writers need to read the papers themselves to check their
facts.  The news report mentioned the hypothesis that the arms of _R._ were
from a different animal, rendering the rest of the specimen a non-avian
dinosaur.  However, if the reporter had read the paper, they would find that
Forster et al. ran the data matrix with and without the arms included, and
_R._ always came out as a bird.  It isn't the (associated) wings that make
the little critter avian.

>> In other words (and this applies to an even more general level): do your
>> homework.
>
>And if the lecture is finished here might I suggest that you demonstrate a
>little more class.  The charge of not doing my homework does _not_ apply
>in this instance.

Thankfully, that turns out to be so.  It seemed from your question, however,
that you hadn't done such.

>And a general charge without specificity from one in
>your position relative to mine is nothing much more than an abuse of
>power.

Perhaps.  Or, perhaps, related to a general pattern in recent weeks on the
net of different individuals asking for information which can be more
easily, and fairly, gained from going to the library (as in Wiwaxia's recent
"www.gotothelibrary.edu" posting).

As you mentioned in this reply, you have indeed done your homework on the
subject of Mesozoic mammals.  That is why I was surprised that you even
considered Hedges comments on the state of Mesozoic mammal research as
reflecting what is known: you have the information yourself to show that he
is incorrect.

>You suggested in another post that my view
>could use a little Windex.  Then stop spraying me with Mace!

Fair enough.  Again, I apologize.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:th81@umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661