.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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.

Web ivorybills.blogspot.com

"....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

Friday, March 31, 2006


-- Upcoming... --

Most of us are probably tiring of the back-and-forth sword-fighting at this point (over points that can likely never be resolved in print), but worth noting that Van Remsen of LSU (who headed the 2002 Pearl River search) says the next Auk edition will include a piece in rejoinder to Jackson's Jan. article -- it's almost ashame that so much time/energy has had to go into such rebuttal activity, but yes, that is how 'science' works. Moreover, the contentious quality of the arguments at this point may leave scars in the ornithological community for years to come, assuming resolution is eventually reached. Hmmmmm... maybe a TV or Hollywood movie in the making here (...Harrison Ford as Dr. Fitzpatrick, perhaps : - )


Actually, there has been no direct rebuttal of Jackson's paper, and it's about time that piece of work got taken apart. In contrast to the Sibley article which was careful, well-reasoned and temperate in tone (though I don't agree with the conclusions), Jackson's piece was intellectually dishonest, more propaganda than science, and it has had a very damaging impact. Jackson himself is responsible in large part for the "contentious quality" of the arguments and the way the discussion has degenerated over the last several months.
I don't want to be in a position of defending Jackson's Auk article BUT... I will offer at least some defense of Dr. Jackson himself. Over the years I have talked to Dr. Jackson briefly both personally and through email and never encountered a PhD.-level academic who was more open and willing to take time to talk to a layperson about a controversial subject. I believe he has a similar reputation with his students of being open and sincerely interested in them.
No one is more responsible than Jerry for keeping the IBWO off the Gov't.'s official extinction list; indeed one has to wonder if it was not for Dr. Jackson's work over the last 20 years, would folks at Cornell even have taken Gene Sparling's claim seriously. Jerry has been touting the possibility of IBWO survival publicly and at risk to his own credibility and professional standing for decades, while others (some of whom are now suddenly very vocal) stood by timidly, quietly, and safely on the sidelines.
As others have already played armchair psychologist on this, I will too, and speculate that it must have pained Dr. Jackson to see Cornell suddenly showered in glory for bringing forth evidence he viewed as no stronger than the evidence he'd compiled for 20 years and often had ignored or even scoffed at. If there are some resentments and bitterness involved I can't fault him for that; it would be natural. I'm not fond of his Auk piece, but he knew a more analytical piece was already in the works for Science, and he has the right (indeed obligation) to express his opinion in whatever form and publication he chooses -- also, I doubt he had any idea how the press would latch onto certain elements of the Auk paper and run with them, and wouldn't be surprised if he now regrets some of the phrases or statements written.
I wish somehow, we could all just get along... but unfortunately, we may have passed a point-of-no-return for that possibility. Still let's hope that years from now we believers can all sit around a table somewhere, drinking a cold one and discussing the ongoing successful Ivory-bill recovery program, and recognize and respect one another for the various contributions made to the effort at different times by different people. That's really what it's all about... or should be.
Most of your points taken. And I share your hopes. Jackson's courage and commitment are worthy of admiration, and I didn't mean to minimize the significance of his past contributions.

I take issue with the following, however:

"I doubt he had any idea how the press would latch onto certain elements of the Auk paper and run with them, and wouldn't be surprised if he now regrets some of the phrases or statements written."

He has repeated some of his more combative language in the press and in lectures. Even if he did not anticipate the impact his words would have, he should have. He's a published author; he knows the importance of choosing his words carefully. He also knows politics. "Faith-based" and "wishful thinking" are exceptionally loaded terms, and only a person of extraordinary naivete would fail to realize that.
My understanding is that Jackson was asked to write a commentary by the editor of the Auk. That puts it into a different category (both regarding its genesis and content)than simply thinking of it as a rebuttal piece and should be taken into account in any attempts to criticize Jackson.
I don't want to drag this topic into the ground, but I honestly don't think even published authors (especially those who primarily write for academic journals) always foresee what the popular press will grab onto in an article. When I originally read Jackson's Auk piece I was disheartened by some of the arguments being put forth and some of the descriptive phrases, but it never ever occurred to me that the press would pick up "faith-based ornithology" and splatter it across the country (basically, once the AP and NY Times used it it spread like wildfire), and I just don't think Jerry would have foreseen it either. I believe Jackson's commitment and efforts on behalf of this bird both before Jan. 2006 and since outweigh the damage done, even as great as that has been. Often, when you are very close to a subject you don't even fully realize the impact your words will have in some quarters. And though this is supposed to be science, one can't escape the involvement of human feelings, professional jealousies, conflicting personalities,etc. etc. We all fall victim to human foibles at one time or another. Anyway, that's just my opinion and we may have to simply agree to disagree on this. I just think we have far bigger foes out there to focus on than Dr. Jackson.
Edward G. Robinson as Moses:

"Where's your Ivory Bill now?"


' Edward G. Robinson as Moses:

"Where's your Ivory Bill now?" '

I love it! Although I think my fellow anonymous poster meant Edward G. Robinson TO Moses (or better yet TO the Cornell search team).
The National Geographic Society has a nice little video report regarding the Arkansas search at the following url:


The report seems a bit dated at this point in its optimistic assumptions, now that we're 5 months into the search without any positive news, but it's a fun video to watch regardless.
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Older Posts ...Home