[Coral-List] Acropora and the Thundering Herd

Gene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Thu Oct 4 14:22:55 EDT 2007

I had a suspicion the website on Acropora put out by the 
"conservative think tank" organization would get the herd biological 
juices flowing. That the messenger would be attacked more than the 
message also was not very surprising. And James, in my posting I 
said, "this is something different." I don't recall advocating that 
warming would increase reef diversity, and did I really say I didn't 
believe in land-based sources of pollution? I just thought it would 
be educational for the herd to see how scientific publications can be 
used or misused to support different agendas. I think Bill Precht 
provided a well-reasoned response, and I am sorry that my posting 
precipitated the pain it must have caused him to see his data misused.
     I found it interesting how quickly some people fall back on peer 
review when they want to discredit ideas they do not like. Although I 
support peer review, I am well aware how it can suppress new ideas 
and approaches. I recall publishing those thoughts and examples in an 
editorial called, "Paradigm Disease." If you want continued funding, 
run with the herd and peer review will keep you in the herd so you 
don't get trampled. We coral folks have been running along the same 
path for way too long, as Mike Risk pointed out in his last posting. 
As he mentioned, there has been precious little basic research on 
those subjects we hold so dear. I wonder how Michael Faraday and 
Albert Einstein would survive today's peer-review system of funding 
and publication? How did they get that stuff about electricity and 
relativity accepted? Gee, they must have had secret funding from 
ExxonMobile? Closer to the present, consider the Archaea, a new 
domain of microbes first announced in 1977 by Carl Woese. That the 
Archaea even existed was met with silence by the microbiology herd. 
While Woese endured "the cone of silence" from fellow 
microbiologists, Salvador Luria, the Nobel Prize winner for medicine, 
viciously attacked his character. Tim Friend, author of the book The 
Third Domain, points out that it took 30 years for conventional 
microbiology to catch up and recognize that Archaea are some of the 
most common and important microbes on the planet. Because of such 
examples, and personal experiences, I learned to ignore comments 
like, "was it peer reviewed."
      I thought the website that started all this fuss would provide a 
good example of how politics flavors science (on both sides of aisle, 
as they say in Congress). While I don't agree that warming will 
increase biodiversity, I did agree that listing Acropora was not a 
decision based on science but rather feel-good politics. The center 
for biodiversity (who knows who backs them) forced NMFS into the 
legal corner in which they now find themselves. They now have to 
figure out how to save a species while not knowing what is killing 
it. The bottom line is how do you protect something if you don't know 
what's killing it? Do you just create more restricted areas, require 
more complicated permits and retard the progress of research? Science 
in general is under attack. We don't serve science in the eyes of the 
public when we let ourselves be used for political agendas. And yes 
James, I do believe in land-based sources. Especially when the source 
is North Africa and it arrives on Caribbean reefs by hundreds of 
millions of tons. Gene


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

More information about the Coral-List mailing list