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Insects in decline? Science writer says it’s myth

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But the story is really in how the story got started:

Take the story on 10 February that ‘insects could vanish within a century’, as the Guardian’s Damian Carrington put it, echoed by the BBC. The claim is, as even several science journalists and conservationists have now reported, bunk. The authors of the study, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris Wyckhuys, claimed to have reviewed 73 different studies to reach their conclusion that precisely 41 per cent of insect species are declining and ‘unless we change our way of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades’. In fact the pair had started by putting the words ‘insect’ and ‘decline’ into a database, thereby ignoring any papers finding increases in insects, or no change in numbers. Matt Ridley, “Lying with science: a guide to myth debunking” at Spectator (UK)

Ridley discusses several other scare claims that did not survive scrutiny and notes that the best estimate is that insect species are dying out at rates similar to mammals and birds (1 to 5 per cent per century): “A problem, but not Armageddon.”

Of course, a lot depends on how we define a “species ” too.

Note: The article deals with a number of other science claims in popular media that Ridley classes as myths as well.

See also: A physicist looks at biology’s problem of “speciation” in humans

and

Would you know if a robot was writing the news about ID? How?

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