captain cook & global warming – who’d have thought?

This one comes directly from the pages of Ben Goldacre’s BadScience blog – an excellent example of why media reports on science need to be read (listened to?) carefully and with your critical thinking antennae twitching:

Here is a cautionary tale for anyone working in research. “Captain Cook and Lord Nelson seem unlikely figureheads in the fight against climate change alarmists,” said the Sun. “Lord Nelson and Captain Cook’s ship logs question climate change theories,” announced the Telegraph. Oh that’s handy. So perhaps we can just keep on burning oil regardless then? “The ships’ logs of great maritime figures such as Lord Nelson and Captain Cook have cast new light on climate change by suggesting that global warming may not be an entirely man-made phenomenon.”

So… data from past heroes suggest we don’t have to worry about global climate change, then?

Well, no – Ben goes on to talk with the researcher whose work was ‘quoted’ by these UK papers, & finds out that that’s not what was said at all. A cautionary tale for scientists and readers alike.

2 thoughts on “captain cook & global warming – who’d have thought?”

  • I seem to think that the Sun’s motto or byline was something to the effect that they served to entertain and not much about the truth! With the exception of the sports results, their articles should be read looking for the “give-away” lines…
    From what I gather, these sorts of papers have budgets set aside for being sued too. Hardly surprising.
    What I do find more distressing is I’ve read a number of reputable broadsheets quoting the likes of the Sun without giving the source, effectively riding coat tail on a “juicy” story without having to take any flack if it heads south but also not clarifying that the source isn’t so reliable. I’ve seen the NZ media fail to make clear the source in this sort of way, too.

  • Alison Campbell says:

    Oh yes, our local paper tends to do that – they pick up a Reuters or AP feed & run with it without checking. I got cross enough to write in when they uncritically published a piece about that Sth African charlatan claiming he could find Maddy McCann using a strand of her hair (for the DNA) & his GPS-based black box! Rather to my surprise they published my letter 🙂

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