Government views Monarch Butterfly Releases as a threat toWestern Milkweeds

Patrick Foley patfoley at
Wed Dec 12 19:45:26 EST 2001


Scientists are not just in the business of bugging you. They bug each other.

Butterfly examples:
1) One of the chapters (Morton 1984) of The Biology of Butterflies (Vane-Wright and
Ackery ed) is devoted to "The effects of marking and handling on recapture
frequencies of butterflies". It is not sanguine.
2) Susan Harrison, together with Jim Quinn, John Baughman, Dennis Murphy and Paul
Ehrlich (1991) devoted a paper in American Naturalist to the possible unfortunate
effects of mark-recapture sampling on two Jasper Ridge Euphydryas editha bayensis
populations. Their conclusions are equivocal.
3) A reporter from Science interviewed me after one of these Jasper Ridge
populations went extinct (since I had predicted imminent extinction) to back a claim
that Ehrlich's group had fiddled while Rome burnt. My opinion was that Ehrlich's
group could not study extinction without letting populations go extinct on their
own. The reporter grudgingly gave up the effort to paint Ehrlich as the "Jimmy
Swaggert of environmentalism" a phrase I steal from a reviewer of paper 2) above.

My point is not that scientists are unbiased. My point is that scientists are
constantly arguing about exactly those issues that you and Bruce think are silly to
argue about. And we attack each other, not just the American way of life. If only we
could channel our energies effectively and really conspire against our enemies, the
schoolchildren and bridesmaids of America!

Patrick Foley
patfoley at

Paul Cherubini wrote:

> Pat wrote:
> > Most scientists recognize the limitations of their knowledge and imaginations.
> > This makes them wary of claims that disturbing ecosystems is safe.
> Yes, but some scientists such as Dr's Norbert Klonda and Bruce Walsh have
> also pointed out how fanciful imagining can be pursued to an extreme.
> For example on Jan. 12, 2000 Bruce wrote on dplex-l:
> "Suppose I were to argue that there is a slight cost due to tagging -- very
> small, say a 0.5% reduction in fitness. This would be very hard to measure,
> yet its impact would be at least as great as any suggested genetic impact due
> to transfers.  I could then argue that since taggers have not shown that
> tagging has no effect, we need to play it safe and stop tagging."
> And on March 14, 1997 Bruce wrote on leps-l:
> " in most problems in conservation biology,  it comes often
> down responding to a list of potential problems, most of which are
> hypothesized without evidence (and likewise without evidence to show
> they ARE NOT present).  As each item is removed from the list, several
> others are always added.   Hence, one can always use "science" to make
> the decision driven by very nonscientific issues (i.e., gee, all these factors
> could occur,but may not, so what should we do?)"
> "The bottom line here is common sense.  If one releases a small fraction of
> the total native population using stock from very similar native populations,
> the biological consequences are expected to be trivial.  This does not mean
> that one should not be diligent, but lets not get overly carried away either."
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