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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






Wednesday, September 12, 2007

 

-- 3 Thought Experiments --


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Another ramble:

1) Virtually every day while driving or walking a roadway around here I spy a few deer emerging from the woods' edge. Yet these are but a tiny fraction of the 1000's more present I don't see. In fact, I see more deer from the roadways then I ever see when actually in the woods, where they no doubt hear/see me first and scamper before being viewed --- if seen at all it is usually a brief fleeing view (hmmm...). They are easily the largest creatures in our woods and yet I observe very few of these prolific, land-based mammals considering how many are actually out there --- should it really come as a surprise then that a very scarce, flying, tree-dwelling bird could stay out-of human sight with far greater ease?

2) Imagine that your lifetime experience and knowledge of birds is what it always has been EXCEPT that you've never seen nor heard of hummingbirds EVER! What would you think, then, if someone came along and told you all about hummers, their description and behavior? You'd think they were NUTS!! There couldn't conceivably be a BIRD like that. Either the reporter was a liar or idiot, or was describing some sort of large insect, certainly not a bird. THAT'S what prior entrenched experience would lead you to believe because your ability to comprehend all the possibilities for birds is so limited.

3) American crows are common in my area. If I said I saw 3 or 5 or 10 crows yesterday I'd be believed without a speck of documentation of any kind; no questions asked. But if I said I saw 50,000 crows yesterday, it wouldn't be believable. Somewhere between 10 and 50,000 is a "tipping point" going from blind acceptance to questioning doubt to outright rejection of the claim. And there is no one magic number that all individuals would agree on as representing that tipping point. At root, much of the Ivory-billed debate is simply people perceiving different tipping points in viewing highly-imprecise evidence.

In summary:
Large creatures DO routinely remain hidden from human view in the forest. Behavior that sounds unlikely to entrenched human logic, may not be. And evidence is rarely as black-and-white as it is painted to be, but comes in shades of gray, not easily sorted out. Too often what skeptics put forth as evidence for Ivory-bill extinction is little more than non-scientific conjecture and preconceptions, and what they practice is not so much skepticism as it is the creation of doubt (not altogether dissimilar from what Holocaust or moon-landing or global-warming deniers do).

The Big Woods and Choctawhatchee final summaries from last season haven't even been issued yet; certain details from last season from other areas likely won't even be publicly released because skeptics have had a 'chilling effect' on the release of some kinds of info; and for the first time in 60+ years an actual semi-comprehensive approach to searching for IBWOs across the Southeast is at last getting underway... in short, the broad search for Ivory-bills is finally getting serious for the first time ever, and yet, before work is even completed, an all-knowing few have again proclaimed the species extinct and persuaded gullible others of that view.
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