"....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, May 27, 2006
Thanks to folks at "BirdForum" the April response by Cornell to Jerry Jackson's Jan. Auk article was found online here. It is lengthy and obviously worth reading though Cornell seems to be using a blunderbust instead of a scalpel to bury Jackson in criticisms many of which are important but others of which are picayunish or simply semantic in nature, and more importantly almost all of which are simply irresolvable at this point. Unfortunately, in the public arena, skeptics have played their arguments so well (in conjunction with a press that loves dueling experts) that much of what is out there can simply be interpreted or argued different ways. Moreover, they have succeeded in raising the bar of required evidence to that of indisputable photographic or video evidence (which will likely eventually come, but it won't be easy). A lengthy sighting by Sibley or Kaufman might also be accepted (and I mean literally only those two out of all American ornithologists at this point!), but short of that the fact is there is always room for skepticism over other sightings, acoustic data, foraging signs, and even DNA (if we ever got any) can be flawed. Needless to say, this is an unfortunate state of affairs (this ponderous climate of cynicism), possibly unique in the annals of ornithology -- by its inherent nature field biology is rarely a truly precise or meticulous science of the sort some are imagining, and almost any journal article can be taken to task if one is determined to do so. Sad too, the sharp division arisen between so many prominent field professionals.
When I first read about Ivory-bills 40+ years ago there was no doubt in my mind that they still existed, and today I feel no less certain (considering ALL the evidence) -- though the possible numbers are quite worrisome. But alas, through all the trying circumstances, convincing the multitudes of folks out there seems to get harder and harder with every new ray of hope (...and sadly the main consequence of Cornell's first large-scale search season, despite valiant efforts to defend themselves and challenge Jackson et. al., has been, in the press, to further feed that skepticism).
Addendum, looking on the bright side: With Cornell's departure the Cache River area has once again been opened to the public. With an influx of people possibly there will be more IBWO sightings (both real and imagined) in months ahead -- the more sightings the more possibilities for photo/video. Moreover, many of the best bird spotters around probably felt they simply could NOT be a part of the Cornell team and be placed under such strict contractual dictums -- in short, they would want to retain full control over their own pictures, notes, reports, recordings, press releases etc. They will now be more free to roam the Cache in such an individual effort.
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