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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, December 07, 2006

 

-- The "60 Year" Blip --

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I still hear from folks who consider the 60-year lapse in confirmed Ivory-bill presence some sort of significant number, so I'll repeat:

1. There have been 100's of reports/claims of Ivory-bills over those years. If you choose not to believe any of them, that's YOUR choice, but don't pretend 60 years have passed with no reports of Ivory-bills.

2. EVEN if we had gone 60 years without a single IBWO claim, how many times need I say it --- 60 years is NOT necessarily a meaningful period of time in the natural history of a species; it ISN'T, it's NOT, it never has been... It is simply naive, shallow, and hubris-bound to believe that something can't exist just because it's gone unseen by human eyes for 60 years. THIS is science based on FAITH (in human capability; usually considered imperfect) and nothing more.

3. The efforts to find Ivory-bills the last 60 years have been puny --- mostly one or two-man searches for a weekend or a week in very limited areas prior to year 2000. The much-vaunted LSU/Pearl search (2002, almost 3 FULL YEARS after Kulivan's claim) was still but a small team effort for a month in one locale of one state of one area of the Southeast. Last year's Cornell search, another 5 mos. or so in one area. If you string all the serious searches of the last 60 years together end-to-end what do you have, 3, maybe 4 years worth of well-organized meaningful searching in a few parts of a vast amount of difficult habitat... and THIS is s'posed to be definitive? Thankfully, such laxity doesn't hold forth in the physical and engineering sciences; only in biology or medicine would such definitive statements arise from such limited data.

John Fitzpatrick of Cornell says, "Searching for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has finally blossomed into a long-overdue, systematic national effort spanning all the big forests of the Southeast where the species could persist." And Ron Rohrbaugh adds, "We'll never know if ivory-bills persist outside of Arkansas unless we undertake systematic searches of key areas, a task that should have been done decades ago." Ahhh yes, looking for a bird where it might perchance hang out before guessing it to be extinct --- an insightful idea and scientific approach that many fail to grasp.

When all such areas have been fully explored, or when 100 years have passed with no credible sightings, I'll pay heed and take note of it; until then, I'll give as much attention to those who trumpet "60 years" as a loooong time as I give to those who believe the planet is less than 10,000 years old and all claims to the contrary are based on shoddy misreading of the geological record.

Happy weekend all!
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