Saturday, February 22, 2014

"Insects are invincible!" sez the WUWT illiterati

Sou | 11:51 AM Go to the first of 2 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts (archived here) has found another scientific paper to mock.  This time it's about a study of insects and weather extremes.  He wrote the following headline and lead-in, with his normal dog-whistle "claim".
Claim: Extreme weather decides distribution of insects
Another modeled result, extrapolated all the way from 10 common fruit fly species to everything else in the insect world.

The press release on ScienceDaily.com includes the following (excerpts):
Most terrestrial animals experience temperature variation on both daily and seasonal time scale, and they are adapted to these conditions. Thus, for a species to maintain its existence under varying temperature conditions there are two simple conditions that must be met. Firstly, the temperature should occasionally be such that the species can grow and reproduce, and secondly, the temperature must never be so extreme that the population's survival is threatened.
In temperate climate for example, there are many species which are adapted to endure low temperatures in the winter, and then grow and reproduce in the summer. In warmer climates, the challenge may be just the opposite. Here, the species might endure high temperatures during the dry hot summer, while growth and reproduction mainly occurs during the mild and wet winter period.
The result was discouraging for all 10 species.
"Climate change will result in fewer cold days and nights, and thus allow species to move toward higher latitudes. However climate change also leads to a higher incidence to extremely hot days and our model therefore predicts that the distribution of these species will be reduced to less than half their present distribution"says Johannes Overgaard.
"In fact, our predictions are that some species would disappear entirely in the next few decades, even when they have a fairly wide distribution that currently covers hundreds of kilometers," adds Ary Hoffmann.
"Although none of the 10 species studied are normally perceived as either harmful or beneficial organisms for human society, the results indicate that distribution of many insect species will be changed dramatically, and it will probably also apply to many of the species that have particular social or commercial importance ," ends Johannes Overgaard.
Read the full article here.

Anthony hasn't made it very clear as to why he is mocking the paper.  That he is mocking it is clear.  His headline leads in with the word "claim".  As in journalism, "claim" means that the reader isn't meant to "believe it".  Anthony doesn't believe any science that is related to climate change.  He prefaces almost every press release he reports with the word "claim".  It's his way of getting his scientific illiterati stirred up to reject science.  Any and all climate science for starters.  He gives a free pass to his articles about the sun.

Now the only clue for why he wants his readers to not "believe" this claim is his short opening line: "...extrapolated all the way from 10 common fruit fly species to everything else in the insect world."  Perhaps Anthony doesn't think Drosophila are suitable species for scientific research. Perhaps he thinks they don't share characteristics with other insects.  (One wonders if he thinks that when one conducts research on mammalian research on species other than humans, it is not legitimate to make inferences to humans.)

The thing is, I reckon it's not only legitimate to conclude that if some Drosophila species are sensitive to extremes of weather, then it's likely that many other insects are also sensitive to extremes of weather.  Not only that, it's likely that many plants and other animals will be sensitive to extremes of weather. It's even likely that human settlement will be curtailed by extremes of weather.

From the WUWT comments

Here are some examples that illustrate the limited imagination and cognition of Anthony Watts' band of scientific illiterati (archived here).  I think lots of people regard WUWT as a safe place where they can show off their ignorance and get praised for doing so.

The illiterati have it bad. A.D. Everard is so traumatised by scientific research that she screams when she reads about it:
February 20, 2014 at 9:58 pm
I’m just going to go away and scream now…

p.g.sharrow isn't aware of the previous five major extinctions and has probably never studied insect evolution:
February 20, 2014 at 10:01 pm
After surviving hundreds of millions of years, Environmental disasters of epoch dimensions, insects are going to be threatened by a little change in climate conditions?!? More BS. The level that passes as scientific research is disappointing. pg

Sharmishtha Basu sums up the attitude of the illiterati to scientific research in general and says:
February 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm
how many care?

dp doesn't understand the research and goes off on a wild tangent of weird nonsense about gene modification and funding and cranks and says:
February 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm
The argument appears to be genetic changes occur in insects as a result of random episodes of extreme weather, what ever that might be. So then it should present no problem at all to identify in the laboratory those genes that are modified by controlled environments pushed to +/- extreme conditions at carefully contrived intervals. The only other thing to determine is what is the rate and sign of weather extremes in a specific region is needed to genetically modify insect genes and then prove that the probability of that happening is reasonable and probable.
I’m thinking this is going to need a *lot* of funding and that is why the idea is being floated. No coulda/woulda/shoulda crank idea is worth discussing if there isn’t a funding bounty involved.

Tom Harley knows nothing about insect life cycles and didn't bother to read the article to learn anything about it. Tom also confuses diurnal temperature with seasonal extremes affecting the life cycle and says:
February 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm
So 1C or 2C rise in a hundred years is going to have a major impact on flies that live in a range in excess of 20C daily. Agreed PG Sharrow, it’s just nonsense.

martin brumby thinks that insects can "adapt", presumably by evolution, in a matter of years, no matter what the conditions.  He hasn't a clue about evolution and can't have heard about the past five major extinctions because he says:
February 20, 2014 at 10:21 pm
These psyentists are either breathtakingly incompetent or breathtakingly dishonest (or maybe both). So insects are no longer capable of adaptation? How many species went extinct during the warming period which ended in 1998. (No, REALLY extinct, not just according to some fraudulent X-Box ‘model’).

ntesdorf says "who cares about Drosophila or Lepidoptera or Hymenoptera, when Isoptera and Blattodea will survive".  Maybe one day he'll learn that insects don't procreate by snacking at picnics and that many insects don't enjoy extreme heat :
February 20, 2014 at 10:45 pm
Anyone who has been on a picnic in Australia knows that all sorts of flies can handle any weather and any temperature condition in the search for food. Anyone who has tried to eradicate cockroaches knows that they will be around millions of years longer than we will. Anyone who has battled with termites knows that the termites will just laugh at climate change as they have already installed air conditioning in their home mounds. This study was carried out by people who should get out more and acquaint themselves with how the Earth and its inhabitants are equipped and work.

george e. smith wonders why tropical butterflies aren't all over Antarctica and says (excerpt):
February 20, 2014 at 11:00 pm
Insects barely live long enough to experience weather, let alone climate. So how could they possibly react to climate change. 

Patrick says "we know" insects are invincible, immortal, the world's super-heros:
February 20, 2014 at 11:21 pm
10 species? 10 species???! Really? How many species of insects are there? We know flies can been drawn up into the upper atmosphere on currents, freeze, fall, unfreeze and start happily doing what they do. More utter rubbish from Autralian “scientists”. BAH!

Johannes Overgaard, Michael R. Kearney, Ary A. Hoffmann. Sensitivity to thermal extremes in Australian Drosophila implies similar impacts of climate change on the distribution of widespread and tropical species. Global Change Biology, 2014; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12521


  1. One comment that should be made is that fruit flies were the classic model for understanding genes. Before genetic engineering and modern gene manipulation.

    I really feel sorry for these people as they have no idea about any science.

    Was it JC who said 'forgive them father as they know not what they do!'

    Bert from Eltham

    1. They do not want to know what they do. That is evil and there can be no forgiveness for that. I don´t think JC meant to forgive willful ignorance.


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