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Ivory-billed Woodpecker (formerly updates) (1 Viewer)

dave_in_michigan

Well-known member
How to tell a good scientist from a bad scientist

Nice link on Tom Nelson's blog to this article: "How to tell a good scientist from a bad scientist".

This excerpt is a quote from New York Times science writer Gary Taubes (my emphasis added):

"I’m a stickler about the use of words like “evidence” and “proof”. So if someone tells you there’s no evidence for some controversial belief, you can be fairly confident that they’re a bad scientist. There’s always evidence, or there wouldn’t be a controversy. If somebody says that “we proved that this was true” or “we set out to prove that this was true” that’s another bad sign. The point here, as [Karl] Popper noted, among others, is that you can never prove anything is true; you can only refute it. So researchers who talk about proving a hypothesis is true rather than testing it make me worried."
 

pcoin

Well-known member
yes, excellent

Nice link on Tom Nelson's blog to this article: "How to tell a good scientist from a bad scientist".

This excerpt is a quote from New York Times science writer Gary Taubes (my emphasis added):

"I’m a stickler about the use of words like “evidence” and “proof”. So if someone tells you there’s no evidence for some controversial belief, you can be fairly confident that they’re a bad scientist.


Yes, an excellent article, and I thought this quote really hit home as well:
Yes, and the really good scientists are the ones, almost by definition, who are most skeptical of evidence that seems to support their beliefs. They’re most aware of how they could have been fooled, how they could have screwed up, or how they might have missed artifacts in their experiment that could have explained what they observed.

That's been my observation of the very best scientists I have known--they are their own harshest critics--always willing to entertain an alternative to their favorite hypothesis. Self-criticism has sometimes been lacking in the 21st century Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings.
 

dave_in_michigan

Well-known member
Some good and plenty of bad science displayed on both sides of the IBWO discussion, I'd say.

Here's another quote from the full interview:

"By “really good science”, what you’re supposed to do, as brutally as you can, is to try to come up with tests that would refute your own hypothesis. The idea is that if your hypothesis survives every rigorous test you can imagine, and all those that everyone else can imagine, then you can start believing it's true.

But once you’ve staked a claim based on premature data — once you’ve gone out on a limb without doing any of those rigorous tests — now your motivation becomes to prove that you were right., which you can never do in any case. But the point is that you stop trying to refute your hypothesis, and you start trying to accumulate evidence that supports it and the latter isn’t science. It’s more like what happens in religions." - Gary Taubes​

What you might not notice straight away is that this applies quite directly to the theory that IBWO is extinct. Before believing it, a good scientist should look carefully and with an open mind -- and try to actually test every possible way it might be refuted. And a good scientist certainly wouldn't blithely discard possible evidence against his theory, right? ;)

Conversely, I have tried to argue that a search designed on sound scientific practice would be such that failure of the search should contribute strong confidence in the theory of extinction. In that regard previous searches fail miserably, because they were instead designed to "maximize the chance of success". If I was a skeptic, I'd push hard to change this approach, because search failures are too easily discounted.

- Dave

I try to stay balanced... by taking shots at both sides.:t:
 

Ilya Maclean

charlatan
Actually some of the stuff in the article simply isn't true. For example you can prove IBWOs are extant. Right enough - you can't prove they're extinct, but implying that skeptics have blithely disragarded the evidence in front of them and are therefore bad scientists is a bit silly. Actually most of us have considered it - and simply come to the conclusion that 3 years of funny noises and odd bark scrapings don't really amount to an IBWO.

Edit: incdentally how on earth does a search designed to find IBWOs differ from one in which failure suggest strong confidence in the theory of extinction, except perhaps in wasting more time and money?
 
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dave_in_michigan

Well-known member
Actually some of the stuff in the article simply isn't true. For example you can prove IBWOs are extant. Right enough - you can't prove they're extinct, but implying that skeptics have blithely disragarded the evidence in front of them and are therefore bad scientists is a bit silly. Actually most of us have considered it - and simply come to the conclusion that 3 years of funny noises and odd bark scrapings don't really amount to an IBWO.

