Ropen Dismissed by Smithsonian

A Smithsonian blog post (Oct 16, 2010) by Brian Switek dismisses both the ropen of Papua New Guinea and any hope for any living dinosaur or pterosaur. He does so with the phrase “ropen myth,” ignoring all major evidences that favor a living animal. In the second paragraph he uses the following words and phrases:

  • self-appointed authorities
  • hucksters
  • overly-credulous wildlife enthusiasts
  • not reputable naturalists
  • showmen . . . standing up to orthodox science

With all those negative comments towards those he disagrees with, I wonder if Mr. Switek has ever heard of the word “bulverism.” In the same paragraph, he also mentions, “young-earth creationists intent on somehow disproving evolution by finding creatures thought to have been long extinct.” But the conflict between extreme origin philosophies is too deep for him to adequately cover in his post. If he had researched this subject more openly and more thoroughly, he would have found my writings about how the discovery of living pterosaurs is related to credibility in the General Theory of Evolution.

In the third paragraph, Switek says, “Sadly, some people still get duped by the fantastic claims espoused by ‘professional monster hunters.'” But he then gives an apparent example, ridiculing the mistake of a writer who supports living-pterosaur research but who is not himself one of the “professional monster hunters.” Switek seems to be trying to put many persons into the same pot, to stew everyone who disagrees with his ideas about dinosaur and pterosaur extinction. In reality, mid-twentieth century explorers, early-twenty-first century explorers, and enthusiastic newspaper writers are different persons, with possibly-different ideas, strengths, and weaknesses, even if they agree in the possibility of living dinosaurs and pterosaurs. And at the end of Switek’s post he reveals something very interesting: He also believes in the possibility that a long-tailed pterosaur might still be living; but the difference is in degree of plausibility, for Switek thinks it highly unlikely.

Switek seems to be attempting to discredit modern living-pterosaur investigators by associating them with earlier persons whom he labels with “hucksters,” “not reputable naturalists,” “overly-credulous wildlife enthusiasts,” and “showmen.” He then seems to be attempting to discredit them by associating them with the recent newspaper writer Terrence Aym. But in Aym’s blog post there is no quotation of modern living-pterosaur investigators, only Aym’s apparently hastily-drawn-up condensation (Aym mentions Jim Blume and David Woetzel, but writes about their work in his own words). The problem is this: Switek makes the same general mistake as Aym, hastily writing up a condensation that is plagued with errors. But in Switek’s post the errors are covered up; in Aym’s post the frigatebird error is blatant.

The difference and similarity, regarding living pterosaurs, in these two blog posts, is interesting. Aym correctly supports nonextinction, but with an obvious grievous error about a detail. Switeck incorrectly supports universal extinction, but with subtle grievous errors from lack of delving into important details. Both jumped into their subjects with enthusiasm; both were too hasty.