Saturday, August 29, 2015

It's Everywhere: Be Wary of Myths, Fabricated Lies, and Distorted Data!

Willis Eschenbach and the Myth of the “Sixth Wave of Extinction”
Predation by another species is the number one cause of extinction
By Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh -- Bio and Archives  
August 25, 2015

Willis Eschenbach, who takes pride in saying that he is not a trained scientist but has logged thousands of hours of research on the subject, was the first person to file a FOIA request for the infamous data from the University of East Anglia CRU. Hackers downloaded emails from said university that had shown that scientists had manipulated the data to agree with the global warming theory.
Eschenbach lectured an audience in California about the “Myth of Species Extinction,” more specifically, the legend that humans have caused the disappearance of countless birds and mammals with their existence and industrial activity.
A popular myth states that “we are in the sixth wave of extinction,” said Eschenbach.  It appears that life on Earth experienced five mass extinctions due to natural disasters but some biologists are talking about a sixth wave of extinction caused by humans. The top five extinctions are:

  • Ordovician-silurian extinction (small marine organisms disappeared)
  • Devonian extinction (tropical marine species died out)
  • Permian-triassic extinction (“largest mass extinction which included many vertebrates”)
  • Triassic-jurassic extinction (“vertebrate species on land allowed dinosaurs to flourish”)
  • Cretaceous-tertiary extinction
E.O. Wilson, a biologist from Harvard, said that there were 27,000 species going extinct each year for over twenty years at least, that’s over half a million species. If that is so, “what are the species, where are the corpses,” asked Eschenbach?
“We’re in the end game all around the world,” said the Pulitzer-Prize winning biologist. E. O. Wilson, described as “one of the world’s most influential and eloquent thinkers on endangered species issues,” said “’hot spots’ for biological diversity tend to be in the same parts of the developing world where poverty has created ‘oppressed, land-hungry people with no other place to go.’”
“In The Skeptical Environmentalist, statistician Bjorn Lomborg has disputed Wilson’s claim that 27,000 to 100,000 species are becoming extinct every year.”
Eschenbach said that he decided to check the causes of extinction looking at species-area relationships. An article in Nature stated that “species-area relationships always overestimate extinction rates from habitat loss” and admits that estimating extinction rates is still “highly uncertain because no proven direct methods or reliable data exist for verifying extinctions.” But somehow, “extinction from habitat loss is the signature conservation problem of the twenty-first century.”
“The most widely used indirect method is to estimate extinction rates by reversing the species-area accumulation curve, extrapolating backwards to smaller areas to calculate expected species loss. Estimates of extinction rates based on this method are almost always much higher than those actually observed.”
Eschenbach looked first at the Red List which “hypes the extinction” of birds. He then looked at the list from the American Museum of Natural History (New York) which covers mammals. The problem was to actually determine what constitutes an extinction, its taxonomy, specimens, DNA, to show that they are a species, how we look for it, and the criteria for extinction.
E. O. Wilson talked about extinctions due to habitat loss each year, more specifically, loss of forests. Eschenbach found that there were several waves of extinctions. There was a wave in the 1500s, one wave in the 1700s, and a third wave into the 1800s and 1900s. Eschenbach discovered that the number of birds and animals that had gone extinct in the last 500 years was actually 190, sixty-one mammals and 129 birds. So much for the infamous Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s book, that started the green revolution against DDT and its eventual banning. Springs are never silent in our forests; there are plenty of birds chirping year round.
He also found that, from these 190 species, many island species had gone extinct from “introduced species.” When he excluded those species, to his surprise, in the last 500 years there had been only 9 species that had disappeared, 3 mammals and 6 birds.
