Sunday, March 6, 2011

The World Is(n’t) Dying!

Environmentalists are nothing if not consistent. We’re all going to starve! We’re all going to melt freeze melt freeze! The planet can’t sustain us! Global warming will bring wars! And now, we’ve “unleashed” the sixth GREAT MASS EXTINCTION!!! Oh, the evil humanity! Don’t believe it.

A new “study” released in the journal Nature warns that mankind has caused the sixth known mass extinction in Earth’s history to begin. According to the study, Earth has experienced five prior mass extinctions. With the exception of an asteroid strike, the other four extinctions each took millions of years, and were caused by naturally-caused global warming or cooling (huh, I thought only man caused climate change?).

These five prior extinctions killed around 75% of all species. And apart from these moments, the study asserts, only two species died out on average every million years. But then evil man came along, and in the last 500 years, over-hunting, over-fishing, the spread of germs, and climate change have killed 80 out of 5,570 mammal species. This, researcher Anthony Barnosky claims, demonstrates that we’ve started the sixth great mass extinction, which could arrive between 300 and 22,000 years from now (depending on traffic) unless we “devote resources and legislation toward species conservation.”

Now, to be fair, Barnosky is “careful” to explain that there are weaknesses in the study. For example he warns that (1) the fossil record is not complete, and (2) mammals are an imperfect benchmark for Earth’s biodiversity. But don’t worry, he assures us, he has been “conservative” in his scaremongering.

Ok, let’s break this down.

First, the fossil record contains billions of species. The study estimates there are between 15 and 30 million current species. That is not a 75% kill rate in prior extinctions as the study claims, it’s at least a 97% kill rate (but likely closer to 99.9%). Thus, the study right away vastly understates the historic extinction rate against which it’s comparing the modern extinction rate. That’s a cheap way to make the present look much worse than it is.

Secondly, when he says the fossil record is incomplete, he ain’t kidding. Fossilization is incredibly rare because of the unique conditions needed for it to occur, and few species will actually be fossilized. This is how evolution scientists explain the lack of “transition fossils” to explain why there are no half-creatures. Moreover, because of the fossilization process, 95% of all fossils are marine invertebrates, 4.74% are plants and 0.25% are insects. Only 0.0125% are land animals. Of the land animals, only the most numerous and those with large, hard bodies are likely to have been fossilized.

This means that mammals and mammal-like creatures are the least likely species to have been fossilized -- most will simply disappear without a trace. Thus, we have no way to compare the extinction rate for modern mammals with similar creatures in the past. Therefore, when the study says that history shows only 2 extinctions per year, that by definition does not include mammals or mammal-like creatures. And that makes this study a fraud. This is like comparing the number of ships sunk in the past 50 years against the handful of ancient canoes found sunken in riverbeds and then assuming that modern ships are less safe because we know more of them that have sunk. This is statistical fraud.

Third, the study fails to address another problem with modern biology. To get funding, modern biologists have started finding new species where none previously existed. What they’ve been doing is taking things that would have been declared a single species in the past and they’ve exploded those into dozens of species. The natural result of this, of course, will be to dramatically increase the extinction rate because each species category is smaller and less stable. Think of it this way, this is like having five kids and then declaring each kid a separate species -- now, any one of them that dies before reproducing suddenly counts as a species extinction, whereas in the past, only the deaths of all five without any of them first reproducing would have counted as a species extinction. Thus, the modern rate of species extinction is vastly overstated.

Finally, the study uses averages to compare the past to the present, but it uses inconsistent averages and it misuses them. The study says (paraphrase): “large numbers died in the past 500 years, but in the past it took on average millions of years for the same number to die.” This sounds dramatic, but it’s false. The study author has no idea if the species that died in the “millions of years” actually died a couple per year (as the study implies) or if they died in clumps. This is like knowing that I ate a dozen donuts last year, and assuming that I ate them one per month, and then shrieking when you find out I ate a dozen donuts over two days recently because “the rate of donut extinction used to be one per 30 days and is now six per day.” This is statistical nonsense.

