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Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion 528

With his trademark hat and beard, Dr. Robert Bakker is one of the most recognized paleontologists working today. Bakker was among the advisers for the movie Jurassic Park, and the character Dr. Robert Burke in the film The Lost World: Jurassic Park is based on him. He was one of the first to put forth the idea that some dinosaurs had feathers and were warm-blooded, and is credited with initiating the ongoing "dinosaur renaissance" in paleontology. Bakker is currently the curator of paleontology for the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Director of the Morrison Natural History Museum in Colorado. He is also a Christian minister, who contends that there is no real conflict between religion and science, citing the writings and views of Saint Augustine as a guide on melding the two. Dr. Bakker has agreed to take some time from his writing and digging in order to answer your questions. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
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Ask Dr. Robert Bakker About Dinosaurs and Merging Science and Religion

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  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @01:56PM (#42799053)
    A central tenant of science is that you could be wrong, that seems to conflict with religion. Which is not to say you can't have faith and be a scientist. Just that you would have to keep a fair amount of mental separation between the two. I would even go so far as to say that to be a good scientist you would have to question your faith.
    • by eksith ( 2776419 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:09PM (#42799239) Homepage

      Without stepping on anyone's toes...

      Science is the process of understanding the environment through observation, calculation and inference. Theories are formed and they're tested. Even if one believes in God, He is quite safe from science as a result, since... well... it would only be as if you're studying what God has created. One's faith in a higher power need not be shaken when all you're doing is studying His work. If it's observable, repeatable and logical, we can reasonably infer, it is true.

      In this regard, science and faith need not be mutually exclusive.

      To religion OTOH, science would be Kryptonite, since that's an institution of man and, like all institutions, there's a hierarchy of (usually) other men. And men will fight back when their status within this hierarchy is threatened. With science, there's suddenly no need for an interpreter to reality, since you can do the observations yourself.

      Full disclosure: I don't believe in a personal God.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Science is the process of understanding, or at least generating workable knowledge, through observation, theorizing, and testing. The process of science is antithetical to faith since it requires that you test everything. You accept (and only provisionally at that) only things that have good evidence supporting them. Faith is the opposite - belief regardless of supporting, absent, or contradicting evidence.

        The only way you can reconcile faith (in anything, a god, your mother, a book) is to put artificial

        • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @03:53PM (#42800687)

          Science is the process of understanding, or at least generating workable knowledge, through observation, theorizing, and testing. The process of science is antithetical to faith since it requires that you test everything.

          No. The scientific method was established in the west by medieval bishops. In more recent times the Catholic church has stated that scientific discoveries are not in conflict with faith, this includes evolution. Various other Christian churches hold similar beliefs. Basically that faith addresses areas that are beyond human observation and discovery, the intentions and expectations of God.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Creedo ( 548980 )
            This isn't true. Or, at least, it is not the whole story. The Catholic church certainly holds certain beliefs as foundational, regardless of the scientific merit. One of the major ones would be the belief that all of human kind was decended from a single man and woman(Catechism of the Catholic Church 390). They also declare certain events as bona fide miracles, regardless of the relative merits of the claims.
            • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @04:48PM (#42801357)
              The Catechism you reference explicitly says that genesis uses figurative language. The difference between science and faith seems to only be with respect to a "soul" not the material body.

              "390 The account of the fall in Genesis uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents."
              http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P1C.HTM [vatican.va]

              "Theistic evolution or evolutionary creation is a concept that asserts that classical religious teachings about God are compatible with the modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. In short, theistic evolutionists believe that there is a God, that God is the creator of the material universe and (by consequence) all life within, and that biological evolution is simply a natural process within that creation. Evolution, according to this view, is simply a tool that God employed to develop human life.
              Papal pronouncements, along with commentaries by cardinals, indicate that the Church is aware of the general findings of scientists on the gradual appearance of life. Indeed, Belgian priest Georges Lemaître, astronomer and physics professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, was the first to propose the theory of expansion of the universe, often incorrectly credited to Edwin Hubble. Under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the International Theological Commission published a paper accepting the big bang of 15 billion years ago and the evolution of all life including humans from the microorganisms that formed approximately 4 billion years ago. The Vatican has no official teaching on this matter except for the special creation of the human soul"
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theistic_evolution [wikipedia.org]
              • by Creedo ( 548980 )
                I noticed that you glossed over the part of that wiki article which refers to exactly the concept that I was referring to:

                and the reality of a single human ancestor (commonly called monogenism) for all of mankind.

