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RE: your valued opinions- writing on trees/body languages/fungi

Subject: RE: your valued opinions- writing on trees/body languages/fungi
From: Jim Quaife
Date: Jan 04 2012 10:19:07
"Science" is a method not facts.
We don't actually have that much finite knowledge in purely scientific terms.
As a young oik at school I was in awe of textbooks because they were the 
"authority". Later at school we learnt that they probably represented 
knowledge as far as it was known.
Science is a prompt for considered speculation and textbooks can only be 
regarded, and used, in that light.  If we waited until everything was 
"absolute" before publishing the technical shelves would be virtually empty.
To bring this into context, any consultant (not just arb) must understand the 
matter in hand sufficiently well to form his/her own opinion and not just 
regurgitate the opinions of others. One of the consultant's main tools is 
At the risk of exposing just how naive I was (hopeful use of past tense!) in 
the early days of my consultancy I learnt a very useful lesson from a 
solicitor. It was a subs case and a pyracantha was growing up the corner of 
an extension that was rotating outwards.  In my proof I said that Giles 
Biddle says that this plant is  recorded as being responsible for subsidence. 
 The solicitor's response to this (amongst as I recall a fair number of other 
bloops) was, "should we call GB as a witness?".  This did rather hit home.
I changed my text to explain why I thought the pyracantha was probably 
responsible and cited GB as a reference.
The obvious point is that blind acceptance of "science" is dangerous.  By 
this I do not mean that one should be dismissive of authors or indulge in 
wanton cynicism, but one should just retain a sense of perspective.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Kowalczyk [] On Behalf Of Bill 
Sent: 04 January 2012 09:57
To: UK Tree Care
Subject: Re: your valued opinions- writing on trees/body languages/fungi

On 3 Jan 2012, at 13:30, Jon Heuch wrote:

I would regard a book like that rather like Erik von Daniken's books 
of the 1970s - some interesting observations and facts that others may 
have overlooked but unscientific in its approach; others' work has 
been looked for to support a notion (not a hypothesis) and dressed up 
with references to give it some plausibility; the scientific results that 
contradict the proposed "notion" are just neatly ignored, either through 
ignorance of the writer or their unscientific approach.


Two of my Christmas reads were titled:
"the importance of stupidity in scientific research" which talked 
about "productive stupidity" where you are ignorant by choice. The 
more you know it becomes apparent that the less you know; it comes as 
something of a shock to successful students (who have obtained high grades) 
that science doesn't know the answer to lots of questions and scientists 
operate in a world of unknowns.


"Why most published research findings are false". More about statistics.
If you're interested in science they're worth reading.

That's a bit harsh Jon.
Are you also going to have a go at me for helping Mattheck publish a book 
with cartoon drawings of a hedgehog holding a flower above his head, 
supposedly to express some scientific notion?

And you'll certainly have seen some of the other books about arboriculture on 
the shelves. I understand that it's still possible to get a certain august 
tome by Peter Bridgeman!

I'm not trumpeting Stamets as a scientist, or his books as scientific 
treatises, I was merely making a point about references and personal views to 
encourage Tony to write a book if he thinks it's in him. Perhaps I'll let you 
know what I think of Mycelium Running when I've finished it. 

Either way, it's not a 'science' book, and the language is a bit, hmm... 
'American', but so far I'm finding it fascinating. I found his presentation 
with Alan Rayner at Kew last year fascinating too and the main reason I'm 
reading this and a number of his other books I've recently bought is that I 
want to grow my own mushrooms! If I find out anything relevant to arb in the 
meantime, then so much the better. 


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