Sunday, March 10, 2013

I've made a perfect Yesterday's piece according to some...

Well I've hit a lot of flak, for my position on SVPoW that this otherwise beautiful picture by  Brian Engh (click for his website). I love this piece... but it is too much of a stretch for me to be humoured as scientific restoration.

I want it made clear I'm not attacking Brian or this piece. Again I think it is a fantastic piece of art, and please go check out the rest of his portfolio. This post is in response to the comments I've received from the scientists and others on this post.

Brian has stated himself this piece was meant as an exploration of what we don't know about Dinosaurs. That is a totally fair. I understand where he is coming with this. I too have been known to take people on for saying we don't know everything about Dinosaurs. Brian has also stated we need to inject imagination into our palaeo-art. I don't disagree. Again one of my favourite palaeo-artists of all time, and personal heroes draws Trilobites with wings.

Brian has also stated he is not deliberately trying to be part of the Yesterdays movement, and that he has always been into speculative art. There are parts of this piece I love on the front. The spine whiskers and such. What I worry about is how the animals AND the setting are very extreme speculation. There isn't any of this grounded on evidence. I could honestly add some of Glendon's wings to these and this piece would fit in with the Trilobites.

So again I'm not saying this to attack Brian. I in fact really want to be fair to him, and get his exact motivations about his work out there. I'm paraphrasing, and you can read his more detailed comments again here.

Where my concern arises has been the response his piece has received from the scientific side of SVPoW. Initially they said they really liked the piece, but as it fits in with the Yesterday's movement they've started supporting it as though it was a very viable piece of scientific palaeo-art. Many of the responses I've received have me incredibly concerned with where this Yesterday's stuff could take the science...

I'm cherry-picking with these quotes, and please do be sure to read all the comments to get the full story. My mission here is to (literally) illustrate the message these people have said (as I've interpreted them... again read the whole thing for the unbiased version... you may not agree with my take)... 

So I basically questioned how elephants going into caves is sufficient evidence to say Sauropods might have gone into caves. Sure they might of, but is this the type of behaviour we want our palaeo-art to be emphasising. Given it is essentially complete speculation with not one piece of fossil evidence. These are some of the answers I got.

"First, it depends on what you mean by “scientifically accurate”. If you mean “demonstrated by evidence”, then no, but there’s tons of important stuff in science that isn’t demonstrated by evidence (yet). If you mean, “plausible given what we know about how animals behave”, then yes..."
"Most of the time when someone says, “that’s unrealistic”, they’re just farting through their larynx, because they’re poorly acquainted with what real animals actually do today."  
"Behaviour doesn’t (directly) fossilise, so we are extremely limited in the behaviours that we can know any extinct animal manifested. Will future palaeontologists in 100 million years recognise how distinctly different the lifestyles of social lions and solitary tigers are? I very much doubt it. (I don’t think they’d even recognise they were dealing with more than one taxon.) But “all Anthropocene big cats had the same behaviour” will, for them, be just one more not-directly-supported-by-evidence hypothesis..." 
“ 'sauropod mooching around on plain” is just as much an unsupported hypothesis as “sauropod harvesting minerals in cave'... ”
"Craig seems, like many non-scientist fans of science, to have confused science with certainty, and plausibility with accuracy. A scientist must be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, so as to avoid the temptation of false certainty. Yes, we know some things. And there are some things we may never know. Science has to work in the gap. If it only ever stays on the side of certainty and accuracy, it can never advance..."
Okay. So what they've said is we can't prove or disprove any behaviour. Therefore so long as I have a modern analogue of an animal doing something it is viable behaviour to slap on a prehistoric animal.


So there is this one primate that plays with spheroid shaped objects to help increase their social bonds. Now maniraptorid hands were perfectly shaped to hold a spheroid, and they might have lived in social groups.


By Craig Dylke

I've made perfect Yesterday's art by the statements made to me.