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Insectologists swat insects-are-doomed paper

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Smack! Entomologists were bugged by the data errors, data-gathering methods, and editorializing tone in the paper:

To a trio of UK-based biologists at the University of York and Cardiff University, this doesn’t pass the smell test. “Trying to extrapolate from population or biomass declines over several decades, or from threatened species lists, in ‘developed’ temperate zone countries to, say, 100 year species level extinctions of undescribed endemics confined to the precipitous eastern flanks of the Andes does not wash,” these critics wrote in Global Change Biology earlier this month.

Finnish biologists at the University of Jyväskylä, writing in Rethinking Ecology this week, called out other issues, including the fact that local extinctions reported in some of the studies aren’t easily extrapolated to a broader scale, and at least one instance in which insects with the conservation designation “data deficient” were lumped in with those designated “vulnerable” and thus assumed to be declining when we can’t be sure.Maddie Stone, “Bug Scientists Squash ‘Insect Apocalypse’ Paper” at Gizmodo

The strongest point was made by the ecologist who said, ““We don’t know anything about most insect species on Earth.”(Maddie Stone, Gizmodo)

The temptation for some seems to be to resort to apocalypse voodoo to demonstrate a crisis, at the expense of the methods that make scientists worth listening to, as an alternative to supermarket tabloids. File this one with: The real reasons people don’t “trust science” with a special note: Ways we could start to trust science again, for example, when we start to see crackpot prophets of doom called out. 

= Just because he’s wearing a lab coat instead of a hair shirt…

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See also: Insects In Decline? Science Writer Says It’s Myth


Alfred Russel Wallace’s Giant Bee Turns Out Not To Be Extinct

File this one with: The real reasons people don’t “trust science”
Note that it was other entomologists spotting and calling out the original paper for making exaggerated claims, not ordinary people. If anything, this is an illustration of science as a self-correcting enterprise. Note also that the review quoted goes on to say:
While this study and much of the coverage of it may have been exaggerated, there’s an urgent need to adopt conservation measures to help ailing insect populations, whether that’s by limiting pesticide use, creating more wildlife corridors through urban areas, or abandoning the ecological disaster that is the suburban lawn.
Science is not gospel, nor does it claim to be, unlike some other forms of knowing, but it is more likely to spot the warning signs of an impending crisis than any other. Seversky

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