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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.

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, July 07, 2006


-- Summer of 2006 --

The philosopher Schopenhauer wrote that "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world," and so it is in the world of Ivory-bill skeptics -- the summer will likely be a time of little 'hard' news (there continue to be reports/rumors of sightings and signs, mostly outside Arkansas, that are being checked upon, but nothing substantial), and a good time to relax until the winter searches begin anew. So I find it interesting/entertaining?? that The Ivory-bill Skeptic blog and its loyalists continue to paint themselves into an inescapable narrow corner pounding away at Cornell, now dredging up old re-hashed material to try to bolster their skeptics' case; and in using words like "fraud" resorting to a near ornithological McCarthyism; their case still primarily built all around disputing a 4-second video that can't be resolved (but that Cornell has analyzed for more hours, with more personnel, and with better equipment probably than all the skeptics combined have access to). They are even calling for a "retraction" of Cornell's original SCIENCE article (do they actually realize HOW MANY life science articles would have to be retracted from SCIENCE if every one with possible flawed data or methodology had to be disallowed -- MOST of them). Unless/until the original IBWO sighters change their stories there is little to retract. As I said previously, the skeptics' only real hope is that they find and document somewhere still alive in Arkansas a leucistic symmetrically-IBWO-white-wing patterned Pileated to possibly account for those prior sightings (and of course there are still the other 3-7 states that IBWOs could easily reside in to take into account) -- short of that their case is simply built on giving easily-concocted alternative explanations -- indeed, the permanent debate over 'evolution' is the result of the ease with which holes can be found in data/evidence presented and alternative explanations proffered. For the first time in history some of the vast amounts of difficult habitat that deserve serious searches are getting the extended attention needed, and skeptics, once again, seem intent on stifling it. And the beat goes on....

Just another little reminder to Messr. Cyberthrush and the other Defenders of the Faith in cyberland. The nonbelievers don't carry the burden of proof. When a person makes a positive assertion that something exists, that person carries the burden to prove it up. This isn't just with birds, this is with everything (e.g., claims of supernatural deities, etc.). If you say that you think Black Rails nest in a large, extensive marsh, that's great, but until you prove it up, it's just a hypothesis. Another example might be Kirtland's Warblers. There are a lot of nice jack pine forests outside of Michigan, and I wouldn't be surprised if they're regular nesters somewhere else, but it's just a hypothesis. On most birding forums, an empty hypothesis like the above two examples might get a couple posts in response, but that's all. Most birders are interested in results, not conjecture. The claims of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers persisting in extensive wooded swamps in the deep South fall in the same category. Maybe there are a couple stragglers still out there (I doubt it), but who knows. Let's stop with the conjecture, and either prove it or clam up.
Similarly, creationists argue that evolution is "just a theory," and that its "faithful"
have not met the "burden of proof." This "proof" requirement is very familiar to
biologists and science teachers and to trot it out is about as deep and profound as the
claptrap on talk radio. By the same logic, creationists do not have to provide any
evidence to support their views. They have no "burden of proof" because they are making
no claim. Or reverse it if you like. I can just imagine the reaction in the scientific
community if evolutionists suddenly decided that Darwinism did not need any evidentiary
support, because creationism was the "extraordinary claim," and only it needed to be
backed up.

The very same logic holds, and has been trotted out time and again, by those
who would argue that climate "change" is mere natural fluctuation. This is not a
"claim," presumably, and requires no "proof." Only "global warming"
is a claim and must meet the almighty burden of proof. This kind of intellectual bankruptcy has
been forwarded time and again by those who would paint those who disagree with them
as the promoting "bad science."

Science, whether the topic is climate change, the origin of species, or ivory-billed woodpeckers, is
not and has never been about proof. It is about working hypotheses. Every claim, every
hypothesis, is one of a number of alternatives. Each alternative IS A CLAIM. There is no
hypothesis that is not a claim. Each alternative must stand or fall on the evidence, not by
default. Even a "null" hypothesis must stand on the evidence. If a sample is outside the
expected envelope under a null hypothesis, the hypothesis MUST BE REJECTED. To argue that it
should be propped up because the alternative has not been "proven" is hardly scientific. And to try to
stretch, twist, and distort the envelope to make it fit the data will not save a bad hypothesis.

If there are no observations to explain, then there is no need for a hypothesis. Are there
observations to explain? You betcha. And I've heard plenty of lame explanations from "Skeptics."
If you wish to argue that a bird with white panels on the trailing edges of its wings is a pileated
woodpecker, you'd better have some evidence to support this. If you wish to argue that a bird that
achieves more than 8 wingbeats in 1 second is a pileated woodpecker, you'd better have some
evidence to support this. If you wish to argue that a particular recording of a bird sound is a
blue jay, you'd better have some evidence to support this. All of these are claims and if
they can't be backed up, they will be discarded with the rest of the hypothetical garbage.

When some of us try to share what evidence we have in public fora, so that all of us can move forward
on getting stll better, clearer, more definitive evidence, almost every time someone jumps in with
"That's not proof!" Brilliant. Then we get calls to "clam up." Go ahead, take a guess as to whether
we intend to clam up.
Thanks for the reply David, but I have to disagree a bit with what you say. Claiming that the earth and all its species were created by some supernatural event, and claims that the earth is slowly warming due to natural causes ARE counterclaims to evolution and global warming. Both offer alternative explanations for observed phenomena. And when a person proposes an alternative explanation, why should anyone believe it if there's no evidence to support it? Consequently, the person making an alternative counterclaim carries the burden of proof for that claim. The end result is one claim asserting one thing, and another claim asserting the opposite. Conflicting claims, with both sides carrying the burden to prove their asserted claim.

This is not the case with the Ivory-billed and the two examples I gave above. Only one claim is made in those three situations. There is no counterclaim. Someone claims that something exists in a particular spot, and that's all. No counter-theory is proposed or needed. Same thing with claims that there may be life on Mars or on one of the satellites of Jupiter or Saturn. Interesting claims, and maybe worth investigating. But the people on the sidelines - the skeptics - have no reason to counter any of these claims. They just look at the evidence for and against the claim, and that's all. And examining evidence critically, and trying to undermine it is NOT making a counterclaim. It's just putting the evidence in support of a claim to the test. Therefor, we carry no burden of proof.

So again, someone makes a claim that the Ivory-billed persists in the Deep South. Another person claims that Black Rails nest in a big marsh outside it's known range, and another thinks there may be Kirtland's Warblers in a nice jack pine forest in southern Canada. These all sound great to me. Please show me the birds. Until then, I'm going to sit back and fling peanuts from the peanut gallery. You make the claim, you prove it!
As I said, if there are no observations to explain, there is no need for a hypothesis. Any hypothesis, about existence or non-existence. It becomes a moot point, not really a science issue, like whether some particular yet-to-be discovered planet has life. My point was that there ARE observations to explain. Even so-called "Skeptics" do not suggest that Gallagher, Fitzpatrick, LaBranche, et al. saw nothing as all. Even so-called "Skeptics" do not suggest that there is no bird at all in the Luneau video. Even so-called "Skeptics" do not suggest that the ARU's did not record bird sounds. In fact they seldoom attempt to make the claim that either the Luneau video or the sightings are anything other than pileated woodpeckers. One particular well-known "Skeptic" just today said it was a "near certainty that some or all of the sight records involved abnormal Pileateds." NOT normal pileateds. Why so specific? I submit that it is because he has enough intellectual integrity to look at the sightings and the people involved and demand some reasonable explanation from himself. The only trouble is, it has no significant evidentiary support in my view.

Fling from the gallery if you wish. I stand by my earlier remarks.
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