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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.

Web ivorybills.blogspot.com

"....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

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


-- PLoS Piece --


Wow, VERY surprised to find Jerry Jackson authoring a lengthy review (entitled "Ghost Bird – The Ivory-billed Woodpecker: Hopes, Dreams, and Reality") of Scott Crocker's "Ghost Bird" documentary for the latest edition of PLoS Biology's open-access science journal:


Jerry doing film reviews... who'd-a-guessed it! ;-) I didn't even realize PLoS did film reviews! Anyway, a peculiar feeling for me reading this (there are a great many reviews of Crocker's film on the Web, but this is different).
There is nothing in the piece that Dr. Jackson hasn't already expressed in some form over the last few years... but an odd format for doing so now; seeming to use the Crocker film as a vehicle to get in a few final swipes at possibly the most bizarre episode in the history of American ornithology. Perhaps it is his way of bringing some closure to the whole affair for himself (even vent a bit at the end of a long process), or perhaps someone simply appealed to him to do a review of the documentary for the journal??? I don't know.

Dr. Jackson always ultimately hedges his bets on the Ivory-bill's existence, but makes it clear here (as well as other correspondences) that he thinks the chances close to nil now for its persistence. Dr. Jackson is one of my ornithological heroes, and of all the "skeptics," the one I most respect. So there is something both sad and ironic in seeing the man who most prominently argued for this bird's possible continued persistence for so many decades (when everyone else rolled their eyes at the mention of IBWO existence), now be cast in the role of one of it's most prominent critics. And how ironic it would be if, as some of us believe, he turned out to be right back when most everyone thought him wrong, and now wrong when so many think him right! Worth noting, as an aside, that there are various long-term underlying schisms in the ornithological community which may also impinge on all that has transpired over the last few years (this has definitely been more than a story about mere scientific process).

....possibly, I'll add to this post later, as I've written more, but not sure how much, if any, I want to put into print.
Meanwhile, for now, the searches continue, the claims continue, and the implacable disagreements over interpretation of the accumulated evidence continue.
I find it ironic that Jackson suggests that a blogger like Tom Nelson was a useful outlet for those who wanted to express "skepticism" anonymously. In the first place, there were already widely read internet fora that were posting plenty of skeptics views in 2005, including Nelson's own. But more importantly, Jackson of all people should understand what Nelson and his ilk represent to science in its relationship to the public. Unsurprisingly, Nelson has turned his so-called skepticism to the issue of global warming, using the same familiar tactics of distortion, selective reporting, and ad nauseum repetition of untruth that is so familiar on talk radio.

I find it doubly ironic because it is people who saw the birds themselves that had trouble getting a hearing on those same fora, without being subjected to badgering and downright vitriol. People like Jackson and Sibley had no trouble publishing their views in prestigious journals. I have actually heard professional ornithologists say that if they saw an ivory-bill they would tell no one.
yes, Fang, I'd agree and would almost call elements of the review "tacky" as well as disappointing (but then I'm disappointed with Cornell and USFW also).
As to Tom's current blog... does ANYone (well, perhaps Michele Bachmann) actually take it seriously!???
More to the point, does anyone even read it any longer? And also, why does his blog STILL appear near the top of the list of relevant blogs whenever I do a blogsearch for "ivory-bill"?
Obviously I'm a little late getting in on the discussion here. You mention Jackson as a "hero;" a while ago I think you referred to Sibley the same way. I think "hero worship" has been one of the major problems in all this. People have picked their "hero" (Cornell, Sibley, Jackson, Nelson, etc.) and just aligned themselves in their hero's camp rather than actually looking critically at what everyone has been saying and discussing. All of the above have committed major whoppers of blunders in their analyses, discussions, and conclusions, as all real inherently fallible humans do. Science isn't about heros, it's about data, inference, deduction, and uncertainty.
I hope you're late to the discussion Bill because you've been busy in E.Tenn. documenting Ivory-bills! ;-))
First, I've never "referred to Sibley" in the "same way" I referred to Jackson; I simply acknowledged the position Sibley holds in the birding community at large (and I also recognize him as a keen observer).
Part of my respect for Jackson is because of his teaching ability -- I suspect you'll find few academic ornithologists who are rated as highly by their students as Jackson is by his students.
I think I've been fairly clear that I believe both Sibley and Jackson are wrong in this instance; but I think Cornell and USFW have made major blunders as well -- am still waiting for the individual or team to come along who gets this matter right; and that may be science-driven... or in the end it may primarily stem from luck!
correction: I mean WESTERN Tenn.
I was speaking about the birding/ornithology community as a whole, not you specifically. Your comment just provided a stepping off point.
Science shmience. Here a some questions I have for science.

1. What scientific knowledge about the ivory-bill has been gained since 2004.

2. What are the mechanics of a pileated wing flap?

3. How far should you go on a first date?
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