Tuesday, August 25, 2015
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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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Circular reasoning and species extinction

Stephen Budiansky diagnoses a logical flaw

Over at LIberal Curmudgeon, Steve Budiansky has a good insight into a subject he knows well, ever since writing the book Nature's Keepers: claims about species extinction.

The whole science behind the extinction crisis is riddled with circular reasoning, but this is an especially fine example. No new research was involved, no field studies, no nothing that involved actual science as we know it. (The researchers for example concluded that habitat loss is one of the "root causes" of global biodiversity loss; this conclusion was derived from the fact that many of the species listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List were presumed to be threatened, and accordingly placed on the list in the first place, because of . . . habitat loss)

Like Steve, I care about extinctions. In my youth I worked on three different projects to try to diagnose and arrest the decline of rare birds in the Indian subcontinent. But like me he fears that mega-political statements and exaggerated claims will only do that cause harm:


By the way, in my earlier post on extinction alarmism, I made the point that exaggerated warnings of impending doom and politicized science "is already causing a dangerous political backlash that has handed ammunition (exactly as in the case of global warming) to those who want to reject any and all evidence of human impacts on the natural environment,"

Precisely. Stop playing into the hands of the nutters.