This insidious phrase really ought to be banned when people are writing about dinosaurs (though to be fair it seems to be true about pretty much any aspect of science if you just substitute in ‘scientists’). Not only is it a horribly hackneyed and tired cliche, but in my experience it only ever occurs immediately before one of two kinds of follow up statements, both of which are nearly equally misleading. In addition to the problem of ‘think’ being used as a rather inaccurate replacement for ‘have evidence for’, the problem is that ‘some’ is such an indeterminate word and can account from anything from 1-99% of people, though of course most people would use is for a middling or far from overwhelming sum like 30-70%. This is where the problems begin:
The first is where this phrase is then be followed by something that is about as true as you can be in palaeontology. Something like “Some palaeontologists think birds evolved from dinosaurs”, or “Some palaeontologists think that a meteor may have been involved in the extinction of the dinosaurs”. The problem here is that ‘some’ sounds like ‘not many’ when of course ‘all’ or ‘nearly all’ or ‘the overwhelming majority’ would be far more accurate. To even imply that this is a minority view, or even less than pretty much absolute is rather inaccurate to say the least.
Quite possibly worse though is the opposite, where the phrase is followed by a view that is either profoundly wrong, or supported only by the most minor of fringe researchers, or even just non-scientific cranks. Again, statements like “Some palaeontologists think that dinosaurs evolved from fish” or “Some palaeontologists think that dinosaurs were died out when insects ate all their food” rather imply that, while perhaps not being a mainstream view, these are nevertheless reasonable and supported views held by a decent number of people who have good evidence for their assertions and are active and trained researchers. Again though, this is simply not true. ‘One’ is not ‘some’ really in common parlance, no matter how much you might try to stretch the definition, and in any case ‘a few fringe people’ (even if they are academics) is not really a consensus, or even a well supported idea.
There are cases where the evidence is genuinely split or support falls across two broad lines where the turn of phrase would not be inappropriate. Some palaeontologists think birds evolved flight after a gliding phase and others from the ground up. There’s a fairly reasonable split here and neither is certain. However, I would still avoid using the phrase because it’s so badly overused and is generally used so misleadingly, and many others would avoid using it here because the phrase “controversy splits palaeontologists!” is sadly far more likely to spring to their minds. Time for some originality and a bit more accuracy. I’m sure it can be managed.