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Re: FW: New Fossil Protection Regulations in China
I'm not sure that coherence of focus is *always* a good thing. Without
actually saying it you seem to be advocating something analogous to a PAC
(political action committee) for paleontologists.
Loose cannons, rouge researchers, and media-hogs all have their place in
science. But they are not always welcomed with open arms in "organizations".
Robert Bakker may not be universally popular with his fellow paleontologists,
but no one can argue that he didn't help the discipline when it was languishing
and collecting dust back in the 1970s-80s. Paleos such as Bakker will likely
not be keen on "organizing", particularly for the purpose of deciding how best
to get funding.
A lot of Bakker's funding didn't come from NSF. Much of it came from the media
or from other private sources. In response to your suggestion for better
organization and "coherence" in purpose amongst paleontologists, particularly
when it comes to funding, I suspect that he would say, "Thank you, but I can
get my own funding my own way."
Sometimes, chaos, disorganization, and rogue research leads to major
discoveries. And besides, I don't think that paleontologists are, as a group,
particularly interested in organizing in that way. It's just one more damn
organization to join.
I would also be very concerned that a common methodology/drive in how the
discipline attracts funding might unwittingly lead to a form of Group-Think,
which would be very bad for the science. "This is the best way to get funding,
so please back us up on this."
An analogy is standardized testing for school children by the Federal
Government. Although standardized testing was noble in its goal of encouraging
a standard of excellence in public schools across the U.S., it also had the
undesirable side effect of encouraging teachers to only "teach for the test",
rather than educating their students more broadly. What usually gets pushed
aside when one "teaches for the test" are critical thinking skills.
Well-organized, "coherent", fund raising groups always are headed by a
media-savy or policy-wonk personality. If I were an academic paleontologist, I
would NOT want such a "union rep" talking on my behalf regarding what is the
best way get research funds. If I am worth my salt, I should be able to
represent myself in any funding request.
Just my $0.02 US,
---------- Original Message ----------
From: dale mcinnes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: DML <email@example.com>
Subject: FW: New Fossil Protection Regulations in China
Date: Sun, 19 Sep 2010 20:59:24 -0600
Hi Dave. Here we go again.
But funding is a pretty damn hard window to open on this science.
How many have tried over the last 100 years?? Everybody seems to be
doing their own thing when it comes to this. Everybody scattering
in a 100 different directions. No coherence.
> Date: Sat, 18 Sep 2010 12:02:43 +0200
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: FW: New Fossil Protection Regulations in China
> On Sept. 14, 03:03 CEST, dale mcinnes wrote:
>> WhOOOAA ....... David. I meant what I said. I'm talking about Natural
>> Selection. It's in everything we do. Currently our science is being
>> selected against acquiring massive funding.
[You're conflating several distinct meanings of the word "selected".]
Agreed. There are many meanings here. It's just the way we compete for funding
that we find ourselves scraping the ground. When I use the word "selected" here,
I mean the way we do our fund raising. If We do the same thing every day, week,
month, year, we will always end up with the same result. In doing so, we are
selecting for the same results ...... against recieving adequate funding
of what we continually fail to do. We fail to change our strategy. This of
begs the question. What new strategy??
>> Why?? We have been fairly
>> unsuccessful competitors for [$$$$$$] and are being "weeded out/
>> ignored". Damn right it's Natural Selection. You either play the game
>> for everything it's worth or lose the competitive edge. Lose the
>> competitive edge and you better start tightening your belt.
> I'm talking about raising awareness to the fact that basic research _in
> general_ should be funded well. That's, after all, where most
> discoveries and almost all unexpected discoveries come from. Are you
> saying vertebrate paleontology should compete against other sciences for
Oh good heavens no. I've seen this happen way too often in my lifetime, where
a politician shifts funding from one science into another. The reasons are
purely political and certainly show a misunderstanding of how real science
works. In the political world, its every man for himself. Its disaster when
they touch science funding. There's lots of people out their trying to raise
awareness to the idea of supporting basic research.
>> The soviet people come to mind.
> Because that's suuuuch a good analogy to a science.
Well, actually, it is. Ask anyone in science. More than once I've heard it
expressed by scientists that one science is getting the "lions" share of
The arguement is that it should go back into basic research. Hard to argue
that. We live in a political world. We don't bang our pots loud enough, some
sciences don't get seen or heard. Of course, we can bitch that it isn't right,
but it happens. Not being competitive can not only hurt a science but an entire
nation as well.
>> Natural Selection is very much a part of Darwinism
> What do you mean by "Darwinism"? Because that's a rarely used term. I've
> only encountered it from the following groups of people:
> - Unmentionable Ones who want to pretend that a scientific theory is a
> political (or even religious) ideology, and an evil one at that;
> - Historians of science who want to distinguish the theory of evolution
> by natural selection (Darwinism) from, most commonly, the theory of
> evolution by acquisition of new characteristics (Lamarckism);
> - Historians of science who want to distinguish the old version(s) of
> the theory of evolution by natural selection (Darwinism) from the modern
> theory of evolution by mutation, selection, and drift (Modern Synthesis
> or neodarwinism).
