The DGS label, comments by Darren Naish at TetZoo

A recent TetZoo blog post by Darren Naish reported the colorizing of skull bones does not represent an application of DGS (digital graphic segregation), which I earlier posted. I think its the label that bothers him. Naish thought it was so important to remind others what a bad influence I am on our profession that he interrupted a discussion on ichthyosaurs with an illustration of Longisquama.

D. Naish wrote: “Claims [by Peters] that colour-coded images like those you seen (sic) in this article (and Fischer et al. 2014a, and Valentin’s other papers) represent application of DGS are an outright lie. DGS (or DGS-like) techniques are not used by working palaeontologists because it’s acknowledged in the real world that you can’t reliably identify structures by tracing their outlines on a computer screen. But do working palaeontologists colour-code bones to aid visual representation? Sure, all the time.”

The caption
to his example photo (ichthyosaur skull above, colorized skull below) reads, “No, David, no: this sort of thing is NOT the same as DGS. Skull of the ophthalmosaurine Leninia stellans from the Lower Albian of Russia (from Fischer et al. 2013b), labelled interpreted below. Again – this is NOT DGS.”

According to Naish
the difference between what I do and what the pros do is this (and I quote from the above): I “identify structures by tracing outlines on a computer screen” while the pros “color-code bones to aid visual representation.”

I’ll remind Naish 
that the pros are also color-coding bones on screen, not with an airbrush and masking tape. And I also color-code bones, not just trace outlines. (See how Naish adds separation that really isn’t there?)

So, what’s the difference?

I can think of one other difference. Typically the working pro has the specimen in front of them. But that doesn’t stop them from taking a photograph and colorizing it, a technique that I fully support because the accuracy cannot be beat. A telephoto lens and some distance effectively gets rid of all perspective and key-stoning issues.

Another difference:
I sometimes put more effort into difficult fossils than others are do. See examples here and here. Other times I take what is given and simply expand the inclusion set to find a new nesting.

DGS is colorizing (or outlining) digital photographs on screen to aid visual representation. That the bones are identified in the process is an added bonus. This is a much better technique than simply using arrows to identify bones. Also better than using a prism and a pencil. Furthermore, these colors can then be digitally transferred to reconstructions to assure fit without fudging.

Bottom line:
Evidently Naish supports others who colorize bones to share their findings, but he doesn’t like it when I do the same.

Is it because I sometimes make mistakes? 
Reliability seems to be the cornerstone of his arguments. Sure I make mistakes, but some of what I trace is difficult material. If it’s easy their’s no reason to revisit it and I ignore or accept it. Only when I think I can make a contribution do I put out the effort. That’s why much of my work is with the long forgotten specimens.

I’m sure Naish can find a few other workers who have made mistakes that have made it to the literature, just look for any paper with the word “reinterpretation” in the title. If so where are the diatribes against those workers?

On the other hand I love finding mistakes.
And I don’t mind when others find mistakes in my work — if valid. Making corrections is what I do, both in my work and the work of others. This is the essence of science.

Let’s recall
that two years ago Naish dredged through my wastebasket of discarded ideas and employed the work of other artists to satirize and discount my work rather than bringing up specific examples of web work that included errors (and, if valid, these would have been repaired post haste).

Or is it because I’ve made discoveries that might be correct?
Every discovery I make is one less for him, or anyone else to make. And we’re all in this to make discoveries. It’s what powers our drive.

There are just so few mysteries out there, after all. When they’re all cataloged, we’ll all have to retire.  ;  /

If you’re having trouble figuring all this out,
you’ll know the bad guys from the good guys by the refusal of the former to grant any sort of credit. A few days ago a contribution from Naish got a big thumbs up here. 

And his post on ichthyosaurs was first-rate, except for that little detour he took in the middle. An editor might have suggested cutting that out as irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

No, this goes deeper.
And, apparently two years of making corrections to has not placated Naish. Something about what I do and have done just raises his ire.

Sorry to see that.
We’re all working toward the same goal, trying to figure out and describe the Tree of Life.

If I really – lied – by calling the colorizing of bones by others for visual representation “another example of DGS,” please let me know so I can stop doing that.




28 thoughts on “The DGS label, comments by Darren Naish at TetZoo

  1. No, no, NO!!!! DAVID, you are NOT lying, nor are you wrong. Darren is engaging in the practice I call stop-signing…which is claiming a stop sign is not painted with white on red letters, but the letters are milk colored and the background is colored like blood. And that was and is not a joke.

    Whatever horned toad Darren Naish has up his ass about you, I do not know, but his behavior definitely singles you out. “If my friend and colleague Misfit Muzzlesucker colors the photos, it is legitimate and is certainly not DGS. If David Peters does it it is WRONG!!!”

