Friday, 14 January 2011

What do scientists know about science, anyway?

FlashForward fans around the world have been watching nervously in recent weeks as the media reported a string of "mysterious" bird deaths. T

he latest batch (300 dead grackles) have turned up in Alabama. As the Alabama News Courier reports, all the evidence points to a massive flock of feeding birds simply being run over by a large truck that killed 1.5 per cent of them, but that doesn't stop Mail Online running this typically Maily headline:

Curiously, the article below the headline is far more restrained than the headline. This is presumably because it has been cobbled together from wire sources rather than written by an actual Mail hack. The entire bottom two-thirds are lifted, unchanged, from a week-old Associated Press report that comprehensively rebuts the idea that something unusual is going on. It cites various sources who explain that mass animal deaths are extremely common (almost daily, in fact) and that we just don't normally notice them.

So why the "what are scientists hiding" headline? Why suggest that the biologists and ornithologists who have been studying this kind of thing for years are wrong, or worse still trying to cover up some greater truth?

It's all part of the Mail's anti-science agenda. From bird deaths to MMR jabs to climate change, the Mail can always be relied on to stand up for the "common sense" man in the street who might not have any "qualifications" or "training" or "experience" but JUST KNOWS that something isn't right. There's always room in science for healthy scepticism, but is there any chance that the Mail could start basing such suspicions on evidence rather than, you know, suspicion?

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