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Hypotheses and Rigorous Defense



I wrote:

<<...What would have happened had Cope _not_ removed
the skull from the tail of his plesiosaur? Had he
grown attached to the idea of the skull's placement
instead of admitting Marsh was right, it is largely
possible he would have been mocked outright...>>

Dinogeorge wrote:

<I never said a person should become >irrationally<
attached to a hypothesis!>

  Neither did I! And I see I should have put in a
disclaimer, as this was not meant to be an attack on
you, but an historical perspective on past passionate
defendants who _did_ rescind their opinions. It still
amazes me that, no matter how much Cope and Marsh
warred, one some cases, they did willingly acceed
certain points to each other, on matters of fossil
identification, theories, etc.

<Once the hypothesis is falsified, and there's little
hope of showing that the purported falsifications are
themselves incorrect, it's time to kiss the hypothesis
goodbye.>

  An historical record of inferred falsifications with
the original hyposthesis would be a good idea, and I
know many of us are building these databases,
including you and Tracy, which is quite a monumental
and tremendous task, especially on your parts.
Published are your Mesozoic Meanderings, Glut's
dictionaries, etc. that list, in part or in full, the
taxonomic history of certain names. It would be fun to
sit down and do a history on the taxonomy of the genus
*Megalosaurus*, considering the some odd 10+ taxa that
have been _removed_ from that genus. As Stromer (1915)
wrote: "I would not like to go along with the nonsense
which was perpetrated in e.g. *Megalosaurus* and
unfortunately still in vogue, that on each piece of
tooth which is found from the Lias to the uppermost
Cretaceous anywhere in the world and which in general
resembles the teeth of *Megalosaurus bucklandii*, is
based not only the prescence of this genus, and also
even that if a particular species." (pg. 29). Some of
this stuff seriously needs to be done, and remove some
papers from active, but not total consideration, as
valid. And the only way to do this is test.

<But if you have no passion about the hypotheses that
you offer, you become little more than a "hypothesis
machine." A hypothesis worth defending is worth
defending vigorously and with passion.>

  I have a great deal of passion for my beleifs on
oviraptorosaur diet and phylogeny, but I won't stand
in the way of contrary data. I will examine it, test
it against previous data, and resolve it with the rest
of the phylogeny. I personally feel that, while Sues
(1997) was correct in assigning *Caenagnathus* to
*Chirostenotes*, direct comparison cannot be made and
it is possible *C. collinsi* and *C. pergracilis* are
separate species -- there is no published record of
their synonymy that withstands a simple comparison
test; Sues (1997) sunk *Elmisaurus elegans* (Parks,
1933) Currie, 1989 into *Chirostenotes sternbergi,*
but anatomy reveals an intermediate morphology [I have
a list of features shared between Elmi, Chiro, and
elegans, and elegans has precisely not one feature
that tips the scale to one, or the other. Until
further data warps my hypothesis, I will take an
historical perspective and keep elegans in Elmi.

<In paleontology, too many people have given up on
worthy hypotheses too soon: e.g., the dinosaur-bird
connection, which everyone thought had been falsified 
by Heilmann.>

  Heilmann's testing has been refuted, or even
contradicted, but repeating his tests. He was a
remarkable man, as Ilja Nieuland said at SVP'99, but
did not have the facilities with which Wellnhofer and
Ostrom and others have had to work on new and old
fossils. The exact methods by which Heilmann made his
conclusions have been overturned, and the hypothesis
he formulated refuted. New tests and new data
quantifying the relationship of *Archaeopteryx* have
been done, largely anatomical and numeric.

  I received a reply from my Confuciusornis post that
demonstrated another way to take this form of
anatomical comparison: A paper doesn't have to
formulate an hypothesis, it can be stood upon an
anatomical description sorely for its own benefit; it
can relay the exact facts: a bone has such and such a
shape, articulates to that bone in such a way, etc..
It need not formulate hypotheses on _why_, because as
you've said (and Tom, and Chris, et al.), this is
simply not knowable.

  I guess this is why I'm tending towards functional
morphology, it's involved in what is knowable,
demonstratable, and repeatable. But that has little to
do with this discussion.

  Jim et al.'s paper, which I have read, does in fact
quantify what would allow the plates to act as
conductors, which had eben suggested. The hypothesis
was could the plates act as conductors -- they can.
That's as good an answer as we can get from the data
at hand.

  Gary Larson, eat your heart out.

=====
Jaime "James" A. Headden

"Come the path that leads us to our fortune."

Qilong---is temporarily out of service.
Check back soon.

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