    I’ve been treated the same way by certain people many times, so I know both the feeling and that you are being truthful. I’ve surfed the web a little bit too and seen, for myself, what you are talking about. KEEP ON TRUCKING, DAVID! :o)

    • I could use your tactics, Darren, but respect for David’s requests keep me from doing so. I request you do the same.

  2. I try to encourage everyone I know in Science to tamp down their emotions, to understand that others may not like what you do, and to realize the whole point is to make discoveries and correct errors.

  3. You (and Riolo) seem to imply that my negative comments reflect some sort of personal vendetta. In my case, it’s nothing to do with “liking” or “not liking” anything. It’s to do with seeing if claims and results match evidence. The DGS technique is giving you demonstrably erroneous results, and yet still you stick with it. But we’ve been through all this before. And maybe you should tell your number 1 fan to tone done the emotive language: Exhibit A being the message above.

    • I echo David’s requests. Demonstrate where he IS wrong, not where he WAS wrong. I don’t want to hear other peoples opinions on David’s theories, on your theories, yea or nay, but I want to see proof from the fossils themselves. Photographs are preferred; from BOTH sides. I am not fully up on all the scientific terms, so please try and speak clearly in educated layman’s terms. That applies to both of you.

      If possible, simply supply a clear diagram labeling the parts, and I will follow you, so you both can be in your comfort zones.

      Exhibit A I suppose to be my message. Show me where I am wrong. For me, that was scarcely emotive at all.

      P.S.—Showing me where you think he’s wrong is fine. Showing me he HAS to be wrong because he is David Peters is entirely inappropriate.

  4. If its demonstrable, then please demonstrate with current images and text. So far you’re giving me undemonstrated opinion. That’s not good enough. And please, don’t raid the wastebasket from so many years ago. I’m not judging you on images found on your mother’s refrigerator. Don’t do the same here. So far I’m getting results that resemble interpretations in sister taxa, which is a pretty good test. If you have any other valid data, please share it and I will make the changes, as I’ve been doing all along with valid data. Don’t be the bad guy here.

      • but it´s exactly the same! The artist create the silhouettes over that they “think” to they watch in the ashes and smoke. You do the same: draw imaginary bones over pixelated photos of fossils!

        Microscope and a pencil it´s more reliable, A fossil in a Microscope can be turned, examined more precisely. A pixelated photos….only can get shadows, shadows that only YOU can see as fossils…and this is not science!

        That it´s all, thank you for your artistic and unreliable work, Oh King Preters, magnificent sovereign of pareidolia !

  5. I literally don’t have time to produce the kind of detailed analysis (with images) you’re asking for. However, please find the comment I left here some time back about placodonts (I just looked, and can’t find the article myself). Via DGS, you identified a reasonable number (5-10) of bones and bits of bones that disagreed with published interpretations — but when I looked at actual skulls, all of your suggestions definitely stemmed from misidentifications of cracks, broken splits and even shadows. I say that this is ‘demonstrable’ because CT scans of placodont skulls (those produced for Neenan’s PhD) confirm what I said. And this isn’t a one off – I look at your DGS-based interpretations of taxa that I know ‘in person’ (Tapejara, Thalassodromeus, Tupuxuara, Istiodactylus, for starters) and see you identifying structures that – I am 100% certain – are misidentifications of cracks, sutures, shadows and other artifacts. You want specific, detailed illustrations of examples… I appreciate this, but (1) I’m not taking time out of an already stressed schedule to demonstrate something I don’t need to (sorry), and (2) it’s not as if I think you’re demonstrably wrong on one or two or three or four counts… I think you’re wrong on hundreds of counts. This will continue as long as you keep seeing shadows and cracks and lines and, via DGS, proclaiming to the world that you’re identifying actual anatomical structures (recent examples I recall: fingers of Icarosaurus, alleged extra nostril of Pterodactylus). I’m only saying the same thing I’ve said about ten times before.

    • Link to the pics of David’s work that you are citing AND to the CT scans.

      And, since you are the accuser, I am afraid the onus falls upon to demonstrate truth here. It does not follow protocol to holler “Wolf!” then say you don’t have to show us the wolf.

  6. Bryan – you seem not to appreciate that David is the one making the bold and questionable claims. As he will tell you, we are under no ‘pressure’ to accept his ideas or observations, and if you want to accept them purely because you love his stuff so much… well, you’ve made that decision for reasons that only you can understand. You might think to ask yourself if you’re biased, since you sure act like it. DGS routinely, ordinarily, matter-of-coursely gives erroneous results, as is obvious to anyone who actually looks at the fossils in question. I wish David would give up on it and move to proper science, since it’s not as if he’s devoid of talent, enthusiasm or knowledge.

