[Coral-List] Darwin was WRONG about reef formation

Peter Sale sale at uwindsor.ca
Tue Oct 20 18:07:45 UTC 2020

Re the hype surrounding the recent news item about a new research paper - Darwin was WRONG.  I don't talk about this specific example (obviously), but in my new book appearing early in 2021 (Peter Sale, Coral Reefs, Yale UP) I include a detailed discussion of the increasing tendency of the science community to hype new publications with news releases that are gobbled up by an every hungry media.  Emphasizing how the new work is 'the first ever', 'the best', or 'an earth-shattering breakthrough that shows all previous work in the field was wrong' is not uncommon in the press releases, and depressingly common in the reporting by the news media.  We scientists owe it to ourselves and to our science to be more modest in blowing our own trumpets, and the media need to do a much better job of reporting what scientists are saying, writing and doing.  One can hope that the recent enthusiasm for dismissing environmental science as one part of the fake news is going to wane real soon.  That waning could be helped by scientists doing our best to ensure the media get accurate, rather than sensationalized messages about our work.  Science is wonderful enough without extra hype.

Incidentally, the discussion of this topic in my book is done in the context of 'why did the mass bleaching of coral reefs not wake up the world to climate change?' and 'why do most people see the degradation of coral reefs around the world as just another sad nature story?'  We've reached the point in 2020 when reef scientists can say things like '95% of coral reefs will have been lost by the end of the century' and those hearing this news react, for the most part, with 'Gees, that's too bad', and a level of concern comparable to what they might display if one tree in a forest died, or one small patch reef somewhere lost all its coral!  The message about reefs no longer has the power to inspire action from any people other than those who depend directly upon them.

Peter Sale
sale at uwindsor.ca<mailto:sale at uwindsor.ca>

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