                Yes, the Catholic church accepts theistic evolution. No, the very specific doctrine of Christian monogenism(not the scientific idea of monogenism) is not supported by science.

                • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @08:59PM (#42803869)

                  I noticed that you glossed over the part of that wiki article which refers to exactly the concept that I was referring to: and the reality of a single human ancestor (commonly called monogenism) for all of mankind. Yes, the Catholic church accepts theistic evolution. No, the very specific doctrine of Christian monogenism(not the scientific idea of monogenism) is not supported by science.

                  I think genetic science and the figurative language of genesis are not far off from each other.

                  "Two pieces of the human genome are quite useful in deciphering human history: mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome. These are the only two parts of the genome that are not shuffled about by the evolutionary mechanisms that generate diversity with each generation: instead, these elements are passed down intact. According to the hypothesis, all people alive today have inherited the same mitochondria from a woman who lived in Africa about 160,000 years ago. She has been named Mitochondrial Eve. All men living today have inherited their Y chromosomes from a man who lived 140,000 years ago, probably in Africa. He has been named Y-chromosomal Adam."
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recent_African_origin_of_modern_humans#Genetic_reconstruction [wikipedia.org]

            • I'm a Christian who believes in evolution. I think that at some point in time long ago humans became sentient and recognized the difference between right and wrong. That was the basis of the story of Genesis - that humans ate from the tree and gained knowledge of good and evil. The writers were just trying to explain something they couldn't understand.
          • What about the total lack of any evidence of the existence of Jesus? They still go on like that's fact when the first historical written account was written by someone born 30 years after his supposed death, hearsay at work!
      • What if (and this is perhaps a big "if", depending on your personal beliefs), the religion that you believe in didn't start as an institution of man, but as an institution of God? In this scenario, I see the possibility of the two systems not conflicting with each other.

        Full disclosure: I don't believe in a personal God either.

      • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
        Religion doesn't require an interpreter of reality, just like science doesn't require you to do the observations yourself.
    • by LikwidCirkel ( 1542097 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:09PM (#42799257)
      I completely disagree. The conflict you speak of is a media fabrication, because controversy sells, and all intelligent people recognize this. Religion and faith can help some people be at peace and believe things which science does not yet explain - and there are certainly many things which science does not explain.

      Science denialism is a problem yes, but it is absolutely possible to be religious without denying science. I was raised into a religious group of sorts which never denied any scientific observations. They would actually adjust and adapt their teaching as science advanced. I am no longer an adherent, but I have observed such religious thinkers, and quite frankly, the conflict and divisiveness is more of a problem than religion itself.
      • Why must religion hide in the shadowy world of the undefined? Is that what you want to limit religion to - living in the places science has not yet penetrated?

        Regardless, religion and science are at odds as ways of knowing. With science it is all about evidence. With religion - faith - the presence of belief in the absence of evidence, or even reason.

        That being said, religions that emphasize only believing in what you can experience do exist - some interpretations of Buddhism fall under this category.
      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        They would actually adjust and adapt their teaching as science advanced.

        This alone should be the reason science and religion can not mix.
        If anything, it proves that religion is man-made. How many times has the religion already done this? Any religion?
        If you know that you might need to change or adapt your belief system, does it not mean that your believe system is flawed? Yet I still have to meet one religious person who really means it when he says: Well, I might be wrong. Perhaps my $DEITY does not exist.

