Monday, June 07, 2004


Or a dedicated self-publicist, more likely

"Ten years ago, at the age of 38, Dr Tim Flannery changed Australia's national conversation with the publication of The Future Eaters, which argued that the arrival of humans had a profound and invidious impact, leading to rapid or "blitzkrieg" mass extinction of species, and a subsequent drying out of much of the continent. The book is still selling - well over 100,000 copies so far - and remains on the reading lists of numerous university courses....

He's a likeable bloke, a good talker, and the media loves his ability to generate stories. On May 19, he made the front page again when he warned the Sydney Futures forum that Australia was about to see devastating environmental change and possibly ghost cities.

There are, however, plenty in the academic community loudly unwilling to participate in the beatification of St Timothy. "Just because a guy is well known does not mean he knows what he is talking about," Dr Stephen Wroe, a palaeontologist at the University of Sydney, says. "I've got a fairly cynical view of Tim. He's an opportunist. He knows climate change is a buzzword, but a few months' work does not make him an expert."

Dr Judith Field, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney, doesn't hold back, either: "Tim doesn't let the facts get in the way of a good story. He does a lot of broadbrush stuff, with broad consequences, and some of it is just plain wrong."

And another archaeologist, Jim Allen, of La Trobe University, made the observation a while ago: "I wish I could be as sure of anything as Tim is of everything"....

Last month he received another blast of academic grapeshot, and another front-page story, with the publication of a paper by Wroe and two other scientists in the Proceedings of the Royal Society entitled, "On the rarity of big, fierce carnivores . . .", which attacked the underpinning of The Future Eaters. Wroe summarised the attack: "A generation of Australians have been misinformed. Australians should no longer be taught that theirs is a biologically stunted land that produced diminished fauna."

Wroe was more brutal in conversation: "Our research effectively undermines the whole thesis that The Future Eaters is built on . . . He's saying his thesis is still standing, but it's not."....

[Flannery] dismisses Wroe's claim that his main theory in The Future Eaters has fallen over, saying Wroe's paper looked only at a small part of his hypothesis. He cited a recent paper by Barry Brook and David Bowman, "The uncertain blitzkrieg of Pleistocene megafauna", which concluded: "In sum, human colonisation in the late Pleistocene [period] almost certainly triggered a 'blitzkrieg' of the 'megafauna', but the operational details remain elusive".

This prompted a blitzkrieg of a different kind, from Wroe: "I think the Brook-Bowman paper is a lot of baloney. It is a computer simulation. I could throw in a few variables and get a different outcome . . . Blitzkrieg theory is a hotly contested area. I do not believe in it."

Field, who has been contesting Flannery's theories for years, adds another whack: "Most of our hypotheses are tested with facts, and that underlies the work we do. But most of what Tim does is conceptually driven, and not based on data. And he has been selective in his use of data.""

More here.


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else.

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