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No substitute for seeing a specimen: Hone blog
Didn't this get tested when all those structures traced from photos of
pterosaurs turned out to be photographic / compression artifacts / paint /
From: David Peters <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Mike Taylor <email@example.com>
Cc: dinosaur mailing list <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sat, 8 May, 2010 15:55:51
Subject: Re: No substitute for seeing a specimen: Hone blog
Mike, with your "That's how it is" paradigm we would have no relativity, no
integrated baseball and the earth would be the center of a tiny universe only a
few thousand years old.
So let's test this paradigm!
Besides the challenge itself, Dr. Hone's comments were not backed up by
evidence. Just simple musings. And while he can say whatever he wants to say,
we're all in this for the evidence. As scientists reporting on science, we
shouldn't be making pronouncements that we can't back up. Right?
On May 8, 2010, at 4:02 PM, Mike Taylor wrote:
> David Hone is right. Photos are no substitute for seeing a specimen.
> Sorry. That's how it is.
> On 8 May 2010 21:17, David Peters <email@example.com> wrote:
>> This month (5/2) David Hone posted a blog comment entitled:
>> "No substitute for seeing a specimen"
>> In short, David had seen a specimen, then taken another look at it and
>> discovered, in his words, "Iâd made a couple of pretty bad errors." He
>> summarized his experienced like this: "There is simply no substitute for
>> seeing a specimen firsthand and up close. It really doesnât matter how good
>> the descriptions, photos, drawings etc. are you will see things better and
>> less ambiguously and more precisely in person. This is especially true of
>> flattened things like from the Solnhofen and Liaoning."
>> I wrote back
>> "It may be what you are experiencing is simply the knowledge and insight
>> that experience gives you. Perhaps it's like second sight, in more ways than
>> one. You're a better paleontologist now than when you first examined the
>> same specimen. You see things differently. Whatever this specimen is, I
>> suppose you're tracing it to record your interpretations so that others will
>> understand how you now see it. Will you be tracing by camera lucida or
>> photographs? Or by eye? Will you be posting your before and after tracings.
>> That would be educational and more specific. So far what you have said is
>> rather generic. We, your readers, are left to wonder what really changed
>> between then and now.
>> On a similar vein, I was able to see and hold a specimen for several days
>> and yet, blinded by preconceptions and first appearances I interpreted parts
>> of a specimen wrongly, as I gather you also had because you mentioned, "It's
>> something I've seen before..." It wasn't until I reviewed certain
>> photographs, made another trip to my MacClade file and had the insight to
>> throw out a previous interpretation (as you just experienced) did a new
>> insight develop. That's the insight experience gave me.
>> It has also been my experience (in fact it's something I'm doing right now
>> to a Dalla Vecchia find) that tracing a photograph can provide a magnitude
>> more data than a camera lucida can. Look at any fish skeleton tracing. It's
>> easy to get lost in the chaos of similar-looking features unless you have a
>> system of graphically separating layers of crushed material and this is
>> where the photograph trumps the camera lucida, IMHO.
>> Your position "No substitute for seeing a specimen" is the current paradigm
>> and it is widely accepted. My challenge to you is this: You have the fossil.
>> Send me a good picture of it. Later, when you're ready we'll compare
>> tracings. You say there's no substitute. Let's test your hypothesis with a
>> real scientific test. True to your word, I trust you will not use a
>> photograph to trace
>> I'm posting to this DML forum because Dr. Hone gave me a lengthy word
>> thrashing about never posting to his blog again and never writing to him
>> again. By doing this he artfully managed to avoid considering or accepting
>> the challenge. The same challenge, here made public, is still offered. Can a
>> Ph.D. using a camera lucida trace more details in an original fossil than an
>> amateur with a photograph? While all paleontologists that I know would and
>> should side with Dr. Hone, science is all about actually doing the test to
>> see what the results really are. Having already helped several scientists
>> identify cryptic features they have overlooked first hand, I'm confident
>> that the photgraph method will prevail or at least equal the first-hand
>> method. This is one of those put-up or shut-up moments. Dr. Hone has every
>> advantage, yet ignores this opportunity to put scientific evidence behind
>> his headline statement. Is there anyone out there who can persuade him to
>> Please, don't suggest making this into a paper. That would take more than a
>> year or two and we already have several examples of scientists who have held
>> specimens in their hand, yet could not decipher or interpret correctly
>> certain details. Papers on Tanystropheus, Cosesaurus, Longisquama,
>> Archaeopteryx, Helveticosaurus, Effigia, Vancleavea, turtle skulls,
>> pterosaur pteroids, wing membranes and footprints all come to mind. Let's
>> do this before the China conference in mid August so I can reward and
>> commend Dr. Hone when he wins the competition (~IF he wins).
>> Best to all,
>> David Peters
>> St. Louis