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Re: Abstracts, evidence, and disappointment [was: Re: It's HERE!!!]

        Mickey Mortimer (by way of Mickey Rowe, in lieu of MIckey
Mouse?) wrote:

>Point taken.  I'll be sure to include a note of uncertainty when
>referencing abstracts in the future.
        Then my point was not taken... at least not far enough. I feel,
and this is more opinion than fact, that abstracts aren't even worth
considering as science worthy of reference. Of course, this is somewhat
hypocritical, as I have found myself referencing them as well. I try to do
so, however, only when the information in the abstract is of a more
narrative nature, or when the information has been so widely adopted in
the literature that it must be addressed.

>Regarding Nipponosaurus, I'm not very familiar with ornithischians, so I
>have no personal opinion.
        At risk of being a little curt, your "personal opinion" would
not interest me in any case :). If you had a professional opinion it
would. As far as I am concerned, an amateur may express a "professional
opinion;" in doing so, they assert that they have examined as much of the
relevant material as is avialable, and are their opinion represents a
synthesis of this data. However, a casual evaluation of an abstract or
two is of little use to anyone. You yourself, being one of the more
careful and dilligent amateurs on the List (in my opinion, up there with
Buccholz, Pharris, Headden, Troutman, and a few others), can appreciate
the difference.
        [Of course, no offense is meant to anyone on the List (especially
Mickey!) by this, especially to those with professional aspirations.]

>Right now, it's your opinion versus theirs, both based on a few sentences
>and equally reputable.
        Ok, maybe you did get the point after all: neither they nor I have
presented any real evidence for our "opinions." :)

>As yours is only based on published data,
        Please be careful how you read things... I never said my
evaluation was based "only" on published data, I contrasted my reference
to published documentation as opposed to an abstract. I wrote:

>>I don't care what you read in an abstract, until I hear otherwise,
>>my judgement (based on *published* data) is that it is indeterminate.

        It just so happens that I have not seen the material, although it
is *extensively* illustrated, and my understanding of the new study is
that it is based on rexamination of morphology evident in the type
specimen in the light of the over sixty years worth of hadrosaur study
which has taken place since Nagao's original work. Fortunately, I am also
not stuck in 1936. By the way, some of the important Nipponosaurus type
material (e.g. the ilium) looks as if it has been chewed on by a

>while they have examined the specimen first hand, I'm more inclined to
>believe them,
        I can understand the sentiment, but I personally believe that you
should believe NOTHING (at least not enough to mention) until you see it
in print, or can independantly confirm the observation. Even then, of
course, a published paper is not perfect, but at least someone (say... me)
can look at the arguments and provide a counter-opinion.

        As an aside, don't be too impressed with the fact that
someone has "seen" a specimen. Visiting the material is always a good
approach when commenting on something, it is not the ultimate revalation
of TRUTH. I know of many cases where lauded professionals have examined
specimens and not "seen" vital data observed by others first by examining
illustrations. In short, firsthand examination is a confirmatory and
exploratory proceedure, it is simply one level more reliable than
examining the literature. It is NOT revalation, nor will it force
revalation on those who cannot see it.
        Be impressed when reexamination of a specimen leads to a new and
better description, and is accompanied by a convincing analysis of the
specimen. David Norman is an excellent example of an author who does more
than just "see a specimen." His series "on Asian ornithopods" is, as you
have pointed out, a fantastic example of high-quality taxonomic revision.

        Am I the only one who has grown tired of the insinuation that
illustrations are useless? Why do we illustrate, if not to provide others
with a means to examine our material without travel? I find the assertion
that paleontology can never be accomplished without visiting all relevant
specimens to be egregiously elitist: those who have the funds to fly to
Beirut to see a hadrosaur caudal have no ground to lord it over those who
can't. That said, as a systematist (in-training), I *am* obligated to
visit as much to the material as possible. However, I find that a good
illustration can tell the trained eye more than the real fossil can tell
an blind man.

        As another aside, don't be too proud of this technological terror
you've created. The power to destroy a planet is insignificant when
compared to the power of the Force.

        Anyway, thanks again for you report on the book. You've saved me
over $100. I guess I'll add you to the list of people I owe a beer to.