Friday, 13 June 2014

'Wind Turbine Syndrome' Causes Mink Mutations, And Other Correlations

Logical fallacies are everywhere. Flick open the newspaper and hear the latest assertion from your politician-of-choice, and you'll see one being used to advocate a course of action, framed in something that sounds popular, but doesn't really make a lot of sense, once you look closer. They're usually swirled with little portions of truth.

Sometimes, we see fallacies in their purest form; devoid of any truth. This happened recently when a group named the 'World Council For Nature' issued an urgent, graphic press release:

Surprisingly, this isn't the first time the issue of wind turbines and mink has been raised. The 'World Council For Nature' is, seemingly, comprised of a single individual - Mark Duchamp, an anti-wind activist based in Europe, CEO of the 'European Platform Against Windfarms'. Presumably, the press release is more credible if it comes from a group with an ambiguous name.

Duchamp sent a letter to the Australian Medical Association (AMA) back in April, after the AMA issued a position statement about wind farms and health issues. He wrote:

"In Denmark, which is the EU’s leader in mink farming, millions of Danish kroners were lost in damaged pelts when wind turbines started to operate near a mink farm. The animals became aggressive, attacking one another, and resulting in many deaths"

In the space of two months, the story had changed from aggressive mink mauling each other to a story of genetic mutations and miscarriages. Duchamp's press release was, unsurprisingly, picked up by the website

In this instance, the fact that the story was ignored by the media is taken not as a marker of faulty claims, but as evidence of a conspiracy to censor.

As it happens, it was picked up by one outlet - the conservative news/opinion website Breitbart published it in full. They open with sentences no comedian could ever match, in terms of sheer comic perfection:

"A new wind farm has been linked to the premature births of over 1,600 mink at a fur farm in Denmark last month. Veterinarians have ruled out viruses and food as possible causes, leaving the 460ft (140 metre)-high wind turbines as the only variable that has changed since last year"

Your average human being would be able to spot the reasoning error made in that sentence pretty quickly. It seems the website isn't populated by many capable of doing so - the comments are lathered with credulity and outrage. James Delingpole, a conservative commentator with an open disdain for climate science, tweeted it. It's fascinating to see this side-by-side with his avowed climate change denial:

So, what's going on here? This is a textbook example of why the phenomenon of 'wind turbine syndrome' has such a varied list of symptoms attributed to it (currently, 236).

Any event that occurs with a variable radius of wind turbines (the largest I've seen is 125 kilometres, so far) is, in the eyes of proponents of 'wind turbine syndrome', a candidate outcome of the disease. This is what happens when we decide careful scientific examination is irrelevant, with regards to establishing causality.

More interesting is the ideological fervour driving this attitude. Delingpole's intense, sarcastic skepticism directed at climate science and scientists (now easily on par with your standard anti-vaxxer in terms of sheer archaic denial) is contrasted starkly against the absolute, unquestioning credulity with which he accepts the increasingly absurd claims being issued in press releases by anti-wind groups.

You can make your own spurious correlations using a tool called Google Correlate. Using this, I found that 'wind turbine syndrome' interest peaks at the same time as interest in Wonder Woman. Coincidence, or evil green socialist comic conspiracy? You be the judge.

1 comment:

  1. Did you even bother to investigate if it is true?