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RE: I couldn't pronounce "paleontologist", and now I are one; Also, keep your eye out for the next Natural History
I think Scott very eloquently said pretty much what I would say. (I LOVE the
dermatologist bit, incidentally).
I would add the following analogous set of questions:
Are EMTs doctors?
Are nurses doctors?
Are medical artists doctors?
Even if you answered "no" to all three above, does that mean that they are less
important for the task at hand (in that case, the
practice of medicine and the goal of saving lives) than doctors?
So just because a person isn't a professional paleontologist does not demean
their value to the field of paleontology.
Paleontology is the scientific study of fossil remains. Hence paleontologists
are scientists who study fossil remains. If you aren't
doing the science part, you aren't really a paleontologist. And since science
takes study, most (not all, but most) scientists need
to have some education in order to do this. Often that education is in formal
classes, but it can also be from the direct "face
time" with specimens under the scopes. Nor must it be done for money at a
professional insitution: just as there are real
honest-to-goodness amateur astronomers and real honest-to-goodness amateur
ornithologists, there are real honest-to-goodness amateur
paleontologists. But not all starwatchers and birdwatchers are astronomers and
ornithologists, and not all fossil hounds are
And, just as a reminder, Science is the testing of hypotheses about the natural
world. So if your aren't testing some sort of
hypothesis (even if it is simply identifying homologous structures: i.e.,
describing a specimen), you aren't doing science.
Hope this helps,
P.S. The next issue of Natural History might be of great interest to everyone
on this list...
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Department of Geology Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland College Park Scholars
Building 237, Room 1117
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: 301-405-4084 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax (Geol): 301-314-9661 Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796