    • by Enry ( 630 ) <enryNO@SPAMwayga.net> on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:10PM (#42799271) Journal

      That depends on how literally you take your religion. Much of the voices you hear in the press and in places like the Creation Museum believe that the Bible was written directly by God and every word is the literal truth. In that case, you're right.

      I'm religious(I'm not a minister, but I do attend services regularly along with serving on the governing body of the local parish). To me, there's symbolism all over the place in the Bible, so why isn't much of the Bible itself symbolism?

      Absence of proof doesn't mean it didn't happen, but proof of something happening is pretty darn convincing. I can say God exists and Jesus rose from the dead, but I can't prove it. But I'm not going to try and convince you I'm right about that. There's plenty of evidence that the Big Bang happened and the universe is 14ish billion years old and monkey and humans share a common ancestor. There's plenty of things that science doesn't explain (yet): what happened before the Big Bang? What caused the bolt of lightning that caused the amino acids to come together? What caused humans to evolve the way we did? Those are all things where God acts within the laws of nature He created to make us the way we are.

      Disagree? I'm cool with that. This works for me. I don't expect it to work for everyone.

      • The problem with this is that the Bible is largely not symbolic. It is written as an account of actual facts, that really happened in the real world. And this is how it was taught for many, many centuries.

        And then comes along to Age of Reason and Enlightenment, and suddenly people demand consistency, and somewhat sound logic. And proofs. And the Bible was from that point on seen as more and more symbolic. And the parts which are truly Evil reinterpreted to fit the evolving morals of the time.

        So now, it turn

    • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:41PM (#42799679)
      I can't speak for the prof, but most of the religious people I know do question and critically examine their faith. If your mileage varies, perhaps you need to mix with more thoughtful religious people.
      • "but most of the religious people I know do question and critically examine their faith."

        and they still believe???? cant have done much soul searching then
        • Or maybe they're brighter than you are...
        • I recently read When God Talks Back [amazon.com] by T.M. Luhrmann, and she talks about this. She's a (non-religious) anthropologist who spend several years attending and participating in charismatic evangelical churches to try to understand what makes these sorts of religious people tick, and it's fascinating. While some of them are legitimately crazy, she concludes that most of them are not--they are ordinary thoughtful people who do question and examine their faith, and conclude that it holds up.

          I highly recommend it.

    • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
      You do realize why there is more than one church right? Christians have been debating right and wrong interpretations for almost 2000 years.
    • Science is the antithesis of religion... A central tenant of science is that you could be wrong, that seems to conflict with religion. Which is not to say you can't have faith and be a scientist. Just that you would have to keep a fair amount of mental separation between the two. I would even go so far as to say that to be a good scientist you would have to question your faith.

      The Catholic church is fine with science. I believe they have officially stated that scientific discovery is not in conflict with faith, this includes evolution. The church operates an observatory and does real science and collaborates with various universities. The man who developed the Big Bang Theory was a Catholic priest in addition to being a cosmologist and physics professor. The scientific method was established in Western culture by medieval clergymen.

      I believe various other Christian churches ho

  • Mixed Footprints (Score:2, Interesting)

    by croftj ( 2359 )

    So what is your take on the human footprint inside of the dinosaur footprint in the one creation museum near the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Obviously it represents an unsuccessful divergence in evolution and shows that all one footed dinosaurs died out long ago, mostly due to having only one foot. More successful species (that had more than one foot) were much more "fit" and lived far longer, thus showing a perfect example of evolution favoring those who have evoled more fully.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It's fake. You aren't that idiotic, right? Right?

  • As humans, we express wonder at certain arrangements of digits, 666, 3.14[3/14] (Pi day) 12/21/2012, etc. However all of these are base-10, the same as the number of fingers we have. (Though some tribes did use fingers as base-2 digits) Computers are base2, with hexadecimal being a convenient short hand. If divinity is universal, surely God has a universal number base. I would assume e. What do you think God uses, if he uses math at all?

