An interesting article on the place of science in society

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by jonathan » September 28th, 2016, 7:29 pm

I just got far enough in the article to get to this quote:
Consider the question “Are genetically modified crops more productive than conventional crops?” Some researchers prefer to answer this question by looking at field trials that allow variables like weather and soil type to be carefully controlled. Others prefer surveys of actual farms, because they reflect real-world variability. These two approaches often yield contradictory results, and there is no way of adjudicating based on the data which of the two provides a better guide to the future.
That gets right into the issues that Sir Albert Howard was bringing up in my previous comment. And it goes even deeper than that. Besides the issue of "test plot or actual farm?", you have to ask the questions:

1) Do you measure productivity by total weight of crop, or # of calories actually contained in that crop?

2) Or do you need to go further and measure the full nutritional value in the crop by chemical analysis?

3) Or do you need to go further and measure the actual effect of the crop on the animals/humans it is fed to, and look at their health, which is what you're really trying to promote in the end?


Because if "productivity" is simply measure by crop weight, but your methods of productivity (like more and more chemical fertilizers that simply promote growth without adding full nutritional content) result in a less quality product, do you have an issue? If your genetic engineering makes a bigger rice grain whose nutritional value has been thinned out because you didn't actually change the amount of nutrition in the soil at all, then what have you gained?


And on top of that, there's the question of whether the PRODUCT is the only thing to be measured. Other questions that often fail to be addressed:


4) What if one methodology produces equal or greater crop weight, but only at the cost of depleting the soil, so that your soil fertility will run out and the land will become barren in 10 years?

5) What if one methodology is heavily reliant on the extreme use of limited resources like fossil fuels or water, and thus only elevates crop loads by depleting other resources?

6) What if one methodology results in dramatically more air or water pollution, or is more destructive to biodiversity in the surrounding area, or results in more diseases or pests in the long term which then need to be controlled by more antibiotics or antifungals or pesticides, and all those additional issues have a negative effect on the environment and the surrounding human community and the consumer?

7) What if one methodology is reliant on inputs that have to be imported from other areas, which decreases the self-reliance of the farm AND makes it vulnerable to interruptions due to issues on the other side of the world AND possibly depletes those other regions of their own resources?

8) What if one methodology increases crop numbers at the cost of progressively weaker and weaker seeds, so that the varieties "run out" after a few decades and new strains constantly have to be developed to replace strains that no longer produce?

9) Finally, since real humans (and possibly real animals) work the farm, what if one methodology is simply less enjoyable and fulfilling to the humans working there, which reduces their quality of life, which reduces the quality of the product they produce, and may even lead to them leaving the field altogether?


Just by looking at this one example, you can see how "laboratory science" or "test plot science" can fall short in so many ways of helping you understand what will actually help the real world move forward. In terms of agricultural science, the smallest unit that can really be meaningfully studied is the whole farm (if the farm is a self-contained unit where the animals and humans involved build and consume their own produce and then re-fertilize the soil with their waste), and even then you really are best served by looking at the surrounding community as well, because nothing is truly self-contained. And it takes a LONG time to see where all the possible effects will lie. If your farm is importing things from other communities and nations and continents, then you need to look at the effect those extractions are having on THOSE communities as well.

You can run thought experiments to see how this applies to many other fields as well. Cancer researchers, for instance, probably won't accomplish a lot without working with actual cancer patients....and treating the patient as a whole person, in fact, maybe even needing to look at the whole family.* Those who study animal taxonomy via genetics (or morphology or anything else) need to get out of the lab with their limited and isolated individual samples, and need to look at the actual communities in the field or they're going to keep producing patently stupid results. And so on and so on.

The A.J. Kumar example in the article is a perfect example of someone doing this well:
Or maybe just send them to the Peace Corps before they go to graduate school. At least that’s what A. J. Kumar did, after getting his undergraduate degree in physics at Stanford. Working in a small South African village for two years, Kumar began to see science as a way to leverage his impact on the world, and this made him skeptical of the culture of the lie. Like Marqusee, Kumar understands and appreciates the role of fundamental science, but he also recognizes how the logic of the lie justifies “digging down deeper and deeper on a single subject without stopping to ask why we’re doing it in the first place.” He thinks there’s “room for more intentionality in how we do science.”

