Popular Science Monthly/Volume 76/June 1910/The Paleontologic Record I: The Paleontological Society Conference Papers

Popular Science Monthly Volume 76 June 1910  (1910) 
The Paleontologic Record I: The Paleontological Society Conference Papers by John Mason Clarke

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By Professor JOHN M. CLARKE


Introductory.—The birth of a new society devoted to special scientific aims counts but little for the advancement of knowledge and culture in these days of multiplex organizations if it fails to come into being and before the world with an adequate excuse and a clean-cut purpose. The Paleontological Society, which was conceived a year ago and born last-winter in Boston at the meetings of the American Association, is the outcome of a conviction on the part of workers in this science that there is a common bond of interest among them all, in spite of the peculiar conditions which have stamped paleontology with their diversity and kept its devotees asunder. Students of this science have approached it along different avenues. Some, and chiefly those dealing with the vertebrates, have laid the foundations of their work in the living world; others, and here chiefly the students of invertebrates, have made their entry as geologists and have worked their way from beneath upward to the earth's surface. Among the paleobotanists good men have arrived through both approaches. As an equipment for trustworthy and lasting work, both of these lines of preparation have proved their efficiency and so all arguments bent to demonstrate the superiority of the one over the other schooling resolve themselves to a conclusion that both are essential to the best result.

Diversity in training and in the field of activity has led to diversity of sympathy, and it seemed, even to those who had long hoped for a unification of these interests, that it might hardly be practicable to obliterate these cleavage planes. The governing principles of the science are common, the bearings of paleontologic researches and results are the widest conceivable in their relation to the problems of life, whether past, present or future, and it is not likely that the magnitude of the science can be unduly stated. From some such considerations as these, the writer, chosen as first president of the new society, endeavored to bring into the foreground of the society's first meeting, by a "Conference on the Aspects of Paleontology," an introductory presentment of some of the broader factors and principles of the science, and the articles that follow herewith are the partial outcome of this conference. In every case where practicable, the themes were presented by two speakers making their approach from different fields of interest. The conference was an effort to define and emphasize the common platform on which the paleontologists must stand together; even more than this, it was a purpose to declare at the outset that the organization, though the patron of detailed researches and patient endeavor, recognizes that the sole impulse which can guarantee its usefulness and maintain its integrity is its devotion to a standard which touches close on human interests.