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RE: More on "Arbitrary" Paleontology
Don't get me wrong. I still love scenario building. I've posted one or two
here myself and am working on just such a project. But scenarios mostly
the functions of art: to arouse, offer new perspectives, create emotional
attachment or rejection -- not the functions of science. In many ways, the
will always be antithetical.
Dear Toby White: I agree with you that pictures or narratives (scenarios)
can be fruitless or misleading. I wasn't suggesting that they are
foolproof. Just the opposite. It's because a picture (like a hypothesis)
can be wrong that they are so useful, and I think indispensable to
paleontology, which has always enlisted the aid of the visual arts. Bakker
opens "Dinosaur Heresies" by talking about how he suddenly realized that the
Zallinger mural at Yale was all wrong, and that was what put him on the
right track to produce a new picture. Now perhaps his picture is becoming
misleading (I think your remarks about the side-effects, and the totalizing
character of a scenario, are very important: a picture could be right in
some respects, but misleading in others--we need to think about "segmenting"
their application in some way).
Anyway, it sounds to me like the "antithetical" relation of pictures and
science is a complex one. I would call it "dialectical": that is,
different, contrastive, but mutually necessary. Can you imagine
paleontology without the visual images?