Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Moral of Missing Sandy Island

So a tiny island, called Sandy, sitting (as shown by Google Maps and many others) in the South Pacific between Australia and New Caledonia, does not exist.

Scientists exploring drowned islands off the eastern seaboard of Australia, found themselves sailing over the spot where Sandy Island had been recorded on the World Vector Coastline Database and local weather charts for more than a decade. Only it wasn't there and at no point did the sea depth get less than 1300 metres. So it had never been there in the first place.

How did it end up on all those maps and charts? Apparently the World Vector Coastline Database is a source for many maps, which means that if something is marked as a fact on the database, it will be propagated, as a fact, on all following databases, maps and charts. Sadly, we don't know how Sandy Island found its way onto the World Vector Coastline database yet, but we do know that one of the sources it uses is the CIA!

Now, let's pass over the host of delicious conspiracy theories that could be constructed from the CIA's involvement in this mystery. Does something strike you as remarkably familiar about this tale? Someone in the mysterious world of the CIA gets their facts wrong. The wrong fact finds itself onto a scientifically reputable database and from there ripples around the world where everyone believes it. And when the truth is uncovered, people are still reluctant to change their world view. Apparently the skipper of the boat was terrified that the island was there, even though they couldn't see it, and insisted on all safety procedures being put into place in case they ran aground! So strong is the faith in scientific 'fact' even in the face of reality.

The Climate Change lobbyists are always telling us that the facts are all there and that we are being dumb, biased, bigotted, irresponsible, [supply your own derogatory term] for not believing in their 'science'. Mmmm.  Kuhn has a few words to say about scientific paradigms and how difficult it is to shift from one to the next. Maybe the case of the non-existing island is a nice little reminder of that. Warmists take note: facts aren't always what they seem.

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