Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/15/2009
Publication Date: 10/20/2009
Citation: Havstad, K.M. 2009. Essays of a peripheral mind: Wyatt Earp, T. rex, and other dinosaurs. Rangelands. 31(5):39-40.
Technical Abstract: There are many examples of science reforming and expanding and building on what we know in a fashion very different from what we had previously learned. The scientific method is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. We always start research from an incomplete understanding, so we interpret based on what we now know, hypothesize, and experiment. In other words, we accept the fact that we continue to learn. This is the basic adaptation in adaptively managing our resources and ourselves. There is a article published in 1996 (Rangeland Journal 18: 351-369) by the Australian scientists Watson, Burnside and Holm that addressed the issue of how science relates to the needs of natural resource managers. They discussed how scientific measurements and hypotheses should be used to support beliefs and local knowledge. They state that all knowledge is provisional, meaning that what we learn from science, from measurements and inductive logic, is provisional. That point is only partially correct. What they should really state is that all knowledge, including local knowledge and personal observations as well as science based measurement is provisional. In an effort to defend what we believe, we often resort to a tactic of pitting the art of observation against science, where we attempt to place a greater value on one form of knowledge vs another. What experience has taught us is that adaptive management in any field, including management of natural resources, is about learning and re-evaluating all forms of observation and knowledge. We need to convey to the public not only our subjective observations, but also our hypotheses and our related measurements. Both subjective local knowledge and science based knowledge are subject to incompleteness, misinterpretation, and/or inaccuracies.