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Looking at specimens: Dave Hone speaks

Forwarded to the list from Dave Hone, at his request.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dave Hone <dwe_hone@yahoo.com>
Date: 9 May 2010 09:42

Hi Mike,

Since I normally steer clear of the DML and am not signed up, I can't
post there directly not being signed up. However, much as I wished not
to, it seems my hand has been forced. Can you pot this reply for me




Dear DML,

I was only made aware of this thread via other colleagues mailing me
about it's existence, and I had rather hoped it might never appear, or
certainly not in the format it which it originated.

However, some of the things that were said, are, in my opinion, at
best misleading and since they directly relate to things I supposedly
did and wrote, it appears that I am forced into this to clear things
up. I will make it quite clear now however, that this is the last
thing I intended to post here on this subject and that I have no wish
to continue now or in the future via replies here or in my e-mail.
This should in short, be seen as a statement and not a point for
debate (as far as I am concerned) though others may naturally disagree
or follow up on it.

My post on my blog (as correctly spotted, something that amounts to an
anecdote / opinion piece) here
drew an e-mail from David Peters to my e-mail account entitled
something along the lines of 'A challenge'. I deleted it without
reading it. I did this since I have several times replied to e-mails
from David Peters asking him not to continue to e-mail me, and that I
would not read future e-mails from him. I had also posted similar
comments on my blog in response to his comments (e.g. here dated April
18th). This should have been no surprise therefore.

I then got another e-mail a few days later from David Peters  titled
"that little challenge" and realising that I would get no peace
without yet another reply asking him to stop mailing me, I opened it,
read it and replied. It contained no details of the challenge or a
copy of his original mail.

I cc'd that reply to myself and archived it and stated that I was
doing in so. In it I noted that "I didn't read you last e-mail, I
deleted it. " and that "I am sorry it has come to this, but since I
first asked you to stop
mailing me or commenting on my blog I have had probably a dozen from
you. Most of them I have replied to asking you to stop to no avail. I
am therefore making this absolutely clear and plain and simple. I you
find it annoying or even aggressive then I apologise it is not
intended to
be. However, I have tried to make my wishes perfectly clear before and
they have been repeatedly ignored so I feel I am forced to write an
e-mail of this nature. You may think it harsh or unfair, but regardless
it is hardly an unreasonable or difficult request."

It comes therefor at best as a disappointment to read the comments
about this reply and the supposed challenge from David Peters as
posted on the DML.

To quote:
" 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“

The e-mail might have been lengthy, but it was not a 'thrashing'.
Strong in tone perhaps, but polite and to the point. And making a
point that had repeatedly, and thus I would suggest, ill mannered-ly,
been ignored. It is not unreasonable to ask people not to e-mail you
and it is not unreasonable to point out that they have ignored
numerous previous requests on this point.

Also "By doing this he artfully managed to avoid considering or accepting the
challenge. The same challenge, here made public, is still offered. “

I avoided nothing. As people can hardly avoid noting from above, I did
not read the original challenge. I cannot therefore 'artfully' or
otherwise avoid something I have not read and cannot read (having
deleted it and not got a second copy). That challenge may have then
been made public, but it was not sent to me (happily, since that
implies I am not being e-mailed any longer) but a challenge is hardly
public if one part is not aware of it. To suggest therefore that I
have not risen to something I do not know the details about (and until
made aware of this by others) I fail to see how I have avoided it.
What I *did* do, was ask not be be bothered again and make it clear
that beyond the title of the e-mail, I did not know what this
challenge was.

Also to say it has been posted to the DML because of my response might
be somewhat correct from the perspective of David Peters, but belies
the second e-mail that I received stating "It would be a real
opportunity for both of us to "either put up or shut
up." Maybe you think it would be better to post the challenge on a few
public forums? You decide."

This would seem to make it appear that I have brought this upon
myself, which may be true. However, again, I have apparently brought
this on myself by asking not to be contacted and by having made it
quite clear that I had not read the aforementioned challenge.

