Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

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Davin Raincloud
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Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Davin Raincloud » 22 Oct 2015, 05:17


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Sciethe
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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Sciethe » 22 Oct 2015, 11:38

Welll...
Quite good in some respects, the Druidic aspect etc. but be aware that this is a highly politicised article. No mention at all of the foremost scientific group studying these trees, an arm of the Tree Register of the British Isles: the Ancient Yew Group http://www.ancient-yew.org/gazetteer.php which uses *actual* science and is in dispute with Meredith's yew aging ideas. He did one thing of value, and that is to draw attention to the plight of the yew, but overextended himself into pseudo science which a credulous public and even a few academics to their discredit lapped up. After doing a good thing, he and his cohorts went on to do a bad thing, which is to injure the reputation of the academic subject of yews to the point where conservationists couldn't stop them being cut down. No-one sensible or in authority would take applications for conservation of old yews seriously.

From the AYG intro page:
"The last few years of our work has seen the yew come out of the darkness and into the light of scientific scrutiny. Fifteen years ago when I began my own yew investigations the British scientific and arboricultural press would hardly touch work on old yews; their image was tainted both by a “mythic” element, and also by a very long running and unresolved debate over ageing, both of which it was generally felt could injure the reputation of a purely scientific journal. Articles on yews that should have been acceptable to the mainstream were often, of necessity, carried by Neo-Pagan publications and consequently angled to suit the editor. This propagated and perpetuated the “way out” image of the subject. Only a sustained coherent and science based effort could change that, and the AYG website has provided the platform that a disillusioned scientific press so often denied to supporters and serious researchers of the yew.

Now the taint appears to be lifting, and questions about protection are being asked in the right quarters because materials that celebrate the religiously important mythic and poetic reality of the yew can at last be easily distinguished from the legitimate ethno-botanical and the rigorously scientific materials which are needed by law makers and arboriculturalists, and which are provided by the AYG."

Think on...
Sciethe :warm:
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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Green Raven » 22 Oct 2015, 17:39

Thank you Sciethe,

Your involvement with the yew tree is somewhat legendary. Do you know of a layman’s guide to the argument and a fairly definitive guide to aging the European species?

Even the AYG quotes an article by Mr Meredith:

http://www.ancient-yew.org/mi.php/dating-yews/99

As you say, a gesture of thanks is due to him for bringing the subject to the public’s attention but it is time to move on, keeping the respect but evidencing incontrovertible facts to battle the planners with.
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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Sciethe » 22 Oct 2015, 21:18

Thank you Sciethe,

Your involvement with the yew tree is somewhat legendary. Do you know of a layman’s guide to the argument and a fairly definitive guide to aging the European species?
*Legendary* :D Thank you Green Raven. That might be a bit too kind, but I do work hard on the conservation and ageing aspects.

There is no layman's guide to the argument mostly because it's the cutting edge, and it's still happening now. Some of the AYG work is under wraps until journal publication, and the arguments and evidence therein are crucial to the matter. Basically it's watch this space for a couple of years. But a few key points are:

The model used for making the age projection graphs ("Constant Annual Increment" in Forestry Research Note 250, Tabbush and White [1994] etc.) applies to most other tree species but not the yew. That is due to morphological peculiarities of the specie, and (e.g.) a paper is researched and now being written in collaboration with a certain University Post Doctoral Research Fellow. That should be out in the academic press next year all being well, look out for reference to "Modular Theory" and perhaps "Moir's Constant".

So what has happened is that perfectly acceptable forestry tree growth models have been uncritically applied outside their range of convenience, producing graphs that are quite simply rubbish. In particular no exponential curve can be applied to an age/girth extrapolation. That's Meredith's aging out straight away. But he's not alone. Every yew girth/age graph ever produced is now definitely wrong and couldn't be right even by accident, at least (and particularly) at the high girth end; we temporarily "know" less than we ever have before about the ages of old yews. But that will be addressed because the new model (which is based on the specific observed growth habit of the yew rather than a general one-size-fits-all model) has the range to supply us with some real answers.

It's very important to realise that there will never be an exact answer to the age of an individual yew. That information is entirely refractory to scientific method. There is no way. So anyone who says that scientists have aged an old yew to an exact number of years is talking nonsense. I am one of those scientists, and I know that you can't. It is possible to narrow things down a bit however, and refining that method is what we're trying for at present.

