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Re: As the kids say, *facepalm*... [Scanned]



That may be the most important take home message.  My general observation is 
that grandiose claims regarding past environments, used to support the 
subjective notion that animal performance in the past could not exceed that 
seen in the present, is strangely more accepted and "marketable" in many cases 
than the conclusion that animals in the deep past did things that modern ones 
do not.  I am particularly sensitive to that aspect as a biomechanist, however, 
and I would be interested to know what others take away from these sorts of 
extreme (to put it politely) ideas on dinosaur biology.

Here are some of the things I see regularly in the comments on my popular 
articles/media releases (I am curious to know what trends others see in 
responses to their work):

- Dismissal based on arbitrary comparison to human-made systems

- Dismissal based on perceived biological limits (e.g. "Clearly animal X can't 
be bigger than living animal Y and still do Z")

- Ignorance of constraints on environmental changes (e.g. The atmosphere could 
just be four times thicker, or there were a lot cliffs, or everything was 
covered by lakes, etc.)

--Mike H


On Apr 3, 2012, at 12:02 PM, Michael OSullivan wrote:

> I've been reading round on this, and what fascinates me isn't the
> fundamental misunderstanding of biology and palaeontology but what it
> says from a sociological point of view. It's very interesting to see the
> methods of supporting these kind of ideas and how, in many ways, they
> are more marketable to the layman.
> 
> ---
> 
> Michael O'Sullivan
> 
> Palaeobiology Research Group
> Postgraduate Student
> School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
> Burnaby Building
> Burnaby Road
> Portsmouth
> PO1 3QL
> 
> Email:michael.osullivan@port.ac.uk
>>>> "Habib, Michael"  03/04/12 4:13 PM >>>
> 
> That would be preferable, and seems plausible. Unfortunately, I happen
> to know that there is another individual (by the name of David Esker)
> with a similar sort of odd, looney background that has made similar
> suggestions on the web (in his case, that the air was super dense like
> water).  That makes me think that they have rubbed off on one another
> and that this is not a hoax (Esker has previously done the web rounds
> heckling Mark Witton and myself, among others).
> 
> Trying to pull some kind of useful information out of this travesty, we
> might take note that the knee-jerk "X animal must be too big to Y" has
> plagued paleontological inquiry for over a century.  It has been
> particularly applied to Mesozoic vertebrates (dinosaurs and pterosaurs,
> especially), and while this bit of facepalm worthy thinking is
> thankfully more or less gone from the professional paleontological
> community, it does crop up from time to time among those without
> specialized training.  In short the "general public" is very bad at
> understanding the biological consequences of size, which is something I
> suspect most of us in the professional and advanced amateur community
> forget.
> 
> --Mike H.
> 
> 
> On Apr 3, 2012, at 8:57 AM, Mike Taylor wrote:
> 
>> It is possible that the Aquatic Dino story start out that way, then
>> blew up out of control?
>> 
>> -- Mike.
> 
> 
> 
> Michael Habib
> Assistant Professor of Biology
> Chatham University
> Woodland Road, Pittsburgh PA  15232
> Buhl Hall, Room 226A
> mhabib@chatham.edu
> (443) 280-0181
> 
> 

Michael Habib
Assistant Professor of Biology
Chatham University
Woodland Road, Pittsburgh PA  15232
Buhl Hall, Room 226A
mhabib@chatham.edu
(443) 280-0181