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Re: A little off subject...Re: Sue had no wishbone...



"A Little Off Subject"? Whew, boy howdy!

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>>> Darryl Jones <dinoguy@sympatico.ca> 02/25/01 07:38AM >>>
>As for a PhD meaning something, I think it is VERY important.  It stands 
>for years of training.  You wouldn't go to a person who said "well, I have 
>no formal training, but I have some great ideas" if you were gravely ill, 
>would you?  Yes, I think amateurs can add a lot to the science, but many 
>comments on this list seem to me to be dismissing academia.

"Dismissing academia" seems awfully harsh to me. (I know, I'm a couple of days 
late, but the dinolist comes to work, not home)

Being an amateur who works for a museum, I find myself in the middle of this 
discussion: as a part of my job, I am expected to answer questions on 
paleontology based on what I have read here and on the web. Having said that, 
in my job, I am the first person to suggest to our museums' guests that they 
may want to contact a person who works professionally in this field. Someone 
who has studied this subject extensively. Someboday having those letters after 
their name, because that not only represents having studied, that represents 
having mastered the material to the extent that an institution responded by 
giving the accolade "PhD".

I also get several comments from our guests that they feel that their petty 
concerns are not worthy of interrupting such an important person. Is this 
accurrate? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I have personally met several 
paleontologists who love talking to the general public about their studies, and 
relish the opportunity to answer questions for them. I have also met those 
individuals who could care less about questions from the general public - or at 
least that's the feeling they give off.

The problem seems to me to be more of perception than reality. "Academics" 
(note the quotations!) seem to the genereal public to be too busy working on 
their 18 million different tasks to be "bothered" by a little question. Whereas 
I am not - my job is to answer questions. Many of the folks who mention that 
they feel a professional would be too busy to answer their question freely 
admit that they have not asked one yet. And those paleontologists who seem 
unwilling to answer questions? Maybe I got them on a bad day; maybe a major 
part of their ongoing research just was "misplaced" somewhere; maybe their 
significant other just called to say that their pet wandered away. Who knows? I 
believe that most professional paleontologists are dying to answer questions - 
look at all of the folks who belong to this list!

And then the whole comment about museums and the "treasure troves" of fossils 
that they hide! Oh, please! This is an extension of the same problem - "museums 
are secret places, where so much work happens behind closed doors that I could 
not possibly bother them with..." Many amateurs I know work to help museums 
catalogue their holdings, and many help the general public look at these 
ancient animals as more than just a collection of bones.

I even have to admit, the person who originally wrote about all the fossils 
that were labelled "unknown" admitted that there were not enough hands around 
to do the piled up work of preparing, identifying, cataloguing and displaying 
all of those years of accumulated fossils. So how do we get around this?

"Yes, I think amateurs can add a lot to the science" is a starting place. A lot 
of working together is recognizing each other's special skills and talents, as 
well as each other's limitations. We need to try to end the bickering and look 
for ways to work together - this list should not have any situation turn out to 
be an "us vs them" position!

Brent : )