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Re: No substitute for seeing a specimen: Hone blog

There’s no need to comment on the borderline ad hominem attack by
David Peters. However, as many others have pointed out, David Hone is
unequivocally correct. While differences in interpretations of
morphological features on actual specimens still exist, the level of
ambiguity undoubtedly rises when arguing over perceptions from copies
of specimens (I’m reminded of the example used in biology classes to
demonstrate the prevalence of mutation accumulation via photocopies of
photocopies of photocopies of original documents; with each subsequent
copy, there is a noticeable loss of information). Any interpretation
of a feature from a photograph can only be corroborated by observing
the specimen firsthand. To suggest otherwise is not only poor science
(indeed, not science, as this is practice is not testing any
hypothesis), it’s simply wrong. Based solely on photographs, one can
only make tacit assumptions that become preconceived notions without
any evidence of reality. Photographs - with the assistance of, e.g.,
ammonium chloride, increased magnification – can only enhance the
features of interest to the worker that has the specimen in front of
them. Therefore, whatever feature may be perceived from that
photograph could be obscured or even an artifact of what is truly
present on the specimen because that is not what the original worker
(i.e., the person actually doing the science) was focused on.

The bottom line is this: anyone suggesting that someone show him/her a
photograph of a specimen/feature to substantiate the claim of its
presence or absence is disillusioned. The burden of proof rests solely
with them. It is incumbent upon the person with the photographic
evidence to demonstrate this feature on the actual specimen. Not the
other way around. Ever.

Evidently, David Hone said it perfectly; “There is simply no
substitute for seeing a specimen firsthand and up close.”



On Sun, May 9, 2010 at 10:18 AM, Heinrich Mallison
<heinrich.mallison@googlemail.com> wrote:
> I'd like to point out to Mr. Peters that he has, I have heard from
> reputable sources, in the past interpreted a specimen as preserving
> soft tissues when in fact the layer that the fossil was in was
> prepared away all around the bones, so that what he was seeing on the
> photograph was in fact a pedestal.
> No further comment on that needed. Nor do his attacks on Dr. Hone merit 
> comment.
> Also, I'd like to direct him and all other interested parties to my
> assessment of a 'I have not seen it so I use published drawings
> instead' based drawing of Plateosaurus by Greg Paul (who has done
> awesome work on many other occasions):
> http://www.app.pan.pl/article/item/app20090075.html
> Not seeing a specimen = higher risk of errros than seeing it
> Seeing a specimen once or twice = higher risk of errors than being
> able to see it repeatedly, and play with the bones
> Preconceived notion = error guaranteed.
> So, Mr. David Peters, please stop whining. Dave Hone was spot on with
> his post, as any reputable scientist knows.
> Best,
> Heinrich

Marc R. Spencer
PhD Candidate
121 Trowbridge Hall
Department of Geoscience
University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa USA 52242