October 08, 2003

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Hereís a textbook example:

Navy sonar may be giving whales a never-before-seen version of the illness known as "the bends," leading them to be stranded and to die, according to a new study in Thursday's edition of the scientific journal Nature. The findings could strengthen the hand of environmental groups trying to force the world's navies to limit or stop their use of sonar during sea exercises. The U.S. Navy and the Natural Resources Defense Council this week are negotiating such limits in an effort to settle an NRDC lawsuit. In the Nature article, scientists report finding gas bubbles in the organs and blood vessels of 10 beaked whales that stranded themselves along Spain's Canary Islands in September 2002. They beached themselves about four hours after the beginning of sonar activity nearby during an international naval exercise.

Of course, not everyone thinks that cause and effect are merely temporally related.

Other top whale scientists were skeptical. Darlene Ketten, a senior whale biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and an ear, nose and throat professor at Harvard Medical School, said whales don't get the bends. "We expect that these animals over 50 million years evolved to avoid problems resulting from diving," Ketten said. Other stranded whales have not shown symptoms of the bends, she added.

But letís not allow science to get in the way of a political agenda.

The Canary Islands cases are the first large-scale evidence that something similar to the bends is at work, said study co-author Paul Jepson of the Zoological Society of London. Those whales, most of them Cuvier's beaked whales, had gas bubbles in different parts of their bodies. The bubbles were worst in their livers, where some bubbles exceeded 2 inches in diameter, according to the study. Jepson said he didn't know exactly how whales got this condition.

But heís certain it was caused by the Navyís sonar. And we all know what that will lead to.

In June, a federal judge-magistrate in San Francisco ruled that the Navy must limit its plans for low-frequency sonar exercises.

Thar he blows!

Sorry about that.

Posted by Charles Austin at October 8, 2003 09:44 PM