I don't understand what you think is not true here. Anyone who blithely disregards possible evidence that doesn't agree with their belief is a bad scientist. Period. I don't care who they are. You don't agree? It's a general statement about good science versus bad science (just as it was the first time), not an accusation against you, or IBWO Skeptics, or anyone else in particular.

Edit: incdentally how on earth does a search designed to find IBWOs differ from one in which failure suggest strong confidence in the theory of extinction, except perhaps in wasting more time and money?

Let me put it this way. As a skeptic, if you were asked to head up efforts to determine whether or not there are any IBWO in the Big Woods, I doubt you would focus much effort on "hot spots", would you? Failure to find them in a few select areas wouldn't do much to resolve the question.

I'd think you'd be more interested in devising a test / search strategy after which you could claim, "because these carefully designed efforts came up negative, we can say with high confidence there are no IBWO in the Big Woods." I'm not privy to the details, but current searches do not strike me as being designed that way.

Or would you go about it just as they have been? That would certainly help to explain your confidence that the matter is settled already...
 

Bonsaibirder

http://mobro.co/saddinall
Anyone who blithely disregards possible evidence that doesn't agree with their belief is a bad scientist. Period. I don't care who they are. You don't agree?

Good scientists have to consider data that is presented as evidence that impacts on their subject of interest. However, it is perfectly scientific to disregard data which is of such low quality that it cannot be relied on.

Very poor data is not "evidence" .
 

Imaginos

Well-known member
I don't understand what you think is not true here. Anyone who blithely disregards possible evidence that doesn't agree with their belief is a bad scientist. Period. I don't care who they are. You don't agree? It's a general statement about good science versus bad science (just as it was the first time), not an accusation against you, or IBWO Skeptics, or anyone else in particular.

I think you may be stretching the definition of evidence here to an extent. Anecdotal evidence such as many of the sightings has always been problematical for many reasons already exhaustively discussed on this thread. "Scientific evidence is evidence where the dependence of the evidence on principles of inference is not conceded, enabling others to examine the background beliefs or assumptions employed to determine if facts are relevant to the proof or disproof of a purported hypothesis." In other words any account which states 'I believe I saw' in any way is not strictly scientific evidence. In the same way, an entomologist who "blithely disregards" someone's sighting of a four foot yellow beetle in their London garden, or a report of being bitten by a butterfly is not being a "bad" scientist. Your implication looks like if you don't 'believe' the 'evidence' gathered is enough to support the hypothesis of an extant IBW then you are not following scientific method. I think this is the wrong conclusion to draw, as things stand there is no strong evidence to support the hypothesis, just a collection of anecdotal reports and optimistic conclusions drawn on circumstantial evidence. Possibly the worst piece of bad science in this whole affair is the analysis of that first video in Science, if the writers had been a bit more cautious of their conclusions this whole brouhaha would not have happened...And plenty of people wouldn't have made quite so much money on books & ephemera, oh, and helicopter hire.
 

dave_in_michigan

Well-known member
Good scientists have to consider data that is presented as evidence that impacts on their subject of interest. However, it is perfectly scientific to disregard data which is of such low quality that it cannot be relied on.

Very poor data is not "evidence" .

I don't disagree with you, but I would point out that one must objectively look at the information to find out it it has any value or not.

And I really wasn't accusing anyone of not looking at the data. It was a general statement about good v. bad scientific practice - about being objective. Good scientists remain objective about all the information (if you prefer), poor one's don't. And that happens way way way too often, so I think it's worth pointing out.
 

dave_in_michigan

Well-known member
I think you may be stretching the definition of evidence here to an extent. Anecdotal evidence such as many of the sightings has always been problematical for many reasons already exhaustively discussed on this thread. "Scientific evidence is evidence where the dependence of the evidence on principles of inference is not conceded, enabling others to examine the background beliefs or assumptions employed to determine if facts are relevant to the proof or disproof of a purported hypothesis." In other words any account which states 'I believe I saw' in any way is not strictly scientific evidence.

