In ancient Rome, augurs were a special class of priest who foretold the future by examining the flight patterns and sounds of birds. I quote from wiki:

Only some species of birds (aves augurales) could yield valid signs whose meaning would vary according to the species. Among them were ravens, woodpeckers, owls, oxifragae, eagles. Signs from birds were divided into alites, from the flight, and oscines, from the voice. The alites included region of the sky, height and type of flight, behaviour of the bird and place where it would rest. The oscines included the pitch and direction of the sound. Since the observation was complex conflict among signs was not uncommon.

The BBC now has its own very augur in Richard Black, whose brief is a bit wider and adapted to the religion of climate change. His technique is to scour selectively special journals (rather than the sky), and find stories from “researchers” about creatures that are doing strange or different things. He then grandiloquently pronounces what will happen in future: a message from on high.

His topic today is crustaceans in the Palmer basin off the west Antarctic penninsula. Already, Mr Black has augured that this ice is disastrously melting. Now, it seems, “researchers” have found that the area has been invaded by 1.5m king crabs. Woe! Doom! He solemnly intones they are doing what king crabs do – voraciously scoffing other marine creatures – but this, he warns, is a very bad sign. It will cause “profound damage” to the ecosystem because verily, they are nasty invaders that can only survive because of the catastrophic warming.

The snag with augury, of course, was that it was a whole belief system based on a few snippets of truth. Some birds do gather before a storm – but their behaviour is much more complex than that. In exactly the same way, Mr Black – in his haste to spread alarm – ignores the key facts. The Antarctic is not getting significantly warmer.

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9 Responses to AUGUR IN CHIEF

  1. Nick Darlington says:

    Another excellent post Robin, and amusing to read, and yet his wise words go unchallenged as ever at the good old BBC. There must be more and more readers/viewers/listeners who shake their heads in disbelief as more doom-laden prognostications are spouted. Following in the vein of your comments, I pictured Black (or it could easily have been Harrabin) making this decree to an audience of ‘real people’ and having to implore them ‘Titter ye not at the back there’ a la Frankie Howerd. Bring on the tea leaves Roger.     


  2. My Site (click to edit) says:

    There is enough on the planet to be concerned over, investigate and maybe even be worried about, and so one needs coverage one can trust to be objective in following and making sense of it all.

    That the BBC has hired, supported and still promotes its minute herd of Whores of the Apocalypse in such a key role is a travesty.

    Black especially, and his utterings, are a joke. No wonder his blogs, when he dares make an interactive outing, get filleted within hours and are usually closed for watertight oversight before they hit any real numbers other than qualified folk highlighting errors.

    The danger is that where they may be kernels of truth to pick up on, it’s near impossible not to either ignore his science-lite, PR-retyping agenda musings, or dismiss them.

    This from a £4Bpa, ‘news’ outfit tasked to educate and inform. And it seems there is no way on earth to get through to, or away from their malign influence on my kids’ futures. 

    Especially when enjoying the unqualified support of the PM, a man who seems to find no problem with his father in law making £1k a day from policies pushed through that hardly any scientist or engineer in the land worth their salt can find the figures to justify.


  3. Roland Deschain says:

    Good post, Robin.  It’s time to treat Mr Richard “It’s Worse Than We Thought” Black with ridicule.

    Starting with his apparently acid baths which disintegrate books.


    • My Site (click to edit) says:

      The justified mockery of that certainly got the thread closed quickly.

      Does any glimmer that they have lost the plot ever sink in?


      • Roland Deschain says:

        This comment in particular tickled my funny bone:

        well thank heavens for small mercies it wasn’t on an e-reader, then it would be a really expensive blunder.

        Yep, ridicule them.  It’s a tactic the left have been using on right-wingers for years and it’s very difficult to counter.

        And no, I don’t think they ever realise they’ve lost the plot.  I’ve said a few times on these forums that they have no self-awareness and it will, I hope, be their downfall.


  4. cjhartnett says:

    Ah yes Robin , but…
    having examined the entrails of at least two seagulls and one pigeon that turn out to be martyrs for Gaia (in that they were lost to the local wind turbine that one day when the breeze took the blades from 4 O` clock and round to near 6!), I can confirm that they made a rather fetching crescent moon shape with a sword lain on top!
    This tells me that Israel has got to go…that Murdoch needs to be hanged…and that we`ll not see peace until Balls and Toynbee spawn our new leader to run the BBC!
    Wonder if Tate Modern will buy that one? I did a bit of editing to create the image so I`ll be the “augur to order” in that case…


  5. Geyza says:

    I guess Black has no actual clue about nature, evolution and how species have ALWAYS moved into new areas if they find an abundant new source of food.  Ever since the first bacteria started devouring the first bits of earth under the sea hundreds and hundreds of millions of years ago. It is what species DO!!!

    Has he never heard of survival of the fittest?  Why the hell would he want to have a completely un-natural species stasis?  How un-natural would that be?  I guess what Black does not like is the fact that species ADAPT to changing conditions and thus moderate global warming will NOT present the catastrophic scenario that he and his kind are desperate to sell us all.  Quite the opposite. A moderate warming, (which is what is happening) will actually promote bio-diversity and be a good thing for the increasing number of species which adapt to it.

    As an aside, How does Black know that the King crabs did not also exist in that area in the 1930’s when those same seas were as warm then as they are now?


  6. RGH says:

    The lithodid crab fauna of the Ross Sea, Antarctica, comprises three species in two genera.

    Two species are new to science: Neolithodes yaldwyni sp. nov. and Paralomis stevensi sp. nov.


    So the species of lithodid genus identified below 850 meteres is new to science.

    It has not been found elsewhere other than at this location.

    Perhaps it is present elsewhere. Who knows?.

     The fear is that as the waters ‘warm’, the crab will be able to ascend and gobble up the fauna and flora.

    The warming due to ‘global warming’, presumably.

    Perhaps these crabs have ‘always’ been in this basin. (By ‘always’ I mean for longer than the forty or fifty years given in the article).

    There is no reason to see this species as an invader at all.

    There will always be fluctuations in temperature and this crab will migrate from the marginally warmer depth below 850 metres if it has a chance.

    The crab is presented as a voracious eater, working its way right down the menu.

    Possibly. so.

    But that is what happens.

    Perhaps when it rises, something will come down to meet it with a taste for crab.

    AGW is not needed to explain this.


  7. John Horne Tooke says:

    “The journal is due to publish the paper within a few days.”

    Black being a “science reporter” gets a sneek preview of a research paper (more probably a press release and not the full paper). This is because of the “embargo sytem” summed up by a good exBBC scientific journalist here

    “Some journalists like the embargo system, though it encourages lazy reporting and props up poor correspondents. We have many fine science reporters in the UK but there are some poor ones that do little else but reproduce press releases and embargoed copy. Scoops, what every journalist should want, are few and far between in science as the embargo process militates against them.”

    I put Black in this catagory, not only lazy but full of his own importance. Black never gets a scoop because he waits for his friends to drop a press release of their forthcoming alarmist clap trap on his grubby desk. There is never a follow-up when or if the paper is rebutted by later findings as this would involve proper journalism.