Eschenbach enumerated the nine species that had vanished and perhaps why they no longer exist:

  1. An antelope hunted by European settlers around the 1800s
  2. Labrador duck (shooting and trapping, overharvest of eggs)
  3. Algerian gazelle (“extinction was assumed from a single skin purchased in a market place in North Africa in 1894 and from an adult male skull; we know nothing else about it”)
  4. North Carolina parakeet (hunted to death for food, for their prized feathers worn on hats; beekeepers also hunted the parakeets because they ate bees)
  5. Slender-billed grackle (lived in marshes of Mexico that were drained; total destruction of habitat, any species would go extinct from that)
  6. Passenger pigeon (the most prolific birds in the U.S.; extinct from extensive hunting and disease; we hunted them on a large scale, “thousands were brought by trainloads to shoot them where they roosted”)
  7. Colombian grebe (predation by introduced rainbow trout)
  8. Atitlan Grebe (predation by the large-mouth bass)
  9. Cotton tail rabbit (“three specimens collected in 1991 in a small area in Mexico, when they looked back, there were none; nobody knows why they were extinct”)
Based on this record, the conclusion that can be drawn is that when “European species met native species, native species usually died.” Predation by another species is the number one cause of extinction. For example, 95 percent of bird species on islands were killed by alien species. When European species met with Australian species, there was a massive die-off but it was a one-time event, said Eschenbach. Only one bird went extinct from habitat destruction that can be pinpointed to draining a marsh. “Wilson said that 39 extinctions a year occur from habitat loss,” added Eschenbach. Taking his formula into account, we should have seen during “the last century over 1,000 extinctions.”
Eschenbach continued that Wilson explained why his formula was not accurate at all – “50 years must pass before we know that a species is extinct.” His second explanation was that “species don’t go extinct immediately,” they may take up to 100 years to happen due to “exponential decay.” The problem with that theory is that “we still should have seen 600 extinctions by now and we’ve seen none,” Eschenbach concluded.

False facts and the conservative distortion machine: It’s much more than just Fox News 
Social scientists use "knowledge distortion" index to test partisanship and reality. Guess who is wrong most often?                           
Monday, Aug 18, 2014 
Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly (Credit: Fox News)
Citizens are misinformed — often badly so. It’s not just that they lack good information — which would merely make them uninformed — they have plenty of bad information that leads them to believe untrue things. Or more likely the other way around: They believe untrue things, and that leads them to collect — even invent — bad information to flesh out what they already believe.
This was vividly illustrated by a 1991 study that found that the more people watched TV during the first Gulf War, the less they knew about fundamental issues and facts, even as they were more likely to support the war. Wanting to believe that the U.S. was involved in a noble cause, for example, only 13 percent knew that when Iraq first threatened to invade Kuwait, the U.S. said it would take no action, while 65 percent falsely “knew” that the U.S. said it would support Kuwait militarily.
But the problem is hardly limited to this one example, or to issues of war and peace more generally. Misinformation in public life isn’t the exception, it’s the rule, and researchers have been grappling with that fact, and its implications, for some time now. A new study published in Social Science Quarterly employs a “knowledge distortion index” and looks at two competing explanations for why this is so — one more top-down, the other more bottom-up — using three Washington state initiatives from the 2006 general election cycle to examine the dynamics of what is going on in this particular sort of political environment.
The study, “How Voters Become Misinformed: An Investigation of the Emergence and Consequences of False Factual Beliefs,” found that “voters’ values and partisanship had the strongest associations with distorted beliefs, which then influenced voting choices. Self-reported levels of exposure to media and campaign messages played a surprisingly limited role,” despite the presence of significantly mistaken “facts,” which were used to help construct the knowledge distortion index.
“Two of the competing theories on how people analyze political issues and develop factual beliefs are heuristics and cultural cognition,” the study’s lead author, Justin Reedy, told Salon. “Both of these theories recognize that citizens can develop distorted factual beliefs because of their political views, but they disagree about how those distortions might happen. Heuristics researchers generally think that citizens have limited attention for politics and try to process information quickly and efficiently.”
This is the more top-down approach, as we’ll soon see.
“People who are fairly politically knowledgeable can figure out whether political information and factual claims match up with their own ideology or not — and therefore whether they should accept or reject those,” Reedy explained. “Cultural cognition researchers, however, see political opinions as driven by deep-seated values about how the world works, and not contingent on someone’s political knowledge.”