Sighting reports are frought with problems. They are what they are. Whatever wording might be used by lay-people in their reports doesn't negate whatever value it might have.

In the same way, an entomologist who "blithely disregards" someone's sighting of a four foot yellow beetle in their London garden, or a report of being bitten by a butterfly is not being a "bad" scientist.

Well those would be reports of something hitherto completely unknown to science, so that's quite a different thing than the IBWO case. And certainly a single report is quite different from multiple independant reports.

Your implication looks like if you don't 'believe' the 'evidence' gathered is enough to support the hypothesis of an extant IBW then you are not following scientific method.

Yikes! I'm saying nothing of the sort!

I think this is the wrong conclusion to draw, as things stand there is no strong evidence to support the hypothesis, just a collection of anecdotal reports and optimistic conclusions drawn on circumstantial evidence. Possibly the worst piece of bad science in this whole affair is the analysis of that first video in Science, if the writers had been a bit more cautious of their conclusions this whole brouhaha would not have happened...And plenty of people wouldn't have made quite so much money on books & ephemera, oh, and helicopter hire.

I certainly agree that conclusions in the Science report were very poor and likely driven more by political motivations (getting funding and support, etc) than by proper scientific reporting.
 
Good scientists remain objective about all the information (if you prefer), poor one's don't.

But Dave, when people who are well-versed in identifying birds in the field or have extensive experience of searching for secretive birds, have looked (objectively, I hope) at the evidence and come to the conclusion that errors have been made and are still being made, that doesn't suddenly make their conclusions 'subjective'. There comes a point when you have to accept the position and move on - until something new comes to light that changes those previous conclusions.

And try to remember, it's not a level playing field, and the eye-witness accounts of lay-people are broadly not as valid as reports from well-travelled birders. If you wanted someone to assess your work on quantum physics you'd have asked Niels Bohr, not someone with a passing interest but a firm conviction of his own ideas, based on very little experience or work in the field.

We can use language to say almost anything we want and the more we use, the further we get from the truth that we are seeking to represent. While I agree entirely that Scientific Method should be rigourously followed, I find a lot of the arguments upthread to be nothing more than semantics and word games, taking us round and round in circles again and again.

Tim
 

Ilya Maclean

charlatan
Let me put it this way. As a skeptic, if you were asked to head up efforts to determine whether or not there are any IBWO in the Big Woods, I doubt you would focus much effort on "hot spots", would you? Failure to find them in a few select areas wouldn't do much to resolve the question.

The trouble is - what's a non-hotspot? Pine forests aren't that hot, downtown LA's freezing and East Anglia's about 0 Kelvin. Where do you stop, or do you keep wasting more money?

Pseudo-scientifically you can only ever truly resolve the question with evidence, not lack of it. Using common sense on the other hand.....
 

dave_in_michigan

Well-known member
Hi Tim.
But Dave, when people who are well-versed in identifying birds in the field or have extensive experience of searching for secretive birds, have looked (objectively, I hope) at the evidence and come to the conclusion that errors have been made and are still being made, that doesn't suddenly make their conclusions 'subjective'. There comes a point when you have to accept the position and move on - until something new comes to light that changes those previous conclusions.

And try to remember, it's not a level playing field, and the eye-witness accounts of lay-people are broadly not as valid as reports from well-travelled birders. If you wanted someone to assess your work on quantum physics you'd have asked Niels Bohr, not someone with a passing interest but a firm conviction of his own ideas, based on very little experience or work in the field.

We can use language to say almost anything we want and the more we use, the further we get from the truth that we are seeking to represent. While I agree entirely that Scientific Method should be rigourously followed, I find a lot of the arguments upthread to be nothing more than semantics and word games, taking us round and round in circles again and again.

