Monday, April 9, 2012


date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 09:55:08 -0500
from: Ed Cook <drdendroatXYZxyzO.COLUMBIA.EDU>
subject: Re: Fwd: History and trees

Rod's comments are remarkably ignorant and insulting. I suggest that
he stick to what he knows best and not claim that he understands
dendrochronology and its methods. That way he would not sound so
stupid. To suggest that dendrochronology does not embrace the
scientific method and is as biased as he claims verges on libel. Of
course, Rod has the right to his opinion. It is just a shame that he
chooses to expose his ignorance of dendrochronology in such a
negative way.

>To the Editor, New York Times
>Further to the message below, I want to assure you that not everyone agrees
>with the representations by David Lawrence. As a tree physiologist who has
>devoted his career to understanding how trees make wood, I have made
>sufficient observations on tree rings and cambial growth to know that
>dendrochronology is not at all an exact science. Indeed, its activities
>include subjective interpretations of what does and what does not
>constitute an annual ring, statistical manipulation of data to fulfill
>subjective expectations, and discarding of perfectly good data sets when
>they contradict other data sets that have already been accepted. Such
>massaging of data cannot by any stretch of the imagination be considered
>science; it merely demonstrates a total lack of rigor attending so-called
>dendrochronology "research".
>I would add that it is the exceptionally rare dendrochronologist who has
>ever shown any inclination to understand the fundamental biology of wood
>formation, either as regulated intrinsically or influenced by extrinsic
>factors. The science of tree physiology will readily admit that our
>understanding of how trees make wood remains at quite a rudimentary state
>(despite several centuries of research). On the other hand, there are many
>hundreds, if not thousands, of publications by dendrochronologists
>implicitly claiming that they do understand the biology of wood formation,
>as they have used their data to imagine when past regimes of water,
>temperature, pollutants, CO2, soil nutrients, and so forth existed. Note
>that all of the counts and measurements on tree rings in the world cannot
>substantiate anything unequivocally; they are merely observations. It
>would be a major step forward if dendrochronology could embrace the
>scientific method.
>RA Savidge, PhD
>Professor, Tree Physiology/Biochemistry
>Forestry & Environmental Management
>University of New Brunswick
>Fredericton, NB E3B 6C2
>>X-Sieve: cmu-sieve 2.0
>>X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook, Build 10.0.4024
>>Importance: Normal
>>Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 23:24:03 -0500
>>Reply-To: grissinoatXYZxyzUX.UTCC.UTK.EDU
>>Sender: ITRDB Dendrochronology Forum <ITRDBFORatXYZxyzTSERV.ARIZONA.EDU>
>>From: "David M. Lawrence" <daveatXYZxyzZO.COM>
>>Subject: History and trees
>>Comments: To:
>>I was rather horrified by the inaccurate statements about tree-ring
>>dating that you allowed to slip into print in the interview with Thomas
>>Pakenham today. Tree-ring science is an exact science -- none of the
>>data obtained from tree rings would be useful if the dates were
>>inaccurate. Dendrochronologists don't say much these days about how old
>>trees are because they are interested in more important questions --
>>such as "What can the tree rings tell us about our planet's past?"
>>You at The New York Times should know something about tree rings. A
>>check on Lexis-Nexis shows that since 1980 you have run more than 100
>>stories in which the words "tree rings" appear in full text. Some of
>>the stories are irrelevant. But most are not, such as the July 13,
>>2002, story in which you misspell the name of Neil Pederson at
>>Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, or the March 26, 2002, story about a
>>medieval climate warming detected in tree-ring data. I do not remember
>>tree-ring dating being labeled an "inexact" science in stories like
>>Did Walter Sullivan, who wrote a story about tree rings and drought on
>>September 2, 1980, ever question the "exact" nature of tree-ring dating?
>>He didn't seem to question it on June 7, 1994, when he wrote a story
>>about ash from Santorini and said that the ash cloud may have "persisted
>>long enough to stunt the growth of oak trees in Irish bogs and of
>>bristlecone pines in the White Mountains of California, producing
>>tightly packed tree rings." You really do have to know when those rings
>>were laid down before you can associate them with a specific volcanic
>>I tell you what. I am a member of the National Association of Science
>>Writers as well as a working dendrochronologist and occasionally paid-up
>>member of the Tree-Ring Society. If you feel the need for a refresher
>>course on tree-ring dating, I'll be more than happy to try to introduce
>>you to knowledgeable practioners in you neighborhood, such as Neil
>>Pederson (not Peterson) at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. (It's
>>actually a local phone call for youse guys.)
>>Dave Lawrence
>> David M. Lawrence | Home: (804) 559-9786
>> 7471 Brook Way Court | Fax: (804) 559-9787
>> Mechanicsville, VA 23111 | Email:
>> USA | http:
>>"We have met the enemy and he is us." -- Pogo
>>"No trespassing
>> 4/17 of a haiku" -- Richard Brautigan

Dr. Edward R. Cook
Doherty Senior Scholar
Tree-Ring Laboratory
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Palisades, New York 10964 USA
Phone: 845-365-8618
Fax: 845-365-8152

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