Friday, December 19, 2008

Mantra for True Believers

Some things have to be believed to be seen.
Ralph Hodgson
This would seem to be the perfect mantra for folks in hot pursuit of rarities such as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker or creatures of a more crytological nature such as Bigfoots and Thunderbirds.

Not to poke too much fun at true believers—and you know who you are!—it could also be the mantra for hard-core birders everywhere seeking rare and unusual birds of all kinds.

My sincerest thanks to Marjorie Foster for making me aware of this quote.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look at it this way. Where you are right now, there is virtually an infinite amount of focal points around you that you can potentially focus on. But we are all blind because most of the world is invisible to us. It doesn't resonate or vibe with us, so we disregard it and it stays invisible even though it is in plain sight. We can only see the things that are on or in our minds. And our minds consists of beliefs about how the world works, which is totally limiting, since we see such a narrow spectrum and within that narrow spectrum, we don't see much either. We see what we want to see and what we are only capable of seeing. Our beliefs are the reality that we can only see. This is why the human race lives in a dream, sees with a clouded mind, and is embedded in a world of illusion.

December 19, 2008 3:10 PM  
Blogger cyberthrush said...

or, as skeptics might say, no things exist until they are photographed... ;-)

December 20, 2008 6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cyberthrush, I believe I read on your blog that you aren't certain yourself the IBWO lives. Guess that makes you a skeptic, doesn't it?

December 24, 2008 8:53 AM  
Blogger cyberthrush said...

Well, technically, I'm a skeptic of EVERYthing -- I believe only in probabilities, never in certainty.

December 24, 2008 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So then why have you consistently argued that "skeptics don't get it?"

I know plenty of things: I know there are living robins, I know that there are living mallards. I know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that if the Ivory-bill lived and many of these reports were legit that someone could get a good quality photograph of it sometime in the last 44 years or whatever it is now. Am I certain? Nope, but plenty certain enough in the real world which is where I actually live.

December 26, 2008 9:23 PM  
Blogger cyberthrush said...

Even you throw in the qualifying terms "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "certain enough" because that's all we humans can do (and then it comes down to a semantic debate over 'reasonable doubt'). I think, believe, and have faith, beyond a reasonable doubt that mallards exist too, but don't (and can't) KNOW it with 100% certainty.
Yes, I'm a skeptic... of James Tanner's conclusions, of Sibley's analysis of the Luneau video, of assumptions about IBWO behavior and needs, and of human capability to find, let alone photograph, every living thing in southern swamps.

December 27, 2008 8:13 AM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

Cyberthrush said, "I think, believe, and have faith, beyond a reasonable doubt that mallards exist too, but don't (and can't) KNOW it with 100% certainty."

It seems to me that you're being dramatically metaphysical here, ct. You "don't (and can't) KNOW . . . with 100% certainty" that Mallards exist? Come on now! Are you saying that in your world there is no reality beyond what you imagine it to be, that you can choose to believe what exists and what does not, that scientific evidence never proves anything (i.e., helps sort out fact from fantasy)?

December 27, 2008 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's necessary to look at things in a certain way to believe what you want to believe.

December 27, 2008 12:40 PM  
Blogger cyberthrush said...

Yo John, yes I'm being strict and literal about what scientists can know of the nature of reality -- most physicists and philosophers understand this inherently; biologists, not so much in my experience! The use of the word "proof" is inappropriate in science which can only deal with evidence and probability.
Again, within our dreams we are convinced reality is happening, yet it is just the firing of neurons; schizophrenics are 100% certain they hear voices of God and their shrinks are 100% convinced they don't (but neither can know for sure). Godel showed that the most logical, systematic knowledge we have, mathematics, cannot be proven true or consistent, because it is always ultimately based on unprovable assumptions.
Biologists are fond of saying evolution is proven -- it ISN'T; it is simply backed up by a tremendous volume of evidence, but 100 years from now some finding, currently beyond our comprehension could arise which would totally subsume that evidence and account for all of it in some new way heretofore inconceivable --- that is what makes science great; it is always open to new evidence and theories -- it is in religion where claims of certainty are made and acted upon.

In the case of mallards, someone centuries(??) ago named certain specific birds "mallards" -- there is no way for me to prove that the birds I ID today as "mallards," based merely on visual cues, are REALLY the same (...however one chooses to define 'same') as those birds originally so-designated, and given the frequency of AOU name changes and new DNA evidence, it is even less certain ;-) Seriously, the underlying assumptions involved are huge, but completely taken for granted so long as overlooking them leads to no problems.

Having said all that, it's okay in the IBWO debate that we use language in the everyday way and context we're used to, except when people say they "know" or it is "proven" from science that IBWOs are extinct --- that is simply an adulturation of science I can't let pass.
As I've said before John, scientifically, Christmas bird count data is a travesty -- 10s of thousands of unverified, unvalidated verbal reports with next to no empirical backing... yet despite that, we use them, and fairly successfully, because it IS possible to attain useful knowledge without strict adherence to scientific method. But in the IBWO arena some claim that the science must be of the strictest order, and that it is already complete and thorough enough (it isn't) that absolute conclusions can be reached -- I and others simply see 'reasonable doubt' in those conclusions.

December 27, 2008 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cornell didn't see "reasonable doubt." They said they found the bird, announced it as fact, and have since spent millions of dollars on "research."

Your blog doesn't say "There is reasonable doubt that the Ivory-bill may not be extinct." It says "Ivory-bills LiVE!"

Mike Collins doesn't claim that it's possible the Ivory-bill isn't extirpated in the Pearl. He says he's seen them many times and the rest of us are simply too stupid and arrogant to see Ivory-bills in the blurry crap he calls "evidence."

Your mallard blathering is just that, blathering. You know what a mallard is, I know what a mallard is, John knows what a mallard is, and we all know that mallards exist. For sure. In the real world. I'll accept evolution as just simply a damn good theory, the same with relativity. But not mallards.

When the Singer Tract was being logged it wouldn't have done a hell of a lot of good to argue, "Do we REALLY know what logging is? There is no way we can really be sure this will be detrimental to wildlife, is there?"

Your point on Christmas bird counts doesn't really seem relevant because I'm not sure there really is a Christmas or birds or counts or especially Christmas Bird Counts.

December 27, 2008 9:10 PM  

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