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A short side remark about the dark ages of dinosaurology (was Re: dino polyphyly (was RE: More on "Arbitrary" Paleontology))

From:                   "Thomas R. Holtz, Jr." <th81@umail.umd.edu>

> At 04:32 PM 6/7/99 -0700, Tom Mitchell wrote:


> >and 2) Does it make any difference at any other 
> >level--say, the public perception of dinosaur research?  Gregory Paul, for 
> >one, talks about the era of polyphyly as if it were the "dark ages" of 
> >dinosaurology.
> I'll let Greg speak for himself on that one.  It is true that the era of
> polyphyly coincides with the "dark ages" of dinosaur research: throughout
> the middle decades of the century, the number of dinosaur workers declined
> (as did the number of scientific papers on the subject). In the late 1960s
> and early 1970s this began to reverse, with the work of Ostrom and his
> students in the U.S., the Polish-Mongolian expeditions, renewed work in
> China, Bonaparte's work, etc. 


> Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.

Allow me to post a short comment on this subject. In 'Predatory 
Dinosaurs of the World' Greg Paul suggests that the decline in 
professional attention to dinosaurs was largely (with the 
depression) due to the fact that dinosaurology had taken on a 
'circus air' thanks to the popularity of dinosaurs, which made them 
an unattractive object for professional study. This, I think, is a very 
contentious viewpoint, because a) the same thing hasn't happened 
in the 1980s and 1990s, in which dinosaurs attained a popularity 
(and a 'circus air') far higher than anything in the 1930s, and b) we 
see the same thing happening to all 'non-essential' sciences in the 
1930s and 1940s (skipping a few oddballs like eugenetics that 
were promoted for political reasons). With non-essential I mean 
sciences that were considered an 'extra', not crucial to human 
technological development. Dinosaur palaeontology was no 
exception, but rather one of many sciences that suffered from the 
abandonment of 'pure' science in favour of utility. 

Ilja Nieuwland
Groningen, NL
Research Assistant              
History Department, Groningen University        
P.O. Box 716, NL-9700 AS Groningen, The Netherlands
Tel. +31 - 50 363 4927; Fax  +31 - 50 363 7253
E-mail: NIEUWLND@let.rug.nl

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