  • Mass extinctions? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Darth Snowshoe ( 1434515 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:06PM (#42799201)

    Hello Dr. Bakker,

    Has your thinking regarding mass extinctions, particularly the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, changed or evolved from the time of your writing THE DINOSAUR HERESIES?

    Thanks sincerely -

  • Dinosaur Behavior (Score:5, Interesting)

    by capt.Hij ( 318203 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:06PM (#42799209) Homepage Journal
    There is a lot of speculation about dinosaur behavior. For example people talk about how velociraptors hunted in packs or how they hunted. When these things are discussed in the media the ideas are stated with a great deal of certainty. How do you react when these theories are stated as being definite facts? What do you, as a scientists, try to do to try to get reporters to understand the nature of science and the role of dialogue/debate and uncertainty within the scientific community?
  • Charles Darwin a life long student of nature very aptly commented concerning evolution "what a book a devil's chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature"

    How can one reconcile the long suffering and blundering low and cruel works of nature with the notion of a powerful omniscient and omnibenevolent being?

  • by starglider29a ( 719559 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:14PM (#42799345)
    It is my observation that reader comments on science article quickly follow a Godwin-like trajectory to a flame war between those who hold to religious (though many are scientists) beliefs and those who hold to scientific (usually atheist) beliefs. The two factions spew hate, obscenity, and generally impugn the intelligence of the other.

    Question: What advice can you offer to help the readers, and thus the comment posters, to strike a balance? Can there be some kind of 'kumbaya manifesto' to skip the quarreling and get to the matter at hand? Climate change, dark matter, even human colonization need well-tempered minds, of all persuasions. How do we get there?
  • Raptor Red (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gertlex ( 722812 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:15PM (#42799355)

    Dr. Bakker,

    I'd just like to say thanks for the good childhood memories from your book, Raptor Red... I still have my signed copy of it, and should definitely re-read it some time.

    I guess I should ask a question, too... If Raptor Red were being written today, are there any new discoveries in the last two decades that would neccessitate significant changes from how you wrote the original?

  • Christianity is very species centric. That is, according to Christian beliefs humans are allegedly the center of the universe and a focus of God's concern. With the modern realization that humans and the earth are not at the center of anything how does a Christian handle the obvious species centricity of Christianity.

    • by Jonner ( 189691 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:49PM (#42799797)

      Christianity is very species centric. That is, according to Christian beliefs humans are allegedly the center of the universe and a focus of God's concern. With the modern realization that humans and the earth are not at the center of anything how does a Christian handle the obvious species centricity of Christianity.

      We don't know of any other sentient species yet. If we meet some, we might find that God had a very different way of revealing himself and interacting with them. Read Out of the Silent Planet [wikipedia.org] and Perelandra [wikipedia.org] for a Science Fiction take on this idea. Keep in mind that they were written a long time ago, so their portrayals of Mars and Venus, the planets they are supposed to take place on don't match what we know now very well.

      • by IICV ( 652597 )

        We don't know of any other sentient species yet.

        That's only true if you define "sentient" as "human".

        Animals have been described using tools, passing tool-use down to their children, giving their children names, engaging in economic activity (including prostitution), using rudimentary languages and all sorts of other, "sentient" behaviors. In fact, at least one African Gray Parrot was taught how to spell - the scientist studying him described an incident where he exclaimed "want nut! Enn you tee!" (there we

  • by dietdew7 ( 1171613 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:20PM (#42799417)
    Is it possible that they used tools like some mammals?
  • by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:22PM (#42799441) Homepage Journal
    How can a whole class evolve of animal evolve to another class so completely (reptile->bird)? What could have to changed in their DNA/lifestyle that would cause something so drastic?
  • by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:23PM (#42799459)

    I have a bunch, but yes, only one question per post. So:

    Dr. Bakker, people are incredibly fascinated with dinosaurs, and with good reason. But there's a huge swath of very interesting creatures that lived life on earth prior to the end-Permian event. Lots of really interesting creatures like members of the labrynthodonts and sauropsids. Although children's imaginations and movies like Jurassic park focus on dinos and their immediate relatives, have you ever thought about promoting the diversity of creatures prior to the end-Permian in cultural ways? In other words, will we ever see a giant flesh-eating Anomalocaris in a movie? Can you make that happen please?

