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Data [was: Re: Hadrosaur necks [was Re: A few species names if you please.] ]



        Ralph Miller wrote:
>See Czerkas' article, "Skin," in Currie and Padian's _Encyclopedia of
>Dinosaurs_.  Here Czerkas makes his case for these and other assertions
>regarding the life appearance of dinosaurs.

        Well, after my little visit yesterday to check out this lead,
everyone in Dr. Chatterjee's lab now knows that I do not consider this
book to be a proper primary source. Every reference to it that I have come
across in the literature (and there are a surprising number) has concerned
information which can be easily gleaned from the primary literature (in
which case, referencing the Encyclopedia is a bit lame, IMHO). My
impression of the articles in the book is that they are scientifically
adequate, but (apart from Czerkas') they appear to contain no new
information. Indeed, many of them are pitched to amateurs, and thus
concentrate on more superficial (and more popular) aspects of the science.
I do not know if the articles in this book were peer-reviewed, and my
impression is that, even when used as a secondary source the book is
weak.
        Note that I am not saying that the book is useless or bad or
anything, or that you shouldn't buy it. I'm just saying that it does not
strike me as an appropriate basis for scientific argumentation. I don't
think it was ever meant to be, my impression was that Currie and Padian
were trying to serve a percieved need for more rigorous, yet more
readable dinosaur science for the public (a need also served by the
Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs and by my alltime favorite, The
Complete Dinosaur, which has to be the best dinosaurs-for-laymen book
since PDW). I never thought it was supposed to be an authoritative
scientific review.
        Upshot: science, ask for it by name!

        Back tot he point:
Czerkas does not so much "make a case" as "blithely asserts in passing,"
with little or no evidence. Indeed, although I respect his deep interest
in the integument of dinosaurs, I have to say that I will need VERY good
proof before I accept his "spiney hadrosaur" idea. As far as I can recall,
ONE specimen has low, rounded scales along the back, these originally
extended, at the most, from the dorsals to the sacrum (although it stands
to reason that they went further). Another specimen shows a segmented
frill (like a low Iguana frill) along the tails of a specimen. While I
would not be adverse to the idea that the latter is really the impression
of a series of low scales, I have yet to see this claim made in print. It
would be nice to see some photographic documentation of his claims.
        As for the "thick neck" thing... well, there is NO discussion, it
is presented as fact, and shown in a reconstruction of Hypacrosaurus
(which includes a humerus articulated in a position which is, to the best
of my knowledge, anatomically impossible). I would very much like to read
a proper discussion of Czerkas' theories, and I still feel it would rather
unfair to address them in print, as I would be forced to construct a sort
of "straw-man" to bring down. This would be unfair not onlyu to Czerkas
(who certainly deserves gentler treatment), but would be poor science.
        This is a problem I am encountering repeatedly in the recent
literature, as I mentioned previously. Every Tom Dick and Harry is buying
information in abstracts as if it were a finished product, and you can't
argue because there is no paper to argue with. I'm not just talking about
amatures and radicals here... Chris Brochu, in the new Lazendorf
Collection book, writes something to the effect of "we're pretty sure
tyrannosaurs didn't have lips," or somesuch. Now, I have tremendous
respect for Dr. Brochu, but, from a scientific standpoint, this just
simply isn't true. We have an abstract which gives no data, we don't have
a scientific analysis. 
        Another terrible problem with this situation concerns those of us
who may be working on similar projects. If I go to a meeting, and I see a
poster on a subject which I am working on, what do I do? The authors of
that study deserve credit for conclusions they reached independantly,
but these points aren't in the abstract (usually), making it hard indeed
to for someone to find justification for attribution of information to
that person. Never mind that exhibiting any interest in someone else's
work can be construed as trying to steal their ideas (I personally don't
want other peoples ideas... I usually disagree with them).
        
        But, in the world of science today, what are we supposed to do
about unsupported claims whcih are given as fact, either in review works,
semi-popular works, or abstracts? Ignoring them would be fine, but
ethically I wouldn't want to. Addressing them would be fine, but there is
no substantial work to address. I REFUSE to take such claims on faith...
nothing personal to the authors, it just isn't right. Wait for the paper?
Well, I will if everyone else will, but no one does anymore, and that's my
point. Vent vent vent...

        Anyway, on a lighter note, I see I have mail which may solve my
Kritosaurus picture dilemma... Woo hoo! Happy day folks, I'm off to play
in the snow.

        Wagner