Jack Hitt writing in the NY TImes writes some thoughts on the way that online post-publication commentary and review are changing the authority of scientific statements: "Science and Truth - We're All In It Together". He takes as his theme the 2005 "sighting" of the ivory-headed woodpecker. Every piece of evidence that appeared to support this sighting was later debunked by serious naturalists and amateur birders, working in a loose network centered on a blog. Early in the public exposure of the story, more prominent scientists given fuller information than the public had privately expressed doubts, but held their tongues.
Take the case of the ivory-bill. The article in Science has never been retracted. Cornell still stands by its video. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service acted as though the ivory-bill existed, and, in 2008, it asked for $27 million to support recovery efforts. Here’s the thing: The ivory-billed woodpecker is the Schrödinger’s cat of contemporary media — dead to those who’ve looked inside Tom Nelson’s blog but alive to the professionals who can’t bear to.