"....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
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
If you missed the 'Nova ScienceNow' piece on PBS you can view it here... BUT, you didn't miss much. As I cautioned previously, in this necessarily very compressed treatment of the Ivory-bill story, there was nothing new reported nor any depth given to the arguments. Focus, as might be expected (in this video/audio-infatuated world), was on the Luneau clip and the 'kent' sounds recorded -- the very evidence I've consistently believed is the weakest (though still intriguing) in Cornell's arsenal.
Let me reiterate what WASN'T emphasized in this piece that I think bears repeating. FIRST there is simply the long history of repeated sightings of this bird over five decades, time and time and time again in various locales, no not confirmed, but repeated sightings by credible observers, probabilistically, MEAN SOMETHING!! -- they can't just be cavalierly blown off as non-existent by saying "never confirmed." Moreover, at least a few searchers had been wise enough to point to the Arkansas Big Woods area as a little-researched area of more-than-adequate habitat that could in fact support the species. SECOND, the specific number of initial credible sightings, 7-16, in a confined area is HUGE and would be difficult to dismiss as anything other than genuine under normal circumstances. Blithely explaining away these multiple sightings as "groupthink" is, in essence, to call the sighters and their interrogators, fools, despite their credentials. "Groupthink" is in fact what has occurred for the past 60 years by those declaring the species extinct based on NO solid evidence WHATSOEVER, and with little thorough reading of the thin literature available. THIRDLY, and largely overlooked, is the fact that many spotters immediately noted the large size of the bird seen as one of their first and major field marks; this is more important than any other field mark that could be witnessed other than the trailing white wing edges, which the sighters also concurred on. The FIRST thing any experienced birder would likely notice upon seeing an Ivory-billed Woodpecker would be the "Pileated-on-steroids" effect or "WHOOOAA"-factor. Yet little weight has been given to the consistency of this basic crucial field evidence, while picayunish details of little consequence have been belabored. (Again, the vast majority of bird ID's in the wild are made on the basis of a very few features and the 'jizz' of the bird -- one cannot suddenly change the criteria for this one species and claim any sighting not meeting the new criteria automatically lacks validity). One can only deal with probabilities, and if you consider the evidence of the last 50 years with an open, objective approach, instead of with a preconceived, biasing notion of extinction, then the probability is that Ivory-bills are in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and yes, Arkansas. When NO credible sightings/claims have occurred for 75 successive years THEN come talk to me about the likelihood of extinction... (of course by then I plan to be extinct myself).
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