[SoWestLep] Mexico expands monarch butterfly habitat

Paul Cherubini cherubini at mindspring.com
Sun Nov 12 09:19:31 EST 2000

Mark Walker wrote:

> I suspect that it was in response to environmentalist pressure that the
> Mexican government made this decision.  This pressure was only effective
> after it secured widespread public support.  To get widespread public
> support, environmentalists (to which I consider myself counted) do not
> restrict themselves to science or fact.  The question is this:  is it wrong
> to propagate bad science and false information to secure goals which are
> ecologically high-minded and soundly altruistic?  I say YES.

What I am wondering is whether or not the 60,000 people living
in the monarch overwintering area in Mexico are even aware of how 
"propagating bad science and false information to secure goals which are
ecologically high-minded and soundly altruistic" is a commonplace 
phenomenon in our American scientific culture?  

An example is the butterfly release controversy.  NABA butterfly scientists
Jeffrey Glassberg, Paul Opler, Robert M. Pyle  Robert Robbins & 
James Tuttle http://www.naba.org/weddings.html claimed that released
monarchs "may not be able to orient properly"  "may be unable to find the 
way to their overwintering grounds" may spread diseases and parasites
to wild populations, with devastating results"

These fanciful imaginings ended up being presented 
as facts by the ENCARTA Encyclopedia, "Butterflies and Moths"
 -- Section VIII.  Encarta states: "this practice threatens native 
populations of Monarchs" and "released Monarchs, which may have
been collected from elsewhere, can spread disease, disrupt the
gene pool of the native Monarch population, and confuse
scientific understanding of the Monarch's natural distribution."

Terry Fluke and other butterfly breeders contacted ENCARTA 
Editorial Staff to point out the mistaken presentation of opinions 
as facts. 

ENCARTA's research staff  queried the U.S. Department of
Agriculture and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 

APHIS staff informed ENCARTA's research team that the opinions
against butterfly releases are insufficiently supported by
scientific evidence, therefore lacking in evidence to prove
releases are harmful. 

After completing their research, ENCARTA's Editorial
Research Team stated that ENCARTA will no longer present
this information as fact.

Do Glassberg, Opler,  Pyle, Robbins & Tuttle feel any sense
of shame or guilt that their fanciful imaginings were presented
as facts by an encyclopedia? Would they have taken the initiative
to contact and correct the misinformation in the encyclopedia if
they had discovered it for themselves?

Paul Cherubini, Placerville, California


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