> You don't seem to fit into any of those categories, so what do you mean?
>> and has been used in many instances other than biological.
>> I probably shouldn't have been so liberal in my terms. And yes. We
>> "ought" to practise it ..... better than we have.
> Natural selection is something the environment does, not something
> living beings (or genes) do. They are the passive part.
WHAAAAAAAT???? I'm not really sure I understand you here. Natural Selection
is something the environment does. Correct. Living beings are NOT passive and
certainly DO select those genes that better express phenotypes that are more
sexually attractive to name one example [albeit .... indirectly]. Humans also
are a product of their environment and are well known to conciously select
breeding stock for their own well being. This also includes other species bred
for suitable companions, drugs and so on. It's our species I'm really talking
about. We actively select. Isn't the environment the result of that natural
Hmmmmmmm ..... I guess it depends on which end you're approaching.
>> Now. As for being short sighted ..... hmmmmmmm ......
>> Working on the "political will????" Lobbyists and politicians???
>> Working on them?? Isn't that what we have been doing for 100 years??
> Frankly, no. By far not enough. Billions per year are spent on wars and
> (other) prestige projects, while university budgets are slashed and
> universities are told "nope, we can't afford to leave you one more million".
Do I hear someone complaining about funding being spent in other fields of
By [prestige projects], I take it you mean military weaponry?? Still takes a
sub fields [specialties] to make these things work. Those fields take back a
wealth of knowledge with them that is sooner or later applied to the civilian
We spend billions on weapons for our very survival. But I'll be the first to
its sad but inevitable that we have to constantly go through this stage to get
drivel of funding. Perhaps we don't compete for funding very well?? Perhaps we
take into account that we live in a very political world??
>> They have no interest in our field. What we really need David is to
>> stop looking in all the wrong places. This is what I mean by
>> changing strategy. Why would you keep approaching the same type of
>> people for funding??
> What other types are there? And do we really want their influence on our
Now you've come to a very interesting question. There actually is only one
type. There has never been any other. Its the one place where no one looks.
That's within our very own science. The only people that should be in full
funding control of this science ... are palaeontologists themselves. That
means of course, that all funding should be internally generated. If it comes
from anywhere else, our science will be influenced by the origins of that
funding. [I giveith .... I takeith away]. Happens a lot in our science.
[Boy. Do I know how that sounds. It's almost laughable when you're viewing
only the surface of this.]
>> Before you can even begin to use politics David, you have to
>> understand politics. And you don't. Our field does not have
>> "political value". You can attain it. Yes. And it only takes a very
>> small number of individuals to do so. They have to be gifted or have
>> spent a reasonable amount of time working in this arena AND have a
>> fairly fanatical drive towards papaeontology. That small number, even
>> one individual is ALL it takes to pull the rest of us through.
>> Don't believe me?? I'll demonstrate it to you.
> How? By being that "even one individual [that] is ALL it takes to pull
> the rest of us through"? In that case, more power to you, but what have
> you been waiting for for all those decades? (The 1949 in your e-mail
> address, is that your year of birth?)
No ...no .... no ..... I just realised how that came out. That certainly
sounded arrogant and I wasn't referring to me [actually others who have
already accomplished in their chosen vocations what I discovered in this
field, oh so many years ago]. I'm looking to see if this can really be
However. You could be right about one thing. I have been way too timid.
Perhaps lack in the aggression needed and you've pegged me personally as
...... way, way too old. [Just a minute. My teeth fell out when I bent
down over my walker. Excuse me] Now where was I?? Oh yes. The vast majority
of people usually reach their peak production between 25-35 yrs. of age. I
am all too well aware of that. I am also very well aware of the odds stacked
against my succeeding. [After all, wouldn't I have succeeded by now??] In
very poor defence ....I bit off far, far more than I could chew ...... My near
total isolation doesn't help either. But my approach is unique, fed largely by
my isolation. I do feel the pressures.
>> If we continue taking your approach to funding, we certainly WILL
>> leave even MORE people "in the dust" as it were.
> You've just misunderstood what I want to do. I'm into big-picture thinking.
I certainly hope I misunderstood you. We're on the same side after all [albeit
polar opposites and everything in between]. But that's O.K. Guard your ideas and
be aggressive when you finally decide to let loose. All that really counts is
palaeontology be the happy recipient of any success. The best to you David.
>> As a side note. This is what science is all about. You and me.
>> Throwing ideas around. Then testing them out in the real world. Uuuh.
>> You first. dale
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