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I couldn't pronounce "paleontologist", and now I are one



Dear Scott and List,

    Scott Hartman said:

> I would, however, like to comment on the issue of being a
"paleontologist."  At our small museum in Wyoming I routinely hear people
with no qualifications refer to themselves as "paleontologists" simply
because they dig up dinosaurs and are more knowledgeable than the tourists
they are working with.  This grates on me constantly, as I expect the word
to hold some value.  I think a literal examination of the word makes it
pretty obvious who a paleontologist is and isn't.  -ology is defined as: a
suffix; a branch of learning; science, study of...; from Greek word logos.
So...it seems fair to me that a paleontologist is someone who studies and
contributes to the science of paleontology.  In much the same way that
people who look at nudie magazines are not dermatologists, I don't think
people who collect fossils as a hobby (or even a profession, no matter how
valuable that service may be) are paleontologists, regardless of how ethical
they are, or how wonderful of human beings.!

    I think that you are right, the word " Paleontologist " gets handed out
like a door prize in many aspects of the paleontological community. Paul
Bybee,The Ph.D theropod expert who teaches at Utah Valley State College in
Provo, Utah told me a a story a while back He had a student come up after
class and tell him that her mother was a professional paleontologist, "Just
Like You". Paul asked her who her mother was, and the girl named a bone prep
person for a local commercial fossil outfit. He said he couldn't decide to
be outraged or amused.
    Many of the people in the community where I live, just can't wrap the
idea around their heads that I make a living as a professional sculptor
specializing in prehistoric fauna.They think that I am a paleontologist that
works full time for the museum here in Price, and part of my job is to make
exhibits. When I tell them that paleontology is my avocation, I usually just
get blank stares.
    I don't think I will ever be brave enough to call myself a professional
paleontologist, no matter how much I study or contribute to the science.
Unless of course, some university wants to throw me an honorary doctorate,
then you all can feel free to give me some much deserved respect.

What's the number for Montana State? Cliff