"....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.”
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Friday, February 27, 2009
-- True Believers --
This blog peaked at 700+ readers/day for a couple weeks back following the original Auburn Choctawhatchee announcement. Ever since then it gradually but steadily declined until stabilizing around 100+ unique hits per day, where it has remained for quite some time now. It's not the exact same folks every day since some readers only check in every few days or even once a week. Maybe 130 people from around the globe read the blog on some sort of regular basis out of millions of active birders worldwide; i.e. a very tiny percentage of the potential audience.
I suspect many of those 130-or-so folks are 'agnostics' who still aren't sure what to conclude about the IBWO, and an even larger number are likely full-fledged skeptics just checking in to keep up with what 'foolishness' is recited here. In short, I'd guess less than 100 folks check here routinely and loyally who would be comfortable with the label "true believer" (or even leaning in that direction). Again, out of millions of birders, a few score of them willing to unabashedly believe in the Ivory-bill's persistence; too few people to have much impact, as has always been the case through the Ivory-bill's history.
Early on I didn't much care for the term "true believer" with its implication of believing blindly, foolishly, or unscientifically, especially since in most areas of science I'd probably be classified as excessively skeptical; but over time, in this narrow IBWO arena, I've grown comfortable with the 'true believer' handle, because every time I re-read the data and history of this species... the full panoply of it, not just some myopic portion... my conviction is renewed that the probability for the Ivory-bill's existence exceeds the probability for its extinction (and I can only approach science in terms of probabilities).
So I'm content to see this story through to the end (whenever and however that comes about), and happy to be part of a narrow 100 or fewer individuals who may eventually feel richly rewarded... or, be robustly ridiculed... for having been, when all around them were capitulating to a tempting party line..."true believers."
On 24th February you referred to the sceptics and mentioned how recently "their silence is deafening".
I had noticed the same thing and wondered (hopefully) if they had heard something positively definite; or if they had been tipped off, perhaps, by someone with THE photograph. That would explain their cowardly low profile, I thought!
And now you are writing defiantly as a True Believer with a scientific background.
And similarly, I hope that you too have been tipped off, and are smiling knowingly!
Peter in Ireland
And the post was not meant to be so much "defiant" as simply "resigned" to a label that has taken hold on the Web and which I've finally become accustomed to.
My only guess is that this season (like the others) will end with some further reasons for hope for the IBWO, but with nothing at all definitive, and with few if any plans for further organized, large-scale searching... hoping I'm wrong about that, but I've seen nothing any more compelling than one has come before.
Really, what could be more stupid than being obsessed with something you don't believe in?
Please do not end this blog. You do a great service to all birders, and help keep up our "spirit". I'm half "true believer" and half "agnostic", but I want to believe and your blog helps keep me there.
I know someday that someone will get the photo/video needed to prove the IBWO's existence.
I was fortunate enough in 2007 to be one of three people to discover the first White Wagtail ever found in Florida (three of us Missouri birders happened to be in the right place and right time), and I was able to obtain a number of photos and videos.
This will happen someday with the IBWO!!
What possible concluding event are you seeing it through to? Or are you just waiting for an apology or something?
As for me, I believe I'll have another martini.....
Wasn't he the fella who misled all those great birders into thinking the Luneau video showed a pileated by misinterpreting video artifacts (shadows) as plumage? Made big fools out of them from what I have heard. Suppose even great birders make mistakes, but that one was a duzy.
He was THE Ivory-bill skeptic, and, like I said, he was right.
We know that Nelson and others that followed his lead are wrong conclusively, but we still don't know whether Cornell and others that follow them are correct and may never know.
However, if Nelson was correct how come there isn't a video of a Pileated that matches the Luneau video in flight style and the amount of white visible frame to frame? After 5 years one would think there would be by now. Would seem much more likely to come up with that than a conclusive video of an Ivory-bill, yet neither has happened yet. Hmmm.
If all the 'sceptics' are wrong, how come there's no birds, just an embarrassing litany of claims and self-justification (such as that above) bordering on the delusional, in total defiance of reality. It's never been about people, it's been about a bird.
'Hmmm' is about right.
Rejection of Nelson's and others interpretation that the Luneau video bird was a Pileated, does not reject the possibility that the the Luneau video bird was a Pileated.
There may be other interpretations to support the hypothesis that the Luneau video bird was a Pileated, there just aren't any valid ones in play at the moment (at least none I'm aware of).