In the applied physics Ph.D. program at Harvard, Kumar started with an interest in linking science to health care needs in poor countries. He quickly focused on a specific question: “How do we bring the information that we get from studying blood into low-resource settings?” The question pushed him in two directions: into the social context, to see what needs could be met with better information on blood; and into the science, to see what theories and tools could provide that information. So he talked to doctors who had experience working in Africa, and he talked to scientists in his lab and elsewhere, and this eventually led to a convergence between the two: a technique to separate proteins using a simple type of centrifuge that had been around for fifty years. This technique could be used for separating blood cells, which could potentially help diagnose sickle-cell disease, a health problem that lacked a quick, cheap, portable, and reliable diagnostic procedure. Kumar wraps up the story with modest alacrity: “So we were able to get some collaborators, start researching, doing the first experiments, and getting initial positive results,” showing that sickle-cell could reliably be diagnosed by density separation. “This allowed us to really charge forward and start the quest for funding, clinical validation, and trials, which took up the rest of my Ph.D.” The test he came up with can be done on-site in fifteen minutes, and it costs less than a dollar. Kumar was a one-man medical-industrial complex, coordinating all aspects of the research process, including commercial development, and using technological performance as a ruthless arbiter of scientific progress. In short, he made his research accountable to the end-user rather than to his scientific peers.



* If you don't understand why looking at the whole family when developing a treatment for a cancer patient is important, then ponder this penultimate paragraph of the article:
But Fitzpatrick also wonders if biomedical science undervalues other kinds of research that could offer solutions to pressing problems. “There’s not a lot of research on how best to socially, emotionally, environmentally, support Alzheimer’s patients, that might ameliorate their own anxiety, their own stress — maybe the disease, as horrible as it is, would be less horrible through a better care structure, but we do very little research on that.” Perhaps for now, research to help people with these diseases ought to aim at more practical questions. “I don’t think you can tell people ‘Well, we’ve got another forty years of research that we’re going to have to do’ when we also don’t know if there are better ways of supporting people.” And maybe in the process of understanding how better to help patients, scientists will discover things about the course of the disease and its varieties that can lead to effective therapies.

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Kelly Mc
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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Kelly Mc » October 1st, 2016, 12:28 am

VanAR wrote:
The other issue I have with the original article is that I would argue that science isn't meant to solve the world's problems, it's meant to figure out what the problems ARE.

Word.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Still BT » October 5th, 2016, 1:42 pm

WSTREPS wrote:Noble prize winner (he did not except the award) Feynman
What?

He bought a house in Baja with the prize money, what are you talking about?

Also, you spelled accept wrong.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Still BT » October 5th, 2016, 1:43 pm

stlouisdude wrote:Speaking of determining canopy effects on species, I accidentally stumbled across a study site doing just that one day. They were taking out sections of forest after sampling for a time to see how many salamanders still migrated to and egg masses laid at a given site. They also had some little enclosures where they kept the salamanders to see how canopy vs less canopy changed their development. I think it was the University of Missouri, the person I ran into seemed like an undergrad but I'm bad at judging age so hard to be sure. Anyway, I thought I saw quite a bit of practical research going on in MO, plenty more examples like that one.
Here are some of the fruits of that work:

http://toddlab.ucdavis.edu/publications ... %20FEM.pdf

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Still BT » October 5th, 2016, 1:46 pm

WSTREPS wrote:But there isn't much in the way of good science to be found in a project like the one described. The processes are highly flawed.
Ouch. Here's a link to the summary of the studies in case you want to confirm there isn't much in the way of good science to be found in that project like that.

http://toddlab.ucdavis.edu/publications ... cience.pdf

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Still BT » October 5th, 2016, 1:48 pm

Bryan Hamilton wrote:There's not nearly enough presented on the forest canopy study to say if its flawed or not. Ideally they would have used control sites and compared those to their treated sites. Besides abundance, there are other demographic parameters that could be measured that are more relevant than abundance. Egg masses, survival, recruitment, occupancy, and size come to mind. Its also possible that these salamanders are short lived species with small home ranges. They may not have the option to move to other habitat. It is important to define habitat relevant to your target species. Canopy can mean different things to different people, so using standardized, explicit definitions is very important to make studies comparable. Measuring temperature and moisture does seem critical to salamanders. Its easy to do now with real time data loggers.
Agreed. That's why they did use control sites, replication, etc. And they even published one study that said abundance is a misleading indicator compared to demographic rates. They also published some work with the measurements of temperature and moisture and canopy etc etc etc.
http://toddlab.ucdavis.edu/publications ... 202006.pdf

Of course, Van Horne knew that abundance alone is misleading 40 years ago...

