Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh! It's Ley Lines!

Smug and self-assured, she replied ley lines were responsible for the recent mysterious spate of bird and fish deaths around the world, including the Arkansas blackbird incident. What are ley lines? I didn't know at the time, but I was reasonably certain it had to be nonsense after listening to her. You can read about them in detail on Wikipedia, but here's a short definition from the Skeptic's Dictionary:

"Ley lines are alleged alignments of ancient sites or holy places, such as stone circles, standing stones, cairns, and churches."

Wackadoodle alert!

From Archaeological Theory: An Introduction - Matthew Johnson (2010):

"Ley lines do not exist. This was shown by Tom Williamson and Liz Bellamy in Ley Lines in Question (1983), which analyzed such lines statistically and showed that the density of archaeological sites in the British landscape is so great that a line drawn through virtually anywhere will 'clip' a number of sites. It took Williamson and Bellamy a book's worth of effort and statistical sophistication to prove this, however."

Originally 'discovered' by Alfred Watkins in 1920, psychics, new age spiritualists, and other charlatans claim an energy complex re-discovered with divining rods proved ley lines exist and began ascribing mystical powers to them. Naturally, no modern scientific instrument can detect these asserted energy fields. This is both troubling and annoying because wildlife pathologists and biology technicians are diligently working with limited funds on finding real causes behind animal mortality events and population declines.

Claims without evidence that attempt to explain animal mortality events with mystical causes fail to offer any practical solutions. What would psychics and new agers have us do? Should we walk around with divining rods and point them at birds or something? Should we sprinkle pixie dust in our yards? Or maybe we can just think positively and the law of attraction will make bird populations rebound because we merely want them to. How insipidly moronic and arrogant! These non-experts think they know more about the nature of things than people who have been studying biology and ecology for most of their adult lives.

Bunk like this devalues the efforts of our professional scientists at a time when nature's critters need our help more than ever. By embracing this nonsense, why would such an individual feel inclined to back scientists with their money or vote? After all, they must believe scientists are simply wasting time on something futile because they know they're on wrong track. So, what's killing bats? Ley lines! It's ley lines, all the way down, and not geomyces destructans! Damn you and your science! I dare these wackaloons to call the Madison lab and tell them that.

People who attribute ley lines to animal deaths are so fail because they're counting hits but ignoring misses (confirmation bias). Why are there mass animal mortality events where there aren't any ley lines? Why are animals thriving where there are? They also fail to understand that a correlation is not necessarily causation. They probably believe ley lines explain other things, too, like car accidents, birth defects, mental illness, crop failures, etc. What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Fortunately for the reality-based community, there's plenty of empirical evidence to help us explain what's going on with these unrelated animal mortality incidents. It just takes time and effort to get to the truth.

"That which is lacking in the present world is a profound knowledge of the nature of things; the fundamental truths are always there, but they do not impose themselves because they cannot impose themselves on those unwilling to listen."

~ Frithjof Schuon

1 comment:

  1. *facepalm* Chalk up another win for confirmation bias and the Dunning-Kruger effect. Many years ago I read Watkins' book on ley lines, The Old Straight Track, and figured it had to be bogus on the same basis that Williamson and Bellamy later demonstrated. When are we going to make critical thinking a required class starting in elementary school?