    • And since you are “not under pressure” to accept his results, why are you attacking him and his methods? And “I might stop to think and ask myself if I’m biased?” You forced the issue by your own actions, Darren, not David. If not for your articles attacking him, I probably never would have contacted him. If not for your attacks, I probably never would have heard or seen his scientific thoughts. If not for Darren Naish advertising David Peters and his theories, I would never have come to know him as a thinking, talented, reasoning human being. Thank you.

      And PLEASE say again here how you a “not attacking” him. I am giving you a chance to maybe re-think your wording. No, not maybe.

      And once again, in this comment, you impugn David’s methods without giving an example. And WHO defines “proper science”? You? Are you implying “proper science” has never had errors or that “proper scientists” have never, ever been wrong?

      I’ve yet to see you reply to the compliments for work well done I’ve sent your way, but you rise and snap at the slightest criticism. Up to you, Darren, not me, if you want to work so hard at biasing me against you and for David. Me? I think, IMO, that your Tet Zoo site is marvelous and the work you are doing is exemplary.

      And it is David here who directed me to it. And not by lambasting you, but but saying your work will help me learn more about science. And animals. And fossils. I think that is rather cool.

  7. Darren, you don’t want to provide evidence against or an alternative version of anything I’ve done because you would have to adopt the DGS method (or what you call color-coding bones) to show your work and my errors. And that would be an anathema to you, even though you applaud it in the work of others. A little introspection might help at a moment like this. In two years not one example of a current mistake? You’re not helping your cause. And let’s remind ourselves at this point that my phylogenetic analyses are built on tens of thousands of data points (for one tree only, it gets into the low hundred thousand or so with the three trees) most scored without the use of color-coding bones. When you do provide an example, if you ever do, then let’s see how your changes, if valid, affect scores.

  8. Peter, this entire post rests on the notion that DGS and “color-coding bones” are identical. Even to a (highly educated) layperson such as myself, the difference is obvious. “Color-coding bones” is applying colors to clarify the distinction between skeletal structures whose boundaries are determined by direct visual inspection of the fossil along with knowledge of anatomy. DGS is that process stood on its head: applying the colors based on boundaries “detected” in the imagery, then asserting that those colors represent skeletal structures in the fossil.

    Additionally, deciding that you know Darren’s true motivations for not “wanting” to provide evidence against your work (as opposed to not having time to do so) is impolite at best.

    • Time for you to “color-code” the same specimens David did that you feel are wrong and show us by example.

      And since when is David not allowed to reply to an attack or impute motivations? Darren is invited to defend himself, so it is not as if he is being blindsided here by David or by me.

      • See where I said “layperson”? I don’t have access to these specimens, nor do I claim anatomical expertise. My degrees are in astrophysics, and my professional experience is in computing, not zoology or paleontology (though I’ve been interested in paleontology all my life). Server-side computing, to boot — I doubt I could perform the color-coding, even if I had a copy of Photoshop. That’s setting aside the fact that (as has been repeatedly stated) as the claimant of novelty, the burden of proof is on David, not on Darren (or me).

        David is certainly allowed to reply to an “attack”, but imputing motivations is, as I said, impolite at best, tending toward arrogance. Darren gave his reasons for not doing his own versions of David’s diagrams. To reject those reasons and substitute one’s own psychological analysis is poor form, even if one is a trained psychologist — and I doubt David is claiming to be one.

      • And yet, you yourself admit you are unqualified to assess David’s work. I am an artist; one I doubt whose work you could do anything more than copy..IF that! Does that make my work invalid because YOU cannot do it? That seems to be your reasoning. Witch hunt here, looks like to me.

        WHY do I reject Darren’s reasons for not supplying the proof David wants? Because Darren has the time to attack David’s work again, following up his “article” in which he first attacked David with “More of Same, Piled Higher and Deeper”. In order to mount a valid attack, Darren would have had to go over David’s site in a fair amount of detail. There is something called a “save as” button on internet browsers. Bad work can be saved, cataloged, then cited when his accusations are challenged. Was that done? No? Then an attack was mounted on insufficient evidence, IF Darren did not do a fairly detailed read over of David’s site. If he DID do a detailed audit, computers provide the ways to catalog and save the pertinent evidence.

        So, Darren took the time, according to the aforementioned scenario (just supposing here), but then claims he has no time to answer David’s questions? MS-PhD…More of Same, etc.

        And now we are not allowed to impute motivations for an attack. Hmmmmm….how can I reply to that? No problem: if someone is hostile towards you and yours, you not only have the right to try and figure out their motivations, you have a DUTY to do that. And who are YOU, Siddharta, or ANYONE to say we or David by himself has no right to defend himself? Or me myself?

        When someone’s criticisms…most ALL the criticisms on this page…read as if they are all coming from an old article that cites David’s older work (work David himself has rejected) and ignores the present, then I myself become very suspicious. I suggest you look up and read about Sir Richard Owen’s attacks on Darwin, also almost the entire scientific communities’ attacks on Wegener’s theories of plate tectonics. When you have done so, then maybe you will understand why I myself react to the “critiques” of David’s work leveled here.