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by WSTREPS » October 5th, 2016, 5:47 pm

Ouch. Here's a link to the summary of the studies in case you want to confirm there isn't much in the way of good science to be found in that project like that. http://toddlab.ucdavis.edu/publications ... cience.pdf

Good science in that? Obviously you need to finish that biology survey course at the local community college, Try to advance from there before attempting to discern good science from politically motivated fluff. A tip, junk science often looks like "good science". The use of science involving practices that have the semblance of being scientific, but do not in fact follow the scientific method. Most are easily deceived by this, as it requires a deeper understanding then what can be obtained from Wikipedia or Google.

Jumping on what's hot (pun only slightly intended) has become a popular theme and is good for the biology business bandwagon.

The place of Science in society is not to create false fears, soak up tax payer money, wasting it on self indulgent career building projects. Or is it meant to play the role of the elected priests of a nature to whom all mankind must bow down as God’s chosen interpreters. Sadly scientists feel completely justified telling what in their opinion's are "white lies" to push personal agenda. And naturally its further justified as being for the good of all.

Since its been pushed back to the top. Ill take this opportunity to pass along some Timber rattlesnake facts. Much more fun.

Biologist (including one of the authors of the surprise, surprise "good science") cry that the Timber rattlesnake is on dooms doorstep.
A 50 year plan to exterminate rattlesnakes succeeded only in getting them protected. One of the collectors (Komarek) even publishes a topographical map to the den sites from which the twenty-some thousand snakes were taken.

You needn't wait on a "scientific bounty hunter" (for grant money) to bugger you with duplicitous declines and dubious depletions: anybody can go and look for himself: the rattlesnakes are still there to be seen each year, Komarek
Having known Rudy (Komarek) I can attest that he was telling the truth. The biologist who hated him, used him and helped their careers by telling lies about him are complete pieces of shit. Timber rattlesnake expert Bill Brown, for example.

In the north the smaller size of the timber rattlesnake makes them hard to catch. They can hide practically anywhere, Even a big snake needs only about an inch and a half of space to squeeze into. A yearling can cram into a space the size of a cigarette pack. Like every snake its impossible to survey their numbers except to know that if you can easily find them (and you can), the snakes are present in good numbers. The only way you easily find such a snake is if they are abundant because you will never be able to locate more then a small fraction of the resident population.

The allegations of some herpetologists that the timber rattlesnake is dying out due to over-collection is pure dreamy non-sense.  There is almost no market for the animals, and the days of bounty hunting are long over. But cry's of devastation due to people raiding dens persist. Widespread habitat destruction has taken place but there still remains vast undisturbed and fully protected habitat thru out the north filled with Timbers. But if you listen to the biologist whos career's get big boost from "disappearing snakes", the Timbers are vanishing from places that have suffered no habitat loss as well. This is obviously a lie.

Timber rattlesnakes in the cold. How it helps. It lowers their food needs to a level proportionate to their needs for inactivity. Once finding one of the countless subterranean access's beneath the frost line, they use it to get thru the long winters by sleeping, hiding from predators, grow, develop their ova and young (mating in the fall just prior to the wintering period). Read that last line carefully. Biologist will tell you that due to a lack of basking places females will abort or drop their young late subjecting the snakes to hardship and failure. This might happen on occasion but clearly its the exception and not the norm.

Hibernation makes their biological needs static, there's no predation. And hibernation isn't much different from the snakes normal life anyway, which is primarily an existence of eat and hide and sleep. No the cold weather has not disadvantaged the Timber rattlesnake in anyway. In fact they could be more populous today in the mountains of NY then in any part their range.