Dan Kahan of Yale Law School is the figure most associated with cultural cognition approach (website here). He found the study useful. “I think it worked,” he told Salon. “It adds information.” He also found the broader project of studying the initiative process promising. “The opportunities to observe how people form their views will probably really be enhanced in many cases where there’s some kind of a high-profile referendum,” he said, “and where you can be confident that members of the electorate are engaged by it.”
“The two theories differ on the importance of media and campaign messages, too,” Reedy continued. “Heuristics theory argues that citizens need to get at least some information from the media or from a campaign itself, like endorsements from political parties or key politicians, to help them align their views with their ideology.” This is the sort of thing that campaign workers everywhere fervently believe. But they, too, could be misinformed. “Cultural cognitive theory, though, argues that citizens will get enough cues about nearly any issue in the public sphere to help them align their views on that issue with their underlying values.”
Finally, Reedy said, “The last distinction between the two models is on policy preferences: Heuristics researchers would argue that once a citizen has developed a factual belief, whether distorted or not, that belief will become an important factor in their decision on a public policy issue. Cultural cognition, however, sees a citizen’s core values as the key in them deciding on a policy issue — the distorted factual beliefs are just another phenomenon that happens along the way.”
Before discussing how the two models measured up, we need a better understanding of what went into the study, which involved a combination of new and tried-and-true approaches. On the “new” side, the knowledge distortion index — developed by the same team in an earlier study — is a particularly promising tool. “My colleagues and I thought it would be useful to be able to quantify the way that someone’s factual beliefs about politics could be distorted. Other researchers had done similar research on distorted factual beliefs, but we wanted to create some kind of index that helped show how a person’s factual beliefs were systematically distorted in a partisan or ideological direction,” Reedy explained. “That was the idea behind the knowledge distortion index – to not just show that some people had the facts around a political topic wrong, but to quantify how those factual beliefs might be incorrect in a systematic, ideologically driven way.”
Just imagine if pollsters routinely adopted the knowledge distortion index in covering any public issue. Imagine not just seeing cross-tabs showing the difference between liberals vs. conservatives or Democrats vs. Republicans, but also seeing how people’s opinions varied according to the balance of mistaken factual beliefs. Simply having the relevant false beliefs for any issue identified in the polling process would be an eye-opening experience. There have been a handful of polls showing how birthers differ from non-birthers in their views, and those have been rather illuminating in themselves. But that’s just a single piece of misinformation on a single — though broadly significant — subject. Imagine if it simply became routine for pollsters to measure how distorted people’s “knowledge” was in the course of eliciting their opinions.
“Political debate and policymaking are hard enough, but if people from opposing ideological camps come in with their own sets of facts, that makes it really tough to have a vibrant debate that leads to good public policy,” Reedy said. “That’s a big part of why we created the knowledge distortion index and have been studying these issues, is to try to help figure out how to combat the problem of ideological distortion of political knowledge.”
In this study, eight different items — gleaned from “surveying campaign websites, news reports, and commentary” — were used to create an index specific to each of the three initiatives. The first, “Landowner Compensation Policy, would have rolled back land-use regulations by forcing the state to reimburse landowners for expenses incurred from those regulations,” the paper explained. The second, “Renewable Energy Mandate, required a proportion of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources.” The third, “Estate Tax Repeal,” was self-explanatory. Only the second was approved by the voters. A distortion index item for the Landowner Compensation Policy, for example, was “Washington landowners can be forced to leave their land unused if it provides habitat for species that are not even endangered” — a false statement that 45.2 percent of respondents nonetheless identified as “true.” While all three scales were balanced so that “liberal” and “conservative” distortion scores were equally possible, conservative distortions predominated in all three cases, though only modestly in two of them.
