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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: Hill Tina
Date: Jan 04 2012 12:15:11
Having had to explain complex ideas in ways students at all levels can
understand I have come to realise there are many different forms of
communication. Mathecks books make the science accessible, leading the
interested reader into the technical justification (and more formal
tomes)later. Giving a student War and Peace to read when they have just
graduated from Janet and John is counter productive. I would agree that
the information given should be accurate as far as is known at the time
of writing but the time between completion and publication inevitably
means the work is going to be out of date by the time it hits the
IMO making science more accessible by writing about it in terms everyone
can understand can only be a good thing. How it is used then depends on
the individuals ability to synthesise information to form their own
opinions, which is a skill all on is own.


Tina Hill
Arbennigwr Coed - Arboriculturalist
Asiantaeth Cefnffyrdd Gogledd Cymru - North Wales Trunk Road Agency
7 Llys Onnen,
Fford Y Llyn
Parc Menai
LL57 4DF
TEL: 01286 685183

Yn gweityio i'r Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru
Working for the Welsh Assembly Government
-----Original Message-----
From: Jim Quaife []
Sent: 04 January 2012 10:19
To: UK Tree Care
Subject: RE: your valued opinions- writing on trees/body languages/fungi

"Science" is a method not facts.
We don't actually have that much finite knowledge in purely scientific
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
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 justification.
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

-----Original Message-----
From: Bill Kowalczyk [] On Behalf Of
Bill Kowalczyk
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
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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