Back in the Saddle

Hey there every peoples.

It’s been practically a year since I last wrote. It has been rough. Very rough. In fact this has been, hands down, the worst year of my life. My daily challenge is finding reasons to keep living. But that is neither here nor now. After mulling over the events that lead to my departure, combined with some encouraging words from others, I am going to try to get back in the game. Plus there are some things I have been wanting to write about. But I need to get this off my chest first.

For those of you who think I’m the fanboy (especially those discussed in this post), please at least scroll to the bottom and see what your shining light accomplished.

Right off the bat, I’ll admit that I went overboard. I was in a bad place then (in fact, I still am). I did say some things I had no place saying. But after the responses I got and after hearing my detractor’s screeching echo in my head, I stand firm in my original positing: that these people are basically fanboys. That they want accurate representation of dinosaurs is irrelevant. Intent doesn’t matter. If you act like a fanboy you are going to be called a fanboy. You may not want to hear it, but there is really no other way to describe them.

For starters, they responded exactly like fanboys do. No conversation, no debate, no discussion of the specific points of the argument… They just plunged right into the ad hominum attacks. That is what fanboys do. Whenever they are confronted with an argument they don’t like (or even just something they don’t agree with), they instantly turn nasty and any pretense of civil discourse goes right out the window. Yeah mine contained snark and low blows but there was an argument there. What’s that you say? If you want people to take your argument seriously don’t be an asshole? To that I say: can you please explain why that only applies to me and not them?

Another reason they are fanboys: they are close minded to a fault. People tried explaining to them the reasons why the dinosaurs were the way they were. They tried explaining that movies don’t have to adhere 100% to reality. They even cited the in universe explanation. But they were just labeled “apologists”. Nothing was going to change their mind. Raw emotion was taking control, turning otherwise decent people into frothing mouthed jerkasses.

And you want to know why they are fanboys? Because they are extremists. They think there is no way but their way. Nothing is acceptable if it doesn’t conform to their specific outlook. Many people tried to explain to them why things were the way they were in the movie. And they were just shouted down, labeled “apologists” and fanboys. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. Their opinion that Jurassic World having dinosaurs without feathers (despite in universe explanations for it) is the worst thing to ever happen was proven fact. At least that is how they acted. And treating their opinion as fact was one of the criteria I used to classify them as fanboys. But they were doing it in the name of science and that made it ok (more on that later).

Having time to think about it, their “counterarguments” were rather devoid of intelligent discourse. First up:

Actually the real “cancerous dinosaur fanboys” are those biased scaly monster-lovers, not those who support accurate depictions.

Ah, the good ol’ “I know you are but what am I!” Well we’re off to a flying start. I did not know that name calling, smug sniping, and generally acting like a snarlin dickhead constituted “support” for science. You know, if this was a science (not science fiction) book, documentary, or museum exhibit, I’d be right there with you. I too would condemn them for not following science. But a Hollywood blockbuster is not that place. I know, I know, Jurassic Park was so scientific. Except when it interfered with the plot. But that is ok because it still scienced! I mean, did it ever occur to you people that this isn’t a movie about how dinosaurs really were? Rather, it was about how we think dinosaurs should be? These dinosaurs weren’t created by evolution, they were manufactured by corporate malfeasance. Of course that could apply to both the in universe park and the movie itself. Wow, maybe that meta plot worked after all.

Geese pls…

Why do you want geese? Trololololololololol!

Who the fudge is this person? I didn’t read the article but they seem like an epic douchebag

First off, that’s King Douchebag to you. And you didn’t even read it? But then again this was the guy who wrote a whole article on a movie he hadn’t seen yet. Besides, you’re not exactly a ball of sunshine yourself:

Listen, I don’t care! It’s a crap movie with crap looking animals!

Moving on:

So, people who want more accurate dinosaurs in popular media are considered fanboys now? When did this reversal of roles happen?

Wanting accurate reconstructions isn’t bad in and of itself. But when you act the way you people acted… that is when you cross the line. How you go about getting your point across is as important as the point itself. Fanboys have a set of identifying traits and behaviors. You people engaged in them. Thus you are fanboys. It doesn’t matter your intent or purpose, if you are going to act like fanboys you will be called fanboys.

I am just 1/5th into the article and think I have had enough stupidity already

Another person who didn’t read the full thing. Why am I surprised by that? These are the people who had a burning, irrational hatred of a movie months before it even came out. There’s the real stupidity.

Don’t read it, it’s a waste of time.

