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Rejoinder of an Egg Collector

Nature volume 142, page 698 (15 October 1938) | Download Citation



To Mr. Edgar P. Chance all credit is due for his film of cuckoo life, which thrilled every ornithologist who saw it and made a distinct contribution to scientific knowledge. This achievement, however, does not necessarily justify all his other activities, and for his egg-collecting he has been severely criticized. His rejoinder appears as an eight-page pamphlet entitled “An Egg-Collector Replies to his Critics” (Sept. 1938). In our view, an appropriate reply would be to show that the amount of disturbance caused to wild birds was justified by the amount and value of the scientific knowledge gained from the collections and published for the information of other scientific workers. Unfortunately, this reply makes no attempt at such justification, and is marred by expressions which cannot further the case of the egg-collector. The author's ethics are hinted at in a paragraph which states that “Bird Protection laws are proverbially stupid [we have not heard any proverb on the subject]... When a law is not worthy of respect it ceases to be law to those who know better”. That is a position which cannot be defended, any more than can be the allegation that the bird protection laws are framed “by those who do not understand their subject”. Clearly, however, the collector is himself convinced that his collection, which “is complete and only the abnormal can now find a place there”, has been brought together without any unwonted disturbance of the numbers or distribution of wild birds.

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