Fallacy of composition

The ABC reports that marine geophysicist, Mike Coffin (great name), says that we humans will cause 75 per cent of Earth’s species to be extinct within 240 to  540 years – a ‘mass extinction’.

Coffin stated at a conference in Hobart

Based on all threatened species as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature … assuming all of those threatened species become extinct then we would reach mass extinction somewhere between 240 and 540 years from now.

Later he told ABC radio

I think of that 8.7 million we think there are now, we’ve only [discovered] about 15 per cent. So there is still 85 per cent that are yet to be discovered and or described.

So Coffin thinks that the 8.7 million species known are a small fraction of potentially 58 million species. Yet he thinks that the extinction of 75 per cent of those known species – 6.525 million – would represent a mass extinction. Even if he were right about 6.5 million species becoming extinct – using the typical extrapolation favoured by the Club of Rome and others who do not know how to apply statistics – that would only be 11 per cent of total species.

In fact we are discovering new species at a faster rate than known species are becoming extinct. And humans have been acting to preserve species that would have become extinct if left to nature.

I think the final nail has been driven into Coffin’s theories.

About Samuel J

Samuel J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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40 Responses to Fallacy of composition

  1. Bruce

    Tim Blair mentions this complete with the great ABC photo, plus a bonus from the news report recently about eucalypts dying due to global warming. Which is silly – they love heat and need fire to propagate.

    The bonus is the lady who did the eucalypt study. Her name is Nat Butt.

    She probably chose wisely not to become an entymologist.

  2. blogstrop

    Just watch out if he buys new sneakers and takes to his bed. The asteroid/starship will be getting close then./sarc

  3. I think the final nail has been driven into Coffin’s theories.

    Buddum-kish!

    Oh Samuel J.

  4. So 54% of Tasmania isn’t enough?

    Might be the last nail in the ‘coffin’ for someone’s ARC grant prospects and the ‘butt’ of some jokes here on The Cat.

    Should be able to cut the 2014 GST redistribution by 54% then.
    (Go for your life Joe, we won’t breathe a word)

  5. blogstrop

    Link to Heaven’s Gate Cult story. But then again, right next to that is a distracting link to the perfect body of Amy Willerton. Where was I?

    You have to hand it to The Daily Mail. Goethe may have said said “America du hast es besser”, but I reckon the Mail have the newspaper thing just right with their mix of Right Minds and pretty damn right bodies.

  6. Sinclair Davidson

    I seem to recall someone saying that humans contribute most to mass extinction when we wash between our toes with soap. Is this correct, or were they being sarcastic?

  7. Notafan

    What about the species that have become extinct without humans even getting to discover them?
    And they laugh at dooms day cults…

  8. Gab

    Mike Coffin (great name), says that we humans will cause 75 per cent of Earth’s species to be extinct within 240 to 540 years – a ‘mass extinction’.

    These people make up any crap they like and pass it off as “science”. His assertions are would make an gypsy fortune-teller blush with embarrassment.

  9. Carpe Jugulum

    Her name is Nat Butt.

    So if he marries her will they be the coffin-butts?

  10. jupes

    My post at Blair’s:

    Here’s an idea for a TV program:

    It should be run along the lines of those talent or cooking shows, however the contestants will be competing to come up with the most far out global warming prediction – based on ‘science’ of course.

    The judges will be realists like your good self Tim, Bob Carter and maybe Delingpole if has time to come to Australia. I also think the earnestness of Tim Flannery would make him a good judge plus he would bring comedy value.

  11. blogstrop

    He should change his name, it could then be the Iffsands-Butts.

  12. Robert Blair

    Well, the British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane said “… from a study of creation, it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles”, ergo, the bulk of the known species are beetles, or smaller.

    However I take exception to Mr. Coffin’s basic assumption, which he makes quite explicit:

    assuming all of those threatened species become extinct

    The simple truth is that the vast majority of “endangered” species (that is, species placed on the various “endangered species” lists around the world) DO NOT become extinct, at least that is the observed record.

    In truth continental species have shown no tendency toward extinction.
    There was a spike of island species extinctions, almost all caused by introduced species competition.
    See Willis Eschenbach here: New paper from Loehle & Eschenbach

  13. Gab

    Besides which, haven’t we had many species over the many many centuries go extinct? Isn’t that Nature’s way? Or do these worry-warts grieve for the extinct dinosaurs?

  14. Rabz

    Or do these worry-warts grieve for the extinct dinosaurs?

    Dinosaurs are extinct?

    Who knew? They seem to be everywhere.

  15. JC

    No seriously, where the hell did they dredge up this idiot from? Leaving aside his innumeracy, how can anyone possibly make any forecast 100′s of years into the future without extrapolating technological advancement?

    He’s at the university of Tasmania, so no wonder.

    Any forecast more than 30 years is crap. You may as well use tarot cards.

