Home > AGW, Catastrophism, Climate Change, Global Warming, Omniclimate, Skepticism > Science Vs. Science-Based Fantasy Embroidery

Science Vs. Science-Based Fantasy Embroidery

Andy Revkin’s increasingly more interesting “Dot Earth” blog quotes “Yadvinder Malhi, an Oxford University biologist who is focused on the Amazon and climate” questioning the Amazon-is-doomed “findings presented at the meeting” and decrying “the resulting media coverage“:

(Mahli) I must say I find it frustrating that the gloomiest take on news gets such a big profile. This is based on one model, and that model has flaws, especially its temperature sensitivity that seems too great (David Galbraith’s work), and its rainfall that seems to low

Revkin and Mahli should be not surprised a bit, as the embroidery of fact-based hypotheses (if not outright fantasies) and their presentation as “the latest science” is a popular endeavor (=gets the biggest profile) and not just in climate circles. For example, here’s the decrying of the equivalent behavior, about Pompeii:

Beard, a classics professor at Cambridge University, takes cheeky, undisguised delight in puncturing the many fantasies and misconceptions that have grown up around Pompeii — sown over the years by archaeologists and classicists no less than Victorian novelists and makers of “sword and sandal” film extravaganzas.

While many scholars build careers through increasingly elaborate reconstructions of the ancient world, Beard consistently stresses the limits of our knowledge, the precariousness of our constructs and the ambiguity or contradiction inherent in many of our sources. “There is hardly a shred of evidence for any of it” serves as her battle cry, and it’s a noble one.

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  1. 2009/03/24 at 08:28

    Vanessa again – with all due respect, the point of this particular blog was and still is that science-based fantasy embroidery is not science, even if it is presented as such (and in mainstream news of all places!).

    About the other point (gloomy reports switching people off a problem) I have spoken at length in the past. I will endeavour to post some links about it later today or tomorrow.

  2. 2009/03/24 at 07:33

    Vanessa – outright fantasies are also known as “just-so stories” and affect other fields of science, such as the study of evolution…it’s not a matter of agenda, but of wild speculation dressed up as if it were a plausible scientific finding

  3. Vanessa
    2009/03/24 at 07:09

    Hello. I’d like to add that Yavinder Malhi continued to say:

    “The danger is that that such apparent bad news makes all the efforts to conserve the Amazon forests worthless (why bother saving them if they are already doomed?), and encourages disengagement and hopelessness rather than action. If that conclusion was based on solid empirical science then so be it, but when such a story goes out on a pure model study (not yet peer-reviewed) with significant imperfections, it may do a lot of damage in the real world.”

    Your use of the words “outright fantasy” makes it sound as though some scientists have some sort of agenda. It’s a little over the top..
    Also, Malhi, a climate change expert, has found that gloomy takes on and overestimates of global warming can be damaging in the effort to raise awareness of AWG. What these over-estimations tend to do is distance people or make them feel hopeless. What you seem to have done is cut off Malhi’s message to suit your overall argument against AWG. As a writer, you have influence, meaning you also have the responsibility to stay true to your sources so that you can provide readers with as unbiased information as possible.

    I really appreciate that you’ve established on your About page that all input is welcome. That’s great:) Thanks for reading.

  4. geoff chambers
    2009/03/16 at 22:53

    Thanks for the link. Pompeii will still be fascinating in future centuries, when anthropogenic global warming is a footnote in somone’s history of millenarian cults. Not that I accept the thesis of the journalist, or of the article’s protagonist Mary Beard, for one moment. Our understanding of the classical world is entirely due to the work of numerous little-known professors beavering away in Leipzig and Cambridge throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. (I say little-known, even if they include such figures as Sir James Frazer and Lawrence of Arabia). Mary Beard’s “correction” of previous misconceptions is simply the gambit of the modern egghead as media player. The only way to exist in our modern (I can’t bring myself to say “post-post-modern”) world is to claim to be tearing down the misconceptions of a previous generation. It’s a good career move, but I’m not sure it aids our understanding. To come back to your IHT article, I think I’ll buy the other book, the one with the big colour illustrations..

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