What we have here is a ridiculous study that is designed to reach a specific result for political reasons. It compares things that cannot be compared, it fudges its data, and even then it use statistical fraud. It’s like comparing apples to speedboats to reach a conclusion that bicycles need seatbelts, and even then lying about the speed of the apples. This study is garbage, and the fact that “scientists” would put it out tell us again that environmental “scientists” are not scientists, they are advocates spinning fantasies for political purposes. The field is a disgrace, and until they purge it of these people, it will remain a disgrace.

23 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

what has bothered me most about this disgrace is that there are probably some worthwhile points to be made vis-a-vis protecting the environment. But the movement was hijacked by loons and politicians (wait, maybe that is a distinction without a difference) that they have absolutely lost credibility. Does anyone remember a story about a little boy crying "wolf" one too many times?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That's actually what upsets me the most too. I think there are very valid and worthwhile reasons to make sure that we protect our environment, that our water and air are clean, and that we aren't killing things off or causing irreparable harm. BUT, it all needs to be within reason.

Unfortunately, the lunatics have taken over the environmental movement and they've really discredited good ideas by using them as a trojan horse for socialism or anti-humanism. And that has made this an impossible debate.

Ed said...

More environmentalist fraud, who could have guessed? I saw this headline today and my first thought was, "I'm sure that's bull." So thanks for covering this!

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, It is indeed bull. I'm not saying we shouldn't care about species dying off, but this "study" is not a valid study, it's a political study designed to give ammunition to a particular side of the political spectrum.

T_Rav said...

I had to roll my eyes at this. For one thing, if there is a sixth mass extinction in progress, I'm pretty sure we won't be able to know for certain until it's too late to do anything about it, so that's just a histrionic claim to make. For another, this study appears to be based on little more than the extrapolation of data, which is thoroughly unscientific. I remember a claim made in the '90s that was based on the rate of extinction for species of mammals from the '50s through the '70s, and stated that if this rate were continued to 2025, humans would be the only mammals left by that date. Which is stupid, because it should be obvious that we couldn't kill off all mammals by that point if we wanted to, save a nuclear apocalypse, and anyway we wouldn't want to. Domesticated mammals would never be wiped out that way. I think the same misuse of data is going on here, proof of why these "scientists" should not be taken seriously.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, That's exactly what this is -- its a misuse of data, an extrapolation based on too short of a period using bad data to begin with, and then trying to make it sound even more alarming by comparing it to even sketchier data from the past.

This is the oldest trick in the book for leftists who want to claim that science is on their side. I will always recall estimates in the 1980s about the growth of homelessness and how if you actually ran the math at the rates they claimed, every American would have been homeless within 6 months. Yet the media ran with it.

And you're right about it being histrionic. How can any reputable scientist declare that we are about to cause a mass extinction starting in 300-2200 years? Especially when the causes for those extinctions are as varied as he says?

(Not to mention, I wonder how his data would change if you took out "germs"? I wonder if that category isn't included to jack up the numbers a lot?)

What they're trying to do is get vast chunks of land declared off limits to humans and then government money poured into fighting "climate change." It's the same garbage they've been trying for years now -- come up with anything that sounds horrible and then promise that we can fix it if we just pass the right laws.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I don't have time to read the original study, so perhaps you can give me the answer. Which species will die out first--human beings, or the Delta smelt?

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That depends on who gets elected President. If it's a Democrat, then it will be the humans. If it's Biden, then it would be the Delta Smurf. ;-)

BevfromNYC said...

LawHawk - I betting that the Delta smelt outlive cockroaches.

Andrew - Of course, I am only stating the obvious, but there were 5 other periods of extinction. Shouldn't that be enough to shut them up? If they are trying to prove that Man is causing the Earth to die, then how do they reasonably explain the other 5 times without Man or progress or fossil fuels? It's comical...

Like trying to explain that it snows in the Winter, sometimes alot. And sometimes it floods alot. And sometimes there are droughts. And sometimes it is unusually hot in the Summer, but only unusual to us at this time in history, not to mankind in general for all time.

No one has yet tried to pin the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on the evils of modern Conservative mankind ('cause Libs don't cause anything but good), but I'm waiting.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, The obvious often escapes people, especially those who don't want to see it.

