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.

No comments:

Post a Comment