I have been accepted as a researcher on the fun and awesome website called research gate! Having a blast so far, drop by and check out my papers 🙂
I have been accepted as a researcher on the fun and awesome website called research gate! Having a blast so far, drop by and check out my papers 🙂
Accepted Anomalous Evidence
Posted by CMH on July 21, 2011 at 7:47 PM
Accepted Anomalous Evidence;
on objectivity in anthropological education,
(Researching for anthropological education)
Anthropological Method in the Classroom………………………………………………………..2
Concerning ancient documents…………………………………………………………………………4
Regarding the antiquity of man………………………………………………………………………..7
What is Being Done Now?………………………………………………………………………………..9
Changes in Thought………………………………………………………………………………………..11
Anthropological Method in the Classroom
Anthropology in it’s simplest form is the study of man, and it is the hope of many in the field that by revealing the secrets of the evolution of man and his culture, the general populace will lose the impetus for bigotry, selfishness, and hatred. Although this is a wonderful goal, the fact remains that man’s study of man is incredibly complicated. It is also a fact that when studying alien cultures or archaeological remains, it is nearly impossible to maintain perfect objectivity, because it is the nature of the human mind to translate what is revealed through the individual lens. As Doctors of anthropology Brim and Spain point out in their book, Research Design in Anthropology, “It is essential that we all maintain a reasonable perspective about the accomplishments and potentials of . . . anthropology as a discipline capable of providing solutions to basic social and political problems,” (110). Anthropologists may want to make that impact on the world, but the rigors of anthropological research render it nearly impossible to apply the evidence of the past to the problems of today, especially if it becomes common knowledge among the public that anthropology’s main tenets are based on conjecture more than empirical evidence. What can be done to make a worldwide attempt to pursue absolute objectivity, removing preconceived notions from all available anthropological data? It needs to begin in the classroom (whether or not the teacher has achieved this mental blank slate) and students should graduate with the freedom to discover and report their data in a way that shows only simple unobstructed fact, having learned that personal goals related to the individual’s fixed belief in certain theories cannot have a place in the common data pool. Personal belief should be reserved for personally gratifying publications, and should not take up space in the academic setting.
It is a well established fact that the study of man did not begin as a science, but has developed into one by the grueling efforts of the ‘founders.’ These early investigators often had compelling personal theories that drove them to dig. Yes, most of the greatest advances have been possible because individuals and groups pursued proof for certain theories or philosophies. The established religions played a key role early on, until science was bolstered by the publications offering empirical evidence of many of the main components of the Theory of Evolution. Over the course of the development of the new academic science of anthropology, discoveries were most often (and it could be said that it was necessary at the time) interpreted
and classified under the auspices of one major theory or the other; of either a creation by God and a young earth concept, or an evolution of all hominids from a common ancestor and a very old earth concept. Even though creationists alone claimed that the notion of an epically old earth was wrong, neither side of the equation was willing to accept that it is potential reality that the antiquity of man goes farther back than we can imagine. So, even the evolutionists squashed data from discoveries if it seemed contrary to the current notions of the antiquity of man (which has changed several times over the years).
Similarly, there was not a single uniform protocol for accurately describing and preserving empirical data; as to strati-graphic matrices, flora and fauna fossils of associated strata, and so forth. Because of these above mentioned influences, the data from early discoveries is highly questionable, in most cases we are required to take the testimony of the discoverer at face value, with no way to determine whether the description accurately portrays the real evidence. And even today, many new discoveries are clouded by hasty conclusions, drawn on the most meager of evidence, making anthropology look less like empirical science and more like religion – in that it doggedly aims to promote theory regardless of available evidence. It is my belief that anthropology has a serious need to rectify the old data, and create a
new system of methodology that promotes a requirement for perfect objectivity (as much as is humanly possible). If this cannot be accomplished, I fear that the field may diverge toward the realms of philosophy and psychology; it may become a study of mental processes via culture rather than remain an empirical science. Even worse, the study of anthropology could easily shift into the realm of religion, because just as a religious leader tells the followers what to think and believe – what is good and what is detrimental to your spiritual health – so do the academic leaders of anthropology tell students what to think and believe, and often it has little to do with all available evidence, it only involves the accepted available evidence.