Reading all your narrow minded, apoplectic, foul spirited bile could easily be argued as being a waste of time. But I did it anyway because unlike you I tried to understand my opposition and represent them through their own words. I did my best to present their side of the argument. You didn’t even read it, and yet declare it’s a waste of time. I thought scientists valued open debate and discussion. I guess I was wrong.

Written by a hateful idiot who doesn’t have a point to make

Can you believe I used to think highly of this guy? It’s like when you idolize a celebrity and dream of meeting them one day, only to find out they are a stuck up, unrepentant jerk. And par for the course, he doesn’t address anything, he just dismisses it out of hand. All that work researching, writing, wading through their miserable ravings amounted to nothing. So if I disagree with something, I can just dismiss it out of hand and declare myself the superior person? I’ll have to remember that. And I’m hateful? Have you read your own stuff? See, that’s another reason I called you fanboys. You weren’t interested in exploring the issue. You just ran on pure emotion, deriding anyone who dared to not agree with you. Why am I even arguing? You’ll just brush this aside without reading it as well. Such an intellectual heavyweight!

Opinions of willfully uninformed folk are seldom valuable

You know who is also seldom valuable? Hateful, closed minded, apoplectic assholes who elevate themselves above others if they don’t share their opinion. And I am willfully misinformed how? You people keep using that word.

It’s classic victim-role-change

How so? Again, who never builds an argument with detailed explanations and instead barks empty platitudes? I’ll give you a hint: it starts with an f and contains the word “boy”. And you are hardly victims yourselves. Did this movie specifically target you? Did it commit a crime against you specifically? If you act like smug, raging douchebags then no one is going to buy your victimhood.

I agree with , don’t look too close, it hurts deeply in the Prefrontal cortex

Wow, so clever. You can use big sciencey-sounding words in your insults! I totally accept your argument now!

What a stupid article.

What a compelling counterargument. Again, clearly we are in the presence of mental titans.

Personally I find it offensive for me and for other paleoartists/paleontologists to be called “fanboy/s” from a fanboy.

How am I a fanboy? I laid out criteria for my label. You seem to be calling me a fanboy because I disagree with you (the standard definition for fanboy among internet trolls). And you must rule the playground with your mind shattering “I know you are but what am I” argument.

This person is presenting his opinions as fact,

I was just following the example set by you fine folks!

What a boring person.

How so? Or is expounding on your assertion for losers? And I am boring? Look in a mirror! I used to enjoy talking about movies with people. I hardly do it anymore. That is because people get so worked up over something as innocuous as a two hour moving picture. I can hardly mention a movie without igniting a shit storm of ranting sarcasm and all out anger. If I’m lucky, they won’t think my liking a movie or not means I’m somehow less of a person. They are not engaging. They don’t make me want to talk to them. They make me think less of them because of the way they are behaving. They think less of me because of my taste in movies. Who wants to talk to someone like that? If all you have to offer is raw, unbridled hate (like what you people did) then sorry to say, but that makes you the boring one.

Does he think a scaly dinosaur couldn’t be shot?

I do think they can be shot. In fact I wrote a whole post about it. You’d know that if you actually read anything of mine. But why try to determine if someone is a “hateful idiot” when you can just call them one and be done with it?

He specifically chose these theropods, so he can just “prove” his point, that there’s nothing better, than Indominus rex and scaley dinosaurs in general

I searched high and low for examples of the “build a better fake theropod” project. So where are these alleged better versions? Just because I couldn’t find them doesn’t mean I was cherry picking. Once again we see the fanboy mentality at work. Ignore the opposition’s actual argument and instead accuse them of using their own dirty tactics. My point was that what you people created was every bit as generic as the Indominus rex (despite them being labeled better). And all joking aside, I really do think Brian Engh’s entry was by far the best example . The use of shadows and eye shine does achieve a level of dread. The jungle clashing with the modern industrial infrastructure felt very much like Jurassic Park. I’m not sure why I am explaining this. You decided I was evil and nothing I could write could sway your superior intelligence.

Also just think about all these less knowledgeable people who may not be as informed about paleontology as you or anyone else here and who will read this article thinking it actually presents valid points

What are the points you think are invalid? Do you not explain out of laziness, or do you people have some sort of hive mind where you already know what you’re all thinking? If you are going to accuse someone of misinformation (something I never did to you) you have to be more specific!

This person is presenting his opinions as fact, or at least as more reasonable alternative to accepted and/or sound hypotheses

How? How did I do that? You people pull that kind of crap as well. But since it involves science, you get a free pass.

