The UK Daily Mail’s piece about the supposedly impending extermination of the human race would be great fodder for the old joke about how ideologically-blinkered media would report Armageddon: “World to End Tomorrow; Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.”
It’s also a great demonstration about how easily the press can be jerked around by those who know how to exploit its fetishes for sensationalism and bogus credentials. One of the reasons the global warming scam persists, decades into the absolute failure of its vaunted computer models to accurate predict the climate, is that nobody in the media is interested in running stories about how the world is not ending.
Here we have the alarmists taking it up a notch, and the Daily Mail reporting their prophecies of doom without informing readers of a very salient point right up front: the lead “scientist” is a hysteric who has never been right about anything, after decades of peddling apocalyptic environmental prophecies.
Earth is entering a mass extinction that threatens humanity’s existence, researchers have declared.
A team of American scientists claim that their study shows ‘without any significant doubt’ that we are entering the sixth great mass extinction on Earth.
The study says that species are disappearing at a rate 100 times faster than would normally be expected – and that is a conservative estimate.
And such a catastrophic loss of animal species presents a real threat to human existence, the experts warn, as crucial ecosystem ‘services’ such as crop pollination by insects and water purification in wetlands is also put at risk.
At the current rate of species loss, humans will lose many biodiversity benefits within three generations, according to Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, who led the research.
That would be the author of The Population Bomb, which predicted the end of the human race due to mass starvation brought about by overpopulation. It was supposed to have happened in the 1970s. As you may have noticed, it did not.
This is the same Paul Ehrlich famously humiliated by economist Julian Simon, who bet him that a number of essential commodities would increase in supply over time, rather than becoming exhausted due to rapacious consumption by the human virus, as Ehrlich’s theories predicted. Simon won, but the media insists on pretending Ehrlich wasn’t discredited – he just had to lower his profile for a while, until he could be re-introduced as an “expert.”
The Daily Mail does not inform its readers about Ehrlich’s failures anywhere in the piece. It don’t mention The Population Bomb even once. It simply introduces the doomsday prophet as “the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology,” without mentioning that no one in the history of science has been more spectacularly wrong about population studies.
Neither does CNN, which gets around the credibility problem by failing to mention Ehrlich’s involvement in the “mass extinction study” at all. USA Today doesn’t bother to inform readers of his involvement, either. The Washington Post refers to Ehrlich as simply a “Stanford biologist,” without mentioning his track record.
Few of the headlines describe this “mass extinction” prediction as controversial, or even debatable – they simply state it as fact, often along with the report’s assertion that human activity is responsible, including the man-made “climate change” that isn’t happening. CNN is one of the rare Big Media exceptions, slipping a qualifier into its headline: “A New Mass Extinction Could be Underway, Researchers Say.”
This is sheer journalistic malpractice, verging on outright fraud.
News consumers have a right to know that the people pushing this new study have been catastrophically incorrect with similar predictions in the past – indeed, one of them is the poster child for politicized science and debunked alarmism.
After reviewing a few of Ehrlich’s hilariously incorrect predictions at National Review, Wesley J. Smith writes:
People know who Ehrlich is and many will–rightly or wrongly–discount the study precisely because we know that he has an ideological agenda. And then they moan that no one trusts “the science” anymore. This is an example of why–and why there is also so little trust remaining in the media.
“People know who Ehrlich is?” I doubt that very much, especially in the case of people who were born after his “population bomb” hysteria was shredded. How many readers are going to see his name and immediately remember who he is? What about the people who read articles like the Washington Post’s, that don’t even mention his name at all? We’re not supposed to have to Google every name in a news item to figure out who they really are. That’s the media’s damn job.
Instead, any alarmist screed with a few impressive-looking credentials behind it can count on instant saturation media coverage – there’s scarcely a Big Media outlet in the Western world that didn’t uncritically report Ehrlich’s new doomsday prediction within a matter of days – while skepticism and scrutiny come months later, without front-page headline treatment, and the skeptics are themselves subjected to the most withering skepticism immediately. Scientists skeptical of man-made climate change alarmism are never referred to with breezy acceptance of credentials and a complete lack of career context. Their motivation is never accepted as a dedication to pure science. Their potential conflicts of interest – Ehrlich sold a lot of books by predicting doomsday – are never waved aside.
As for the matter at hand, the fact that we’re supposed to be entering the sixth “mass extinction” is an important clue that various species have died off in the past for reasons that had nothing to do with human industrial activity. We’re supposed to believe this one has been initiated, or exacerbated, by mankind.
As with climate change, the degree of human involvement in the process is the core issue, and the one most likely to be corrupted by ideology. It is highly relevant when leadership roles in alarmist predictions are taken by people with a demonstrated history of sacrificing reason and science on the alter of ideology.