Concerning ancient documents
Ancient documents, such as the twelve tablets found in Babylon that have become known as the Epic of Gilgamesh, relate that anatomically modern humans coexisted with other hominids, and state emphatically that mankind has been on this planet much longer than modern scientists have previously supposed. Many myths from the ‘first’ civilizations, such as Egypt, India, and Sumer, assert that the founders of their first cities and those that granted them knowledge (often called ‘Lords’ in the texts) were from another place – possessing skills and technical information that only people from a well-developed culture could have. But, in the interest of maintaining the idea that urban civilization did not begin until recently, the translators of these texts decided to translate the word for ‘lords’ as ‘gods’ and relegate the ancient writers to the status of ignoramus sensationalists.
For whatever reason, it seems to be important for academics to prove that our predecessors were incapable of carving into their tablets factual information. I say this because if the ancient texts that say the first cities of Sumer were designed by people that had high levels of technology, the inference is that those advanced people had to have come from a very advanced
civilization themselves. This is a problem, because it takes quite a long time for man to evolve from cave dwelling berry pickers to technologically advanced empire builders . Current theory states that humans diverged from the ape family in Africa about 100 thousand years ago, and it is also academically appropriate to state that urban civilization appeared in Mesopotamia about five thousand years ago. Using this information, it is apparent that humanity spent 95 thousand years preparing for civilized life. So, when translating texts that offer information that civilization did not begin in Mesopotamia – the probable land of Biblical Eden, by the way – but rather was imported from somewhere else, the translators made the inevitable correction by interpreting words in such a manner as to turn a historical document into a fictional story. Ancient myth translations have been produced in a manner that shows they cannot be taken literally, and scientists have used the biased translations to conduct cultural analyses that display the ancient people as absurdly superstitious. When a myth such as ‘Gilgamesh’ portrays an ancient society with a tertiary system of government, established industry and trade, a deep history, forty flavors of beer, a plethora of terms describing fuels, relationships with older more advanced societies, as well as to more primitive ‘wildmen,’ there is an instant reaction by science to assume that the texts are mythical, essentially attempts to explain human life and natural phenomena by assigning them corresponding gods and goddesses. It is assumed that ancient people were less inclined toward reality, and less advanced in general (compared to moderns). Therefore, if ancient texts demonstrate otherwise, they must be myth – fabrications designed to make a city, religious group, or god look good; This is exactly what a student of anthropology can expect to learn.
Any academically researched book about the myths of the world describes the tendency of ancient man to describe natural phenomena in terms of the imagined gods. But anyone reading the actual texts that describe the ‘gods’ realizes very quickly that these ‘gods’ had very
human-like behavior. Inspecting the texts of Sumer alone, which many experts agree are the oldest documents on earth, one can see that the gods engaged in competition with equals for ruler-ship, married, cheated, had children, debated law, got drunk, made mistakes, built cities, understood architecture, the arts, warfare, and the list goes on. These are not things that ignorant people would assume that their invisible, unreachable god would do. It is also often mentioned in ancient texts that the so-called gods maintained personal relationships with people; they spoke in person, had physical contact, helped solve differences, provoked to war, taught elements of all of the arts personally to a select few, raised kings, demoted kings, led armies in person. I question whether any person, no matter how ‘primitive,’ would look at a man and declare him a
god. It seems that the only people that really think these individuals were gods are the modern interpreters of the texts.
Defining ancient texts as myth has contributed to the declining interest of anthropologists to the importance of myths in their ability to shed light on real historical events. If the text is simply myth, it cannot lead to discovery, it can only provide insight to culture. However, if the so-called myth is actually factual, the insights to culture that are based on the mythical interpretation are clearly based on an incorrect suppositions, and are not admissible. Thereby I find myself in a quandary, how am I to study ancient culture if the information I receive from my betters is based on bad science? How can I know if translations of ancient documents are correct? If studies, for instance, on the civilization of Sumer, are all based on the assumptions that they were not well advanced because they are not us, and all of their histories are myths, how can I value the studies? In order to provide students of anthropology valuable data to promote the progression of the field, mythological texts should be reevaluated by accepted scholars to determine if and what significance to real history they hold. Old translations should be investigated for veracity, and new criteria for exactly what makes a story mythical
need to be constructed and weighed by the resulting new evidence of reevaluation.
The current available literature regarding ancient myth is not satisfactory, and can only be accepted by those unacquainted with what the actual texts say. Even reading the texts in the current translations, it is rationally impossible to ignore the evidence that civilization did not begin in the way we currently teach. By the admission of the writers of ancient times, civilization was imported by well educated and rational real people. The education of the students of anthropology needs to reflect, at the very least, that this is a possibility.