Disinformation of any kind hurts the public perception of paleontology and paleoart

You know, my fanboy post was proofread by a paleontologist. A fairly accomplished one at that who has done his fair share of writing. I’m pretty sure he would have let me know if something wasn’t factually correct. None of you can’t seem to point out what was and wasn’t valid so why should I trust you?

Nothing more then a Awesomebro type

No, the dinosaur people are still king of the “awesomebro” hill. Someone in the Jurassic Park Legacy page decided we needed to be reminded that feathered dinosaurs are totally scary. He asked me if I had ever been attacked by a chicken/turkey/goose/whatever domesticate fowl. I told him I have dealt with them plenty of times, that they could be handled with a small dirtclod. He unleashed this on me:

Now take something turkey sized, add in razor sharp teeth, and a 5 inch curved claw meant to stick in your like a giant meat hook while it uses it’s jaws to rip out your jugular.

Never have I seen a prehistoric mammal (with the exception of sabertooths, and even that seems limited to the Carnivora Forum) hyped like that. Or rather any prehistoric animal that isn’t a dinosaur. How does he know a dromaeosaur would act like that? How does he know it wouldn’t be shy and elusive like a bobcat? He doesn’t. But that is the image that has been cultivated by our popular culture (and you think lack of feathers in Jurassic World is a problem). People just assume it was a vicious killer. It has big claws, it has sharp teeth, it’s a dinosaur. Therefore it must have been the nastiest predator that ever lived! It is only in the last decade or so that this image has been challenged. And judging from the comments my raptor post got, people don’t want to let it go. It’s the same no matter where you go. You want awesomebro, look no further than your beloved dinosaurs. They’re drowning in it.

who happens to be slightly more well put together word wise but none the less my brain cells are still dying looking at it…

Consider yourself lucky that your brain cells only died. Mine engaged in a murder suicide pact after reading all your frothing comments for my original post.

The whole showing weapons one could take dinosaurs down with is…weirddd

Yeah, it’s totally weird to bring up means of self-defense when discussing hypothetical encounters with extinct animals. Don’t they know only idiots bring that up when being told they’re getting attacked? I was responding to your campaign of “feathered dinosaurs are too scary!” The majority of feathered dinosaurs (including birds) are small, lightweight, and kinda frail. It wouldn’t take much (including the larger forms like Sinocaliopteryx, which this was originally responding to) to fend them off. Why would people be afraid of something they could handle with the simplest of weapons? Being prepared or not can have a big impact on how afraid someone can be.

In case you haven’t noticed, the popular culture (including your beloved Jurassic Park) has done much to paint dinosaurs as these unstoppable, blood thirsty killing machines. Lions and tigers and bears? They can be shot or stabbed. Aliens? They’re not so tough once you get around their technology (like giving it a virus with a laptop). Zombies? Please, those can be cut down like wheat. Dinosaurs? We’re fucked! Shooting just pisses them off! Gruesome death awaits us all! But since you don’t think weapons should ever be considered with dangerous animals, surely you wouldn’t mind proving it: by taking a stroll, completely unarmed, through the African bush or the jungles of southern Asia. I’m sure you’ll be fine!

You scream for accurate reconstructions but your protest is only skin deep. They don’t act like real animals because the plot needs them to be monsters. Animals have a wide and diverse set of behaviors. Dinosaurs in movies have only one: attack people. All you people seemed to bitch about was lack of feathers. Never did I hear people make a fuss about how the dinosaurs only ever attack people.

The guy is talking about what “phylogeny” means, without having any idea what phylogeny actually is.

Funny. I got my definition of phylogeny from a paleontologist (the same one who proofread that post). So he must not know anything about phylogeny. The Bison latifrons example was given to me by another paleontologist when I explained what I was writing. So he must not know what phylogeny is either. But clearly you do. Could you please enlighten us lowly, shit-brained, mouth breathers what it is? Oh right you don’t because you people never expand on your mudslinging. You think whenever I encounter a samurai or ninja fanboy my first instinct is to stick my nose in the air and insult them? No, I try to explain the faultiness of their argument in a calm, non-inflammatory manner (which I failed in my fanboy post. I’m probably failing here too (and now begins the countdown for all you fuckers to take that line out of context) but I don’t care. I have a lot of pent up rage to get out). I usually don’t get through. But how will they ever learn otherwise? Yeah, their fanboy mindset probably won’t allow contrary information in but I’m going to try anyway. You never know what might get through. Calling them names and acting like pricks will ensure nothing gets through. I blog, make Youtube videos, and start conversations out of nowhere because I want to teach people. I want to share and spread knowledge. I want to teach people about this world of ours. Sorry if you people think that’s a bad thing. (I have a few words regarding phylogeny, but you can read those at the end of the post. Got plenty of other things to discuss).

