Scientists Call a Halt to Overselling Calamities

Respected scientists are complaining about reports that are overselling calamities.

stranded polar bear

When Nature magazine runs an editorial about it, the problem has to be growing to an embarrassing size.

Bob Tisdale guest posted about the problem at the climate change skeptic website, Watts Up with That. He quotes Nature:

The state of the world’s seas is often painted as verging on catastrophe. But although some challenges are very real, others have been vastly overstated, researchers claim in a review paper. The team writes that scientists, journals and the media have fallen into a mode of groupthink that can damage the credibility of the ocean sciences. The controversial study exposes fault lines in the marine-science community.

Carlos Duarte, a marine biologist at the University of Western Australia in Perth, and his colleagues say that gloomy media reports about ocean issues such as invasive species and coral die-offs are not always based on actual observations. It is not just journalists who are to blame, they maintain: the marine research community “may not have remained sufficiently sceptical” on the topic.

“May not have remained sufficiently skeptical”? In other words, scientists are men who get carried away with their own authority just like everyone else. Rather than carefully reporting only what is confirmed by the scientific method as “science” they tend to pass on whatever scientists believe as “science.” But experiments take time, effort, and money. If scientists limited themselves to their real research they wouldn’t have much to say

So, like the rest of us, they make guesses and pass off their opinions.

[See also, “Politicians Correct Climate Scientists to Makes Sure We Get More Hysteria.”]

This New York Times article exemplifies the problem: “Ocean Life Faces Extinction, Broad Study Says.

A team of scientists, in a groundbreaking analysis of data from hundreds of sources, has concluded that humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them.

“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” said Douglas J. McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an author of the new research, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.

But there is still time to avert catastrophe, Dr. McCauley and his colleagues also found. Compared with the continents, the oceans are mostly intact, still wild enough to bounce back to ecological health.

According to the Nature editorial there is pressure put on scientists not to blow the whistle on this kind of overselling.

“There are a lot of conversations around meetings about the excess doom and gloom in our reporting of ocean health, but perhaps this is the first paper to bring these concerns out of the privacy of peer conversations,” says Duarte. “This is a silent movement, as there is a lot of peer pressure against voicing those concerns openly, so my co-authors and I expect significant heat upon us to be derived from our paper.”

This is something to keep in mind as we are constantly frightened by hysterical headlines.