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Thursday, November 10, 2011



This post may get me in trouble, particularly with my brilliant Marine Biologist nephew Jimmy.  Keep in mind my scientific friends, that I am just a knucklehead spouting opinions with very little knowledge to back them up, and very few readers to give a rat’s butt.

 I read in the news today that scientists have figured a way to attach tracking devices on the elusive narwhale.  The narwhale, unknown to me before this article, is a large mammal with a six foot horn.  It is sometimes called the unicorn of the sea. 
OK, here is where I am going to get in trouble.  Who the fuck really cares about the narwhale?

It is the same for all these tracking animal exercises. 
“It is important that we know the where and when the Blah Blah Blah travels, when he breeds and what he feeds on so we can more fully understand the ecology of the world and assure these beautiful creatures thrive in order to assure the balance of nature and prevent the end of the world as we know it today.”

Oh come on now!  Shit dies.  It is part of the science of ecology.  It is taken over by other shit better adapted to survive.  That is what ecology is, the study of the interaction of life AND DEATH of flora, fauna and all other living creatures on earth.   If the narwhale becomes extinct, it will be because another form of life is better suited to its environment and changes which are always occurring on Earth.

Don’t get me wrong; now that I have heard of it, I am rooting for the narwhale.  It is a cool looking creature, I wish it the best.  I also wish the best for other oft tracked animals such as the great white shark, and the polar bear, as long as they don’t get tracked into my back yard.

The Monarch Butterfly I don’t worry about!

Tagging a Butterfly?  REALLY?
How much of this tracking is important scientific study and how much is paid (by government or other institution grants) fun? When I see TV specials on some of these studies, the work looks like fun. Scientists in shorts and tee shirts are fishing, diving, rock climbing or hiking through the woods looking to track or“band” critters. They never look unhappy or tired. They look like they are doing stuff that other people would pay lots of money to do.

I have personally viewed on TV shows, over one thousand fish tagged or birds banded; there must be millions that were not filmed. Have you ever heard of or met someone that has re-caught one of these banded or tagged critters? Neither have I. Can someone please show me a report documenting where all these critters go and how tracking them has saved the world.

Look, I don’t want to stop this fun research; I’m just not sure I want to pay for it with my taxes. To the extent that filming these studies makes compelling TV and helps to defer research expenses, I am all for continuing the studies. However, I do object to the serious tone of the importance of these endeavors. Tracking critters is fun, it is interesting and it may well be useful in scientific studies, but let’s not elevate it to curing cancer or ending aids status.


  1. Oh, Cranky, that's the beauty of research, it has no apparent application. Down the line, all the little bits of information we collect offer a aha aha moment to some creative soul, and voila', a breakthrough, a new drug, a new concept that will make even our perfect life more perfect.
    If we don't do science, if we don't pay for it, then the only science that will be conducted will be those well-paid self-serving experiments that just support someone's industry. Independent research, reviewed by independent peers, will help us all in the long run.

  2. Ha! I see your point. I love your posts because most of the time they make me look at things differently.

    I agree with you that things die and we should just stop trying to figure that out as if it's some huge mystery. BUT - and here's another but of mine - what IF this unicorn whale provides us with some kind of cure or something like that?
    There's always that small chance.
    You just never know.
    Stranger things have happened.

    Or it could turn out being just a big fat waste of our time and tax dollars.

  3. You are both correct at least to a point.

    I told you I was just a knucklehead! One question though...where do you draw the line? THis morning I woke up to Mrs. Cranky trying to staple an "If found please return to ....." Tag onto my earlobe!


  4. I think there is some amount of research needed in all things, but sometimes things are better left alone and unknown too. No I don't want my tax shillings supporting some nincompoop on a trekking adventure either. Let the large corporations pay for it. They get enough tax support money anyways.

  5. Yea, I don't really want my tax dollars going towards tagging a butterfly ... or a Cranky, either, for that matter. Sometimes nature is best left alone :)

  6. There is a lot of stupid "science" going on in the world, that is for sure. Not just this kind of science. What about those people studies that cost lots of money, and we get a brilliant conclusion that your mom could have told you about when you were 12. Like "eating more calories than you burn will make you fat." I call it the "Duh" result. THOSE piss me off big time.