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Re: Specimen availibility

>>> chris brochu <cbrochu@mail.fmnh.org> 11/29/00 09:58PM >>>

>    Moreover, described material which cannot be studied further is a
>potential source of genuine problems.  A good example may be Sue.  We have
>all heard Peter Larson's claim that Sue can be sexed using the first hemal
>arch, that she shows signs of having been mauled by another tyrannosaur,
>etc...Larson's claims are in the literature, and they have been cited.  Now
>Chris Brochu, after examining the same material, is publishing claims that
>at least some of this is incorrect.  If so, then discussions in the
>literature based on Larson's claims have been downright misleading.

Most of Peter Larson's claims (in my view) are incorrect.  But let's be
fair here.  He didn't just make his claims up - he had legitimate reasons
for each and every one of them.  They weren't just "misleading."  I
disagree with him on several points, but I do not for a minute think he was
inventing observations; I would only go so far as to claim he was
misinterpreting some features - an accusation many have levelled against me.
Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

Thanks Chris for that response. Remember also Pete's work did get interrupted, 
to put it mildly, before much needed prep work could be done and more detailed 
study completed on the material so we don't know what he would have settled on 
in his mind about Sue after final study (although I never think I have ever 
done a real final study - always want to go back and do more on stuff). I don't 
know how much of even Chris' interpretation I'll think is the bees knees after 
I see it in detail, but my impression from his talk is that he's done a superb 
job regardless of how much turns out to be a consensus after lots and lots of 
researchers take a look. We all try to do the best interpretation we can and 
lob some ideas out there and then let added evidence support or dispute what's 
there. Biological systems, especially with all our taphonomic filters 
superimposed on them, can be very deceptive in what they suggest in first 
observation (or even 99th observation) and this is why we must!
 rely on the paleontological community to work quantitatively, repeatably, and 
rigorously as much as possible and have lots of different paleontologists look 
at each problem. Hell, I even knew an excellent and eminent paleontologist who 
believed that an expanding Earth was a better explanation than plate tectonics 
and had many reasons for his position. It is this diversity of seeing things in 
a variety of ways that makes for the healthiest sciences. It is when we end up 
with scientists who act as authorities - this is the way it is because I say so 
- that we really get in trouble. Anyway, Pete has seemed to be very reasonable 
and even-handed in his dealing with the Field Museum after the debacle of the 
Sue escapade, perhaps much more than most people would ever have been under 
those odd circumstances, and it is comforting to know that we have the chance 
to finally get a better idea of what the fully prepared bones suggest.

Ralph Chapman

Ralph E. Chapman
Applied Morphometrics Laboratory
National Museum of Natural history
ADP, EG-15  NHB, 10th & Constitution, NW
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560-0136
(202) 786-2293, Fax: (202) 357-4122