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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



Greetings,

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
paleontologists.

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.
                Vertebrate Paleontologist
Department of Geology           Director, Earth, Life & Time Program
University of Maryland          College Park Scholars
        Mailing Address:
                Building 237, Room 1117
                College Park, MD  20742

http://www.geol.umd.edu/~tholtz/
http://www.geol.umd.edu/~jmerck/eltsite
Phone:  301-405-4084    Email:  tholtz@geol.umd.edu
Fax (Geol):  301-314-9661       Fax (CPS-ELT): 301-405-0796