  • by starglider29a ( 719559 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:23PM (#42799461)
    I am aware of many ideas that "young Earth believers" foster to explain the stratigraphy of fossils in a 6K-year old Earth.

    Question: What explanations have you heard? What answer can you offer from the middle ground between a scientist (whose expertise relies on that stratigraphic record) and a man of faith who reads the same Bible that the "young Earth believers" do?
  • Of all the things to choose to study, you picked dinosaurs. What inspired you to go that route rather than something that could potentially be easier to merge with your religious beliefs?
  • The Bible lists a bunch of individuals who lived 900+ years. Do you take this literally? If not, how do you interpret this?

    • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
      Really long telomeres lost when people stopped getting pregnant as soon as they started menstruation.
  • You are an expert in two fields: paleontology & theology; please compare and contrast the quality of the evidence that supports the theories in each field and how the theories are objectively and repeatably tested.

    Please pay particular attention to: independent verifiabilty of evidence; tests that could be performed which would show these these theories to be false (and, presumably, how the theories have been found to surive such tests); how the theories have been modified over time in the light of new

    • by miserere nobis ( 1332335 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @04:21PM (#42801011)

      Here's the thing about evidence and verifiability. Science is a framework which has proven extremely useful, for good reason. It distills out a sort of best practices for a kind of practical philosophy of approach that results in its practitioners being able to make more effective predictions about the universe around them. I would hope anyone interested in truth of any sort is keenly attentive to the benefits of exploring the world scientifically.

      But the problem is that this is not enough. We are forced to live in all the dimensions of life, constantly, many of which are partly or entirely made up of decisions and beliefs (or at least tentative beliefs) for which we have no choice but to rely on unfalsifiable, unprovable hypotheses. I would venture to propose that most of our everyday decisions about how to live our lives, what to pursue, how to interact with other people, what is worth spending a life on, what is good and what is bad...basically our entire set of operating assumptions about the meaning of our lives is untestable, because we can't step outside of those lives, we can't see them from an objective point of view, we can't repeat conditions, we don't live consistently enough to isolate any of the possibilities as we'd have to do in order to measure things in a controlled test, and we won't be around in the end to see whether we were right (nor is there is any obvious way of measuring this even from the perspective of the "end of the story"). Plus, well, once we're dead, the outcome is not helpful, so we all live according to our best estimation of what life is about.

      This doesn't by any means demonstrate that a particular faith of any sort has a basis in truth. The point is that there is no choice but to live by faith, because the knowledge we have about the whole deal, or even that we can possibly acquire in time to make any difference, is miniscule. The faith we're holding to might not be religious or deistic in any way, but no matter who we are, we're living according to some operating assumptions, and putting enough faith in them to make decisions based upon them, letting our lives slip away having applied them irrevocably to one or another path. And so, knowing that there is utterly no way to apply the framework of science to all of the matters concerning us, we have no choice but to use other methods of exploration as well, in order to build anywhere near complete enough a working model of how things are. Philosophy, theology, these are just that sort of exploration: ways of searching for understanding in the midst of this situation. One can't live without them, live "only by science", any more than one can make a successful and worthwhile journey by car taking into account only those truths that are clearly visible within the small bit of road directly illuminated by one's headlights.

      (Even worse would be to insist that only the things that can be illuminated by headlights exist at all. Occam's Razor often gets shoved into the "science vs. religion" debates in a way that doesn't work. It's a very useful expression of the mentality one uses within science because it creates methodical practice out of what could be chaos. What it is not is any kind of proof of how things actually are. It is helpful to investigation to avoid multiplying entities unnecessarily. But is it true that there are no entities beyond those which are required to explain the currently visible portion of a phenomenon? We can't actually make that kind of positive assertion without resorting to exactly the kind of unfalsifiable truth claim that science supposedly doesn't care much for.)

