I’m coming over a bit Mark Witton here with a Pink Floyd reference in the title, but this will come round to palaeontology, honest. To stick with the Floyd years ago my brother gave me a book on them where a professor of music was analysing the music and discussing what he felt was the motivation and message behind the music. This struck me as utterly unnecessary and indeed likely to be confusing and incorrect. The author doubtless had a lot of experience and information and understanding of music and its creation – certainly far more than I do. But then, the musicians themselves were still alive.
Why bother to try and interpret their words and music when you could just ask them? They must know exactly what they were thinking, or at least can make sure you are going down the right path to your interpreted solution if you are going for the subconscious or what they might have forgotten.
This related to palaeo and science in general with something that does seem to crop up from time to time and I was reminded of this by a recent comment on the Musings. A discussion had blown up over what was intended by a rather cryptic sentence in a paper of mine. Did it mean one thing, or another, and was this intentional or a typo? To which the obvious answer is, why the discussion? Ask. The authors are all around and available and their contact details are on the paper which you obviously have access to. Ask them what they meant to say (here it was a typo), don’t waste hot air and start trying to interpret things when there is absolutely no need and the undeniably correct, and indeed only solution is available. To do otherwise is to waste your time and energy and not even necessarily get the right answer, or not know if you have it right when you do.