  16. Gab

    They seem to be everywhere.

    Along with the Henny-Penny clan.

  17. JC

    Gab

    Their ABC must have some sort of talent agency looking for morons to be interviewed. It must be a specific demand by their ABC.

    Innumerate, wishy washy, scardy cat girlymen. At some stage I have no doubt they’ll end up interviewing Brian from LP. Brian wakes up in the morning scared shitless.

    I’m sure his on the register.

  18. .

    A marine biologist in freakin’ Tasmania is worried about eucalypts becoming extinct from non-existent climate change.

    Time to lock the poor fellow up and give him bugs, spiders, birds and cats to eat ala Renfield.

  19. JC

    A marine biologist in freakin’ Tasmania is worried about eucalypts becoming extinct from non-existent climate change.

    Time to lock the poor fellow up and give him bugs, spiders, birds and cats to eat ala Renfield.

    Lithium, Dot. Half liter shots in the arm daily.

    That’s what I wrote about in the New England Journal of Medicine as the gold standard medication to cure leftism. It’s had wide acceptance.

  20. .

    Is this JC of the Global Warming and Fair Pay Institute? :P

  21. Jazza

    Meanwhile, outside the bubble in which the ABC, Fairfax and the Greenies live, the rest of us are so sick of their stupid posturing and empty enviro threats, we cannot be bothered seeing or hearing any of their utterances!

  22. AP

    Who cares? Other than some wild, unproven theory of the “need” for biodiversity, can anyone prove that this would affect how we live our lives? Yes, some species are important (e.g. bees), but if all polar bears died, would we notice? If half the species of stygofauna went extinct, would it make an iota of difference? If all the house flies died, would it change our standard of living, or would other species adapt and fill the gap?

  23. AP

    BTW, the time period is a bit weird, and precise. I wonder, did he use a computer model?

  24. Arnost

    Here’s an idea for a TV program:

    It should be run along the lines of those talent or cooking shows, however the contestants will be competing to come up with the most far out global warming prediction – based on ‘science’ of course.

    And a spinoff: “Prediction or Not?” Where real and made up predictions are presented to a panel to assess if they were true or not… Should be worth a laugh or three!

  25. JohnA

    Coffin stated at a conference in Hobart

    Based on all threatened species as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature … assuming all of those threatened species become extinct then we would reach mass extinction somewhere between 240 and 540 years from now.

    I suggest that his venture into the realm of comedy has not been a good career move.

  26. JohnA

    JC:

    I’m sure his on the register.

    Put him on the list and inform that cheap tailor Ko-Ko…

    “As someday it may happen that a victim must be found…”

  27. cohenite

    One of the pillars of AGW, or should that be pedestal, or stork, in any event it’s bullshit, is that humans are causing extinctions by heating the joint. David Stockwell is an expert on extinctions which is why he never gets interviewed at the abc. David invented a science called Niche Modelling and being the good scientist he is has just revised it with a new theory called Universal Neutral Theory [UNT].

    UNT says:

    Neutral theory finds that dispersal is crucial for maintaining and even increasing biodiversity. Conversely, a stable unvarying environment is ultimately detrimental. An analogy is the ‘creative destruction’ of capitalism, where the rapid turnover of new businesses increases productivity and choice, as opposed to moribund economies organized around established businesses that keep out new contenders. Neutral theory is largely supported by the fossil record, which finds relatively few extinctions from quite large and rapid climate changes in the past (see also Botkin et al. 2005), and slow declines in diversity during periods of stable climate.

    Perhaps the biggest surprise of neutral theory is that the dominant species can completely turn-over at random intervals without any prompting from changes in the environment. Pollen records from lake beds and other sources going back thousands of years show it is normal for large parts of populations to die out and then suddenly (over paleo-time scales, that is) return to domination.

    What I take from that is humanity can become extinct and then come back without the progressive gene, known colloquially as the fucktard attribute.

  28. Aynsley Kellow

    For the record, the number of documented extinctions in the past 500 years is around 800.

    Aside from relying on the spurious species-area equation, the error Professor Coffin makes is that the overwhelming number of putative species are molds, slimes, bacteria. We have not identified them, and would be unlikely to miss them. Of the ‘charismatic megafauna’, the rate of fewer than 2pa is closer to the mark – and humans make considerable efforts to preserve them.

  29. Notafan

    Professor Coffin is obviously concerned about the potential extinction of the abominable snowman and his myriad relatives.
    Perhaps he and Professor Turney should mount an expedition.

  30. JC

    Is this JC of the Global Warming and Fair Pay Institute?

    Yep. The institute did great work in 2013- closing down factories in Africa and feeding hungry hippos.

  31. Fibro

    Sad part is that we payed for this git, and even sadder people actually turned up to listen.

    The machine is still in full swing with no end in sight.

  32. feelthebern

    Lithium, Dot. Half liter shots in the arm daily.