      But interesting you should mention critical peer review- in this area you'll not find theology wanting, at least not when it comes to trying. There is not a doctrine out there that isn't dissected, taken apart, put back together every which way, and run through the rigorous gauntlet of critical review, in many cases hundreds or thousands of years of such review. Of course, the whole thing lacking some of wh

  • Here's another: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:32PM (#42799583)

    This may be slightly outside your field of expertise, but I'd like to ask anyways:

    There's a huge argument right now about what caused the end-Permian event, with lots of scientists thinking it was the Siberian Traps as the main culprit. Even with the end-Cretaceous event being thought of as a result of of a bolide impact, there's some scientists who think that the Deccan traps had to play a role. Now, I've read a number of books, especially "When Life Almost Died" that shows what appears to me to be a fairly strong relationships between bolide impacts and extinctions, but which also show the great possibility of these large eruptions causing the extinctions. There are some scientists who think that there is an antipodal relationship between bolide impacts and "bulges" or "plumes" going through the earth and causing large eruptions on the other side of the planet over time, thus contributing to or causing extinctions. (I also find it very interesting that in general, when positing the Siberian traps as the cause of the end-Permian event, no one ever really talks about what might actually have caused such a massive series of eruptions..)

    As far as I know, the research on this effect is pretty limited, but to me as a non-scientist, I can say the relationship appears to be more than coincidental. But a real scientist can't say that, of course.
    1) What is your opinion on antipodal bolide events causing or contributing to mass extinctions?
    2) Do you have any recent information on research that is being done in this area that you could point me to? Any links? Thanks.

  • by scrib ( 1277042 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:35PM (#42799615)

    I am an atheist, but I will concede that science does not conflict with religion as a general idea (the belief in God, or things outside of science), but science often does conflict with specific religious beliefs.

    My grandparents raised some of their children religious and some not religious. My parents are atheist but I have aunts and unlces who are missionaries and cousins who are young Earth creationists. They reject sciences like paleontology, geology, and astronomy as hoaxes because they all point to an Earth much older than their church tells them. Of course, they "know" evolution is wrong, though they have a weak grasp on what it actually is.

    The question: how can the deeply religious be convinced (or reassured) that accepting what science teaches does not require rejecting their faith?
    Part B: have you ever convinced someone to change their mind about accepting those sciences?

    • The question: how can the deeply religious be convinced (or reassured) that accepting what science teaches does not require rejecting their faith?

      I don't know Dr. Bakker's specific denomination, but given he mentions Augustine the Catholic approach is at least relevant.

      Catholicism nowadays is the most science-friendly of the Christian branches. The idea among Catholic theologians is simply that nature, like the Bible, was and continually is made through God's Word ("And said God let there be..."). Thus, both nature and the sacred text are equally important and equally canonical, whatever is revealed in and through nature having to be accepted, period

  • Here's another (Score:4, Interesting)

    by xevioso ( 598654 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:37PM (#42799639)

    Dr. Bakker, what is the current status of the digging going on in southern Utah...do you expect to see new species found soon, or are they finding mostly duplicates of known species? Specifically, I'm really interested in the ceratopsids. I am fascinated by weird ones like Medusaceratops, and so I'm wondering if you think that they will find additional new specimens similar or even weirder than that one. Also, tell the naming committee to keep naming dinosaurs with very cool names. Medusaceratops is fantastic. Maybe...Shoggotheratops or Balrogeratops for the next one? Just a suggestion.