It becomes more apparent as one looks into the ancient cultures, that the interpretations of these cultures are a by-product of another more ominous set of theories that has influenced archaeological discovery in every imaginable way. In the same way that ancient documents are apparently mistreated to support current theory, actual fossil finds are treated with what many anthropological analysts are calling the knowledge-filter.
Regarding the antiquity of man
Anthropological courses tend to teach students that certain incomplete data are factual. There are some building blocks of current theory that seem to be included simply because mentioning them gives more legitimacy to that theory. For instance, there is little physical evidence for the connection of Miocene apes (a) with the later Pliocene ancestors (b) of apes and hominids. Nonetheless, we are taught that there is a direct lineage leading from a to b. Perhaps in the near future there will be discoveries that fill this gap. For now, though, courses should offer that there is no evidence that the earlier apes of the Miocene are ancestors of the Pliocene varieties. Perhaps the conclusion is true, but we do not know for sure at this time. So simply teaching that the evolutionary chain is solid from a to b is divergent from anthropological
methods, and incredibly unscientific.
As students we are required to memorize the skull structure, scientific names, and date ranges of creatures that have almost no evidence that supports all of the aspects that scientists ascribe to them, and often there is little evidence for direct evolution. In the case of direct hominid evolution, there is no indication as to how or when Australopithecus evolved (through Homo Habilis) to Homo Erectus. As far as I can tell, it is assumed that because these fossils are dated to the acceptable range that would make them older than the supposed origin of modern man, and they have a similar morphology to Homo Sapiens, they must be the evolutionary ancestors. It is common to assume that because one form predates another it is in the direct evolutionary lineage. There are many more examples, such as Orrorin Tugenensis and Sahelanthropis Tchadensis, which have been given descriptions of social life, mental acuity, and other well developed schema, all based mostly on a few scattered bones, that admittedly may not even be related to each other. Newer finds, such as A. Garhi in Ethiopia, has been described as an evolutionary ancestor of modern man. There is great excitement about the impact of this discovery, but it is all based on nothing more than a small portion of a fragmented cranium and the upper teeth. Even though there is reportedy only a handful of bone fragments, a new species has been cataloged, and students of anthropology are supposed to take the interpretation of the discovery seriously.
At the same time, we are not presented with what is termed anomalous evidence, and if we try to address these anathema in an academic setting, are told not to think about it. If the developers of the curriculum found it proper to leave such things out, it means there was something wrong with the evidence. Anomalous evidence is comprised of a vast amount of ignored and often lost discoveries, but the ruling elite of academia were so quick to cast it aside that we may never be able to ascertain it’s relevance. It seems that if evidence does not support
current conventional theory, it is dismissed and often the discoverer is debunked. When In April of 1863, Jules Desnoyers discovered part of a rhinoceros tibia that he concluded had marks from human tools, he encountered opposition from several notable scientists, not because his conclusion was incorrect but because the site at St. Pres, France was considered to date to the Late Pliocene. If he was correct, this would place tool users about 2 million years earlier than the current theory assumed. So in the end, his discovery was cast aside. About this issue of filtering discoveries through a sieve of accepted theory, Armand de Quatrefages, member of the French Academy of Sciences and professor at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, placed his opinion in his book, Hommes Fossiles et Hommes Sauvages (1884): “The objections made to the existence of humans in the Pliocene and Miocene periods seem to habitually be more related to theoretical considerations than to direct observation” (Cremo 15). This statement came only 13 years after the publication of Darwin’s research. When the Theory of Evolution was presented with such publicity, the academic leaders of the time were strongly against Darwin’s ideas, but just a few years later, they were determined to find evidence in support. This is more proof that evidence is either promoted or squashed due to whether or not it supports current academic premises.
What is Being Done Now?
Several academically sound scientists have analyzed the documents produced by archaeologists and anthropologists over the last couple of centuries and have come to the conclusion that holding to the current popular theory is the major factor in determining whether or not a discovery is to be accepted as evidence, or discreetly brushed aside. Volumes have been produced in support of alternate ideas, including several about the antiquity of humans, but many of these are equally biased, and admittedly produced to bolster support for another theory. How does a student of anthropology keep an open mind while simultaneously avoiding material that
completely lacks authentication or veracity, and who can be trusted to censor available material? It is important for developers of education programs to present the evidence to students in a manner that supports the anthropological method, which supports objectivity. Students should not be faced with ethical and methodological controversions in the beginning of their learning because they are presented with ‘facts’ that are easily disputed, but must be accepted because academia says so.
I propose that academia take into account the growing detachment from empiricism in anthropology – the ever increasing lean toward socio-cultural studies that have become the modern study of man. There is a vast difference between studying a living culture and studying the remains of a dead culture. On the one hand, we are studying the actual people that are living. On the other hand, we are studying their trash and their bones. What is interesting to me is the effect of how academia views ancient culture to the understanding of living cultures. It is assumed that human civilization, and thus cultures, evolved a certain way. Those assumptions shape how living cultures are dissected. What if those assumptions are wrong? What if ancient culture was not superstitious? What if those ancient ‘gods’ were real people, who, because of degrading civilization and the loss of accuracy, ended up being worshiped as gods. In this scenario, the more ancient culture would be the least religious, and the younger cultures would be the most superstitious. This would throw off much of our current thinking about the cultural and social significance of religion, not to mention other aspects of culture. The way we interpret ancient texts, fossils, and other archeological elements determines in large part how we interpret modern culture. There is no way to separate one from the other, because current theory says that ‘what is now must have evolved from what was then, and it has always gotten better in a natural progression.’ Upon a closer look at the available evidence, one can deduce that this may not be the case. At the very least it is possible that at times in ancient history, civilization has degraded
on a large scale. If accepted evidence is all that is taught in the classroom, new anthropological scientists are as likely to ignore evidence as the early discoverers, and to interpret discoveries based on the theoretical tendencies of whoever is in charge. This is bad science and is detrimental to the field of anthropology. For man to study Man, it is necessary that objectivity, patience, and humbleness be placed in high regard, rather than theory.
Changes in Thought
In 2006, Joan Oates discovered a series of mass graves around a galactic clustered city-site that has been neglected over the centuries due to its distance from the accepted center of civilization’s beginning. The Tel Brak mound, which is the remains of the ancient city of Nagar, revealed with copious evidence that urban society evolved much earlier (about 1000 years) than was thought, and about 1000 miles distant from what was believed to be the first civilization (Sumer). There was manufacturing, art, trade, and other advanced forms of civilized culture. Artifacts also provide ample cause to assume the inhabitants enjoyed generous amounts of leisure time. Interestingly, this city did not have a significant level of agricultural production, so food must have been shipped in, leaving us to assume there was no lack of money. The current thinking in the fields of archeology and anthropology had to be altered because it has been held for generations that Sumer was the first civilization – but Sumer apparently had not begun until long after the city of Nagar.
In the circles of anthropology, this is seen as a revolutionizing discovery, and there is a lot of excitement and debate over it’s impact. However, this should not be the case. The only reason for the excitement is that for generations anthropology has force-fed it’s students with the ‘facts’ of civilizations’ origins. Thousands of books have promoted the ‘firsts of Sumer’ and many
scientists have become internationally famous for their interpretations of the archeological evidence of Sumer. If these scientists had simply reported objective information, there never would have been such things, and new discoveries showing that all of those interpretations may be completely off-base would not be revolutionizing. Anthropologists should always assume that there will be another discovery; that just because this city-site is the oldest we have discovered does not mean it is the oldest one ever. And similarly, that just because these bones are similar to modern man does not automatically determine that it is an evolutionary ancestor.
Anthropology seeks new information about the origins of the human race, the development of civilization, the impact of culture. There is always new evidence that contradicts popular theory. This should not affect the study of anthropology in general. In other words, in the education of students of anthropology, there should always be a strong adherence to objectivity and patience, an assumption that we will have more information later. Facts should be presented as facts and simple data, rather than constructed into some elaborate theory. There is always the opportunity to publish a non-academic book in support of a theory, but these ideas should be kept out of the classroom. The practice of theory development may be the very undoing of science, and the adherence to the teachings of the masters makes the science look more like a cult following. Empirical evidence most often provides no definitive evidence in support of any theory at all. The only way to adapt evidence to existing theories is to make broad assumptions and hope it plays out in the end. It is my hope that this practice of bending the evidence to fit theory will die, but it must begin in the classroom.
Anthropology is the study of the entire history of man, both body and mind, throughout all ages. It also seeks to define and plot out changes. In this sense, then, anthropology must refrain from the specific and move toward the general. If this is taught in classrooms, it will become part of the culture of the field, and evidence will be cataloged in it’s purist form, devoid of all prejudices and preconceived notions.
Brim, John, and David Spain. “Research Design in Anthropology: Paradigms and Pragmatics in the Testing of Hypotheses.” Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, Inc., 1974. Print.
