Friday, February 15, 2008

Jackson Critique Assignment

We were assigned to critique and answer specific questions about one of my favorite papers. Here is what I wrote... Pre-Summary: This perspective piece is in and of itself a summary. A subjective collective of historic through present (2006) anecdotes bound by depth in knowledge, but topical in scope. Skepticism immerges through words presented in tone and strident spirit of the pragmatic which belies the resultant irony when this work is subjected to the same measure. Without evidence we have theory and the wonders of learning through the evaluation of hypothesis and exploration of scientific dimensions is heightened by the uniqueness of topic and the range of social, political, and environmental concerns. Science is comparatively simple with hordes of datum to digest, but couple anecdotal accounts with the later range of concerns and an intoxicating brew is created with tall parties who consume remaining changed for better or worse. I have read this paper at least four times since receiving it in the spring of 2006. I have also read Tim Gallagher’s book and both have changed my perspective and refined my value system. I have learned to draw strict lines between scientific theory using anecdotal evidence and that with real data. Treading a mountain with few footholds of evidence is indeed a slippery slope. I would risk my integrity and fail my own values by declaring comfort in attempts to ascend to the truth. In light of this, science is a transcendent business and hypotheses are requisite despite their intangible nature. This paper adds some insight to the complexity of the topic, but lacks the structure of a true scientific paper. In so much as a lack of organization and conclusion it does a disservice to the reader. Summarizing as the title implies “Hope and the interfaces of science…” would be a painstaking process of categorizing bits from each paragraph. Why is this paper so disorganized? Perhaps it is art? But where is the beauty? Alas a subject worth the analysis of Charles Hartshorne. Perhaps he could place it near a selected birdsong on his diagram of what beauty is? Seriously, I’ll hereafter summarize each part, not withstanding the lack of source review to the full extent such critique deserves. This paper is all discussion and in all fairness would only be treated as such. But who’s playing fair with this one?

First Section: A small window of historical context is opened, but here Jackson justifies his own attempts and attests to his own stance while framing the issue with undertones obviously paralleling the current political landscape in the U.S.

Second Section: Timing of circumstances and evidence affecting announcement. This section ranges in topic with the introduction of political interfaces and an attempt to apply a scientific view with a quantified deduction of evidence. Considerable effort is maintained through the end to debunk and draw evidence for further scrutiny.

Third Section: The null hypothesis is expounded upon with a numerical quasi scientific listing of supporting statements to provide rationale. The null hypothesis is limited in this instance to eastern Arkansas only. The level of difficulty in locating Ivory-billed woodpeckers is assessed in vague metaphorical terms.

Fourth Section: Small contingents of sightings are addressed along with the outcomes of searches related to them. Jackson then mulls over the consequential ethics perspective by questioning the value of the means and then ends. The ends often result in what is seemingly disappointment, but results of conservation gains, science gains, and political unity are downplayed by suggestions of them being outweighed by eroded support due to disappointment.

Fifth Section: Modern mediums of information exchange and the exponential surges in political arenas of public and government action are discussed. Science is seen as only a catalyst assisting the reaction. This reaction of permeating the bureaucratic maze, a conduit for action which has a snowballing effect down a precipitous slope, propelled by the inertia and not by the flakes that formed first.

Sixth Section: The evaluation of the misused term “recovery” serves as a medium to further illustrate specific cause and effects within the realm of politics and the subsequent allocation of funds. Jackson suggests alternative areas and spending practices.

Seventh Section: Previous specifics of funding issues provide a brief shine to the crossed sabers held by either side. Finally here Jackson assails using scientific methodology as he alludes to it being on the side of skepticism. This first lunge seeks to pierce the reasoning of those announcing the sightings. He further weakens the opposing argument with debunking anecdotes and cross examination of the evidence in question.

Eighth Section: After the clash of sabers Jackson has a moment of clarity in what seems like a regretful tone. With unbiased zeal only hinting at support for the decision to act, he acknowledges the ends may not haven so bad.