I doubt that helps much, but I'll keep thrashing away until it does :grin:
Sciethe
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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Davin Raincloud » 23 Oct 2015, 03:51

Sciethe,

Yeah I found the article lacking in science. I thought the mystical party was interesting.

I have an unusual view of science and mysticism. I think they should stay out of each others corners. I don't think mysticism should inform science, and vice versa.

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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Green Raven » 23 Oct 2015, 10:05

Thanks again Sciethe,

Yes, the yew is a mysterious tree on many levels and downright unhelpful when trying to guestimate an age. Rather like a dowager duchess – perhaps best not to enquire but nevertheless treat with the respect and deference due her station. :)

I’ll certainly keep a look out for those papers. The developers are continually nibbling away at the green and their buddies on the local councils will wave any apparent inconstancies in our faces before sanctioning the chainsaws and bulldozers.
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Very green, the mountain beautiful, and beautiful the earth?”
- Myrddin Wyllt, Hoianau / Greetings (to a Pig)

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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Green Raven » 23 Oct 2015, 10:08

I get where you’re coming from, Davin, but I’ve always seen science as a boon companion to the spiritual.

Surely science is an excellent way to explore, measure and discuss truth, with mysticism and magic being about communing with the deep realms. To be well informed on the composition and states of matter, the currents of the weather and the oceans, the mechanisms of animal and plant bodies, history and the arguments over sources and interpretation, the latest machinations of business and politics - and their Machiavellian attempts to hoodwink us, informs our rituals, rites and visions, adding depth, meaning and colours?

Granted, though, I have never seen a paper on how to calibrate a pwca!

In mediaeval times, the forerunners of chemistry, astronomy and medicine were known as ‘natural magic’. Perhaps that can sit nicely into our thought-lines?
“Listen, O little pig! are not the buds of thorns
Very green, the mountain beautiful, and beautiful the earth?”
- Myrddin Wyllt, Hoianau / Greetings (to a Pig)

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Davin Raincloud
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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Davin Raincloud » 24 Oct 2015, 07:20

I'll agree to disagree. I know I'm in a minority here.
Just as spiritual fails to teach us science, science fails to teach us spirituality.

We're operating under the notion that Science will explain 'everything'. That's an interesting untested idea.

I don't believe science can explain stuff in the otherworld.

But hey, show me the empirical data that it does.

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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Green Raven » 26 Oct 2015, 11:34

I don’t think we disagree by much – for science to explain everything, we (Homo sapiens, the self-important ape) would have to see everything to explain it but yet, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Science is only a method of establishing facts and whenever absolute rules are stated, some rotter pops up to fell them. Speed of light? Waiting… :)

It has always struck me that the pictures of the constellations bear more than a passing resemblance to the electrical activity of the brain and, since all matter is ultimately energy, have an absurd notion that the universe is a vast thinking entity of which we are part – a macro Gaia. Perhaps the spiritual and the physical are not so different but our mini-minds just can’t get a handle on it. ( :huh: )
“Listen, O little pig! are not the buds of thorns
Very green, the mountain beautiful, and beautiful the earth?”
- Myrddin Wyllt, Hoianau / Greetings (to a Pig)

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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Sciethe » 26 Oct 2015, 12:39

I'll agree to disagree. I know I'm in a minority here.
No, we actually agree!
Its a bunch of actually quite ignorant science fans and a few really annoying vociferous and overenthusiastic scientists that claim science as the only and ultimate fount of knowledge. As Green Raven says its just a handy method used for finding out what we can about physical things. Most scientists know this, which is good. I don't find it interferes with a mystical world view, one just has to understand the limits of both spiritual and scientific endeavour.

e.g. as I said before:
It's very important to realise that there will never be an exact answer to the age of an individual yew. That information is entirely refractory to scientific method. There is no way. So anyone who says that scientists have aged an old yew to an exact number of years is talking nonsense. I am one of those scientists, and I know that you can't.

So that's ok :shake:
Sciethe
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Davin Raincloud
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Re: Meeting the oldest living thing on Earth (Yew Tree)

Postby Davin Raincloud » 26 Oct 2015, 13:55

Ah excellent.

I think it's the best way to respect science is to let science be science. Keep my mysticism out of it.

After a few trips to the otherworld, I'm not even sure how science could even begin to explain a place that is like Dream Soup. Pure Magic, Pure Dream, where reality and fantasy mix into one. Even the quantum physics fans are going to struggle there.

I have faith that on some level it's real, and that we travel there post death. I don't need to be scientific about it.

The Yews are fascinating, regardless of the exact date or age :)


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