These are not your typical hot-button culture-war issues, nor are they dry, purely technical questions, or issues so specific as to defy comparison. They represented the broad middle range of issues that make up a significant portion of the public debates that Americans have carried on in the public square since the earliest days of the republic.While it wouldn’t be warranted to assume they’re representative of all public questions, they do make a good place to start. In the study itself, the authors noted future research possibilities:
Reflecting on the technical nature of the ballot measures in the present study, we believe it would advance this line of research to assess the importance of values, belief distortion, and knowledge in shaping voters’ beliefs on issues that are more heavily values-based or culturally contested (Lakoff, 2002), such as gay rights or abortion. Voters may be less likely to hold incorrect factual beliefs on those higher-profile issues simply because there is much more information about those issues present in the public sphere. On the other hand, the more obvious connection between values and policy for such issues may result in an even greater distortion of empirical beliefs to fit with the disparate values held by opposing sides.
In short, this current study has established a useful baseline for future studies.
In addition to measuring knowledge distortion for each item, the study also measured value orientations to compare with knowledge distortion — another promising new idea. The authors used a combination of responses (agree/disagree) to two statements for each value orientation. Two initiatives involved a single value orientation. For the Landowner Compensation Policy, the statements concerned government’s role in regulating land use. For the Renewable Energy Mandate, the statements concerned how society should approach the production of clean energy. For the Estate Tax Repeal, one set of statements concerned the primacy of property rights, while a second set concerned commitment to public education, which is the primary beneficiary of Washington’s estate tax.
This approach “offered more concrete measures of respondents’ issue-relevant value orientations than could be obtained by left-right ideology,” the paper noted, “or abstract cultural orientation measures” — referring to the two-factor framework (hierarchy/egalitarianism and individualism/communitarianism) used by Kahan and others in the cultural cognition tradition.
Reedy acknowledged that this represented a potential weakness in testing the cultural cognition hypothesis generally. “This is a good point,” he told Salon. The study relied on survey questions they were able to get included in a poll that was run by the University of Washington Department of Political Science, he explained. “So we were a bit limited on the space we had available in the survey,” and thus “didn’t have enough room to include more general measures of cultural orientation like Dan Kahan typically uses.”
But Kahan told Salon that he didn’t regard this as a significant problem. “To me, cultural cognition is a research program” concerned with how “people are forming their understandings about facts in relation to evidence in a particular way in political life and related domains,” he said. “Now, operationalizing it, there are different ways to do that,” which can include whatever tools happen to be available. Identifying it too narrowly with the two-factor model as an alternative to single-factor left/right model is “kind of missing the point,” Kahan said.
“Cultural cognition says there are these kind of affinities — you can’t directly observe them, there are different ways we can measure them — and makes a claim about how it is that they influence people’s information processing,” Kahan explained. He’s even used partisan affiliation himself, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t doing cultural cognition work. “I just see myself as using an alternative way to measure what the motivating affinities are.” Sometimes the affinities may be more simple; other times, more complex. So he had no problem with the value scales Reedy and his co-authors used.
In contrast to these recent innovations, the study also measured political knowledge, a very old practice that’s been used for half a century or more, using a standard approach of asking people to identify a mix of public officials and parties in control of various bodies at the state and federal levels.
With those three measures explained — knowledge distortion, value orientation and political knowledge — we’re set to appreciate the study’s results.
“We set out to test these two competing views in a couple of different ways,” Reedy said. “First, we looked at whether someone’s political knowledge had a moderating effect on how much their values shaped their distorted factual beliefs — that is, whether people at higher levels of political knowledge were more likely to have values-based knowledge distortion than, say, people at lower levels of political knowledge. Our results here were a bit mixed. On one of the issues, more knowledgeable voters were indeed more likely to develop distorted factual beliefs.” This was the Landowner Compensation Policy. In this case, “those with greater political knowledge had more distorted empirical beliefs than did their low-knowledge counterparts,” the study reported.
“However, the other two issues fit more with cultural cognition theory, in that overall political knowledge was not important in the development of distorted factual beliefs,” Reedy said.
