Sunday, September 17, 2006

Healthy Skepticism

Many of the people in the Ivory-billed Woodpecker discussions have indeed been pursuing healthy, honest skepticism, such as is integral to any scientific endeavor. However, the comments to this posting on Tom Nelson's blog do not. They mostly comprise presumptions, insults, smears, preemptive dismissals, accusations of fraud, and the like; all this before anything has even been actually announced or presented. They exemplify one of many highly disruptive trends that have undermined this whole matter, and turned it into a political campaign instead of a scientific investigation. Blog what you like, but if this is the way you want to play the game, don't claim to be practicing straightforward, proper scientific skepticism.

7 Comments:

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see someone speak out on this. Tom's blog clearly ran out of anything constructive to say a long time ago (back when there were legitimate criticisms to be leveled), and has been reduced to a gathering place for commenters to ridicule anyone who even considers the possibility of the IBWO's continued existence. Ironically, Nelson proudly displays a post claiming Dr. Jerry Jackson's endorsement, yet his blog is loaded with comments effectively trashing Jackson's years of optimism and effort.

I think we can all agree that the Arkansas situation has not turned out how any of us had hoped it would. However, the fact that they are now trashing people, unrelated to Arkansas, BEFORE they even present their evidence, is just small and pathetic. I can’t express in words the contempt I feel for these people. They are effectively reveling in their certainty of the bird’s extinction. Sick and truly pathetic.

Nelson may say that he isn’t the one making the comments, however I have spoken to two people who have left critical comments which conveniently have not shown up on the blog, and I have had the same experience myself. I infer that he is screening comments, which means he sees and actively allows through all of the garbage you find there.

I don’t know if IBWO’s still exist, but I am thankful that there are people out there seriously looking for them. I won’t be holding my breath until the AOU meeting, but I’m certainly hoping for good news in some form of solid proof.

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger John L. Trapp said...

I heartily agree with your assesment, Bill. I have long been an ardent reader of Tom's blog. But more and more lately, it seems that commenters are more apt to offer ridicule and derision rather than honest evaluations of the evidence (such as it is). Admittedly, there has been little in the way of evidence produced lately to evaluate, and many seemingly crazy rumors to poke fun at. But still, I'm saddened to see this fine blog making a slow turn into the dark realm of pseudo-skepticism.

 
At 9:09 AM, Anonymous THE CARPINTERIO REAL said...

The Carpinterio admires the man of constant sorrow's work on the evidence. The Carpinterio was a celebrant and beliver until he started thinking what a miracle this was and went and looked at the evidence and saw the evidence and noticed that 33.3 was so critical to much of the paper's conclusions and so obviously WRONG (ie bird in position drawn by Shaggy Bill and Silent Dave (oh and the carpinterio here .

Since then he has been a beliver scorned.

So here is my question to you soggy, friends, do you think it is OK for reports such as this from the Jackson Star Ledger to appear in the press ... I mean shouldn't Ghallager, and Cornell, at this point be saying that their paper is being widely and legitimately critiqued and contains several flaws?

I mean if the Carpinterio, Soggy Bill and David Sibley (not to mention his co-authors) all independantly come to the conclusion that the paper has fatal errors ... shouldn't that be part of the information that a group like Cornell puts out?

I mean read the press on this ... who is running a political campaign? Neslon or Fitzcrow?

No one is "reveling" in the fact that no one has presented evidence that the ivory bill lives in the present day ... they are upset that people are being led to believe that there is evidence, when in fact there isn't.

Cornell should correct the record so that it should refect the proper scientific position on this question.

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Well, it's definitely NOT normal for academics to bring up their critics and their arguments unless someone else does.

In the world of modern science, this is the way things work:

You have three crocks of shit in front of you. One is your crock, one is your friends' crock, one is your rivals' crock. You are required to proclaim that your own shit is gold, your friends' shit is silver, and your rivals' shit is shit. After enough practice, you actually come to believe this.

The smart observer undertands that it is all just shit, and evaluates the various crocks of the stuff to see which can be used to make the best compost from which something useful or beautiful can be grown.

Have I stretched that metaphor far enough yet?

Nearly all papers have flaws, some minor, some major, some lethal. It's a bit silly and highly unrealistic to expect the authors to criticize their own work. That job falls to everyone else.

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

By the way, I also find significant flaws in Sibley's, Bevier's, Nelson's, and Jackson's analyses, and I'm sure there are flaws in mine.

 
At 1:13 PM, Anonymous THE CARPINTERIO said...

yeah, ok, bill I'll give you a lot of that - most of that even.

but step back a minute, we are talking frame 33.3 here.

33.3 from which the wrist to tip measurements are taken ... its wrong ... I mean we aren't taking about complicated technical stuff here ... we are talking "what do you see in this photo"?

You see what I see, you see what sibley sees ... I didn't come into this as a partisan ... but Heyzoo Christu bill ... this is beyond the pale ... these Cornell Labbers hide behind the meme of science or advocacy as they see fit - and the advocacy has gotten way out of hand here.

If David Sibley trashes you ... the nations LEADING IBWO "expert" (Jackson) trashes you ... the carpinterio, and soggy bill, all trash you, and you don't have the humility and respect to say ... you know what we got carried away here - I say, Dedaleus tried and now Icarus is gonna take a bath.

Hell I don't care if Ghallager wants to swear on a stack of Chan Robbin's first edition golden guides, that he saw the bird, more power to him, sure it gets my attention, but ... all I, and to defend his right wing ass, Tom Nelson, are saying, is that other than the "witness" and the "testimony" there is no evidence.

Now to restate the obvious - because this is such an "extra ordinary" claim - it requires "extra ordinary" proof - not the "I saw it, then fell down crying, and when I heard it on NPR I couldn't keep driving I was crying so much" kind of stuff.

 
At 4:47 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Oh, I agree completely that they totally missed the boat on that frame, the size measurement, the white on the back, all of it. But it is still a matter of interpretation, and if they still think their interpretation of this frame is correct (in spite of nearly everyone else, including me, who thinks it is completely wrong) then sure they're gonna stick by their seemingly unjustifiable guns. That's where it falls on everyone else to just keep repeating the alternative interpretation and let the scientific consensus sort it out. It would be a sign of good character for them to admit even one mistake, but it's not surprising that they haven't. Their entire case does not vanish entirely without this one frame of the video; indeed keeping that frame in the evidence pile weakens their case in actuality.

 

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