Yep, Commercialists are the Problem

Hey there every peoples!

What the hell happened? Well, i don’t know. I’ll try to finish Australia when i can. But right now i want to talk about the commercial fossil trade once again. I once tried to defend the commercialists. But after a certain incident i have seen the error on my ways. Thee nothing redeemable about them. They are destroying the ancient heritage of everyone in a gross, twisted mockery of a noble scientific profession all in the name of making a buck. Commercialists need to be stopped if the fossil record is to survive at all.

Why the change of heart? Like i said, something happened to me that made me realize how despicable commercialists are. I won’t bore you with the details. But i used to defend commercialists because i knew one. He seemed different. He seemed to believe in the science of paleontology and in the Grand Vision as well. I saw that unlike what i had read, commercialists weren’t all the same and that there could be some good in them. Finally, after working with him for a while, i was given an opportunity to finally advance the Grand Vision. Me and my hopes of a Central Coast Museum were finally moving forward in a significant way. And then… i got stabbed in the back. My dreams and hopes were crushed because he didn’t think it was profitable (of course, how he handled the situation would reveal just how much of a sniveling weasel he really was). I thought he was different. But turned out he was just the same s every other commercialist: selfish, greedy, unable to think beyond anything and anyone but themselves. A lowlife who thinks only in terms of dollar value, not scientific value or the public welfare. It was difficult for me to handle. I’m still reeling from it. I’m basically back at square one.But most importantly, i have learned that these money grubbing whores are the true threat to paleontology and the natural heritage of everyone.

Let me tell you a little story:

A man named Don is putting together a puzzle at a picnic table in the park. He enjoys doing puzzles for the challenge and the thrill of seeing the finished product. He does his puzzles in the park because he likes sharing the process with people and happily showing them the whole picture. He would get many visitors, asking questions and usually just admiring his work. He is joined by a particularity interested little girl named Beth. She is not so good with puzzles and doesn’t fully understand them but likes watching the man, a pro, do it. She is always amazed when it is finished, looking at the result of hard work and determination.

Then a person walks up and picks up one of the pieces. “Ooh, this one is so pretty!” They start to put it in their pocket.
“Excuse me,” said Don, “I need that to finish the puzzle.”
The person just stared at them. “I collect blue pieces, and this one would look great in my collection.”
“But i need it to complete the puzzle!” Don protested.
“Oh don’t worry about it. You have so many pieces I’m sure you won’t miss just one.” The person walked off, ogling their new prize. Don continued working on the puzzle and Beth kept watching.

Then another person walked up and immediately seized a few pieces.
“Wow, you any idea how much these are worth?” They said in a giddy tone.
“What do you mean?” Asked Don.
“These are some pretty rare pieces. Collectors would be willing to pay a lot of money for them!”
“That’s nice but those pieces are very important. They could fill in a crucial gap in the puzzle.”
Beth chimed in: ” Besides, me and everyone else won’t get to see the whole puzzle if you take those pieces. Those pieces belong to all of us.”
The person wasn’t buying it. “But there still plenty of pieces. Besides, i could make so much money with these.” He walked off with the pieces he stole.

Don did eventually finish the puzzle. It appeared to be a duck in a pond. Except there was a hole in the water where the first person took a blue piece. The duck’s head was missing, as well as a couple pieces of the cattails from where the second person took them. Don was disappointed because he will never be able to complete the puzzle. Beth is sad because she and everyone else will never see the whole, beautiful picture. Both have been dealt a heavy blow because some people put their own self-gratification above the well being of everyone else.

I will admit it’s not my best bit of fiction but i hope it illustrates the problem here. In case you couldn’t figure it out, Don represent scientists, Beth is the public, and the two people represent private collectors and commercialists. The puzzle represents the fossil record. Without all the pieces Don couldn’t fully understand and reconstruct the puzzle. Beth wouldn’t be able to admire the finished puzzle, the product of all the work of Don. Don doing the puzzle in public so everyone can know and appreciate it was rendered pointless. Basically, when commercialists gain, everyone else looses.

Private collectors are a problem, but i wouldn’t say they are the main problem. Private collectors are usually enthusiastic and are simply ignorant of the harm they can do. Besides, many of them do eventually donate their stuff to a museum. So in the greater scheme of things they are more of a nuisance. Commercialists, on the other hand, are actively harmful. Spurred on by the possibly of big money, they scrabble to get their hands on anything they think can turn a profit, often overlooking or even destroying other important fossils. They often break the law, collecting fossils illegal from public lands. They are pillaging the scientific record and the heritage of everyone because they can’t value anything other than money. And what is more, these guys are kind of like creationists. They don’t listen to reason or logic. They usually trot out the same tired talking points. They can’t, for the life of them, see that what they are is wrong and refuse to stop doing what they are doing because their rabid faith (in this case, in money) blinds them. So lets take a look at how they try to justify themselves.

“Museums already have plenty of important specimens.”– I point you back to my puzzle analogy. Every fossil is important to unraveling the secrets of the past. The more fossils we have, the more hypotheses we can test. If we don’t have all the pieces, we will never have a full understanding of our planet’s marvelous past.