The second test produced more unified results. “We also tested whether people needed to be exposed to news media messages and campaign messages in order to pick up these distorted factual beliefs about political topics,” Reedy explained. “We found no connections between self-reported exposure to media and campaign messages and knowledge distortion, which gives more support to the cultural cognition view, that people are able to connect their values with a political issue regardless of media messages about that issue.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean that there were no such effects, however. As the study itself explains, “the most straightforward explanations for these findings are either that message effects are too small for samples such as ours to detect or that we lacked sufficiently sensitive message exposure measures. We relied on self reported measures of media and campaign exposure, which are subject to errors of varying magnitude.”
But these sorts of caveats are always involved in scientific research, as even Kahan pointed out. Studies add weight to one view or another, nothing more. “It’s not like a study is kind of a definitive contest, or a duel, some position is going to shoot the other from a pace of however many yards,” he said.
“Third,” Reedy said, “we looked at the connection between people’s distorted factual beliefs and their views on the public policy issues related to those. We ran statistical tests to see the effects of the typical factors on someone’s opinion on a policy issue — things like their demographics and political values — and also the impact of knowledge distortion. We found that knowledge distortion did indeed have an independent effect on one’s policy preferences, which is more in keeping with the heuristic view of opinion formation.”
This inference is arguably subject to dispute, however. Kahan himself was untroubled by the results, and the study itself said that “those with more knowledge more consistently expressed their value orientations through their votes,” which is one of the most important findings that Kahan has consisting stressed as validating his approach: those more engaged and more knowledgeable politically tend to be more polarized on issues like global warming, for example.
What is certain is that a growing community of researchers, and those who follow them, are developing an increasingly textured feel for the phenomenon of knowledge distortion — a phenomenon that not too long ago wasn’t even acknowledged to exist. Reedy himself expressed a similar sentiment. “Our strongest results, I think, are just confirming that this values-based political knowledge distortion is happening and it’s having an independent effect on one’s vote choice,” he concluded.
As the study itself said:
Whatever future refinements may be made to the values-based distortion model, the unsettling evidence remains that many voters are systematically misinformed on political issues, and those erroneous factual beliefs appear to influence how they mark their ballot on election day.
This is a disturbingly serious problem for a political system that purports to not only reflect the “will of the people,” but that also respects reality as a basic matter of course. “Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams observed — a true man of the Enlightenment. “Facts are stupid things,” Ronald Reagan famously misquoted him. It’s painfully obvious whose world we’re living in now. It’s a good deal less obvious how to escape. But thanks to folks like Reedy and Kahan, we’ve at least got a chance to start working on that.
Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.
Irena Sendler Was Up For The Nobel Peace Prize … She Was Not Selected. Al Gore “Inventor Of The Internet” Won, For A Pick And Choose Data Slide Show On The Global Warming Hoax.
Irena Sendler
There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena. During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the WarsawGhetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist. She had an ‘ulterior motive’ …. She KNEW what the Nazi’s plans were for the Jews, (being German.) Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids..) She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.. During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants. She was caught, and the Nazi’s broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely. Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard. After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family. Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.
MFM: "Minnesota Gay Marriage Advocates Mislead, Distort Facts"
This entry was written by NOM Staff
October 30, 2012
Minnesota for Marriage pushes back on misleading claims by their opponents:
The claim of marriage amendment opponents, most recently including some doctors, that 25 years of research supports the conclusion that there are “no differences” in outcomes between children raised in gay and lesbian households and kids raised in intact homes by their mother and father is false. As chronicled in the journal Social Science Research there is no scholarly rigorous body of scientific research that supports the idea that children raised in gay or lesbian households do as well as or better than children living in an intact home with their married mother and father.  In fact, the most recent, peer-reviewed research casts serious doubt on the “no differences” claim and suggests that there may in fact be significant differences
"The statements made by some doctors and gay marriage advocates that dedication and love is the primary factor in child well-being relies on the underlying premise that family structure does not matter—a claim which is both unsupported by significant data and an assault on common sense,” said Jason Adkins, Minnesota for Marriage vice chairman. “Men and women are not interchangeable parts or parents. We continue to ask gay marriage advocates which parent is insignificant or less important for a child, a mother or father, and they and their allies continue to ignore the question and move into the realm of agenda-driven politics."
If you are looking for some additional reading, here are two books you might find interesting!