        And also note; my criticisms of you, Darren and the other guy here have little to nothing to do with whether David is right or wrong. The evidence suggests Darren et al are working off of and citing old evidence, without reviewing new work. In other words, YOUR methods are extremely suspect to me.

        Sort of like an “artist” who can only trace other art and claiming originality. Even if the art being traced from is great or rancid or plagiarized itself, the “artist” in question is engaging in false claims. YOU quote what is obviously to me old material, old claims, yet you are trying to pass it off as new. IF you cannot refute David’s work using HIS methods…and that is something I’ve run across with some other auditors; “I do not even begin to have David’s extensive knowledge of pterosaurs, dinosaurs, pelycosaurs, etc.,etc., etc., so I cannot even begin to critique anyone’s efforts to test David’s claims.” I myself was going to test David’s technique, but I needed someone with extensive knowledge of the bones to assess MY efforts, someone NOT me and not David. An informal review, in other words, but a rather strict one. And someone who has no ax to grind.

        I am wondering if it will be worthwhile to try and assess Darren’s output. To see if HE has ever made any errors in his blogs. And see if HE, like David, has corrected them.

  9. I have mentioned numerous cases where DGS has provided incorrect results: we all know the arguments that have surrounded Cosesaurus (where David claims to find numerous tiny pelvic/prepelvic elements), Longisquama (where David claims to find the entire posterior half of the animal) and Sharovipteryx (where David claims to find uniquely identified forelimb elements and so on). Plus I said above that there are obvious problems with DGS interpretations of placodonts, Thalassodromeus, Tapejara and so on (fingers in Icarosaurus, extra nostrils in Pterodactylus). But, sure, keep on pretending that I’ve never mentioned any of this stuff. David: you’ve said several times that you respect me, think I’m an important contributor to science and so on. So, please, why WHY do you insist on carrying on regardless, as if I’m wrong or irrelevant in my criticisms? I’m not ever commenting because of personal dislike, because I’m a hater, because I’m a person with a biased agenda of any sort, or because I’m a person with any particular ‘position’, or ‘school’. I criticise because it’s transparently obvious to me that your anatomical interpretations of animals are erroneous.

    I’ve never been comfortable with the idea (promoted by some) that what you’re doing is pseudoscience, but … when one person claims that they are seeing things that no-one else can, it sure comes close. Again, I comment here because I’m genuinely concerned about the misinformation that you spread to naive parties, not for any other reason.

    • Darren, seriously; there is a LOT of work disseminated out there as scientific and truthful. Since I and you yourself are artists, I’ll stick with visual representations of “living” paleo-creatures. I see a lot of work that, in my opinion, very poorly represents restorations. I am positive you’ve seen it too.

      Have you also tried to inform a misinformed public about bad paleo-art? Since I am unaware of it if you have, but since I cannot even begin to claim I’ve read all of your output; I will ask you: have you done so?

      If you have, I will remove my objections to your attacks on David, wrong-headed though I think they are.

  10. Bryan – you seem to be going off at a tangent; we were never talking about palaeoart here. But, anyway, maybe you should read what I’ve said about the state of palaeoart in All Yesterdays (go here; see my talk online as well); see also the many articles about palaeoart on Tetrapod Zoology. If you’re thinking, or implying, that David is a good model to follow as goes the ‘look’ of fossil animals, I can only repeat what I’ve said before regarding his unreliability. As (I hope) you know, David is universally regard as an excellent artist – it’s a shame that he’s moved away from what he used to do so well.

  11. My latest comment doesn’t seem to be showing up (because it contained links). Here’s a version without the links…

    Bryan – you seem to be going off at a tangent; we were never talking about palaeoart here. But, anyway, maybe you should read what I’ve said about the state of palaeoart in All Yesterdays (Conway et al. 2013; be sure to see my talk online as well); see also the many articles about palaeoart on Tetrapod Zoology. If you’re thinking, or implying, that David is a good model to follow as goes the ‘look’ of fossil animals, I can only repeat what I’ve said before regarding his unreliability. As (I hope) you know, David is universally regard as an excellent artist – it’s a shame that he’s moved away from what he used to do so well.

    • I will take a look, Darren. I never expect any artist to be perfect, but I do like it when the artist at least tries to use the known bones as a basis. Flights of fancy and fantasy are fine, as long as they are not touted as accurate art. I use VERY few paleo-artists as guides myself and nobody’s art to copy from, unless I am doing an homage to their work. Some wonderful art is out there!

      And yes, this IS off tangent here, but since I know art better than bones, I thought I’d throw it in, since a lot of the brouhaha here is about life appearances, reconstructions, and what these animals might have been capable of doing when alive. And that is an area where I do know something.

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