Martin (in Brown, 1993) admits that he is unable to actually count more than 15 percent of the snakes that are in dens (or might be in dens) and that his estimations must be arrived at "intuitively".  Brown says that no more than 25 percent can be counted, and again credits his success to "intuition".  Indeed, logic tells us just how "intuitive" this process really is—for if one can't count more than 25 percent of the population of any wintering site
These rattlesnake gurus admit that they cant count more then 25% ( and that is strictly guessing ) of the snakes at a given den. This for a single "den" and there may be hundreds or even thousands of dens containing snakes in any of the mountain regions of PA, NY , Virginia etc. But these biologist will assure you the Timbers are being wiped out at alarming rate's. They are unable to recognize or admit that the "decline" they preach of may be nothing more than an artifact of their poor sampling abilities, but then why would they ever say something like that. True as it may be. And so we have a snake which bandwagoneers are preaching to be at the edge of extinction, and which people keep right on finding, running over with their cars, and getting bit by. Its easy to sit at your computer envisioning evil snake collectors climbing up the mountains, raiding dens , wiping out the snakes but when you actually try to recreate this in the real world, you will soon get a very different idea of the capabilities of your imaginary villains. Even in the most segregated places the mountains are immense. Bill Brown has made a career demonizing non existent den raiders. Read on,
When a rattler or other dangerous animal turns up in somebody's yard, I answer the call and remove the animal.  I go on about 2 rattlesnake calls each week.  You would think all the masses of snakes that I, Wilburt, Komarek, and others removed from these three counties over the years, would have destroyed, or at least drastically reduced the populations of timber rattlers in these areas.  Far from it.  I could, if I wanted to, go out hunting them again and collect numbers comparable to those I took in the 1960s.  The stories of the timber rattlesnake's decline, at least in this area of New York, are absolutely ridiculous.  And the Adirondacks State Park is simply full of them.
The above quote from Art Moore , he has seen more rattlesnakes in the field than anybody living. A bit more from Art,
  Bill Brown, when he was writing his book, could scarcely have found a rattlesnake den without me.  To learn about their habits, he spent hours with me, tape recording what I told him. Whenever he lost a snake during his radiotracking, which was damn near every time he set one free, it was me he came to, to help him find it.  And more times than not I led him straight to it.  He was always amazed.  There was no trick to it.  After doing something every day for half a lifetime, you get good at it.
Brown visited a few dens.  But there is not a single den in these counties that I didn't find for him.  Komarek showed Stechert others in the rest of the state.

Ernie Eison
What?

Noble prize winner (he did not except the award) Feynman. EE

What?

He bought a house in Baja with the prize money, what are you talking about?

I posted a video link that explained my comment, review it. He picked the thing up but this is what he really thought in his own words from his own mouth, at 1:17 of the video.

He scorned the award. Did not accept the award.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkv0KCR3Yiw

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Still BT » October 6th, 2016, 10:02 am

Anyone who takes the cash and buys a vacation house in Baja with it while denouncing doing so out of the other side of their mouth is a fraud and hypocrite.

Also, was there a criticism of the science in that publication buried in your post? If so, I missed it. I saw the ad hominems but found them a bit puerile for my taste.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » October 6th, 2016, 11:11 pm

Still BT wrote: Anyone who takes the cash and buys a vacation house in Baja with it while denouncing doing so out of the other side of their mouth is a fraud and hypocrite.
Feynman was a brilliant scientist but by many accounts a pretty rotten human to be around. Think of how much greater he could have been at communicating his scientific brilliance if he was also a decent human being.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Carl Brune » October 7th, 2016, 5:39 am

Still BT wrote: Anyone who takes the cash and buys a vacation house in Baja with it while denouncing doing so out of the other side of their mouth is a fraud and hypocrite.
I would not say that he denounced the Nobel Prize so much -- rather he had disdain for all titles, uniforms, prizes, etc...
VanAR wrote: Feynman was a brilliant scientist but by many accounts a pretty rotten human to be around. Think of how much greater he could have been at communicating his scientific brilliance if he was also a decent human being.
That's kinda like saying think of how much good sports superstar XXX could do if they would just.... At some point this becomes a bit unfair. Feynman was an excellent communicator and lecturer. His showmanship and arrogance did rub a lot of people the wrong way though.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by WSTREPS » October 7th, 2016, 5:52 am

Feynman was a brilliant scientist but by many accounts a pretty rotten human to be around. Think of how much greater he could have been at communicating his scientific brilliance if he was also a decent human being.
FACT: Feynman was widely known and remembered for being an amazing professor and teacher. One of history's finest. He is best known for his thought provoking ability to communicate his scientific ideas and his entertaining presentations. He was certainly one of the most charismatic and engaging (and honest) individuals ever to speak on the topic of science. Feynman's lectures are truly legendary. There is plenty of video to confirm this. As well as the testimonies of his former students. His personality when it came to communicating his scientific brilliance was one of his strong points as a person.

No doubt his willingness to call out junk science or cargo cult science (a term he coined ), rubbed some of his less then "scientific" peers the wrong way. I think Feynman gave the best answer of all when it comes to addressing the place of science in society, where it is today. At least in the world of invasive species / extinction alarmist biology.

" Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts " Richard Feynman

Ernie Eison

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » October 7th, 2016, 6:55 am

Carl Brune wrote: That's kinda like saying think of how much good sports superstar XXX could do if they would just.... At some point this becomes a bit unfair. Feynman was an excellent communicator and lecturer. His showmanship and arrogance did rub a lot of people the wrong way though.
Life ain't fair. Don't be a dick. Educate people better. Make the world an even better place.
FACT: Feynman was widely known and remembered for being an amazing professor and teacher. One of history's finest. He is best known for his thought provoking ability to communicate his scientific ideas and his entertaining presentations. He was certainly one of the most charismatic and engaging (and honest) individuals ever to speak on the topic of science. Feynman's lectures are truly legendary. There is plenty of video to confirm this. As well as the testimonies of his former students. His personality when it came to communicating his scientific brilliance was one of his strong points as a person.

No doubt his willingness to call out junk science or cargo cult science (a term he coined ), rubbed some of his less then "scientific" peers the wrong way. I think Feynman gave the best answer of all when it comes to addressing the place of science in society, where it is today. At least in the world of invasive species / extinction alarmist biology.

" Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts " Richard Feynman

Ernie Eison
See previous

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by jonathan » October 7th, 2016, 7:43 am

I had a lot of professors who would have probably joined a suicide cult if Feynman led it. He was legendary in physics circles, and for good reason. A major issue I had with him, though, is that he frequently degraded the "philosophy of science", even though he (unintentionally?) spoke out on principles of philosophy of science on his own as much as anyone. It was like he thought it was important enough to talk about, just not important enough to learn what other people have already said and engage with it. I think he helped to encourage the ignorant dismissal of the field among a number of pop culture-prominent scientists today.


WSTREPS wrote:No doubt his willingness to call out junk science or cargo cult science (a term he coined ), rubbed some of his less then "scientific" peers the wrong way. I think Feynman gave the best answer of all when it comes to addressing the place of science in society, where it is today. At least in the world of invasive species / extinction alarmist biology.

How ironic. Personally, I think this is one of Feynman's greatest quotes.
It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can–if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong–to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

Some people are terrific at doing this. Others are amazing at demanding that everyone else do it, while never coming close themselves.

Jimi is probably the best I've seen on these boards at doing it the right way, but there are probably others.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » October 8th, 2016, 11:22 am

In the link Jimi posted that started this thread, with respect to published research, Dr. Daniel Sarewitz mentioned the following: “But much of this supposed knowledge is turning out out to be contestable, unreliable, unusable, or flat-out wrong.”

On 10/5/16, Still BT provided three links to published research dealing with the impact of logging practices on certain species of amphibian. From some of the comments, it seems that individuals consider such research as meaningful. From my vantage point, all three articles are badly flawed and represent examples of what Dr. Sarewitz mentions about such published accounts.

These three published accounts represent ‘hype’ that is all too common in the field of Conservation Biology. In my view, many individuals in that field do not approach research in an impartial and objective manner but instead from an emotional perspective. They thus fail to investigate all sides of issues, positives as well and negatives. Instead, they invariably seek out the negatives and that type of tunnel vision is their weakness.

All 3 papers utilized the same research design that were established in three regions of the U.S., Maine, Missouri, and S. Carolina. The experimental design clearly took a great deal of planning, work to set up plots, and effort to conduct the research. That I truly appreciate.

But the manner in which the authors approach their research and interpret their findings exhibits a glaring bias. Unfortunately, such a bias is all too common these days in the field of Conservation Biology.

Examples of that bias occurs in the abstracts and introductions of all three papers. The authors give the distinct impression that clear-cut logging produces lasting, negative impacts on some species of amphibians. Two examples: From the 2006 paper (third link) is the following: “Forest clearcutting is a form of habitat alteration that drastically alters the landscape and may contribute to declines in amphibian populations.”

From the abstract of the first link is the following: “Our results suggest that increased amphibian mortality may contribute to declines of amphibian abundance and richness after forest clearcutting for the regions evaluated here.”

Such assertions lack objectivity, are emotion driven, and thus demonstrate a bias. In fact, those assertions are not supported by some information contained in all 3 publications.

