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RE: Peering at review
Tracy Ford said:
"Huh? What's this? ONLY *real* data? What about Heilmann? Chatterjee? Paul,
Olshevsky or Ford? Evolution for that matter. If it was completely based on
*real* data palaeontology would be at a loss. Please..."
"So, we only look at the fossils as they are, don't infer other things like
the evolution of feathers, the horns of ceratopians (if you saw Horners
talk), no telling how long the horns really were because they weren't
preserved. Just looking at the *real* data is limiting ourselves. <snip>
What I mean by this is that we do have an imagination and
we use that in our work and don't be just limited by the *real* data."
Tracy, you are correct that imagination does play an important role in
scientific investigation. Obviously, if we only dryly reported data and
never discussed its implications, where would we be?
However, as scientists, we should use our imaginations to devise testable
hypotheses inspired by the data we have at hand. Using your example of
ceratopsian horn length, how might we figure out how to determine within
reasonable limits the "true" length of ceratopsian horns? Does mammalian
horn growth tell us anything about reptilian patterns? What sort of test or
experiment could we devise to figure this out? Is there a consistent ratio?
A morphological signal or character we've overlooked? Are dinosaurs doing
something different with horn growth, and, if so, how would we look for
I think everyone on this list enjoys dinosaurs in one way or another because
of the mystery inherent in studying fossils. There's a whole lot we don't
know yet, and amateurs (I use this only in the sense of people who cannot
devote 24/7 to dinosaurs) can make great contributions to this field.
However, I would argue that imagination channeled into constructing and
testing hypotheses about dinosaur relationships and lives is a more
constructive approach than postulating ideas or theories with no suggestions
for testing them.
It's the testing of our hypotheses that is the most difficult and
frustrating aspect of dinosaur science, but that is also the challenge and
the fun -- can we figure out a better way to test and figure out dinosaur
biology and evolution?
Matthew F. Bonnan, Ph.D.
Department of Biological Sciences
Western Illinois University
Macomb, IL 61455
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