Science Vs. Science-Based Fantasy Embroidery

Andy Revkin’s increasingly more interesting “Dot Earth” blog quotes “Yadvinder Malhi, an Oxford University biologist who is focused on the Amazon and climate” questioning the Amazon-is-doomed “findings presented at the meeting” and decrying “the resulting media coverage“:

(Mahli) I must say I find it frustrating that the gloomiest take on news gets such a big profile. This is based on one model, and that model has flaws, especially its temperature sensitivity that seems too great (David Galbraith’s work), and its rainfall that seems to low

Revkin and Mahli should be not surprised a bit, as the embroidery of fact-based hypotheses (if not outright fantasies) and their presentation as “the latest science” is a popular endeavor (=gets the biggest profile) and not just in climate circles. For example, here’s the decrying of the equivalent behavior, about Pompeii:

Beard, a classics professor at Cambridge University, takes cheeky, undisguised delight in puncturing the many fantasies and misconceptions that have grown up around Pompeii — sown over the years by archaeologists and classicists no less than Victorian novelists and makers of “sword and sandal” film extravaganzas.

While many scholars build careers through increasingly elaborate reconstructions of the ancient world, Beard consistently stresses the limits of our knowledge, the precariousness of our constructs and the ambiguity or contradiction inherent in many of our sources. “There is hardly a shred of evidence for any of it” serves as her battle cry, and it’s a noble one.