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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.
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"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer






Saturday, February 09, 2008

 

-- Schrodinger's Cat??? --


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30+ years ago on the first day of a graduate 'statistics-for-researchers' class the professor I had told us he really didn't like teaching these intro courses in statistics to students who were non-mathematics majors. He explained that statistics was a powerful but subtle tool, and that to really grasp and apply statistics correctly required a PhD. in mathematics, if not even a PhD. in statistics. Students taking a couple of semesters of stats, and then applying statistics to their research projects almost invariably misused them, he informed us. Further, he asserted that most of the statistical analyses published in journals was also mis-applied unless it was carried out by a math or statistics specialist.
At the time, the judgment seemed a tad harsh, but over the years I came to appreciate his view, because increasingly, in general, only specialists really, truly have adequate understandings of their particular fields. Narrow specialized knowledge has replaced any breadth of knowledge as the norm in most subject areas. There are no experts on birds, but there may be experts on the fine feather and barbule structure of strigidae species.

And there are no specialists for Ivorybills; folks exist who fully know the literature, but no experts with actual, direct, significant experience with the species. Nor can skeptics get inside the heads of Tyler Hicks, or Rich Guthrie, or Tim Gallagher, or Geoff Hill, or David Kulivan, or a John Dennis, or others who say they saw an Ivorybill, to know for sure just what those folks saw. Skeptics can only proclaim, in an ad hoc manner, 'they're all mistaken' without offering direct evidence of error. And maybe they are all mistaken, each and every one of them, each and every time, in each and every place, under each and every circumstance, for six decades running... or... maybe the skeptics are mistaken (they all seem to gleefully admit they make mistakes), led astray by their perception of the statistics or probabilities involved --- the probability of Ivorybills existing is simply unknown, and for now unknowable.
The question skeptics essentially raise is, 'If an Ivorybill swoops through the forest, but no one gets a photograph, then does it exist???' And the answer they appear satisfied with, is, 'no, it does not.'
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Comments:
The probability of their existing is knowable. One has to accept evidence that the birds exist. Evidence is not limited solely to pictures of the birds.

I am told that neutrinos exist. Never saw one. Yet I can accept the probability of their existance without major heartburn.

Why is it that we have become a society that requires evidence only in certain form, and from certain "experts"?

I would say that I may be one of the most expert people on IBWO. I have seen two. I have been in the middle of several of them calling back and forth. Others have had similar experiences in the same place. Ah, but I don't have a "name". Well, that is the real rub.

People have discounted even Robert Ridgeway's sightings of this species, they have ignored facts such as the bird being in St. Louis and up the Missouri River --far outside of their "range" for the species.

Science relies on observations. For years the bird was known to exist not based on photos, but on anecdotal observations. That standard seemingly has changed for now. It is too bad.
 
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