“Scientists can still study specimens in private collections. They refuse to out of their own stubbornness.”– Like i said back in my other post on this subject, there are some big reasons why paleontologists don’t touch stuff held privately. The most important thing in science is the ability to repeat the results of a study. That allows scientists to either confirm or debunk them. This is easy in a museum, where the specimens are cataloged and held in the public perpetually. In private collections, however, the fate of the specimens is uncertain. Even if the owner allows access to scientists, that scenario may not last. They may suddenly change their mind and deny access. They may sell it. They may die and then the relatives, not knowing what to do with it, either sell it or just throw it out. Only in a museum is the future of a specimen secure. That is why scientists only publish on specimens in museums.

“Most specimens are never seen by the public in a museum. We’re simply making it more accessible.”– I actually agree with you on the first point. The one of the main reasons i want to start my own museum is because my fossil heritage remains locked away, out of view, in foreign museums. So many stories go untold because museums only have so much display space and choose only the biggest, most impressive specimens to lure visitors. But the solution is not to sell fossils. You really want to make fossils more accessible? Support museums. Donate to them so can afford the lengthy process of creating online databases; so they can build more exhibit space; so they can more effectively utilize social media. And face it, you’re not making specimens more available to the public by selling them. You are making them available only to the few who could afford them. And then those will disappear into their private collection, where only that person and their few family and friends will see it. That is hardly the idea of being available to everyone.

“Scientists don’t have the manpower or resources to find all fossils. Think of all the fossils that would have been lost to erosion had we not found them.”– That is true. So many fossils are lost because museums can’t field enough people to scour the badlands. But your “rescue” is irrelevant because what you find goes to the market, not a museum. It might as well have withered to dust. My museum could put some more bodies in the field, but that’s assuming i get it up and running.

“But they are just following their passion.”– Bullshit. If they were so passionate about fossils, why are they whoring them out to the highest bidder? Why do they only invest time and work into specimens they think will bring in the big bucks? If they are so passionate, why do they often break the law by collecting on public land or smuggling specimens out of other countries? Passion is working for peanuts in a museum or univerity because you love fossils and study them for the enrichment of humanity’s knowledge base. Here’s a few examples from that shit eating worm who betrayed me:

1) I was talking to him about how when the museum was up i wanted to lead people out into the field like what the L.A. and Burpee museums do. Trying to explain to him how in paleontology you have to take what you can get, i asked him “What if we go to the field and all we find is a horse tooth?” His response? “I’d consider it a waste. I’d let them keep it.” Wow. So passionate means discarding anything that isn’t big and flashy (and therefore, worth a lot of money)?
2) Many invertebrate specimens we had found… He just left them in crates outside, in the elements. So passionate means leaving the “ok” stuff out to rot because you don’t think they’ll for as much?
3) He was completely unwilling to drive more than an hour to a site. Places like Apache Canyon and Cuyama Valley were “so far away”. Plus he avoided going out if it was hot. Jeez, if he can’t handle the weather here, he never would survive going to some of the more well known localities in the badlands. So being passionate means not willing to go the extra mile to live the dream?

That doesn’t not sound like a passionate enthusiast to me. That sounds like a deadbeat who wilts in the face of doing a little hard work. I have gone out in the sweltering heat and managed just fine. I have driven hours just to visit a little museum in the middle of nowhere just to view their fossils. And above all else, i know that fossils belong in museums, where they can be enjoyed by everyone. The pursuit of monetary gain is not passion. It is blind, naked greed.

“Scientists just don’t like competition.”– Yes, they don’t. Mainly because they can’t compete at all. The price tags of many fossils on the market are just not doable for museums. A while ago a man was hoping to get a million dollars for a Triceratops skull. The Montana Dueling Dinosaurs were expected to fetch 9 million dollars. Nine million! For most museums, that is the cost of a major renovation. For the love of Christ, you know what i could do with 9 million dollars? I could build my museum, instal some exhibits, and probably have enough leftover to fund several seasons in the field. Nine million dollars would go a very long way in funding museum operations and commercialists think they should cough up that much just on a specimen or two? Give me a break! Because these yahoos can only focus on making money, they aren’t willing to offer them to museums for less than an obscene amount.

Money truly is the great corrupter. Those who have a lot of money, who could use that money to do great things, instead use to get more money and fund their hideously opulent lifestyles. The money required to create wonderful exhibits, excellent education programs, and quality research is chump change compared to the holdings of the many millionaires and billionaires that sit atop our society. But they apparently don’t bat an eye about spending that money to influence politics, buy their fifth home, or go to the opposite end of the world for the weekend. Some even use that money to buy fossils at auctions, failing to realize that same amount of money, donated to a museum, would find many more specimens. And who supplies those fossils? The commercialists, who pretend to be noble fossils hunters who in reality are little more than loathsome vultures ripping apart and regurgitating the fossil record that represents everyone’s heritage. They need to be confronted head on and stopped. Thomas Carr once suggested using eminent domain to reclaim fossils from commercialists. I think that would create a PR nightmare, but now I’d be willing to give it a shot. We need to hit commercialists in he only thing they care about: their wallet. Money is all they understand, so if we cost them their precious money to get their attention, we need to do it.

So there’s that. I am going on a trip up north but when i get back, i hope to conclude Australia Month.

Till next time!

2 thoughts on “Yep, Commercialists are the Problem

  1. Pingback: Yep, Commercialists are the Problem | Todd DeanTodd Dean

  2. Pingback: Setting the Record Straight | A Central Coast Paleontologist

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