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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






Thursday, November 09, 2006

 

-- Of Loch Ness, Bigfoot, and IBWOs, Oh My --


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Surprisng how often and loosely skeptics are using analogies to the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot in their ill-formed arguments. For starters, no one knows whether either Nessie or Bigfoot truly exists or not; these are not wholly mythical creatures like the unicorn as they seem to imply;
there IS evidence for them. But let's assume these creatures never really existed, then the analogy is useless since everyone agrees the Ivory-bill did exist as recently as 60 years ago. You can't compare the IBWO predicament to something never existent. However, if either of these creatures did exist then the analogy is perfect, as yet another example of a large creature evading confirmed detection over a lengthy period of time --- either way, the analogy in no way degrades the arguments for IBWO existence (it is either useless or supportive); it remains just further sophistry amidst the striking paucity of evidence for extinction.

On-the-other-hand... skeptics, by focussing on various uncertainties in the Ivory-bill evidence and offering alternative, wholly speculative explanations for other presented evidence of IBWOs, are using the very same commonplace techniques (for raising doubts) employed by those who argue against evolution with it's gaps and alternative explanations --- that analogy, to the intelligent design folks (who claim life is too complex, i.e. "extraordinary", to be explained by the simple mechanisms of evolution) is much more to the point of what is going on here. Ivory-bills, seen in New York's Central Park, or 30 at a time flocking in Texas' Big Thicket... now, those would be "extraordinary" claims. An occasional IBWO glimpsed in appropriate (and sparsely-birded) southeast bottomland habitats... nothing extraordinary here folks, move along, move along.

Real science often requires patience --- it's taken over 50 years just to get us to a point where serious searching is finally underway in some locales (albeit, still on a small scale); if photography/videotape is now suddenly the new standard of evidence we can wait another decade for that, if necessary. Or... if 50 years pass with no additional credible sightings, I'm willing to say on the basis of that evidence that, probabilistically, the species has likely gone extinct... except that, probabilistically, in 2056 I won't be around to say it.
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