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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).