Re: Anthropological items

From: Jay Willingham (
Date: Sun Jul 07 2002 - 17:21:00 EDT

  • Next message: Jay Willingham: "Anthropological items"

    Forgive me if you perceive me as arrogant. I am open to arguments that are
    counter to my opinion, but I am not yielding until I am convinced.

    I also am perfectly willing to get along happily with folks who think my
    opinions are incorrect. I must admit that I found your tone a trifle

    As an attorney have learned to subject any expert's opinion to the harsh
    light of empirical scrutiny. It is from cross-examining expert witnesses
    that I find the most support for my feeling that their opinions are far from
    inerrant. How else can the plaintiff and defendant have two distinguished
    scientists on two sides of the same question? As one old lawyer said to me,
    "Why do you think they call it an 'opinion'?"

    It is also from my cases involving professional malpractice that I base my
    somewhat cautious view of "expert" opinion. For instance, I try to read the
    PDR about any prescribed drugs I get, having seen the ravages of experts who
    ignore the warnings.

    I have found the concept that "you are not intelligent enough to understand
    this specific mechanism because you have not been trained in the field in
    which it is based" to be the height of arrogance. True experienced expert
    witnesses learn that your average jury can understand very complex things in
    microcosm once they are broken down logically and systematically, as my best
    professors always did. They also recognize that a juror may crucify you if
    you patronize him or treat him like he is intellectually inferior.

    Throughout history, successive scholarly analysis has repeatedly lead to the
    abandonment of what was once perceived as fact. This is the essence of
    innovation. Some things come full circle.

    I use experts and oppose experts. I defer to their opinions when they make
    sense. If they cannot explain it so I understand and believe it, I do not
    buy it, literally or figuratively.

    I have four years of pre-med as a major in Zoology and developmental
    vertebrate anatomy was one of my favorite courses. I read with great
    interest various articles on the fossil record.

    There are significant scholars that believe as I do. They are not
    overwhelmed by consensus. Truth is not a matter of consensus. Most
    innovation comes from people bucking consensus

    All humans are sensitive to peer pressure. Scientists and lawyers are no

    When the scholars abandon the effort to fit their empirical evidence into
    the canon of scripture, they abandon the greatest historical documentation
    we have.

    Another old cracker lawyer told me that when you have the facts argue the
    facts; when you have the law, argue the law; but when you have neither the
    facts nor the law, attack the opposition.

    On a related subject, does anyone read "Biblical Archaeology Review"?


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Shuan Rose" <>
    To: "Jay Willingham" <>; "ASA" <>
    Sent: Saturday, July 06, 2002 5:11 PM
    Subject: RE: Anthropological items

    I think as an attorney, you should understand about the need to accept
    expert opinion on these matters. An attorney in a medical malpractice trial
    is guided by the insights of the doctor who is his expert witness. He also
    does not and indeed is not allowed to testify as an expert, unless he has a
    medical degree.
    There is an overwhelming scholarly consensus against your opinion on the
    hominid question which as a presumed nonexpert, you should accede to. In
    absence of unknown evidence or some special qualification, your opinion on
    this question is of little consequence. I, like you, love scientific inquiry
    but I assume that scientists know what they are doing and are not more
    swayed by the media or possibilities for professional advancement than say,
    attorneys. Unlike you, I am rather humble about venturing opinions about
    scientific matters for which I lack the technical qualifications. As one
    attorney to another, I would urge you to adopt a similar attitude.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: []On
    Behalf Of Jay Willingham
    Sent: Saturday, July 06, 2002 3:03 PM
    To: ASA
    Subject: Re: Anthropological items

    I find it difficult to accept taxonomical classification of true hominid
    remains as anything other than variations within homo sapiens.

    It appears to me that most if not all hominid fossils are within or close to
    the arguable range of physiological variation seen in historical homo

    Assumptions about braincase and other skeletal characteristics of the
    pre-historic hominids are fascinatingly speculative at best.

    I love scientific inquiry but believe too many scientists tend to make the
    hypothesis to theory leap prematurely.

    This condition is endemic to patron, tenure and grant systems requiring
    publication or seeking a certain result.

    Abuses also are engendered by a media thirsty for news.


    James Estes Willingham, Jr.
    Attorney and Counselor at Law
    2411 Mohawk Trail,
    Maitland, Florida 32751-4032,
    phone: 407-645-5454, fax: 407-628-1170,

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Jul 08 2002 - 18:16:49 EDT