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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.

***MS This supposes that the current, most prevalent answer based on the
evidence
presented puts the impression of small feathered theropods to the forfront
and
therefore the unfeathered versions become the exception to the rule.  This
is not to
say that there will not be further modification, re-evaluation and new and
improved
revolutionary hypotheses interjected along the way, but that from our
present
perspective, riding the "Zenlike" wave, feather's now "appear" to be the
status quo
and anything other to be outside the norm.  Dinotopian dinosaurs conform to
our
basic perception of acceptable anatomy but recent developments in the world
of
real paleontology remove them from the "scientific" flavor of the moment (
outside
of their otherwise purely fictional role).

 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.

***MS  Nothing is "unnassailable". . . we are just grounded in our
convictions based on the latest body of research.

> 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'?

***MS  "Informed" would be correct as applies to the manner in which I rely
upon the elements of scientific facts at my disposal as I begin a
reconstruction
of a dinosaur.  "Conservative" refers to the personal manner in which I
choose
to apply artistic considerations to the balance of the image.  I prefer to
take
what I consider to be "little steps" beyond the outlined facts in crafting
my art,
whereas other paleoartists like to use the "vehicle"of artistic license to
journey
"farther afield".

> 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.

***MS   Both ideas are at present "unprovable" and therefore I wouldn't
class
either as "scientific".  Both are reasonable assertions based upon organized
thinking, but both require further evidence to support their contention as
fact.
We are swayed by the direction in which evidence and ideas seem to be taking
us, and if it appears sound, there is a momentum of popular opinion that
moves
us further in that particular direction ( majority rules!).  If unchecked we
continue,
if challenged by new ideas and information, we re-assess and alter our
course
accordingly.  Ironically, the beauty about paleontology is that "we don't
know it all",
and it's the quest of wanting to know, that drives the research and the
artwork
onwards.

Cheers,

Mike Skrepnick