So did you hear? The bees are on the endangered species list!
It’s the end of the world! We’re all going to starve! Ahhhhhhh! Ahhhh! Everyone scream! Panic! PANIC! PANIC AT THE DISCO! PANIC OUTSIDE THE DISCO! PANIC EVEN IF YOU’RE NOWHERE NEAR A DISCO!
Or, you know, stop, take a breath, turn your brain on, stop being freaking idiot for ten seconds, and do a little research.
Now, honey bees are very important to us, as a species, and we should be carefully monitoring their health. I happen to really like bees. Carpenter bees, solitary bees, honey bees, zom-bees. All the bees. I love bees so much that I just gave my girlfriend a bee house carved to look like a bee for her birthday present (she also loves bees).
What’s more, we should be making efforts to preserve endangered wild species. These things are just common sense. The panic about colony collapse disorder, in general, or the listing of several species as endangered, however, is not any kind of sense.
Why we aren’t DoooooooOOOMED!
I’m going to show you the exact little shareable Facebook picture that inspired me to write this:
The smart thing to do with any image covered in text one Facebook is to ignore it. Whether you love it, hate it, agree with it, or don’t, there’s a 99.99999999999999999999% it’s made-up nonsense. But occasionally in life we encounter something so inaccurate that a good person simply can’t shuffle by. Some festering boils of ignorance simply must be lanced, lest the infection spread. So let’s pop these zits of concentrated ignorance in order of appearance. Basically, everything in this post is as made up as that statistic at the beginning of it.
1. Bees Have Been Added to the Endangered Species List
You might be forgiven for thinking that this is referring to honeybees. Even the legit news organizations (or at least the dead-eyed shuffling corpses of what were once respected bastions of public information) have been deliberately vague in their headlines in order to clickbait people concerned about the plight of honey bees. And usually included a photo of a honey bee instead of a yellow-faced bee.
What is a yellow-faced bee? It is a type (several species in this case) of rare endemic Hawaiian solitary bees. Not honey bees. Not even sorta honey bees (via NPR).
Drawing conclusions about the plight of honey bees from the populations of rare endemic species of island bee makes no more sense then panicking over the situation of the American crow (estimate pop. 31,000,000) because the Hawaiian crow, or ʻalalā, is a critically endangered species with only a couple dozen surviving members.
In fact, honey bee populations are stable/increasing:
text=”true”>Recently, populations hit a twenty year high, as described by the Washington Post. Now, it’s important to note that the rate of bees dying has increased quite a bit in the last decade. This is due to several known factors, such as the arrival of Varroa destructor mite in the North America in the mid-2000s, as well as several other suspected contributing causes, from feeding bees high fructose corn syrup to some modern pesticides. Many potential causes have been ruled out, for example cell phone towers (correlation does not equal causation, folks).
It’s important, also, to remember that most things in life are not caused by one single thing. It appears, for example, that some pesticides increase the bees’ susceptibility to mites. It’s a complex problem, but it’s actually not particularly threatening, because the bees are dying slower than we’re replacing them.
So, wait, how can more bees be dying every year, but the number of bees increasing?
Well, I don’t want to be patronizing here, but–nope, actually, I do. I’m going for it.
Connor has a dozen cookies. Connor eats ten cookies, but isn’t a freaking idiot, so he bakes a dozen more cookies! Does Connor have more or fewer cookies now than he did at the start?
In what may come as a shock to people who are stupid, the $10-15 billion dollar honey bee industry is carefully monitored, researched, and cataloged by organizations public and private. In fact, if you want to know exactly how many colonies have died from any given cause, or been created, or been renovated, for each individual state in the country for the past two years, just check out the site run by the USDA and Cornell.
Also, about those coffee, strawberries, and avocados disappearing:
At this point, this is just overkill to keep going, but I feel the need to explain that everything in that stupid infographic is stupidly wrong.
Look, bees are fantastic pollinators. Not only do they do a good job, but unlike the tens of thousands of other pollinating insects, they travel in large groups, and return to easily transportable boxes every night. That whole “easily transportable boxes” is the important part in explaining why 80% of crops in the US are pollinated by bees. However, when it comes to “If the bees die, we all die!” it’s important to remember the part about tens of thousands of other pollinator species.
If honey bees went extinct tomorrow, the pollination industry would have a tough time. But pollination would keep happening. Not in the least, because flowering plants are fairly recent evolutionary advance (they took off about the time the dinosaurs were kicking the bucket) and many plants don’t require pollinators, at all. The reason we use them is that they help pollination, increasing crop yield.
So basically, everything on this little image was somewhere between deliberately misleading and completely wrong. Which leads us to the real threat to the world today:
Hive Mind Critical Thinking Collapse Disorder
Why are people like the person that runs FreeThoughtProject so ignorant and ill-informed? How do people like this, and our friends or acquaintances on social media, care so much, but put so little effort into basing their opinions on research, thought, and critically evaluated facts? We live in an age where we can research anything we want practically instantly, as deeply as we want to.
I blame it at least partially on an education system that rewards memorizing information over thinking about information. We’re trained starting in early childhood, and for the next 13-25 years of life to take in any information we’re presented with, remember it as fact, and then regurgitate it later on a test, which is then given a number on an arbitrary scale, the average of which will determine our entire future.
Clever, cynical, people have learned to leverage that by combining this training with bold text, eye-catching images, and strong appeals to emotion, usually fear, anger, or humor. Some seek to inspire, but it’s the same basic theory.
What we don’t emphasize, and need to, is not free thought, but disciplined thought. In this, I mean training our brains to immediately recognize appeals to emotion and discount them, then evaluate presented facts based on the following questions:
Does this information come from a reliable source?
Does it seem logically cohesive when evaluated on its own merits?
Does it seem logically cohesive when evaluated against what I already know?
Does it stand up to research?
If you believe something you read without answering those four questions, you may be a victim of Critical Thinking Collapse Disorder! It’s a horrible affliction that makes smart people stupid. Don’t be a victim!
The world is full of people trying to trick you for their own ends, or, particularly in the modern era, loud-mouthed ignorant twits with a platform (Zombie Washington in the hizzz-ouse!) who you shouldn’t just believe just because.