We’re allowed to callout epic douchebagery.

But I’m not? Oh right, you’re epic douchebaggery is in the name of science so it’s perfectly fine.


What is with this stream of conscienceness writing? It goes on forever!

Do you even know what stream of consciousness even means? Fun fact: it has to do with how something is written, not how long it is. Stream of consciousness is a writing technique where you sit down and basically write whatever pops into your head. No break, just writing down each thought as soon as you think of it in real time. It’s alright if you didn’t actually know the definition. It’s important to use fancy sounding literary and scientific words when you are disparaging someone. It makes you sound so much smarter than them!

Stevie, that guy is sharing his… opinion on matters which he obviously doesn’t fully understand. We are sharing our opinions (in private, mind you) on his opinions

No, what you are doing is engaging in a mean spirited circle jerk of hate in a closed forum of like minded people where the subject of slander can’t defend themselves and the lone voice of dissent was brow beaten into agreeing with you. Forget fanboys. That’s some FoxNews shit right there.

I can’t help but feel like this is the most loathsome one:

His “about” and “grand vision” sections lead me to believe that this gentleman is, in fact, a walking boner that has learned to type

Really? Wanting to devote my life to science, to create my own museum to help share the majesty and wonder of the natural world and help share the knowledge gained by science… makes me a “walking boner”? And don’t say it was because it was how they were written. You didn’t say that so I am left to conclude that you said it based on the substance of those pages. I’ll again refer you to here, because this person’s words of wisdom had an especially potent impact. I’m a “walking boner” because I want to found a museum to serve science and the public. And I’m the despicable one?

Those were the words of the people I dubbed fanboys. I got a couple other responses. They just defended them like they did nothing wrong. The first one had an impact at the time but just became more noise.

I’m not going to lie, I couldn’t make it through that third review

Yet another person who didn’t read the whole thing. Is there any point in going on?

as it was written in a far meaner tone then anything I’ve seen the “fanboys” write

Oh, so that makes it ok? As long as the other guy is worse, the original offenders are off the hook. You know, this is the guy who once told me he left paleontology because he couldn’t stand the toxic attitudes. And yet here he is defending those same toxic attitudes. So why did I ever take him seriously?

You were being very mean about other people not agreeing with you

You think all that was about them not agreeing with me? I couldn’t care less whether or not someone agrees with me on a movie. Their opinion wasn’t the problem. Their behavior was. They were very mean towards people who didn’t agree with them but that’s ok in your eyes because they agree with you (see I can make accusations too). If they don’t want to be called fanboys then they shouldn’t act like fanboys. It’s as simple as that.

calling the kettle black never resolved anything

Tell that to them. They called people fanboys while acting like fanboys. Just because they are doing it in the name of science does not make them immune to criticism.

but perhaps keep in mind arguing that trained dedicated experts are nothing but fanboys, and that factual reality isn’t the greatest thing ever to someone who has dedicated their life to studying it is incredibly rude.

Again, it doesn’t matter how trained and dedicated they are. If they act like fanboys, I’m going to call them fanboys. I have dedicated my life to paleontology and spent most of that life being teased and picked on for it. I wish to study it as long as I live. So by your logic I can act like a miserable asshole as long as I do it in the name of science. Dedication to science renders me immune to criticism. That’s the theme you’re insinuating by defending these people.

I can perhaps understand why he would lose his patience when someone is telling him his opinion based on literally years of incredibly hard work isn’t as good as their amateur actual fanboy view point.

In most cases, those years of incredibly hard work would mean something. But when it comes to movies, they mean jack squat. Movies are subjective. Everyone has their own opinion. There are no experts because everything is subjective. Even the opinions of critics aren’t any better than everyone else’s. And how many times do I have to repeat myself: if they don’t want to be called fanboys, then they shouldn’t act like it. And apparently my years of hard work mean nothing. Only theirs do.

I will also be upfront and say I hated this film for its lack of anything resembling real science (as the genetics presented were beyond laughable).

The genetics of the first movie are laughable, but it gets a free pass.

Now these are the words of someone I actually know. I looked up to him for a time and his writings are what inspired me to write my own blog. This is going to be painful and uncomfortable. I will try to keep to the main points.

