BOGUS "SCIENCE NEWS" IN 2004
By Alan Caruba
Science depends on being able to replicate the results of experiments to determine the accuracy of various discoveries. If a claim cannot stand up to peer review, it is abandoned, and with good reason. Science is not about speculation, though it often begins as a theory that must either be proved or cast aside.
Here are the National Geographic selections.
Number ten was the story of SpaceShipOne, which is the first privately built manned spacecraft and which won a ten million dollar prize. This is a practical application of science and a worthy one.
Number nine on the list was a story on how to avoid a shark attack, what to do if you are bitten, and how to help victims. With all the other countless ways to die, most of them accidents, this falls into the category of a “Jaws” approach to entertaining readers. Incredibly, number eight was about the film “Open Water”, in which the actors actually swam amid feeding sharks. According to the International Shark Attack File, sharks attack some 50-75 people worldwide each year. More people are killed by elephants, bees, crocodiles, and lightning and other natural dangers.
Number seven -- “Aliens in Our Galaxy?” -- told of astronomers “using sophisticated computer models” to map a ring-shaped disc in the Milky Way “that shows the highest potential for extraterrestrial life in our galaxy.” In their book, Rare Earth, two University of Washington scientists, Peter Ward and David Brownlee, concluded that life in our galaxy is unlikely. To put it another way, of the fifty billion species on Earth, only one has the capacity for speech. Thus, National Geographic gave voice to a study that is more science fiction, than fact.
Number six was also based on a movie that, by definition, is pure fiction. In the article -- “Day After Tomorrow Movie: Could Ice Age Occur Overnight?” -- National Geographic said that “To environmentalists, there is more than a kernel of truth in the catastrophic scenarios depicted…” in the movie and expressed the hope that it would “spark debate about the environmental damage the Earth is suffering.” This isn’t journalism. It is pure advocacy for a bogus theory that has been disputed by thousands of scientists around the world and now is widely viewed as junk science of no merit. It, too, is based on “computer models,” and they are regarded as badly flawed.
Numbers five and four were about meteor showers and a socalled “blue moon.” Not much harm done here, as astronomical phenomena were discussed.
Number three was about a “Hobbit-like Human Ancestor Found in Asia.” It addressed skeletons of a human species that were about the size of a three-year-old child. They were found on a remote island in Indonesia.
Number two, “Warming to Cause Catastrophic Rise in Sea Level,” states that “Most scientists agree that global warming presents the greatest threat to the environment.” This is false. Most scientists do not support the global warming theory advanced by environmental organizations to justify the United Nations Kyoto Protocol on climate control. “If our planet’s ice caps and glaciers continue to melt, the sea level will rise and submerge vast territories, from entire countries to large parts of the United States.” This is absurd.
Antarctica is getting colder and, since 1970, Iceland’s glaciers have been getting thicker. Sea levels rise at an extremely low rate. The melting cited is the same that began 10,000 years ago at the beginning of the current interglacial period. The UN Protocol has a purely political agenda intended to harm the economies of industrialized nations, while exempting others such as India, China, and more than a hundred Third World nations.
Number one makes much of nothing. “Cicada Invasion Begins: Eastern U.S. Beset by Bugs.” Well, whoopee. This is a naturally occurring cycle in the life of this particular insect species. And National Geographic thinks it is their number one story of 2004.
National Geographic should come with a warning label: “Beware! Anything you read in this magazine may be dangerous to your mental health.”
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