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Re: In (premature) defense of the USNM



I agree with almost everything you said in your latest, so this'll be
unchallenging.
Remember, we started with your statement that:
<...Jim [Gurney] elects to render small theropods as unfeathered ( which
suits the characters, as he's developed them ), however, when these images
appear in the context of a science exhibit, they to a degree "undermine" the
perception of small theropods having a feathery integument...>
This supposes the correct answer is known and he's misleading people about
it.  I think your more recent statement much better, when in response to my
assertion to be examined:
<Any animal observed to have feathery integument should be drawn with
feathery integument; any animal not observed to have feathery integument
should be drawn without feathery integument.>
you said:
<...There is nothing wrong with maintaining a conservative
viewpoint, however considering the circumstances outlined in my response
(last message), I feel justified in letting the weight of the hypothesis (
backed by a growing number of diverse, feathered specimens ) allow me to
move towards "the feathered majority".  The curse of this science, is the
proclivity to which "fact" intersects with "grounded speculation".>
There's a lot of leeway between the statements:
The fossil record is too poor to justify speculation.
and
Whatever hypothesis appears in the most recent published article is
unassailably correct.
A statement far distant from your own position along this scale may still be
reasonable.  And, as an artist, you have to be more comfortable with the
idea that speculation is useful.  As you said:
<So if I'm then going to "paint" this animal back to life, I
elect to step out beyond the containment of the facts, in order to feed the
imagination of the observer with a visual cocktail of what I "suppose" might
have happened somewhere along the course of it's lifetime.  I can then hide
behind the impenetrable shield of "artistic license" to "validate" my
version of the scenario and as long as it's backed by a reasonable amount of
research and due diligence, that is as far as I can take it.>
That's why I think you contradicted yourself when you said:
< I prefer the option of creativity nested within
conservative interpretation, at least until the "next best thing" comes
along.>
In place of the word 'conservative', may I suggest something like
'informed'?

The main and generally useful point is the separation between inference and
observation.  Inference can be scientific, obviously, but there is a
qualitative difference between interpretation and description (observation).
If this seems like a truism, consider:
when HP Pickering concludes that certain animals were pack hunters dominated
by females, can his conclusion be criticized as unscientific by someone who
believes certain animals had feathery integument because of their placement
in certain clades?
Can the criticism be that his evidence is inadequate?
Isn't the line between adequate and inadequate evidence somewhat arbitrary?
As humans we're all speculators, you're right, and I
think we should be realistic about the quality of our speculations.