I think the people on the Facebook post do not know you and probably have not corresponded with you, so they may not know your passion for paleo.

So that makes what they did ok? I was calling them out on their apparent behavior. I said I was venting there and I said I did go overboard here.

In the title itself, you refer to people as fanboys/girls, and you make it clear in your text that the people you are talking about are the scientists that have problems with the scientific issues in JW.

Having problems is fine. Name calling, condescension, gang mentality, and other odious character traits are not. If most people simply said “I don’t like it because it isn’t very accurate to science” I wouldn’t have gone on at length. That is a simple statement of opinion. But these people didn’t do that. They got worked into a frenzy of hate, spitting on anyone who didn’t agree with them. The opinion isn’t the problem. How they expressed it was.

In every definition I’ve ever heard, “fanboy” is used to mean someone who picks a side based on preference and not evidence; that implication is deeply insulting to a scientist.

But that is what they did. Their thought process was highjacked and fueled by raw emotion. They didn’t want to discuss anything. They dismissed any counter arguments out of hand as “apologetics”, “fanboyism”, and even “nostalgia”. Thomas Holtz at least eased off when he learned there was at least an in-universe explanation. He changed his view based on new evidence. The people I talked about didn’t. They had made up their minds and nothing was going to change that. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like a scientist to me. Once again, if these people didn’t want to be called fanboys then they shouldn’t have acted like ones.

So, you had already established name-calling and personal attacks on intelligence and integrity as the standard for discussion.

Really? The “you started it” card? Alright then. They were doing it before me. They were the ones who established it. It’s why I wrote my post.

But this was a disappointment to paleontologists because the original JP did attempt to make some effort to conform to the science of the day (if imperfectly at times)

Oh I get it. “It didn’t science right here but it scienced right here so all is right”. Science in a movie is great, but it shouldn’t be the driving goal. That is for documentaries.

And, sorry

Don’t tell me that. I have heard that word so many times it has almost lost all meaning. That’s because people more often use it to excuse themselves from any rebuttals rather than as a sincere apology

it uses the work of scientists to develop a movie idea, but then ignores or even corrupts that work.

I thought the work of scientists was to add to the knowledge base for the betterment of mankind. Not to dictate the workings of mindless entertainment. Frankly I’m much more worried about people like creationists, climate change deniers, anti-vaxers, and politicians ignoring and corrupting science. But these people rage about a movie. Something that has nowhere near the tangible impact on society. Sorry for having priorities.

If you liked the movie, great – but like it because you think it’s a good movie, not because you think it furthers paleontology or science in any way.

I do. I liked it because it was a fun movie. Everyone who liked it did because they thought it was fun. But the people you are defending think that makes us anti-science fanboys.

But remember, essentially in discussions like this you’re punching above your weight; many of these folks have a much greater range of exposure to paleo than you do.

I can accept that there are people smarter than me. I am all too willing to admit that I am not as smart as everyone else. What I cannot accept is that it gives people an excuse to be arrogant pricks. There is no justification for abusing people because you are “above” them. Letting people think they can use science to excuse abhorrent behavior is a very slippery slope. It’s why I stopped reading Pharyngula all those years ago. The people thought that because they are the science minded rational ones that they were above reproach.  When people would challenge them and call them out, they were viciously attacked as not being rational. Nothing would get through to them because they believed science and rational thinking made them right no matter what. It doesn’t matter how high above you they are. Nobody gets a free pass to behave deplorably. No one, no reason.

That doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer; quite the contrary!

Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I feel a “but” coming on.

But it means that there’s a lot you can learn from these folks as well (as can we all).

Like what? That it’s ok to be an asshole as long as the other guy is a bigger asshole? That you can act like an absolutely miserable human being as long as you do it for science? Because that seems to be the take home message here.


you drag in a certain amount of dino vs. mammal debate into your comments. Paleontologists joke about that sort of thing a lot, but it’s not as real a divide as you seem to think. Most paleos have a lot of respect for each other and their work, and many work on a variety of different things. As you know, I’ve published on whales, squirrels, protorosaurs, and stromatolites, among other things. Most of my collaborators have also published on other groups. My liking one group does not extend to a hatred of others. Where animosity typically will arise is over journal decisions (the in-joke is that if you want to have a paleo paper in “Nature” you better have a feathered dinosaur), but that is NOT a reflection on the scientists that did the work.