Tim

Hi Tim,

I never said anything about people's conclusions suddenly being 'subjective'...(???) And I really have no beef with the skeptical view, as I've said many times.

I thought they were some nice quotes on recognizing bad science and worth posting. I added my own view on how I think those principles apply to the IBWO topic, but I'm not trying to point fingers, as I've already said. I'm also not trying to pursuade anybody to change their opinion on the IBWO status either way, since you're right -- there's no new evidence. The point is, recognize bad science from good.

If you only see semantics, then you miss my meaning, and that's fine with me. I'm content to hear you say you support Scientific Method.

Dave
 

Piltdownwoman

Well-known member
To Dave_in_Michigan,

I can't believe you're still at it. How can you claim that you are objective and "not trying to point fingers"?

Earlier you quoted Gary Taubes on how a good scientist will examine every possible way to refute their hypothesis, and that failure to do so leads to something more like religion (I agree). But then you say "this applies quite directly to the theory that IBWO is extinct". Your meaning is crystal-clear, you think skeptics are not being good scientists and are basing their skepticism on ideology rather than science.

So here's a direct question for you - Exactly what is the evidence that you think has NOT been given a fair and objective review by skeptics? Is it the micro-glimpses by keyed-up birders? the faint bleating sounds barely audible on about 0.0001% of the collected recordings? The sticky bark and large holes on some trees? I can't hide my disgust at this weak evidence, but I am genuinely interested in being objective. What, exactly, should we take another look at?
 

dave_in_michigan

Well-known member
To Piltdownwoman,

To Dave_in_Michigan,

I can't believe you're still at it. How can you claim that you are objective and "not trying to point fingers"?

Earlier you quoted Gary Taubes on how a good scientist will examine every possible way to refute their hypothesis, and that failure to do so leads to something more like religion (I agree). But then you say "this applies quite directly to the theory that IBWO is extinct". Your meaning is crystal-clear, you think skeptics are not being good scientists and are basing their skepticism on ideology rather than science.

Why don't you read it again. That is not at all my meaning. The description of poor science can apply to anyone, and in fact I expect most in this crowd to automatically apply the test to 'Believers'. I point out that it applies also to those who think the bird is extinct. In fact, "IBWO is extinct" is actually a the form of the question that I think 'Believers' should use in trying to design their searches (design for refutation, not for positive evidence).

So here's a direct question for you - Exactly what is the evidence that you think has NOT been given a fair and objective review by skeptics? Is it the micro-glimpses by keyed-up birders? the faint bleating sounds barely audible on about 0.0001% of the collected recordings? The sticky bark and large holes on some trees? I can't hide my disgust at this weak evidence, but I am genuinely interested in being objective. What, exactly, should we take another look at?

As far as I know, all the evidence has been given fair and objective review by skeptics. I never thought or said otherwise. In fact I reiterated not 5 posts up that I have no beef with skeptical conclusions based on the evidence. Some skeptics are clearly good scientists and review the information objectively. But guess what? Some are not. Same goes for 'Believers'. And so? The quotes from Gary Taubes gave some hints on how one might recognize the difference. If you are interested in being objective, you might read those again too, or follow the links to some more dialogue from him. Beyond that, I don't have any other suggestions for you.
 

Piltdownwoman

Well-known member
As far as I know, all the evidence has been given fair and objective review by skeptics. I never thought or said otherwise.

Incredible! So you think the skeptical review of the evidence has been good and thorough?

So if the skeptics have met their obligation as good scientists, what were all your previous posts about? What does it matter if some skeptics are not good scientists, if the evidence has been reviewed to your satisfaction by the good ones?

Just on this page you say that Ilya Maclean, Tim Allwood, Imaginos, BonsaiBirder, and I have all missed your point. So what is your point? Maybe you should read your own posts again and try to figure out how all of these people could read them and come away with the wrong impression.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
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