Here is another way of understanding the biased approach taken by these authors. If fire was the factor that degraded the forest habitat and the authors were researching the impact of fire, does anyone believe the author of the 2006 paper would state that, -- ‘Fire drastically alters the landscape and may contribute to the declines of amphibian populations.’? Does anyone believe the author of the second example would have claimed that, ‘Our results suggest amphibian mortality my contribute to declines of amphibian abundance and richness after severe wild fires for the regions evaluated here.’?

That is, would the authors perceive fire as having long lasting, negative impacts to amphibian populations as they do for clear cut logging? I doubt it. And if you understand the nature of both clear-cut logging and fire, neither of those factors produce lasting, negative affects on either amphibian abundance or ‘richness’.

One reference cited in one of the papers mentions that the amount of forested areas impacted yearly by logging in North America is about 0.8 percent (6.1 million ha. / 734 million ha.) Then it mentions that only 40% of that 0.8 % is clear cut logging. Therefore, about 1/3rd of 1% of all N.A. forests incur yearly clear cut logging. With such a miniscule amount of forest stands being subject to clear cut logging, that these authors then voice serious
concerns about the impact of such logging practices on the overall populations of forest dwelling amphibians further demonstrates their bias. Such concerns are totally out of proportion in relation to the amount of clear cut harvesting of timber stands.

Secondly and worse, by implying that clear cut logging may produce lasting, negative impacts on populations of amphibians, the authors have overlooked successional processes. That is, over time, there occurs a recovery of both plant and animal species following logging (and fire).

But the worst weakness in these three papers is where there own data contradicts the very position the authors have conveyed, that clear cut logging produces lasting, negative impact on amphibian abundance and species richness.

The authors failed to understand that the data on amphibian populations they used from their controls, the un-harvested forest stands, by their own admission were all second growth forest stands. That implicitly implies their controls were once logged and yet they considers the populations of their subject amphibians in those control forest stands to occur at normal densities.

That contradiction alone renders meaningless the implied notion of lasting harm occur to amphibian abundance and species richness as a result of clear cut logging practices.

These three papers depict the typical ‘alarmist’ attitudes that prevails in Conservation Biology. A very similar scenario occurs where researchers have climbed on the bandwagon publishing papers that claim road mortality produces lasting, negative impacts on many species of amphibians and reptiles. That too is mostly a bunch of nonsense.

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon)

Postscript: If the authors of those paper were to go back and survey their plots at say 5, 10, 20 years later, they would find recovery taking place in all populations of the amphibians that were the subject of their research and unwarranted concerns. After all, that had to have occurred in the once harvested, second growth forest stands they used as controls. RFH

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by stlouisdude » October 8th, 2016, 3:25 pm

Take by humans just seems to be a horribly inefficient and ineffective way to reduce snake populations yet the vast majority of conservation initiatives seem to focus on this. Often a threatened species is protected from take but not other threats, even though take is not impacting the species in any way. I moved a few years ago from MO where the experts tell me persecution by humans are killing off timber rattlesnakes. Yet, I found find snakes in same places year after year and telemetry studies only revealed a single snake having been killed by a human being while several others dying from other causes. Now, I live in the NE USA. The timbers are as easily found here as they were in MO, the people who think they are rare probably just don't know how to look for them. I travel back to MO several times per year, the snakes are still in the same places, at the same times, year after year.

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Kelly Mc » October 8th, 2016, 5:52 pm

Richard F. Hoyer wrote:

These three published accounts represent ‘hype’ that is all too common in the field of Conservation Biology. In my view, many individuals in that field do not approach research in an impartial and objective manner but instead from an emotional perspective.

Such assertions lack objectivity, are emotion driven, and thus demonstrate a bias.

Secondly and worse, by implying that clear cut logging may produce lasting, negative impacts on populations of amphibians, the authors have overlooked successional processes. That is, over time, there occurs a recovery of both plant and animal species following logging (and fire).

RFH
You have mentioned emotion often in these discussions. But never too specifically. What emotions do you mean? I am guessing that the emotions you are referring to is a protectiveness, and a kind of vocation-culture disdain for anthropogenic actions - as logging and wildfire fire in juxtaposition you use as an identifier of bias?

Are those the emotions of the Conservation Biologists you mean?

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VanAR
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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » October 8th, 2016, 6:37 pm

Richard, I don't have time to go over your entire post, but some of your statements are as patently biased as those you accuse the authors of being. For example:
Examples of that bias occurs in the abstracts and introductions of all three papers. The authors give the distinct impression that clear-cut logging produces <b>lasting</b>, negative impacts on some species of amphibians. Two examples: From the 2006 paper (third link) is the following: “Forest clearcutting is a form of habitat alteration that drastically alters the landscape and may contribute to declines in amphibian populations.”

