Sunday, January 29, 2006

Skeptical Overload: What Do You Want To Believe?

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Ivory-billed Woodpecker Ivory-billed this pont in the game even I am getting bored (maybe frustrated would be a better word) with all of the IBWO talk on the Internet. Some of the blog commentary on the IBWO has degenerated into nearly unintelligible drivel, fueled in by what appears to be bitterness that has nothing to do with the Ivory-billed itself. Please note that I'm not referring to any site in particular --it seems that everyone who has a blog related to birds has chimed in on the issue, and while the diversity of opinion on the IBWO rediscovery is a good thing, it also threatens to raise the noise level so high that the real issues seem to have been almost forgotten.

I agree with a lot of what was in Jackson's Auk article, and I think it is a very important article, but let's not forget that the publication of Jackson's article in the Auk has no effect on whether Elvis actually exists. It just brings to light the same questions that bloggers have been asking for months, and puts a public face on those criticisms. The bird is either there, or it isn't, and Jackson's criticisms (or mine or Tom Nelson's or anyone else's) don't make the IBWO's survival any more or less likely -- it only changes what people *think* about the existence of the IBWO. Consider this: even if everything Cornell has said over the last year or two is incorrect, there could still be IBWOs in Arkansas, or, for that matter, in Louisiana or Texas or Florida. Even if the bird in Luneau's video could be proven to be something other than an IBWO, that still doesn't disprove any of the Arkansas sight records.

Now, this site has poked a lot of fun and Cornell, and deservedly so. But make no mistake about it: if Cornell produced a perfect photograph of "Elvis" tomorrow, I would be *happy.* I'd be the first person to jump back on the bandwagon, because I want this bird to exist as badly as anyone does.

This site has also taken a few shots at people (like Mr. Guppy) who seem to be seeing IBWOs in every patch of woods they know. But we have used those tactics because we feel that those people detract (and distract) from the credible scientists and ornithologists (and birders, too) who are actively searching for evidence that the IBWO still exists. But, in the end, nothing that we say here -- and nothing that is said on any blog or web site anywhere -- is going to prove whether the IBWO still exists. If the IBWO does still exist, its existence will not be proven on the Internet, it will be proven by experienced observers in the field.

That is why it is exciting to see that organized searches are apparently going to be funded in Texas and South Carolina, and hopefully in other states as well. For the life of me, I can't understand who anyone -- even the most hardened skeptic -- could see these searches as a bad thing. I want to know if the IBWO still exists. I want to know the truth, dammit, and I want to believe --- I just need more proof. I hope for more proof. I want more proof, because I want the bird to exist. If Cornell can definitively prove that IBWOs currently reside in Arkansas, I would rejoice and be on the next plane to Arkansas, because such proof would be a good thing. Let's not lose sight of that.

So Cornell, please find this damn bird, and oh yeah, please tell us when you do.


Mike's Soap Box said...

Yep I agree with everything you have to say in your post. I am trying to keep my blog IBWO free but its hard when I read some piece of crap that doesn't make any sense to me at all. So I have a need to respond to it.

Also I do not recall leading you and other Illinois birders to Isabella or in Duluth. What year was that and who came along? I am very good friends with David Johnson anf I know Dan Kassabaum (spelling), Pete Weber, Geof Willaimson, Steve Baily and Wes Sarafin but for the life of me I can't remember when we met.

I like your blog and Yes I read it daily or look for your new postings. I just updated my blog and presented photos of a Gyrfalcon that is settling in this winter in Duluth.

Mike Hendrickson

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

Yeah Mike, you know I guess we keep writing stuff because people keep reading it, but at some point I just wonder when the whole thing is gonna end.

I know most of those people you mentioned but I haven't gone to MN with any of them. I can't remember what year it was, but now that I think of it, I may have been with a group that was not from Illinois that year. Usually when we go up north we don't hire anyone. If I was a good record-keeper I could actually tell you when it was, but according to Avisys I have never birded in Minnesota!

I will actually be in MSP in February but probably won't have any time to head up towards Duluth while I'm there.

P.S. I'm starting to get a few spam comments that appear to be evading the spam filter, so if I have to turn off comments for a while, that's the reason, not because of anything anyone wrote.