This situation does not "prove" the Luneau video bird was an Ivory-bill, but failure of others to produce a valid interpretation leaves us with the hypothesis that the bird was an Ivory-bill as the most parsimonious explanation. But it is not conclusive as was oiginally claimed by the original proponents.
So all the skeptics aren't wrong, but for those who hitched their wagon to what Nelson proposed as an alternative interpretation based on interpreting video artifacts as plumage, then that interpretation is wrong. They can still be honored skeptics as the case has not been made conclusively that the Luneau video is in fact an Ivory-bill.
Just can't seem to find that video of a Pileated (fuzzy or otherwise) that matches that darn big woodpecker in the Big Woods.
And as others have pointed out it is more likely that there is a very small population (or populations) of Ivory-billed Woodpecker(s) that persist so as to go undocumented (but not necessarily undetected) than an undocumented small perecentage of aberantly flying or plumaged Pileated Woodpeckers out there.
But "more likely" does not make it so. All of which unsettles both believers and skeptics. It remains a mystery.
the sight of an Ark ib?
".. O! The Joy!"
(Clark with Lewis on the Lower Columbia)
I concur with a lot of what Anon. 8:56 says but would make one clarification -- as I've written before I believe the 'aberrant PIWO' hypothesis is the only real leg skeptics have to stand on, and further I believe there may even be plenty of aberrant PIWOs around, BBBBUT they must be aberrant in a very specific way (mimicking IBWO plumage) to come into play here, and THAT has not been demonstrated in the numbers needed to make the skeptical case.
It does seem though, that high profile and widely respected U.S. birders are perfectly happy that the bird is just a normal Pileated
In that it is critical in science to treat all alternatives and evaluate the evidence, the only alternative explanation that has been scientifically evaluated is one that due to faulty interpretation of video artifacts and flight mechanics is wrong. As stated above, That does not make the original identification "right."
I don't know for a fact, but I suspect the authors of the rebuttal papers still maintain and are satisfied with their belief that the bird is most likely a Pileated and that at most the original proponents have not "proved" their interpretation. And from a birdwatcher perspective that is an appropriate position to have.
But from a science and conservation standpoint, the lack at present of a valid alternative explanation does mean that the remaining published hypothesis that the bird is an Ivory-billed Woodpecker remains the most parasimonious explanation. This is not proof of anything, as other possibilities do remain "out there" as Cyberthrush discusses briefly, but they are still "out there" explanations without any scientific treatment or for that matter much relevant evidence. Not very satisfying to anyone, but that is how science works.
I do not accept that the video can be taken as 'proof' of an Ivorybill due to flight mechanics or whatever nonsense people come up with. I think that's obfuscation to save face. It can be likened to the evolution vs creationism debate where the creationists often claim success - the evolutionists on the other hand can't win when the entire basuis of the arguments is spurious.
It's just something that people who 'believe' can cling too as if it can't be 'proved' to be an IBWO/PIWO, it will always make sure the debate never dies - although 'most' seem to be quite happy it is a normal PIWO)
It really is time to accept that even if there are a few birds out there, what has transpired so far has not succeeded in proving the presence of IBWOs anywhere - and hasn't pointed realistically to even a faint hope that they might be somewhere out there. All claims have come to nothing - which is why we are still stuck here discussing fuzzy videos.
"failure of others to produce a valid interpretation leaves us with the hypothesis that the bird was an Ivory-bill as the most parsimonious explanation."
demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the word "parsimonious" and suggesting they should (at the minimum) read the Wikipedia entry for "parsimony". One also wonders why one would start with the "hypothesis" that the bird was an IBWO.
Humans regularly think the intensity of their belief will somehow allow them to overcome the reality of probability. State governments make large amounts of money selling lottery tickets to these people and CNBC puts them on display on "Deal or No Deal". In general, an overemphasis in "belief" while ignoring "probability" is not looked on as a sign of intelligence.
As the IBWO story moves from being the "conservation story of the century" to its place in the Great Hoax Hall of Fame it would be good if Cornell, TNC, et al. would try to regain some credibility by admitting their error in jumping on the bandwagon being driven by agenda-driven zealots who had spent too much time in the swamp. I don't mind people entertaining delusions in their private lives, but it crosses the line when those delusions are portrayed as facts and when the government and private citizens are asked to donate to support those delusions.
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