Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Maybe the sky isn't falling

The following is from the newpaper a couple days ago. There was a big splash made earlier this year about how the worlds oceans would be depleted of fish in the next 50 years. The news is very big on disaster speculations. What I thought was particularly interesting here is not that there are marine specialists who don't agree with the disaster speculators but the way that the disaster speculator was unwilling to even admit the problems with the speculations.

I will highlight in blue where the author of the Science article says he has not seen any science to counter his position and I will highlight where they admit they their are using faulty data. It is a sad commentary on the current state of science, that they have no skepticism and that they often ignore the problems with their data. The scientific method actually demands that the researcher try to disprove their hypothesis, yet often today that step is treated as if it is unacceptable to question what a scientist puts forth. As many have noted this is also a problem with the human caused Global warming advocates.

From the Olympian:
Fishermen, critics dispute early demise of ocean fish

Kevin Howe and Sarah C.P. Williams

MONTEREY, Calif. - The sky isn't falling, and the fish will still be around in midcentury, according to fishermen and critics of a recent article that forecast a bleak future for the fishing industry.

The article, published Nov. 3 in the magazine Science, predicted the collapse of all of the world's fisheries by 2048, based on declining fish harvest numbers and other research. It also sparked a firestorm of controversy, generating headlines nationwide in newspapers and news magazines, spinning off into an elaborately illustrated feature in Time magazine.

Among critics such as Ray Hilborn, a peer review scientist at the University of Washington, the article was "probably the most absurd prediction that's ever appeared in a scientific journal regarding fisheries."

Hilborn called the Science article findings "silly," but also worried that they "will become completely accepted in the ecological community. They have no skepticism."

But the researchers who wrote the Science story - including two from Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif. - are sticking to their findings.

"I haven't seen any science that shows we're wrong," said Steve Palumbi, a marine ecologist at Hopkins. "There are opinions I've heard, but I haven't seen any science."

At the core of the controversy is what critics call the growing "enviro-sensationalism" trend of environmental news, said Steve Ralston, senior fishery biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Office in Santa Cruz.

The principal objection, Ralston said, is that the scientists infer that fisheries are going to "collapse" based on declining catches.

But one reason for the decline, he said, has been a successful management program. "The basic way they measure 'collapse' is flawed. Catch is not a good way to measure the status of the fish stock."

The authors of the original paper acknowledged that there is some validity to Ralston's argument.

"Yes, catches are an imperfect measure of the stock abundance," said lead author Boris Worm, a marine biologist at Canada's Dalhousie University. He said, however, that declines in catches are still indicative of larger trends.

"It's obvious that when the catches collapse, it's often because there's no more fish to be found," Worm said.

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