A systematic approach to anthropological method. This book provides serious and authoritative statements of how to collect and analyze data. In straight forward wording, students can learn how to gather and interpret data with manageable anthropological methodology. There is a large focus on systematic approaches that are commonly used throughout the anthropological world.
Lawler, Andrew. “Out of Eden; The sobering message from an extraordinary ancient Syrian settlement: Urban civilization and organized warfare emerged hand in hand.” Discover Magazine. Dec. 2009. pgs 63-68. print.
A short article in Discovery magazine that introduces a 2009 discovery in N.E. Syria. The Tel Brak site and features/artifacts are cleverly built into a narrative of the lead archaeologist and the site itself. Lawler uses colorful phrases and impact words to keep the interest of the reader. Although it is meant partially to entertain, the article is packed full of vital information.
Leakey, Richard, and Roger Lewin. “Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human.” New York: Anchor Books, 1993. Print.
In this follow-up to his “Origins,” Lawler re-visits and sometimes alters his previous views based on new discoveries. He places an enormous amount of weight on the importance of his own discoveries and explains why he has altered his claims so readily, so many times. He
seems forthcoming and genuine, but does not satisfy the criticism that many have against him for his actions over the years that make it seem that he ardently advocates only those discoveries that further his own claims. I found his style enjoyable and appreciate his down-to-earth logic. It is another masterpiece by a world renowned anthropologist.
Linger, Daniel. “Anthropology Through A Double Lens: Public and Personal Worlds in Human Theory.” Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP, 2005. Print.
Based on Linger’s enthographic fieldwork in Brazil and Japan, this book is a genuine look into personal views and unbiased data in the work of cultural anthropology. It is full of interesting cultural phenomenon, and makes an appeal to the folly of locking the individual minds of people into a cultural framework. I found it helpful in learning to separate personal belief and opinion (my own culture, in effect) from what is found when dissecting another culture. An honest book that makes you think about the real intrusiveness of personal belief in scientific research, no matter how honest the scientist.
London School of Economics Monographs on Social Anthropology. “Questions of Anthropology.” Volume 76. Rita Astuti, Jonathan Perry, Charles Stafford, eds.
Oxford: Berg, 2007. Print.
A compilation of writings by various anthropologists, there is no central theory or attempt to promote an opinion. The only unifying aspect of the book is that all of the writings make an attempt to ask the questions that anthropology owes its birth to, the basics like, ‘why are we here.’ The writings often oppose one another in their views and conclusions, but this is helpful to open an inner discussion about the meaning of anthropology. There is a strong grasp of anthropological method, and it is so scientifically presented, that I do not feel like I have been
force fed somebody else’s opinion, but instead have simply read several independent studies.
Maher, John, and Dennie Briggs eds. “An Open Life: Joseph Campbell in Conversation with Michael Toms.” Harper and Row Publishers, First Perennial Library edition, 1990. Print.
A series of interviews with the leading myth synthesis, Joseph Campbell, leads the reader on an intriguing journey into the mind of the man, without the usual catalogue of data that Campbell is known for. Here, he does not translate what he says, or try to back it up with evidence. It is an interesting way to see the effects of personal belief upon that which he has presented to the world as the true meaning of myth. It is enjoyable, like reading the mind of Yoda.
Pelto, Pertti, J. “The Study of Anthropology.” Columbus: Charles E. Merrill Books, inc.,
This book is designed to give teachers an overview of how to teach anthropology. It is full of historical information about the development of the science, and its methods. It is useful to gain this understanding, however, it may be a little too dated for what I am currently researching.
I originally wrote this for peer review and publication, but never went through with it. It has been recently excavated from a dead website, thought I would make it available. Enjoy!
Oh HEY! If you aren’t familiar with research papers, I suggest skipping to the summary. That way you can see if you’re even interested!
10 March 2012
Project, Wildlife Management, Hawaiian Raven
RH: Ravens and Anthropogenesis ٠ CMH
REVIEW OF ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACT ON RAVENS
For reproduction rights or authorship info: email@example.com
Abstract: Ravens have been shown to be sensitive to human impacts on their environment.
Examples of adaptive foraging strategy in the Continental U.S. include the ability to track forage sites by following gunshots, and by learning to manipulate contrived mechanisms to obtain food. The ravens of the Islands of Hawaii and several states within the continental United States reveal key elements of raven survivability in areas of anthropogenic impact. Samples of raven inability to adapt include the nearly extinct Hawaii crow, locally called ´alalā. Ravens are an integral component of a balanced ecosystem, and when anthropogenic developments displace or alter their habitats, more is at stake than the ravens themselves.
JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT 00(0):000-000
Key Words: Adaptive foraging, Anthropogenesis, Continental United States, Corvidae, Corvus Corax, Corvus hawaiiensis, Habitat, Hawaii, interspecial, Raven,
The Raven is a large blue-purple-irridescent black, non-migratory passerine with black beak and feet. The iris of the eye is brown. They are typically 24 to 27 inches long, with a wingspan double that. Ravens are considered somewhat intelligent, and are generally adaptive to changes in their environment. They have often been pinned as a vermin bird because of their tendency to undergo population increases in response to human activity. On the other hand, they have lost habitat and population stability due to human practices in some cases. There are several types of raven found in the United States. For this paper however, two types will be prominent due to the value of research that has been completed. The common raven (Corvus corax) is an indicator species in the continental U.S, and the Hawaiian crow (Corvus hawaiiensis) (noted by Mark Walters to be more similar to raven than crow [Walters 2006]) is now listed as ‘extinct in the wild’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Bird Life International 2012).
Common ravens occur across most of the Northern Hemisphere, except for eastern forests and Great Plains. Their habitat includes beaches, islands, deserts, mountains, grasslands,
deciduous and coniferous forests, ice floes, tundra, and agricultural fields. They adapt well to human habitation, except notably that they could not adapt to fragmentation of the eastern forests, which was a byproduct of lumber harvesting. Omnivorous and opportunistic, they forage dump sites and use irrigation to survive where they would not normally be found (Kristan and Boarman 2007). In cities, the common raven is usually replaced by the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) .
Hawaiian `alalā occurred primarily in the western and southwestern forests of Hawaii, on Mauna Loa and Hualālai (300-2500 m), but they are no longer found in the wild, the existing captive-bred population is in the San Diego Zoo. They preferred the specific habitat of native trees and undergrowth in their mountainside zones.
Common ravens are scavengers, most of their consumption is carrion. However, they are also very opportunistic and will eat small mammals, bird eggs and nestlings, insects, berries, seeds, nuts, and garbage (Knight and Call 1980). Alternatively, the Hawaiian version depended mostly on fledglings and eggs, fruit, and small invertebrates; carrion was a small part of their natural diet (Walters 2006).
Young unpaired ravens associate, similar yet different than the flocking of other birds (Heinrich et. al. 1994), and will engage in mating rituals until about 3 or 4 years of age, when they will have matured and found a mate. Ravens nest in single pairs, apart from others (they do not form rookeries), though they will engage in cooperative sharing (food source location-sharing and defense) among localized pairs that are familiar with one another (Heinrich 1999 pp.131-145). Multiple researchers indicate that they may mate for life, utilizing the same nest or a ready-made alternative every year. Nests are constructed from twigs, bark, leaves, string, and even trash if available and attractive. The nests are usually built in deciduous trees or cliff ledges, and measure a few feet in diameter, with about a 15” bowl1.
They typically begin laying eggs at two to four years of age, after settling down with a mate. Clutch sizes range from 1 to 7 eggs (Boarman and Heinrich 1999). Incubation time is 20 to 25 days, nesting time ranges from 28 to 50 days. Both parents will feed the young and defend the territory. Clutch size and health is directly related to resource availability (Heinrich 1999).
Hatchling survival is increased when paired parents ally with other local pairs to defend resources from roving juvenile ‘flocks.’ This is especially true at opportunistic nesting locations near dumps.
Western civilization has dealt with raven populations in various forms and for various reasons over the years. Ravens have learned to live near people, benefiting from our waste, agriculture, buildings, and irrigation. For this reason, it is understandable that ravens would not be regarded as a precious commodity. They are often associated with trouble. For instance, they have destroyed power-line transformers, attacked new-birth livestock, eaten crops, and have even been blamed for tearing apart a radiation shield at a defense facility. It had been assumed that this was the natural behavior of ravens, they are (folklore tells us) capricious creatures of mischief. Due to limited data about wild Corvidae at the time anti-raven folklore was crafted in in post medieval western culture, this was a reasonable assumption. So, in the course of the years ravens have been hunted as vermin, even to exterpation from at least one state. Unfortunately, this may have been incredibly detrimental to the ecological balance of many regions in the U.S. in which the raven would naturally be found. The raven is a key indicator of ecosystem stability. There are several far reaching examples that can be synergized into a single concept; that the ecological framework of an ecosystem cannot be maintained while any of its parts are ostracized or manipulated through secondary conditioning. The raven has been dealt both hands over time, and there is enough data to begin to understand the delicacy of ecological balance that urbanization disturbs, no matter how well-planned and managed that ecosystem may be.
Case 1. Eastern Forests
The forests of the eastern expanse of North America were home to various Corvidae when the settlers began expanding their holdings into the Midwest. At that time, trees were a source of building material and fuel that could not be replaced with other sources. Unfortunately, the Europeans brought with them the industrial ideals of post-plague Europe. Clear cutting was the order of the day. People needed homes and they needed fuel. The forest was fragmented so badly that the raven, shown in a 1992 study by Henrick Andren to be “a habitat specialist at home in the deep forest” (Andren 1992), was pushed into dense populations that began to prey on each others’ eggs. Eventually the raven departed the eastern forests altogether and have only recently begun reoccurring as the forest has been managed back to health. For example, in Tennessee, the Common raven was first identified as more numerous that the Common crow by Alexander Wilson in 1811 (Robinson 1990), and was found throughout the states’ vast forests. By 1975, the raven was limited to habitats at about 2,700 ft elevation along the North Carolina State line. Tennessee added the raven to the endangered list in 1975 and there it remained until 1994 when the population was stabilized (Nicholson 1997). This is a basic example of human impact to an environment. There was a need to be met (lumber), and it was met at the cost of other needs (ecological balance).
Case2. The Wolf and the Human
“Durward Allen, a pioneer of wolf studies, remarked that the ravens of Isle Royale in Lake Superior accompany wolves on their travels, feed at their kills, and sometimes even eat their scats” (Heinrich 1999 pp.236).
Wolves (Canis lupus) and ravens have been observed, by various researchers over a large expanse of time, to play, eat, travel, and protect carrion together. Ravens have been noted to go so far as to chase eagles from carrion in order to share it with the wolves, and the two animals seem to ignore each other when feeding together. Ravens, according to Heinrich (ibid pp. 226-244), wolves and ravens learned to listen to the scavenge calls of each other, and respond by locating carrion and feasting together. Interestingly, wolves are part of a sensitive ecological equilibrium themselves, and have recently been shown to be central to the preservation of riparian zones, and to be nature’s forest ranger to keep elk and deer populations under control. Wolf presence in a forest ensures the diversity and sustainability of the forest. Wolves are a bane to agriculture, however, and their numbers have been reduced over the centuries to a degree that the raven has selected the new forest ranger to share the land with. Humans are the new wolves for the ravens. As they followed the canines in the wild, they now follow and cohabit with humans. Similarly, as a study in Minnesota showed, they now listen to gunshots rather than wolf calls to locate scavenge sites (White 2005). Even as they harvested wolf scat, they now harvest our refuse. The problem is not as innocent as it may seem on the surface, though. Ravens are capable and flexible, and they excel in the vast amounts of resources that humans provide. This has elevated raven populations, not only in their natural habitats, but also in places that they would not have been able to survive in without humans (Restani et al 2001). We provide food, irrigation, and cover. Ravens have taken to nesting on power lines and billboards. No longer dependent on old growth forest, ravens have become a troublesome invasive species in many regions. There are numerous studies cataloging their impact on wildlife all over the country. Various means have been used to try to limit their impact, yet they are continuing to push more
and more animals to the brink of endangerment. One example is the desert tortoise in the West Mojave Desert, where researchers Kristan and Boarman have determined that ravens are “anthropogenic subsidized predators” and the blame for the effects of raven predation on native fauna is to be laid on humans (Kristan and Boarman 2007).
Case 3. The ´Alalā of Hawaii
Hawaiian Crow, or Alala, thrived in the dense natural undergrowth of the old forest canopy. The shrub cover allowed them to hunt and forage for insects and small mammals without the immediate risk of their main predator, the hawk. The story of the decline of the alala is a story of man’s work. It began with the introduction of the European boar to the Hawaiian forest. Hawaii did not have an abundance of game when Caucasian settlers arrived, so they brought their own subsidies to support their families and the growing society. At some point, the pigs escaped domestication and turned into a feral population. Unfortunately, the boar scavenged the forest floor, uprooting shrubs and creating holes in which the rain would stagnate. Added to the reduction of undergrowth (which negatively impacted alala foraging, and which increased hawk predation) was the increased population of malarial mosquitos. In short, the reason many today believe the fall of the alala to be a mystery, is that it is not a single cause. Woodsmen wanted to blame ranchers for allowing cattle to graze the highlands in order to prevent wild fire. Cattlemen wanted to point to the boar. It was all of the impacts at once, but it is also clear that the greatest problem was invasive species, creating a new unbalanced intraspecies competition that the native fauna and flora could not adapt to quickly enough. In 1996 there were only 12 alala left in Hawaii, the last two wild-born had died, 22 out of 27 birds released into the wild were predated upon or died of disease within the first year of management, and years of effort
could not salvage the species simply because the habitat was gone. Today, there are about 100 captive bred alala protected in the San Diego Zoo.
