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Notes on scientifically comparative paleoposes

During the discussion I have noticed that some think that having multiple 
dinosaur restorers pose the skeletons they do the same way is a good idea 
scientific wise because it allows cross comparisons. This is incorrect for a 
number of technical reasons. 

It was a while back that the first skeleton/s using my pose started showing 
up. I don’t remember who did them, but I do recall become immediately 
nervous in terms of the scientific implications. 

Say a particular artist – let’s call her Susan Erickson -- decides to pose 
all her skeletons the same way. That makes sense in that because she – 
assuming she is good at her job -- is using consistent criteria to restore the 
skeletons, they are truly cross comparable. 

At first it might seem that if other artists use the same pose they too 
will be cross comparable with Susan’s, but they are not. 

That’s because human brains are not consistently produced information 
processors, so each brain puts out different results. This is true even if all 
those generating skeletons are equally qualifed at the craft. Each skeletal 
restorer is going to have somewhat different hypotheses and notions about how 
to assemble skeletons, and a degree of less deliberate variation between 
artists will also creep in. 

So skeletons prepared by different artists are not actually comparable, 
even if in the same pose and equivalent in quality. In fact, their being in the 
same pose is a problem because it leads to the illusion of false 
comparability. Ergo, having different artists pose their skeletons in the same 
is not scientific and is misleading. 

You can sometimes see this effect in cladograms when skeletons by different 
artists are used to illustrate different clades. Even when they are in the 
same pose they don’t really look comparable – at least to the trained eye. 
It just does not look quite right, the images come across as inconsistent. 
Using skeletons by different artists in a single figure is only a means of 
letting those who may not be familiar with the field have an idea of what the 
fossil verts look/ed like. 

The situation becomes worse when the quality of the skeletons varies. Let’s 
say that the skeletons of that Greg Paul fellow are not all that great – 
causing some to wonder why he doesn’t get out of the business and farm corn in 
Indiana for heavens sake. In that case there is no point of comparing them 
to the ace work of Susan Erickson. Doing so has no useful meaning. 

An analogy. I assemble lots of 1/48 scale WW II fighter models. In theory 
this makes kits from a wide variety of producers comparable, right? It should 
be that way, but alas it is not. That is because the manufacturers are 
surprisingly inconsistent in accuracy. In part this is because some companies 
are not as good as others. But even the top of the lines outlets sometimes 
muck up. For example, for decades none of the top producers came out with the 
Spitfire 9, widely considered the acme of Spitfires - odd no one did the mark 
well before. Anyhow, at long last Hasegawa announced the upcoming kit and 
songs of praise were heard. Then the kits reviews came out and there was much 
wailing and gnashing of teeth, and venomous diatribe directed at Hasegawa 
that they well deserved. They had botched the kit, and images showing how 
badly out of proportion the fuselage was by comparing them to more accurate 
kits were posted. The point here is that for items to be truly comparable they 
have to be consistently produced in methodology and accuracy, and basically 
from the same source. 

So give up all ye when it comes to presuming that different workers’ dinosau
r skeletons are cross-comparable. If someone wants to use a bunch of truly 
comparable skeletons in a publication best to get them form one source. 

Note the above applies to any effort by one or more artist to mimic the 
iconic pose used by another artist, such as side view life restorations. 

As I posted earlier, artists regularly using the same pose used by others 
is not a good idea for other reasons. Less well done efforts can impair the 
reputation of the person who has built a body of high quality work based on 
that pose. And it is a career mistake for a paleoartist to miss building up 
their own distinctive brand by patterning their images after someone else’s.  

Some have claimed my standard pose is not a de facto brand because it is 
supposedly  based on Bakker’s running Deinonychus. I have explained elsewhere 
that is not really so. In any case RTB never used the pose on a regular 
basis, so it was not a characteristic of his work (and the reason the 
Deinonychus became well known was not because he made it so, but because he was 
endlessly ripped off as it was reproduced without permission). Only if someone 
uses a pose so regularly that it becomes a recognizable brand, and others then 
also use it regularly is there an issue. Bakker posed his dinosaurs’ legs 
lots of ways. If I had settled on a pose that happened to be similar to 
another limb position RTB happened use then would I being derivative? How about 
Zallinger pose? Of course not. Derivation occurs only when someone uses a 
certain pose again and again that was previously widely recognized of being 
commonly used by another artist (see my parallel post on the Knight analogy). 

G Paul