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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.
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"....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






Sunday, August 06, 2006

 

-- Why Skeptics Don't Get It --

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Hey, it's a tiresome job, but someone's gotta do it -- so for one last time I'll enumerate why skeptics have it wrong:

1. They greatly UNDERestimate the amount of adequate habitat available for Ivory-bills at any given time.
2. They greatly OVERestimate the amount of previous serious searching carried out (hardly any large-scale, organized searching before 2002); and with typical human arrogance place unwarranted faith in the competency and thoroughness of previous searching, when in fact very limited numbers birders have ever actually accessed likely Ivory-bill habitat for any significant length of time.
3. They wholly underestimate the tenaciousness and adaptability of living things in general, and this species in particular.
4. They fail to comprehend the tremendous ease with which winged creatures can both escape detection and seek out new habitat.
5. They fail to realize that with the elimination of hunting of this species in the early 20th century the remaining IBWOs were given plenty of 'breathing room' to stabilize and regenerate their population.
6. They falsely use a pre-conceived and premature notion of extinction to automatically discount future claims of the bird's existence; failing in short, to keep an open, objective mind (as scientists MUST do) regarding future evidence, yet blindly accepting, with no scientific critiquing, past conclusions/generalizations about the species, that lack a solid basis. In short, they fail to realize or acknowledge that it is ALWAYS easier to criticize, or offer alternative explanations for, any controversial viewpoint (such as Ivory-bill existence), than it is to conclusively substantiate the same. Many skeptics have simply never read the Ivory-bill literature either thoroughly or objectively or critically, but formed opinions based merely on what others say.
7. They utterly fail to comprehend the difficulty of getting photographic evidence of such a deep woods creature, falsely assuming any bird this large should be easy to capture on film. Indeed they seem to labor under the false notion that MOST birds in this country actually get seen and identified by birders, when in actuality most individual birds (including large ones) live their entire lives unseen by birders. Only a small percentage of what is out there is ever recorded by humans, let alone by cameras.
8. They consistently OVERestimate the physical similarity between Ivory-bills and Pileateds concluding (almost insultingly) that experienced birders could repeatedly mistake one for the other.
And so we are told to blithely accept the skeptics' cursory cerebral armchair analyses, while routinely discounting the direct on-site observations/conclusions of any others.
9. In a day of instant-this and instant-that, they lack the basic patience and persistence required of real science, and wrongly regard 60 years as a significant amount of time in the life of a species. They operate on the assumption that a lack of solid confirmation for a claim is somehow tantamount to refutation of the claim, and that because some claims were clearly cases of mistaken identification, therefore all were.
10. They ignore the 'law of large numbers' -- the more times an occurrence is reported (in this case, Ivory-bill sightings) the greater the likelihood that some of those reports are true. Co-current species to the IBWO like the Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet have been reported little over the same time period supporting the likelihood of their actual extinction, while the IBWO was being reported over and over and over again.
11. In the particular instance of the Arkansas claims they focused far too much time, energy, and thought on a single 4-second piece of video, rather than looking fully, objectively, at the entire range of evidence past and present.
12. And finally, they simply feed off each others' cynicism to reinforce their own preconceptions, rather than realistically assessing the probabilities of each new claim -- they are so deeply entrenched in their own regimented "groupthink," and fanciful notions, assumptions, and circular reasoning they fail to even recognize it. The key difference between myself and the skeptics, however, is not that I know more about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers than they do, but rather that I fully recognize just how little I (we) know about these birds, while skeptics continuously operate on the foolhardy assumption that they know a lot.
The loggers, collectors, and hunters of yesteryear may be forgiven for their actions, simply normal for their time; it will be more difficult to forgive skeptics however for their ruinously persistent failures should those lead to the Ivory-bill's final demise.

13. Oh, and did I forget to mention it, they are stubbornly boneheaded.

OR, ...so it seems to me.
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"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge."
~ Daniel Boorstein

"Patience is a bitter plant, but its fruit is sweet." ~ Jean Jacques Rousseau
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