From the abstract of the first link is the following: “Our results suggest that increased amphibian mortality may contribute to declines of amphibian abundance and richness after forest clearcutting for the regions evaluated here.”

Such assertions lack objectivity, are emotion driven, and thus demonstrate a bias. In fact, those assertions are not supported by some information contained in all 3 publications.
Increased mortality doesn't contribute to declines in abundance? Note that the authors even said "may", rather than "do", when by the laws of thermodynamics, and increased loss of "something" demonstrably results in their being "less" of it. Sure, there may be some capacity to buffer a decline provided by increased recruitment, assuming the carrying capacity remains the same (unlikely given habitat loss), but all things being equal, increased mortality can be expected to lead to a decline if mortality exceeds recruitment. Still, as I read it, the argument isn't whether increased mortality leads to declines. The argument is whether forest clearcutting increases mortality, probably sufficiently to overcome that recruitment buffer. By the argument that a loss of habitat may result in a loss of spatial, thermal, water, and food resources, this isn't a difficult hypothesis to suggest, and standardized surveys of abundance of these factors (and the target species) are not really that difficult to do in order to test the hypothesis. Full disclosure, I haven't read those papers to know whether that is what they did, so I can't claim to guess whether they've actually done that correctly, but I'm just pointing out that your argument here lacks logical credibility upon its own merits.

Also, please note that I've bolded your term, "lasting", above. This is a measure of scale that is highly relative, and I think your definition differs to the authors. Whether the authors or you chose to use the term doesn't matter much to me, but then later you say:
Secondly and worse, by implying that clear cut logging may produce lasting, negative impacts on populations of amphibians, the authors have overlooked successional processes. That is, over time, there occurs a recovery of both plant and animal species following logging (and fire).
and
The authors failed to understand that the data on amphibian populations they used from their controls, the un-harvested forest stands, by their own admission were all second growth forest stands. That implicitly implies their controls were once logged and yet they considers the populations of their subject amphibians in those control forest stands to occur at normal densities.
Again, by your description, I agree that they've compared clear-cutting vs secondary growth. I agree that the trend you suggest is probably accurate, that as a forest regenerates, there probably is at least some recovery of the amphibian richness and abundance. However, what that comparison lacks is a comparison with natural, old-growth forest, which is VERY hard to find that is comparable in climate, region, and scale. That lack of ability to compare means that, yes, there may be some recovery with secondary re-growth, but we don't know how this compares to the diversity that was likely originally present. So, just as the authors position could be argued to be a bit limited, so is your later <b>nonobjective</b> implication that secondary recovery is somehow "sufficient" (my term, based on what I think you seem to imply). We can't know that with the data available. What we can see from those data is that 1) clearcutting causes a decline, and 2) allowed recovery, at least some of those species have the potential to bounce back, to some degree. However, there is also a major assumption to your argument here- that after clear-cutting, the forest actually will be allowed to recover. The evidence presented in these papers could be used as an argument for designing effective management plans for recovery, exactly because it can help recover some species. That makes it valuable. It may seem to you to be "common sense" or somehow not worth studying and reporting, but now there is a peer-reviewed, published record that managers, lawyers, and politicians can look at and say, "ok, here's what we can do to help manage this system." That's not something you can do in a courtroom or legislative office with just "common sense".
These three papers depict the typical ‘alarmist’ attitudes that prevails in Conservation Biology. A very similar scenario occurs where researchers have climbed on the bandwagon publishing papers that claim road mortality produces lasting, negative impacts on many species of amphibians and reptiles. That too is mostly a bunch of nonsense.
At a species level, maybe. At a population level, there can certainly be "lasting" major impacts. Imagine you put a road 500 meters downslope of a Crotalus viridis hibernaculum somewhere in the Dakotas, slightly south-west of the den. Many of those snakes have been radiotracked to travel >20 km from the densite (these are not unreasonable numbers), in which case most or all of those snakes would cross that road at some point. If traffic is high enough, it's only a matter of attrition before that den could reasonably be expected to suffer a loss in population. Is that alarmist to say, because as a whole, the species is probably going to be ok? Or is it an indicator that hey, maybe we shouldn't build roads so close to densites (if we know they are there) if we want to conserve a species. It alone won't cause extinction, but what if it causes a loss of a few local populations, and other factors cause losses elsewhere? Do we just say it's precautionary principle and not do anything while we lose biodiversity? What about impacts to the local ecosystem that follow as a major top-predator disappears? Should we just ignore those effects because the species is fine elsewhere, and move on, or can we use it to learn and design management plans to limit similar negative impacts elsewhere?

Van

Richard F. Hoyer
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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by Richard F. Hoyer » October 9th, 2016, 10:25 am

Kelly Mc.,
My use of ‘emotional perspective’ is where reaching judgments and making pronouncements are based on perceptions, feelings, guessing, beliefs, impressions and the like. The opposite would be arriving at informed positions and making statements based on valid evidence, critical thinking, the application of basic biological principles, and any other rational process.

With respect to the three published papers on amphibians, one needs to understand the overall context in which the authors made their statements. That is, worldwide, some amphibian species have suffered a significant decline in numerical abundance, some to the point of becoming extinct.

So when these authors are referring to the ‘decline of amphibian abundance or populations’, they are doing so in that broader context of impending doom for some of our native, forest dwelling amphibians. That is, they are suggesting that clear cut logging could contribute to a reduction of amphibian biodiversity here in N. America.

Note that the authors used the hedge terms of ‘suggest’ and ‘may’. If the authors were just referring to the immediate loss of amphibians that occurs due to logging, those terms would not be needed. There is no question that as clear cut logging is taking place, it kills a large percentage of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and invertebrates that occur in forest stands.

Another way of possibly understanding the scenario I have tried to covey, that of unwarranted 'hype' by the authors of those three publications, is as follows: As mentioned, logging machinery, yarding logs, log trucks, etc. not only kill a sizeable percentage of amphibians present in forest stands but also kill species of small mammals as well, shrews, voles, mice, gophers. moles chipmunks.

Does anyone believe that professional mammalogists would then make the same type of ‘pending doom’ pronouncements?
‘Forest clearcutting ‘may’ contribute to declines in small mammal populations’. ‘Results ‘suggest’ that increased small mammal mortality ‘may’ contribute to declines in small mammal abundance and richness.’
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Now like my prior posts, I have gone over and over the above to try my best to be clear and thorough. But I have known for a long time that my ability to convey my positions via written communications can be whoafully weak. So if the above does not resonated, that is something I will just have to live with.

Richard F. Hoyer (Corvallis, Oregon)

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Re: An interesting article on the place of science in societ

Post by VanAR » October 9th, 2016, 4:40 pm

So when these authors are referring to the ‘decline of amphibian abundance or populations’, they are doing so in that broader context of impending doom for some of our native, forest dwelling amphibians. That is, they are suggesting that clear cut logging could contribute to a reduction of amphibian biodiversity here in N. America.
Yes. They are referring to a specific threatening process which is only one of several that has potential to cause declines of species. That isn't hype or emotionalism, it's a simple fact. They likely were unable to study other threatening processes that are occurring simultaneously. That's unfortunate, but you can only do some much work at any given time.
Note that the authors used the hedge terms of ‘suggest’ and ‘may’. If the authors were just referring to the immediate loss of amphibians that occurs due to logging, those terms would not be needed. There is no question that as clear cut logging is taking place, it kills a large percentage of amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and invertebrates that occur in forest stands.

Another way of possibly understanding the scenario I have tried to covey, that of unwarranted 'hype' by the authors of those three publications, is as follows: As mentioned, logging machinery, yarding logs, log trucks, etc. not only kill a sizeable percentage of amphibians present in forest stands but also kill species of small mammals as well, shrews, voles, mice, gophers. moles chipmunks.

Does anyone believe that professional mammalogists would then make the same type of ‘pending doom’ pronouncements?
‘Forest clearcutting ‘may’ contribute to declines in small mammal populations’. ‘Results ‘suggest’ that increased small mammal mortality ‘may’ contribute to declines in small mammal abundance and richness.’
I'm having a lot of trouble understanding this. It's hyped up, but they use hedging terms? That seems contradictory?

I would say it's a fairly honest way to approach a topic that is limited to a study of a specific region within a particular manuscript or set of manuscripts. They could say that based on their data it is definitely happening in that area, and by extension might be a problem in similarly-impacted systems. IMO, it would be far worse hype to say that, based on this study in this limited area, amphibians are clearly declining everywhere as a result of logging. No way a statement like that would pass through peer review, and I'm sure many referees would make the same argument you have here, had the authors worded it in those terms.

Van

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