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An Amateur's Lament (Re: Some professional advice)

At 09:44 AM 1/31/2002, tholtz@geol.umd.edu wrote:
I hope the following is taken in the spirit that it is intended: that is, to
encourage enthusiastic individuals to redirect their energies into
potentially more productive ways.

I hope that this is taken in the spirit in which I intend it. This post really made me think. I agree wholeheartedly with what was said, but I want to show a viewpoint that I (and hopefully others) have. I defend nobody but myself.

First, an allegory:
Picture, if you will, an astronomy mailing list. <snip> Picture them basing their classification schemes almost exclusively on the general text descriptions of positions and colors of stars posted by other people on the list, most of whom have also never looked through a telescope or consulted the primary literature.

Now picture them expecting that astronomers and the general public should take them seriously.

Agreed. However, the only difference I see is that anybody can stare at the sky. Most people can afford a set of binoculars. A dedicated amateur can afford a telescope and head off to a field at their leisure. As someone who has set off the alarms at the ROM trying to lean in to get a better picture, museums are not always accommodating to the enthusiastic amateur. Most of us have no access to the bones themselves.

Must *all* research be done only on primary specimens? No (although it always helps to see the real thing!). However, debating on whether a
certain structure is present or absent in a particular specimen, species, or higher taxon is rather problematic if the person/people debating could not pick that structure out of a line up, wouldn't you think?

I would love to see the real thing. I have gone to the libraries and gotten primary literature. I have bought primary, secondary, and tertiary literature. I am trying very hard to learn what the structures look like, but I only have two dimensions to work with. I have little background in science. I try my best, but palaeontology is BLOODY HARD to learn on your own, from a book/paper/series of papers.

I feel stuck and frustrated at the point where I am. I have worked my way up in knowledge. I have joined the societies that I can (now-defunct Dinosaur Society and SVP). I have irritated more scientists, I am sure, than I ever wanted to (although he was very kind in sponsoring me for the SVP, I am sure Dr. Sues thought I was stalking him ;-)). I cannot afford to take courses, either in time or in money. I thank all of the professionals (especially Dr. Holtz, who has been kind, understanding, and has been very willing to teach in his free time for so many years) who help others to understand, but they have neither the time nor the inclination to teach Palaeo 101, 201, 301, 401 on the Internet. I try (albeit rarely) my theories here on the list. I am sure they sound silly to some, but I have no other outlet. This is supposed to be a scientific list, so I try to play by the rules. My problem is that I must learn the rules as I go, so I unintentionally honk off those that know the rules. I guess I just want people to remember that it is unintentional, even though it is annoying.

P.S. For the therizinosauroid fans out there: be warned that some rather
important new material is on its way to being published, hopefully within
2002. Actually, 2002 (and early 2003) should be a very, very good year for theropods large, medium, and small...

This is part of the reason I am on the list. I love getting current (if cryptic) information.

I know I have to remain in the realm of dino-geek. Maybe when I retire (in July, 2026, for any who care ;-)) I can try a palaeo career. There are many in the field who started late.

Darryl Jones  <dinoguy@sympatico.ca>

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