    I don’t want to be a nit picker JC, but the Heston’s book on Hitlers drug use showed he was on:
    amphetamines, steroids & barbiturates (at different times of day).

    Lithium was one of the only things he wasn’t on.

  33. Andrew

    If all the hospitalised people died, there would be a catastrophic increase in the mortality rate. If all the speculative grade companies went bankrupt, there would be a 100% HY default rate. If all the climatology models failed to predict climate then…carry on.

  34. JC

    If all the climatology models failed to predict climate then…carry on.

    A mere minor detail. The recent expedition to the pole proved gerbil warming is happening and happening now at a dangerous pace.

    Now get me the next government grant.

  35. ChrisPer

    Lithium was one of the only things he wasn’t on.

    A lead drench turned out to be the required medication.

  36. Jessie

    cohenite, that is interesting.

    Our ABS instituted a rare population methodology (I recall an early avian-based paper) to apply in census and post census papers etc. Would be interesting to find the original papers.

    For eg

    1504.0 – Methodological News, Jun 2010 – Data Collection Methodology – Overseas Trip Summary
    Sample Design Issues for National Surveys of the Indigenous Population
    and……..
    Australian Bureau of Statistics
    September 4, 2008
    Authors: Geoffrey Brent, Alistair Rogers
    Evaluating ways to make use of imperfect information to improve efficiency of sampling for rare populations.

    Also

    In 2007–2008, three missions were undertaken under the program. In the first, four staff of BPS—Statistics Indonesia visited the ABS to review the ABS’ Labour Force Survey, including its sampling methodology, field operations and survey outputs. The second mission, held in Indonesia, focused on the collection phase of the labour force survey. The third and final mission, also held in Indonesia, focused on improving the statistical methodology of the BPS—Statistics Indonesia Labour Force Survey, including sampling and estimation. A highlight of this mission was the opportunity to present a lecture to students at the School of Statistics of BPS—Statistics Indonesia, as well as senior BPS—Statistics Indonesia staff, on sampling of rare populations.

    1370.0 – Measures of Australia’s Progress, 2010- ocean and estuary legislation/Marine Parks
    1352.0.55.096 – Research Paper: Sample Design Issues for National Surveys of the Indigenous Population (Methodology Advisory Committee), Jun 2008
    1504.0 – Methodological News, Mar 2002- non-remote Indigenous sampling
    4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 1994
    Violent Crime: Murder & manslaughter: Crime and Justice: Murder and Manslaughter 1995/96

  37. Jannie

    Environmental scientists from Tasmania come with a bit of an image problem, like house painters from Austria. CAGW activism has debauched the role of science, it has also screened out the core truth that the natural environment is diminishing, and with it the habitat of many species. I dont need any scientists to tell me what is happening to the natural world. Places that were forests with animals for hunting when I was a kid are now semi industrial waste. Remote reefs and seas that were teeming with fish are now barren. Maybe this is progress and good for the people who have to earn a crust, but its sad to me. Still, I think exterminating 75% of humanity for the sake of biodiversity and improved fishing and hunting, is a hard argument to make.

  38. boy on a bike

    Here is an IUCN report on “Species susceptibility to climate change impacts factsheet EN“.

    IUCN has collected information relating to these groups of traits for the world’s birds (9,856 species), amphibians (6,222 species) and warm-water reef-building corals (799 species).

    How common are these traits in the amphibians, birds and corals?

    Where species possess one or more traits associated with negative climate change impacts, we treat them as “climatechange- susceptible”. Through compiling scores for birds, amphibians and warm-water reef-building coral species, initial results suggest that up to 35%, 52% and 71% of these groups respectively could be susceptible to climate change.

    Are the “climate-change-susceptible” species the same as those already identifi ed as threatened on The IUCN Red List?

    Not entirely. IUCN’s work shows that 70-80% of birds, amphibians and corals that are already threatened are also “climate-change-susceptible”. Given exposure to large climatic changes, these species which also have least resilience to further threat, face the greatest risk of extinction. Of those that are not considered threatened, 28-71% are “climate-changesusceptible”.

    We recommend that these species, and the areas of their greatest concentrations, are given high conservation priority.

  39. Chris M

    Who cares if they go extinct, it shows they were weak species and therefore we just need to wait for a stronger version to come along. Well that’s what a Darwinian evolutionist would think if they actually believed their own stupid theory…. This guy is just another preservationist.

  40. Lysander

    George Carlin:

    “We’re so self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now. “Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.” And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. Save the planet, we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet. I’m tired of this shit. I’m tired of fucking Earth Day. I’m tired of these self-righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is that there aren’t enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world safe for Volvos.

    Besides, environmentalists don’t give a shit about the planet. Not in the abstract they don’t. You know what they’re interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They’re worried that some day in the future they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn’t impress me.

    The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles … hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference?

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