Usually they are the ones dragging the vs crap into this. Anytime someone tries to celebrate prehistoric life other than dinosaurs, you always have someone coming along claiming they will never beat dinosaurs. It doesn’t matter if they are joking. You never know who might read it and take it seriously. Like this, from one of the people you are defending:

It isn’t even a hybrid and also not an oviraptorosaur. Didn’t he notice the teeth? And he’s calling himself a palaeontologist? Oh, my! It’s a scansoriopterygid.

Aside from the fact that I was joking (as should have been evident by my claim he combined a dinosaur with an Austrian body builder), he thinks my knowledge of paleontology is measured by my knowledge of dinosaurs. According to him, the only way someone can be called a paleontologist if they know the anatomical details of every type of dinosaur. I’m not a paleontologist because I couldn’t detect the subtle anatomical clues in his made up animal to guess what dinosaur inspired it (and the group he chose is pretty obscure. I hadn’t heard of scansoriopterygids until a year and a half ago). You say people are never serious and yet here we have a guy pretty serious that you’re not a paleontologist if you aren’t an expert on dinosaurs. These people think I’m the one spreading disinformation? Besides, check out this tidbit that occurred when someone on Facebook made the post “mammals rule!”:

But only for the last 65 million years

What the hell does that mean? Not sure, I left this light hearted response:

“What am I, chopped liver?”- Rapenomammus robustus

And this is what he had to say:

No, but it would have been a small meal for the things that did rule.

Wow. Now don’t tell me he simply didn’t understand what was meant by “rule”. The context made it perfectly clear what was meant and you would have to have some of the worst reading comprehension skills on earth to not know. Someone was simply expressing their love of mammals. But this guy clearly felt he needed to remind those lousy hairballs what their place is. Mammals can only “rule” after the dinosaurs. Still think their jokes are no big deal?

And I might be able to laugh at these flaccid attempts at humor if the whole of society didn’t share the sentiment. It’s bad enough that this attitude infests the public conscience. Joking about it does nothing to assuage it. And excuses like this aren’t helping either:

Some context: It’s someone who notes the overwhelming presence of dinosaurs in paleontology-inspired media items to the detriment of other fossil vertebrates and sets his sights on the dinosaurs themselves instead of the socio-economical factors that make market-oriented decisions a necessity for museums and other purveyors of such material.

How did I “set my sights on the dinosaurs themselves”? And why am I still asking for specifics from these people? Besides, that is straight up bullshit. They are not forced do anything. They don’t do anything out of necessity. People will like anything if it is done right. Fantasy isn’t required to use elves and dwarves out of necessity. They use them because they are easy to make. As a result we won’t get anything creative or original because the “purveyors of such material” think people should be pandered to. Here comes the Nostalgia Critic quote again:

Did it ever occur to you that by giving people more of the same they will never know what is different? And so will in turn just ask for more of the same?

You rag on Jurassic World for pandering to people’s outdated ideas of dinosaurs and then excuse that pandering when I point it out. Putting feathers on the dinosaurs could be interesting and different, but only if done right. Those same marketing decisions you defend will ensure that feathered dinosaurs in popular media will be a very slow process because it’s not a popular image. But according to you, those market-oriented decisions are a necessity so there is no point in griping about them. Give me a break. But this perhaps enrages me the most:

….that make market-oriented decisions a necessity for museums and other purveyors of such material.

Museums aren’t forced into marketing decisions. They are just pandering to people’s concepts of prehistory. And they are still struggling. Museums are the libraries of nature. They are supposed to represent the whole of the natural world, not just the parts we think are cool. They are supposed to challenge peoples biases, not cater to them. By only showcasing what the public wants. they are turning their backs on their mission to interpret the natural world. Dinosaurs make up only a part of prehistory and yet thanks in part to museum’s overemphasis on them people think that’s all there is. Besides, if an exhibit is good, they won’t care what it’s about. Fossil Mysteries at the San Diego Natural History Museum has only one section about dinosaurs. And yet the rest of the exhibit is always just as full of interested people. That is because the rest of the exhibit was put together in a vibrant, engaging manner. The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits gets tens of thousands of visitors every year. Not only does it not have any dinosaurs, but its exhibits have hardly changed since the 1970s!

But because museums want to go with the “modern” look with its bland and boring design, sterile environments, and fixation on complete skeletons, they force themselves into focusing on the bigger and badder dinosaurs. They are the only ones forcing themselves to go down that path. One of the examples I used in my original post was the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Their Cenozoic hall is uninspired and non-engaging. The dinosaur hall on the other hand is grand, vibrant, and immersive. It was new in every way whereas the Cenozoic hall features most of the old mounts. Hell, save for 3 specimens the mounts are in the exact same positions as they were before the renovation!

