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Re: Tyranno volume review
So... Greg Paul's post about Steve Brusatte's review of the T Rex
volume and his tyrannosaur article... This has brought up something
that's been bugging me lately... While I have a minute...
I found Brusatte's review to be just as troubling. The language Greg
chose and the format/style of article in general made the topic more
accessible to the lay person. His article, published in a book that is
sitting on the shelf of my local Barnes and Noble, appears to have
been the only article therein that effectively served the function of
science outreach... It played the role of the ambassador, bridging the
very obvious and deep gap between the professional scientific
literature and the world of popular political and cultural discourse.
In my opinion, his article provided the general reader with a very
thorough overview of the knowledge to date and the on-going scientific
controversies that are waged in professional forums about the lives
and times of Tyrannosaurs (proper for such a book, as Greg noted)...
And as far as I am concerned, he did it in a way that illuminated the
methods and accuracy of science without undue oversimplification or a
hint of sensationalism/distortion.
What was so wrong with that?
Paul knows how to write a professional paper. Bakker does as well. But
I'd say that they also take into account the bigger picture. They seem
to appreciate the fact that a more general audience needs to be
reached for the sake of science.
And really now, has this truly hurt the science? What were the popular
views about dinosaurs before people like Paul and Bakker (Ostrom too)?
What new views did they help introduce to the general public at large
that didn't prove to be extremely fertile ground for future
investigation, right or wrong?
How many would care to argue that the general public, as well as
scientific community, had a better understanding of dinosaurs before
their influence? Does anyone remember the general consensus on what
dinosaurs were like in the 50s and 60s?
Think back to Roy Chapman Andrews... His book on the exploration of
Asia put a huge amount of people onto the road of professional
paleontology. But were his books more accurate than Paul's and
Bakker's? Were they written using the strict rules required to get a
paper published in a legitimate modern scientific journal?
Hell no... His books were really just documents about the trip more
than anything else. His science was poor... his methods were poor
(atrocious even)... Indiana effin' Jones (Look up "The Ugly American"
in the dictionary and it just may have a picture of Roy standing there
blowing something up).
But his influence and the attention he got for paleontology??? HUGE.
Who reading this can honestly say that a popular book/article didn't
trigger their initial or further foster their interest in
I guess what I'm saying is, "He without a popular book of science on
his shelf, cast the first stone."
On Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 8:09 PM, <GSP1954@aol.com> wrote:
> Brusatte's JVP review of the T rex symposium volume is pretty good but I
> have a few comments. Brusatte keeps stating that those chapters he likes could
> have been published in a peer reviewed journal, and as Jerry and George
> said in the Seinfeld episode in which they were mistaken as gay, not that
> there's anything wrong with that. Brusatte criticizes my chapter as not being
> suitable for a peer reviewed journal. He is correct, but he is wrong in
> this to be an automatic problem. One of the reasons we have academic books
> is so that researchers can produce studies that do not fit into the narrow
> confines of journals, and can have more appeal for the general public.
> Brusatte uses a James Dean analogy to criticize my that T rex "grew rapidly
> and died remarkably young." There is actually nothing over the top about my
> scientifically accurate statement, and I never thought of James Dean while
> writing it, in fact I don't really get the connection since Dean died
> prematurally for a human due to a technology related accident, while the
> typical lifespan of T. rex appears to have been three decades short of
> similar sized elephants. It is Brusatte who is being over the top in invoking
> movie star's name.
> Nor does Brusatte note that much of my chapter is actually conservative, in
> that I debunk a lot of speculative ideas about tyrannosaurs, such as the
> lack of solid evidence that they were highly social and parental. Another,
> conservative researcher sent me a note in appreciation of this point. As for
> the length of the chapter it was meant to cover a broad array of topics about
> tyrannosaurs at a time when our knowledge base as expanded to a level hard
> to imagine just a decade or two ago, which is a good idea for the one book
> that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the species. The other shorter
> chapters were more narrowly focused.
> Brusatte is exhibiting the unfortunate tendency we humans have to be
> controlling in wanting others to conform by doing things in a particular
> manner. It is generally better to limit ones criticisms to matters of
> accuracy and analysis rather than of taste.
> GSPaul </HTML>