Sunday, January 18, 2009

Propaganda and good/bad science

OK, well, check this out. It'll only take a minute

Now, I wasn't planning on writing any more today, but this totally frosted my radiator.

This research study is great. Right up my alley. In fact, this gives me wood. Lignum Vitae style wood. This is cool science.

But the reporting totally puckers up my nethers.

This article calls 10,000 year old coral bed remains "Ancient," but 10,000 years is barely a blip. 10,000 years ago, the last ice age was long gone. The world was much as it is today. In fact, I can go get 15,000 year old plant and animal remains at home with just a 3 hour boat ride, 100-feet of fishing line and a little mud grab. No big deal. We can go offshore and look at the salt marsh remains that are buried just under the mud off of Stellwagen bank, 30 miles from the shore today. No big deal. The ocean moved 30 miles inland after the ice age ended. So it goes.

So, an older band of dead deep-sea coral isn't newsworthy in itself, and as much as it's cool that the group classified a couple of new marine species, it wouldn't have made even the less-than-prestigious Yahoo! News. So, throw in some political footballs fellas, 'cus it's almost grant-writing time again to pay for the next research cruise.

Read the article's incredibly lame attempted tie-in to global warming. Ocean Acidification. Puh-leeze. This has been an interesting research avenue, no doubt, despite the fact that it runs contrary to what is taught in week 2 in Introduction to Marine Biology. Calcium cycle stuff. Pffft. Chemistry is still for nerds apparently, and nerds don't do news.
Anyhow, what pissed me off is that the team leader, a scientist who should know better, spoke using the language of the media, and not science. He used scientifically meaningless numbers, numbers that aren't supportable in any meaningful way, as a hook to grab attention. 50-year projections, when we can't figure out what's 6 months ahead of us. Deep vs. shallow water-ecosystem comparisons, when the two are literally night and day, with only a tenuous interconnection caused by incedental energy transfer, which is like comparing New York City with Bozeman, Montana, because the two are cities in which one could move goods from one to the other in a limited fashion.

No, no, no. This isn't what we are supposed to be doing by researching the natural world around us. This is the kind of shit that let to evolutionary theory being used to justify social darwinism, which, if one considers eugenics, led directly to Nazism. That's the road that the politicalization of science leads down to.

So, I have to offer a big F-You to the team leader of this expedition. You are the reason that people complain about giving money to non-medical scientific research. Fuckhead. Thanks for ruining that.

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