let them live

Let the Paleontologists Cyber If They Want

Photo: Andrew Holt/Getty Images

Paleontologists deserve the world, I think. They spend all their time studying ancient life and dusting off ancient fossils with little toothbrushes; then they share fun facts about long-extinct species and bring back dinosaur skulls that male celebrities sometimes buy. It’s a job that brings so much precious joy and knowledge to people, and that’s why I think paleontologists should be able to cyber if they want to.

Paleontologists aren’t actually clamoring to have cybersex, to be clear. They’re just trying to do their jobs. But for many paleontologists, both doing their jobs and engaging in potentially dirty talk online were made significantly more difficult at a recent virtual paleontology conference, which had instituted a “prepackaged naughty-word filter.” According to The Guardian, this filter prevented attendees at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology from using a wide range of words during virtual Q&A sessions, including: bone, pubic, stream, damn, hell, ball, stroke, wang, jerk, knob, erection, dyke, crack, and enlargement.

“Words like bone, pubic, and stream are frankly ridiculous to ban in a field where we regularly find pubic bones in streams,” Brigid Christison, a master’s student in biology who attended the event, told Vice News.

The ban led to much confusion during the conference, and attendees were forced to find some creative work-arounds, like changing “Hell Creek” to “Heck Creek.” One SVP member explained on Reddit that the mix-up had been caused by an issue with the platform used to host the online event, which was clearly intended for business conferences, not scientific ones. The member added that they and others had reached out to the platform developers and that “they’ve been unbanning words as we stumble across them.”

Based on one Google doc an attendee shared on Twitter that includes the list of forbidden words, most of them have been fixed, though it seems members still can’t say iffy, crack, or enlargement.

I don’t know. Call me a romantic, but I hope these smart, hardworking paleontologists can work effectively at their conference and then, should they want to, open a side chat with another consenting adult paleontologist and tell them about the iffy crack enlargement they recently had. That’s the future our dinosaur experts deserve. <3

Let the Paleontologists Cyber If They Want