Not only were there five other extinction periods, but four were caused by global warming/cooling. Doesn't that tell us that global warming is not a manmade event, but is instead a natural, cyclical process that we can't stop?

And that's not even to ask how global warming of a couple degrees would kill any animal? There's very little on our planet that can't adapt to a few degree temperature changes.

Also, think about how these extinctions happened over 500 years, but we're told that global warming is the result of "climate change" brought about by industrialization over the last 100 years. So how did capitalism kill off species during the prior 400 years? I guess he would say "overhunting" happened for the first 400 years and then global warming for the last 100 years, but that's also supposed to be a modern phenomena -- indeed, there weren't that many people in the past and they lacked the technology that let them empty oceans or wipe out forrests.

So again, it sounds like they're just saying things that sound good without ever thinking about what they're saying or how they contradict themselves over and over.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew and Bev: I think mankind will be the ultimate survivor. How do I know? The Eternal Revenue Service has plans for how to collect taxes in the event of an all-out thermonuclear war. I'm not sure about their plans in the event of a comet, but as long as Robert Duvall lives, we're safe. On the other hand, maybe only the IRS computers and auditing robots will survive. Hmmmmm.

Bev: You obviously don't know your environmental science. Global warming and climate change cause the earth to expand and contract, thereby causing volcanoes, earthquakes, floods and chicken pox. So you have two choices--stop breathing or stop driving. If you continue to try to do both, the sky will fall. I read that in Chickenhawk Little's (no relative) study of sticks, goals and the biosphere. The study was funded by the Gummint, created or saved one job, and at a cost of a mere $5 million.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, You've just given me a whole new take on "the robot holocaust." I can see it now as IRS auditing robots put us all to work and audit us with extreme prejudice. I'm thinking there might be a good sci-fi in that?!

DUQ said...

This is so typical of the eco-nuts. They just say whatever they think is going to scare people and they assume nobody's going to check what they do.

Ed said...

I was over at the Fox cite and I saw that they had this story too. Of course, they just report it like it's true. It really pisses me off that even Fox just takes this garbage at face value without asking any questions?

Here's the Fox link:

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/03/02/humans-verge-6th-great-mass-extinction-experts-say/

Ed said...

Also, I love the image. It's hilarious!

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, It's a strategy that's worked for them in the past. They know the media is either too stupid or too unwilling to dig into their data, and the rest of their "scientific community" thinks like they do, so why bother being honest?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, Despite the slant of their political coverage, Fox is no better than the other networks when it comes to making sure the news they report is accurate. They just take wire service reports and spruce them up.

Here's your link: LINK

StanH said...

Sounds like a political scientist in search of an endowment? Garbage in, garbage out.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, Garbage in, garbage out is very accurate, and this is a lot of garbage. But in this case, I think it was more a case of "garbage out, find garbage to put in."

CrispyRice said...

I totally agree with Jed. The enviro-whackos have zero credibility.

And it's funny to me how conservatives have been painted as the "let's destroy the planet, rah rah rah!" party. It's such BS. Ugh.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, I wish that were true, but too many people do give the enviro-whackos a lot of credibility. The media repeats what they say and calls it science, and a large chunk of the population just takes it in from there and accepts it as fact. That's why it's so important to dispel the things they do -- and why we should be disappointed when institutions like Fox just report this uncritically.

wahsatchmo said...

Once again, the new environmentalists forgot that the point of environmentalism used to be to preserve the planet for humanity. Preserving the planet for the planet’s sake while ignoring the needs of humanity is foolhardy. Doing so at the cost of human life and utilizing bogus statistics and methods for justification is not only immoral, it is downright evil.

AndrewPrice said...

wahsatchmo, Well said! I couldn't agree more. First, it's never acceptable to lie or create false studies for the purpose of convincing people to engage in certain policies. If you can't win your point with the truth, then your point is not valid, and this is no different than stealing from people.

Secondly, the purpose of environmentalism should be to protect the planet for future generations. To protect it just for the sake of protecting it is utterly pointless. And when you realized that doing so comes at a cost in terms of human happiness and human lives, it becomes totally immoral. Yet, environmentalists always ignore the second part of that equation.

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