"....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.”
"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, September 10, 2005
John Dennis's largely excellent birding career was forever marred by his never-verified claims of Ivory-bills in Texas' Big Thicket, and premier Louisiana birder George Lowery was similarly scoffed at for his belief in La. Ivory-bills in the '70s. And through the years far lesser birding names have been derided for their Ivory-bill faith. Dennis came to believe there was a kind of elitism or "PhD-ism" involved in his treatment -- the Tanners, Allens, and others with PhDs looking down at him with his lowly Master's Degree, and not taking him seriously. Others have speculated, that at some psychological level those who witnessed the Singer Tract Ivory-bills WANTED to go to their graves with the distinction of having seen the LAST Ivory-bills on Earth, and this accounts for their sometimes knee-jerk dismissal of others' later reports.
I don't mean to debate past history here, but simply use it as a springboard to the present. If the seven names involved in Cornell's published AR. sightings had included, let's say, "David Sibley," "Kenn Kaufman," "Pete Dunne," "Paul Ehrlich," and "Clay Sutton," does anyone seriously believe the current controversy would even exist?! -- despite the brevity/quality of the sightings they would be readily accepted. But to many in the general birding community, the folks involved in the sightings are (in all due respect) relative "no-names" despite credentials. The bottom line is trust. The judgments of the aforementioned names will tend to be automatically trusted because of their "headline" status (which may or MAY NOT relate back to superior birding/observational skills), moreso than the claims of the Cornell sighters -- how many such sightings would convince skeptics -- 25, 50, 100?... or, maybe just one -- from David Sibley. This involves not so much "science" as a kind of unacknowledged "prejudice."
If the Ivory-bill's presence is verified this winter, I suspect skeptics will simply move on to the next level of argument running something like this: "well, yeah, ok... but it's just one bird out there; we ought not be spending all this time, energy, money on 1 or 2 birds, when the species can't possibly be saved." Never mind that there's close to another million-or-so acres throughout the South in need of searching. Why should cynicism cease just because a couple of birds get in the way...
If I showed up at Jerome Jackson's desk with a video of Ivory-bills at a nesting site, do you REALLY think he or Cornell or the New York Times wouldn't believe me because of my lack of a PHD?
There have been hundreds of people searching ivory-bill habitat with cameras for during the last 60 years, without one good photo that LOOKS like an ivory-bill. That's why there's skeptics, and should be.
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