  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @02:39PM (#42799667)

    Whats your favorite personal discovery?
    Usually /. interviews are more IT/CS/programmer types so I ask them for their favorite piece of code they personally wrote.
    I guess for a paleontologist the comparison would be your favorite discovery.
    Not one line, not a book, just a paragraph. No weasel words, no membership either as leader or distant drone, by direct personal discovery as in YOU found it.
    I know there's more lab work in your field than most people think so a story not involving test tubes or whatever instead of swinging hammer is perfectly OK.
    Also no "big project" allowed like a book. I'm looking for one individual personal precise discovery.
    Insights or scientific papers are OK, doesn't have to be a physical thing.
    As an example of what I'm looking for, if you have a PHD and it is your favorite thing in the world, go for it and gimmie a paragraph about it. If its not your favorite thing, well something you did similar that you actually happen to enjoy...
    Don't be afraid to geek out, this is freaking /. if you fell in eternal love with the first trilobite fossil you ever saw, we're not gonna judge (well, not too much... mostly)

  • Do they ask you to pick them up, Dr. Robert?
    Or about drinking from your special cup, Dr. Robert?

  • Why Slashdot? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Really, just look at the questions. Half of them are attempts to get you to say that Christianity is (in part or in whole) false, with the implication that if you say otherwise you are discrediting yourself as a paleontologist. Most of the readers of this forum have already decided their beliefs to the point where they believe that they do not have beliefs but are entirely guided by evidence, and will down-mod anyone who provides any counter-evidence.

    • Re:Why Slashdot? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by noldrin ( 635339 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @03:38PM (#42800507)
      The funny part is how neatly this falls into "more of the same." If you read the biblical narrative of Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees would do similar tactics, asking no win trap questions, which Jesus was able to intellectually smack them down. You come to know the difference in people who are curious and seek knowledge, and those who have hate in their heart and seek to tear down. I'm sure Dr Bakker is content to speak to those free thinkers whose narrow world view isn't threatened by his views, nor will anyone on Slashdot be so clever as to trip him up in ways he has not already considered far more than they.
  • Why did God wipe out the dinosaurs?
    Why did he create them if he was just going to wipe them out?

  • Young Earth creationists have some rather incorrect beliefs regarding dinosaurs.
    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2000/04/03/dinosaurs-on-noahs-ark [answersingenesis.org]

    Do you see any to get them to accept the scientific consensus?

  • Dinosaurs, again? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darth Snowshoe ( 1434515 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @03:31PM (#42800389)

    Hello again Dr. Bakker,

    What do you make of efforts by Jack Horner and others to 'reverse-evolve' a dinosaur from chicken embryos?

    Thanks -

  • If you could travel in time, would you rather visit an episode from the remote past of dinosaurs, or some episode from religious history? Which episode, and why?
  • by medcalf ( 68293 )

    Much of the commentary strikes me as theology for twelve year olds working it out for themselves. Hell, I'm not a Christian and I can answer most of the"gotchas" from a Christian point of view. Rather than just bitch about it, though, let me give one example.

    Whether the Bible is or is not based on divine revelation, it was written by pre-industrial people for pre-industrial people.

    So an omnipotent and omniscient being's intent is undone by mere mortals. Good to know we're that powerful. Why didn't The Hol

  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @03:48PM (#42800627)
    Will Pterosaurs ever be reclassified as Dinosaurs? They seem to far better fit as dinosaurs than reptiles yet a 100+ year classification seems to still lock them into being reptiles. The main argument I've heard was concerning hip rotation but that seems to be disputed. Is it really dogma keeping Pterosaurs classified as reptiles?
  • Which side do you find less open to considering the ideas of the other?

    (Assuming there are two sides, of course.)
  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @03:55PM (#42800705)
    I keep wondering if the bird/dinosaur connection is far more about parallel development than a direct tie? They've found feathered reptiles and Archaeopteryx was not a proto-bird but a failed evolutionary line. Tree up seems the likely path for bird evolution as opposed to ground up yet where are all the tree climbing dinosaurs? Feathered reptiles seemed to climb trees so they appear to be the more likely ancestors of birds than dinosaurs?
  • by niado ( 1650369 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @04:56PM (#42801451)
    Let's say that various dinosaur populations were dropped into remote places in the modern world right now. How do you think they would do in today's ecology? Could they survive contact with modern humans? What other creatures do you think that dinosaurs themselves would drive to extinction?

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields