For centuries, humans have made all sorts of claims about things they have seen. These claims continue today, spread especially quickly using social media. Observers claim to see bigfoot yet no voucher specimen of one occurs in a museum anywhere. Reports in the U.S. of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers continue to trickle in, yet we’ve not had solid proof of one since World War II.
The famous American astronomer and astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, developed the Sagan Standard which became the famous dictum known as ECREE. ECREE stands for Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence – this fits both into our daily lives and when we’re observing nature. Using this approach can help us avoid accepting false information, as well as keeping us from announcing the identification of a critter that’s simply not there. ECREE is self-explanatory: if you’re going to report something amazing, you better have amazing proof. We humans make mistakes all the time, so our word isn’t enough. Proof doesn’t include phrases like “that’s what I saw” or “are you calling me a liar?”
Remember, be careful when making identifications of wildlife, including birds, especially if they’re out of place. Do a little research before hastily blasting away on social media. Being careful means being smart – your reputation depends on it. Do it for the owls.
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