And, they did themselves no favors by focusing so much on Rancho La Brea and modern animals. The tar pits have their own museum just a few miles away. I get you wanted to demonstrate that the age of mammals continues today, but devoting so much precious space (in what was a small cramped hall to begin with) only reduced how much room you can give to fossils, which are supposed to be the focus of the hall. The museum has three large halls featuring stuffed mammals. People can go see them there.

If you look around the dinosaur hall, you’ll notice that most of the specimens have been found in the last 15 or so years, and most are from the Jurassic (Morrison Formation) of Utah and the late Cretaceous (Hell Creek Formation) of Montana. That’s because many of these specimens were collected when Luis Chiappe took over  (at least to my understanding). The Cenozoic collection is much stronger and vastly more diverse. From just what I know it contains good to fantastic collections from: Eocene and Oligocene of the Sespe formation (California Central Coast); Eocene and Oligocene White River Group (South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado); Miocene Nebraska; Miocene Caliente Formation (California Central Coast); middle Miocene marine vertebrates from Sharktooth Hill, central California; The biggest collection from the late Miocene Red Rock Canyon locality, Central California; Miocene and Pliocene marine vertebrates from the California Central Coast; Miocene and Pliocene marine vertebrates from California and Baja California; Pleistocene tar pit localities of Carpenteria (California Central Coast), McKittrick and Maricopa (Kern County); Pleistocene of the Western U.S. including the California Central Coast. They could have created a diverse and magnificent Cenozoic hall that could be found nowhere else on earth. But, dinosaurs had to be given top priority (at least that what it feels like). Money may be an issue, but clearly museums have the collections to bring lost worlds back to life beyond the Mesozoic. They aren’t forced to do dinosaurs by any stretch of the imagination.

Now that post was a doozy. That was a year’s worth of pent up frustration and anger pouring out. Now I don’t know how many of you read the whole thing or just skipped to this part. You may be wondering why I am so impassioned and devoted so much time and writing to this issue. Well, you see, it isn’t just about taking on some loud mouthed snobs. You see, it’s because my last suicide attempt, which occurred a year ago, was due in good part because of them. They may think they were doing some good by abusing someone they accused of being a fanboy, that their words would have no harmful consequences. They did. Their insistence that I was a moron corrupting the thing that I was most passionate about, that I have nothing to offer the world, and that even wanting to start my own museum made me a horrible person… well that’s the kind of thing my depression thrives on. Their malignant bile festered in my mind, making me doubt who I was and where I was going in life. Their words only dumped gas on issues that I have been struggling with for most of my life. And so, partly because of these people, I crawled into a storm drain and took a knife to my wrists. I didn’t get very deep before I was found. And every day I look down at the scars, sometimes hoping I did go deeper. And every time I do I hear their venom echoing in my head, egging on the darkness. But please, by all means, keep telling me how I’m the villain here.

But in all this, I forgot about one of the most defining traits of fanboys: they are a minority. Fanboys are very loud which gives them more weight than they actually have. They aren’t as strong as they would have you believe. And they aren’t as numerous as their antics suggest. And that’s what has happened here. Going to conferences and museums has taught me that these people don’t represent paleontology as a whole. People like Andrew Farke, Eric Scott, Gabe Santos, Meredith Rivin, Crystal Cortez, Lyndon Murray, Jim Kirkland, and many others have taught me that these people are just an obnoxious little clique in the corner of a dedicated and professional community. One I can’t wait to get back to at the next SVP meeting in October. (To the people I pissed off with my words: I’ll be at SVP in Salt Lake City. If you want to have a civil conversation about paleontology, you’re welcome to do that. But if you insist on being abusive and nasty… well you can do that too, just don’t expect to leave with all your teeth)

TL;DR: while I may have gone about it in a less than graceful fashion I stand by what I said. There is nothing wrong in wishing for more accuracy in the popular media. However, there is something wrong in using that wish to act in an abhorrent, condescending, hateful, and mean spirited manner. Science is a vital tool in society and a gateway to the wonders of existence, not an excuse to behave like a rabid asshole. Intent is always crucial but could be rendered meaningless if not conveyed properly. It doesn’t matter how noble your cause or intentions. If you communicate those aims poorly no one will care about them. That goes for all of us.

Till next time!

I don’t think phylogeny doesn’t work. I never said that. What I said was that it has limits. Limits you people seem all too happy to ignore in your quest to put feathers on everything.

