You've seen it everywhere by now - Earth's sixth mass extinction: Is it almost here? and other articles discussing an article in Nature (471, 51–57 doi:10.1038/nature09678) claiming the end of the world is nigh.
Hey, I like to live in important times. So do most people. And something so important it has only happened 5 times in 540 million years, well that is really special. But is it real?
Anthony Barnosky, integrative biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and first author of the paper, claims that if currently threatened species, those officially classed as critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable, actually went extinct, and that rate of extinction continued, the sixth mass extinction could arrive in 3-22 centuries.
Wait, what?? That's a lot of helping verbs confusing what should be a fairly clear issue, if it were clear.
If you know anything about species and extinction, you have already read one paragraph of my overview and seen the flaws in their model. Taking a few extinct mammal species that we know about and then extrapolating that out to be extinction hysteria right now if we don't do something about global warming is not good science. Worse, an integrative biologist is saying evolution does not happen. Polar bears did not exist forever, they came into existence 150,000 years ago - because of the Ice Age.
Greenpeace co-founder and ecologist Dr. Patrick Moore told a global warming skepticism site, “I quit my life-long subscription to National Geographic when they published a similar 'sixth mass extinction' article in February 1999. This [latest journal] Nature article just re-hashes this theme” and "The fact that the study did make it through peer-review indicates that the peer review process has become corrupted.”
Well, how did it make it through peer review? Read this bizarre justification of their methodology; "If you look only at the critically endangered mammals--those where the risk of extinction is at least 50 percent within three of their generations--and assume that their time will run out and they will be extinct in 1,000 years, that puts us clearly outside any range of normal and tells us that we are moving into the mass extinction realm."
Well, greater extinctions occurred when Europeans visited the Americas and in a much shorter time. And since we don't know how many species there are now, or have ever been, if someone makes a model and claims tens of thousands of species are going extinct today, that sets off cultural alarms. It's not science, though.
If only 1% of species have gone extinct in the groups we really know much about, that is hardly a time for panic, especially if some 99 percent of all species that have ever existed we don't know anything about because they...went extinct. And we did not.
It won't keep some researchers, and the mass media, from pushing the panic button. Co-author Charles Marshall, also an integrative biologist at UC-Berkeley wants to keep the panic button fully engaged by emphasizing that the small number of recorded extinctions to date does not mean we are not in a crisis. "Just because the magnitude is low compared to the biggest mass extinctions we've seen in half a billion years doesn't mean they aren't significant."
It's a double negative, bad logic and questionable science, though.
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