In short then, it is true. I have not accepted the challenge and as
warned, have seen it made public. However, I think it more than clear
from the quotes here that I was unaware what challenge exactly I was
avoiding, and indeed had not avoided it by simply trying to wave away
the problem with a request to stop mailing me. I was simply making yet
another request to be left alone. The literal truth of the words of
David Peters' original post might be correct as such, but the
implications and inferences that they present are most at odds with
what I think was said and intended. Perhaps I have not made myself
clear. Perhaps my tone was unnecessarily harsh. Perhaps this was
misread. No matter, this should, as far as possible, make things clear
and plain.

As to the supposed 'challenge' itself, since I can now hardly avoid
it, I must continue this lengthy reply still further.

""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
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."

I saw the specimen in question in January on a trip to another museum
in China. At the time it was not clear if I would be allowed to work
on a full description and so did not waste time on more than some
cursory notes or photographs as I have other work to attend to. Later
the museum housing the specimen agreed to let me work on it and sent
some photos to me. I have been working on a rough description of the
specimen since then, based on those photos. Recently the specimen was
delivered to my office to aid in my work (I had planned to return to
the museum in Liaoning in any case to polish my description but this
naturally saved me a journey and gave me the luxury of working on the
material as and when I wanted). I did however immediately note some
errors I had made since I had been working from photos alone. The next
day I wrote a short blog post about this.

My post intended to refer only to the difference between seeing a
specimen first hand and from photographs. I talked not about tracings
or camera lucida or interpretative drawings or anything else, nor was
I thinking of anything esle. I was thinking of accurately describing
the morphology, in words, of the material from a photo vs the
specimen. What has changed was that before I had poor notes and
perhaps a dozen good photos, now I had the thing in my hands with all
the ability to twist and turn it to the light, use my lenses and see
it up close. More and better information was available to me. Yes the
post was generic. I was a blog post. Written in moments and intended
to be a minor aside on checking fossils. It was not a report on my
work, my methods or plans or anything else.

"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 from,
but a camera lucida.""

There is no challenge here to reply to since it does not refer to what
I am doing, or intended to do, or indeed anything I have said as my
above clarification should make abundantly clear, even if the post on
the blog did not. The implicaition here is that I think a camera
lucida sketch trumps a photograph when I make no such claim. As a such
a competition between the two is irrelevant. If I want to describe the
3-D morphology of, for example, a partially crushed humerus it is
irrelevant if i make a figure from a photo or a lucida. What is
relevant is how well I can adjust the light on the specimen, or the
angle at which I view it, how close I can get with the naked eye or
under lenses, microscopes or other things. The dichotomy therefore,
with respect to my original post, is therefore false and irrelevant
since it challenges a position I do not hold. I am not referring to
tracings but simple observation and here I would maintain that really
seeing the
 specimens cannot be anyhting but superior to a photograph for the
simple reason that while I can zoom in and out of a digital image and
adjust the contrast, brightness etc. it is still a static image of one
moment in time and one angle with one form of lighting. Even a hundred
photos from a hundred angles with all manner of lighting will not be
as easy to view or set up to provide that same information as the eye
on the material in hand with some lamps handy. Tracings from camera
lucida and photographs are both valuable (I have done both for various
works). I have said before that I can favour technical drawings over
photos for illustrations in papers
but that says nothing about *how* those are produced (by tracing a
photo, or using a lucida, or having an exceptional artistic talent).
In either case I myself have done such drawings and then, crucially,
checked them against the
 specimen. The point of the end result is a good image that accurately
represents the material. How you get there is your decision.

There is no challenge since I had not presented the hypothesis that
was attributed to me. And I had not avoided it previously since I did
not know what it was supposed to be. I do not avoid it now, since it
does not test anything that I claimed (or ever intended to claim).

Sorry for the long post, but sadly, given the tone used and the
phrasing of somethings that I supposedly wrote, I felt compelled to
clear this up. I shall leave it there for people to pick over as they
will (as doubtless they shall). I hope however, my requested peace
(given that it has now been made public) is respected by those asked
to contact me no longer (and as I say above, on this topic from anyone
really, in terms of this supposed debate).

Dave Hone