Ninth Section: Integrity through the scientific process is addressed with the exacting, precise analysis of human perceptions and the moment of critical review, where the truth and evidence of it are again pulled apart. Much is assumed here with out contextual cues beyond those stacked in his arguments favor. Then the turning point at the abstract digression to longevity, as if this point of a longer life is pivotal to the following paragraphs eluding to hope. Ironically, he uses the “unknown” to fuel the fires that he previously admonished. As the value system previously providing his arguments framework is abandoned he floats in a vacuum with only questions. Then he moves to answer with his instinct and gut, reveals his heart of hearts, and that driving spark which moves us all in science.

Tenth Section: Hope is key as the air of disillusionment is heavy. Political boundaries are breeched, social and economic woes are transcended by refocusing on environmental works under the broader good ends in the light of biodiversity and the search for truth.

Eleventh Section: Mentioning the customary thanks with additional gratitude for truth in art of J. Zickefoose (see reviewers remarks on manuscript revision).

Strengths and Weaknesses and Merit: A subjective paper makes for a difficult evaluation of equally subjective terms of “merit.” Allocations of funds rest in a crucial area of the intersection of social, economic, ad environmental spheres. This is the frontline in our battle for the environment. There is strength in his argument for accountability there. He also has great knowledge of historical accounts, which he uses to debunk the claims of sightings. Yet the nature of the contention limits Jackson to arguments that hold no greater weight than those of the opposition by virtue of his own suppositions and reasoning. Likewise, his insinuations that various null hypotheses weaken the hypothesis have merit, but are marginalized by the broader accepted scientific methodology. What cannot be proven otherwise must be perceived as possible truth. Yes the truth is out there, but it is usually revealed in time and to the delight and sometimes embarrassment of the seekers. Jackson and Gallagher could be Lamarkian in retrospect, but they have the courage to move towards adversity and the sense that their actions should not be delayed by fear of ridicule, even when their hearts and reputations are at stake.

Me the Reviewer: I would not find the manuscript acceptable in so much that its format is loosely structured and is in conflict while the sometimes acceptable context and content that could indeed be more comprehensible. If the author chose to organize the topic by arenas posed in its title or by well established structure of philosophy it would synthesize the disordered parts, provide a more advanced framework, and become encouraging of unbiased thoughts, albeit through a less guarded stance. As a reviewer, I’d find myself in the same crux a Jackson and Gallagher. I’d be facing a decision, weighing the good of publishing versus keeping things from publications. I would have scrutinized many of the citations on a contextual basis, but left little change in regards to the most well cited political statements. My greatest critique would be in the spirit with which the paper was written. It is obvious that more could have been written frankly without watering down the true intent or refuting the work of others in a nearly callus way unorthodox in science. It is the spirit with all intent and purposes that the subjects of ethics, scientific methodology, and theory are addressed, despite the convolution of scientific method applications and political undertows of the sea of words. Its common thread is the spirit and the hearts of the men involved. Why should we doubt, react, or editorialize their decisions based on Spirit? We need to insure that the good is seen in there work! It is easy, as we have seen, to be the skeptical, the omniscient critic. In the end, beyond our perceptions of morality, it is they who will be impacted by the truth and consequences and the onus until then will weigh heavily on their hearts.

Post Summary: It would be at the risk of doing a disservice to the art and politics in science to perform much editorial tinkering. As much as we may dislike politics and the effects of opinions, they exist and it is important that we acknowledge this suffering discomfort by shedding naïveté. It is also difficult to edit the editorialized when the piece is an opinion. The authors are respected ornithologists and having excelled through the process of becoming so, they both deserve respect from each other and the reviewers. Both authors have carefully considered their words and stances. Actions of such thinkers often seem at conflict with our reasoning, but we shouldn’t shun what we don’t completely understand, nor assume it at conflict based on gut feelings from gleanings of happenstance. These men, though students at heart, are my teachers and the result of their actions may or may not honor their intentions, but I will continue to trust in their integrity. They have the courage of their convictions and we have the benefit of consciousness to perceive their words through the processes of our individual human constructs. Finally, I would ad editorial critique to the acknowledgement of the artist J. Zickefoose’s work on the cover. Jackson attests to truth in depiction having never seen an Ivory-billed himself. Nancy Tanner explains the wooden sound of flattened wings hitting the air with neck straight like a “pintail?” duck. This eyewitness account seems in stark contrast to the Zickenfoose wing depiction and should be noted. Whether this is paralleled irony to Jackson’s writings or simply an anecdotal inaccuracy remains a question…

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