Summary: Anthropogenic Impact
It is clear that by focusing on one solution to a set of complex ecological problems, the end result is a heavy financial cost and burden of conscience on future wildlife managers, and loss of resources to the populace in general. By focusing on the wildfire problem, ranchers in Hawaii inevitably helped starve the Alala population, and coupled with the influx of European Boars who’s foraging provided breeding pools for bird-malaria ridden mosquitos (and both cattle and boar ravaged the landscape), the alala had no chance, even with the best efforts of the state to preserve the species. In Hawaii, it is more clear than anywhere else because of all of the different aspects that caused changes, that a single species is so tied to its ecological balance that such changes can prevent reproductive success, and ultimately cause extinction.
Ravens adapted to the extermination of wolves by becoming surrogates to man’s urbanization and agriculture. In so doing, they have begun threatening the stability of ecological systems all over the country. They once followed the natural forest manager (wolves), and now follow the same invasive species that cut down their forests (humans).
The impact of an invasive species is far-flung and never can be prepared for adequately. Yet everywhere the arm of industry stretches, the first question is; how can industry benefit? After the area is developed, concerned people start asking how the native flora and fauna have adapted. Interestingly, we are quick to identify invasive species, and order their removal. Yet, it remains to be seen whether or not we will recognize that we are the primal invader. Everywhere we take our industrial concepts, species fade from prominence and often enough, from existence.
Anthropogenic developments have impacted ravens to such a degree that they are hardly the
same animal that Alexander Wilson chronicled in 1811 in pristine Tennessee forests. Science and philosophy contend that Western culture has altered its views, that our key concepts are nothing close to the mindless ramblings of medieval Europe, yet we continue to operate on the same totemic principle of ‘man first.’ In the Great Chain of Being from Rhetorica Christiana circa 1579 (see inset), man is depicted as having dominance, or prominence, over the other creatures of earth; in fact over the earth itself. This type of thinking leads to deforested continents (i.e Europe’s Black Forest), extinction of animal species, and ultimately, as the raven is showing on a small scale, we consume our own futures. The story of the raven in America is essentially a microscopic mirror of the story of humans on the planet. If we mindlessly continue the travesty of industry, only stopping to ‘manage’ the ecosystem later, we will end up with few resources to choose from. What is our equivalent of cattle keeping wildfires down, and what is our subsidy equivalent to the boar that turns up Mauna Loa’s undergrowth?
The most popular form of research has been on human impact to timber, and it may be necessary to begin focusing on other arenas of human impact, including recreation, travel, consumerism, and so forth. Human impact should be measured and accounted for before actions are set into motion. It is easy to assume that we can manage nature back into shape after we harvest or alter it as we need. Yet, at what cost? The U.S. Spent $9.9 billion dollars on land management in 2008, and in 2012 the Bureau of Land Management alone requested $1.1 billion . If we compare that to the amount that the Klamath Indians spent to preserve the vast Oregon Coastal Range over their 1500+ year habitation, we can arrive at a simple conclusion that the basic problem is that of cultural concept, not of management. More species will follow the raven in our path of resource acquisition and in all probability, we may be asking our grandchildren for forgiveness for giving them a resource-limited planet. Concepts are at issue; the only way to limit anthropogenic impact on ecological systems is to plan ahead, and not for the best interest of industry, but for the best interest of what already exists where we want to go.
Further studies could include the impact of renewable energy to the subsidized resource acquisition of ravens in urban habitats. Studies of this nature could determine if alternate energy sources, and therefore less waste, have a re-balancing effect on populations that have previously been impacted by invasive species. Rather that discussing the economic impact of renewable resources, the discussion would shift toward a sustainable ecosystem, and whether the ‘green’ changes that are already in progress will have the necessary positive impact on the environment.
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