I have never heard of this issue before but it reminds me of other situations where the null-hypothesis (no birds exist) can only be disproved (a photo is produced) never proved.

Because it can’t be shown absolutely no bird exists, it’s free to simply believe one may still be out there. No individual ever need to commit to the statement.

But reason demands we draw a line. People may argue about this Woodpecker, but they likely wouldn’t argue about the carrier pigeon and definitely wouldn’t argue that the Giant sloth still roams the earth. At some point the evidence becomes overwhelming.

This is pure Bayesian reasoning, as I understand it. Someone has to introduce the logical claim as something like, “we say with 90% confidence that these birds are gone.” Every year or decade that goes by will increase that number until it’s 99.9%, or one day, miraculously, it will go to 0%.

Since someone has to do it, it falls to the journals of science. The individual scientists may believe there’s still a chance, but it’s rational to make the claim, set the date with high-certainty and move on. As unfortunate as it is, it sounds like good science.

Nice article, thanks! Any birds I should look out for in Eastern Appalachia?

Expand full comment

Thanks very much, this comment is much appreciated, as well as this interesting framing. We can all say or dream that a Ivory-billed is lurking somewhere out there. But with no confirmed sighting in decades it becomes wishful thinking.

Expand full comment

It's obvious you likely know very little of the historical literature on the Ivory-billed. You also show no actual understanding or even knowing of the Ivory-billed evidence from 1999 to this year. Therefore you have no ability to accurately comment on that evidence which you are ignorant of.

I propose a one question-response by question-response live debate here or elsewhere on an agreed date to expose you.

Expand full comment