"....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
Sunday, September 10, 2006
-- Was Tanner's Study A Hoax? --
Suppose I were to tell you that recently discovered papers from James Tanner's attic detailed how he travelled to the south with funds from Cornell and spent his days hanging out in the backwoods drinking moonshine with some good ol' boys, while fabricating data and buying a few photos from Cuba to concoct his 3-year "study" of Ivory-bills --- in short, suppose I told you his entire study was an elaborate hoax! Could you prove me wrong?? Could you provide evidence that I couldn't offer an alternative 'faked' or 'conspiratorial' explanation for, forcing you back into the archives in search of counter-evidence???
Of course there are NO SUCH PAPERS, but the fact remains that I personally have no direct knowledge that James Tanner ever existed, let alone that he actually spent any time in La. doing what he claims he did --- what I have is a faith or belief in the truth and accuracy of books/writers that have transmitted that information to me. I don't even have direct evidence that the earth is round or revolves around the sun --- rather, I simply have faith in the scientists who say it is so and the integrity of the evidence they provide for such conclusions --- in short, MOST of what any of us believe 'scientifically' is based upon faith and trust in other people, and in measurements we've never taken, data we've never collected, observations we've never made, but nonetheless accept without question, unless a determined skeptic shakes our faith therein. This is what the average-Joe doesn't realize about their scientific beliefs --- they are usually based not on logic or reason, but faith and trust --- even the scientists doing the hands-on work base their conclusions upon a faith in their senses or the machines/instruments that substitute for their senses. (And a long history of practical successes utilizing such methods, gives us faith that such methods will work now and in the future, though we can never know it for sure.) The point is, that it is a very simple matter to cast doubt on a scientific claim, if one so chooses, by tossing out questions, concerns, 'what-ifs,' and alternative hypotheses as roadblocks along the way, as skeptics, and anti-evolutionists for that matter, do with ease. It is far more difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a given claim is true. And so it is in Ivory-bill land, where any claim is immediately met with doubts and alternative explanations, and cynicism sewn. At some point though faith or trust has to kick in, and thusly I am willing to believe that James Tanner did most of what he claimed to do, even though I can't prove it (and I believe the earth is round and revolves around the sun too!). At some point we will reach that threshold with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker; the scientific bickering, which technically can go on forever, will stop and, despite how easy (fun???) it is to create doubt, the trust will take hold... let's hope by then it's not too late.
P.S. --- I was pleasantly surprised that a handful of people, all with excellent resumes, did send in their names, as prospective candidates to spend several of the winter months in Southern swamp-muck at fairly minimal pay, to participate in an upcoming IBWO project! --- your names/info have all been forwarded to the principal investigator --- GOOD LUCK!, at what literally may be an unparallelled once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!