The other day, one of the regular Science Club families was in the store, and one of the teen-aged boys, after showing me an interesting fossil, was persuaded by his mother to ask what my feelings were on having to learn math in order to be a paleontologist. Fortunately I managed to avoid making any references to Chevy Chase's impersonation of Gerald Ford.
Since I'm not a paleontologist, I couldn't speak first-hand, but I do know that there are some areas of the discipline where advanced maths are, if not a necessity, certainly helpful. Although there are computers and calculating machines almost everywhere, it's still important to understand how one arrives at an answer, in order to be able to have a sense not only of what your answer means - say, in performing radiometric dating, for instance - but if it makes sense in the context of the fossil.
As someone who struggled with some considerable difficulty through pre-calculus and then stopped, I say this without a trace of irony. I have a great respect for maths, and know that I should probably set about learning some things again, and some for the first time. I'm not sure when I'll find the time to do this. Perhaps after the book is a solid international bestseller? We'll see. But the point is this: if there's a chance that you're going to need at least some mathematical background (and in the sciences, this is pretty much a racing certainty) why would you put it off, or try to avoid it? Never mind calculus: the young man wasn't all too thrilled with algebra. For that matter, though, neither has anyone else ever been.
The next question made me feel less of a hypocrite: was being able to write important? Yes: absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt. I proceeded to drag out the oldest cliché in the file: if you want to write well, read authors who write well. In the case of a young man interested in paleontology, I recommended the books of the late (and much-missed) Stephen Jay Gould. Not only was Gould a phenomenal writer, but he was possessed of a remarkably lucid and wide-ranging intelligence, and was a damned good writer.
I don't know that I changed the young man's mind, but I hope that, if I have any credibility at all, I used it to his advantage, and reminded myself of some of the things that really do matter.