Discussions about the possibility of feathers (on animals where no hard evidence currently exists for them) don’t feel like discussions. It feels more like someone rattling off talking points designed to shut down any criticism:

Its early ancestor had them so everything after would have had them as well

There is no evidence extinct mammal x had fur

It’s surrounded by species with them

And my personal favorite:

Feathers and scales aren’t mutually exclusive

Really? Then why do most feathered reconstructions always have them fully feathered? Whenever even the slightest trace of feathers turn up, people are always trying to coat it completely in feather.

We are just saying that feathers are no less wrong than scales

But then why do some people treat feathers as the default? Furthermore, why do certain people flip their shit when certain dinosaurs are depicted without feathers? Namely the ones where hard evidence is lacking.

It’s the same mechanism we use to say Megatherium had fur

Oh silly me. Here I thought extinct mammals were depicted with hair because modern evidence shows it’s pretty universal among them. In fact I have heard it, to this day, used as one of the defining traits of the group. Whereas feathers have only been found in certain families of dinosaurs.

Phylogeny is evidence

Yes, yes it is. But it is not bullet proof. It is not 100% certain. But people seem to think it is. It is a tool used to help fill gaps in our knowledge. What it is not is a magic wand that allows you to restore extinct animals however you want and call it science. There are more factors than just relationships that dictate how an animal looks. It is also shaped by climate, habitat, foraging/hunting strategies, and the demands of reproduction. When these are taken into consideration (and not simply the desire to see the animal in feathers), the reconstruction becomes much easier to stomach. Like this:

See, this is a reconstruction with feathers I can get behind. It’s usually reasoned that T. rex wasn’t covered with feathers because it didn’t need the insulation. But who is to say it couldn’t have had a mane? Modern animals like lions use mane and mane-like structures for mating and social interaction. That was a pressing need for T .rex just like any other animal. The mane could serve an actual function instead of someone’s opinion that a fully feathered T. rex is “awesome”.

Here is another example:


Now I do have complicated thoughts on this one, but it is far easier to understand than a lot of the feather fetishists work. Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum is thought to have lived in an environment where latitude and long periods of darkness created a cold climate. Now so far no direct evidence has been found for feathers in ceratopsians. But it is getting harder to explain how an animal with no insulation could have survived in temperatures hovering around zero. Feathers are the best we can guess. Maybe it had something else we haven’t discovered yet. Point is I can get behind this a lot easier because they are putting actual consideration into why it may or may not have looked that way. Not simple kneejerk decisions based on shallow parroting of basic facts. Case in point:

Tyrannosaurus and Torosaurus have been found nowhere near an environment that could have had even the tiniest bit of snow. This guy did it just to be contrarian (and some half baked belief that he can predict what future discoveries will say about dinosaur reconstruction). It is not “reasonable speculation” like he claims. The Pachyrhinosaurus is reasonable speculation. Completely altering an ancient ecosystem in the face of decades of scientific study to make a fairly weak point not so much.

Finally, you have the ancestors argument. Psittacosaurus has been found with quills. Tianyulong had quills and feathers. Kulindodromeus, a basal ornithiscian (a member of the same group that includes thyreophorans, ornithopods, and ceratopids) was found with feathers. As such, people have been reconstructing everything tenuously related to them with feathers and quills. Their rationale? “It’s ancestor ahd them therefore everything after it had them too.” Is that how phylogeny works? Is evolution really that black and white? I don’t know. It sounds like the kind of broad sweeping generalization science usually frowns upon. Shouldn’t it factor in that only one example of early relatives (ceratopsians, hypsolophodonts, basal ornithopods) have been found? Or that the authors of the Kulindodromeus paper said its integument could have evolved independently? Or does none of it matter because you need to justify your quest to put feathers on everything?

I am not against feathers on dinosaurs. I just have trouble with some of your reasons for doing so. Not because I’m anti-science or a “biased scaly monster lover”. Not because of nostalgia. I am a man of science but that doesn’t mean I can simply be swayed by uttering the word. I need to have sound reasoning beyond the barest of scientific evidence. Is it so much to ask you actually think about why a dinosaur may or may not have had feathers? Instead of “because it’s cool” and then trying to justify it? I don’t think so. Long story short: I don’t have a problem with phylogeny. Just with those who use fling it around with reckless abandon.

3 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle

  1. I feel like you might enjoy the Mizunami Fossil Museum.

    You can pick up a few knock-off katanas there if that’ll make you happier, too.

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