SNAILGATE: THE SLIME TRAIL LEFT BY THE
ROYAL SOCIETY'S VANISHING CREDIBILITY
story of the "extinct" giant snail - supposedly killed by global
warming, but recently found alive and well on the same Indian Ocean
atoll it has inhabited for the last 80,000 years - is developing into a
major environmental scandal.
A scandal that obviously deserves the title Snailgate.
As we reported ten days ago under the heading Extinct Giant Snail
By Climate Change Crawls Back From The Dead, the sorry tale began in
2007 with the publication in one of the Royal Society's journals
Biology Letters of a "peer-reviewed" study by Justin Gerlach.
Gerlach's study claimed that the Aldabra Banded Snail (Rhachistia
aldabrae) had gone extinct in the late 1990s due to climate change.
However, this was immediately disputed by four experts in the field,
led by Oxford University ecologist Clive Hambler who argued that there
simply wasn't enough evidence to justify to claim, and urged Biology
Letters to print their prepared rebuttal.
It said: "The vast majority of the habitat is virtually inaccessible
and has never been visited. It is unwise to declare this species
extinct after a gap in known records of ten years. We predict
‘rediscovery’ when resources permit.”
Had Biology Letters published this, it would have spared itself the
embarrassment of being proved wrong this year when the snail was indeed
rediscovered, alive and well, on its island home.
Instead, Biology Letters refused to publish the rebuttal on the grounds
that it had failed to pass "peer-review."
Thanks to new research by Times environment correspondent Ben Webster,
we now have an inkling as to how this may have happened. The two
"peer-reviewers" who accepted the erroneous J Gerlach paper were the
same two referees who rejected the subsequent rebuttal paper. Though
their reasons for doing so are unclear, one evident possibility is that
they did not wish to make themselves look foolish by accepting a paper
explicitly rejecting the one they had so recently approved.
None of this would have come to light if the snail had stayed
conveniently "extinct." Unfortunately for the Royal Society, Biology
Letters, J Gerlach and those two "peer-reviewers", the resurrection
snail has come back to haunt them by raising some very awkward
are at the point as a society where the Big Lie chasm betwixt truth and
fiction is more or less unbridgeable. What chance that people
like the Gawker's
Adam Weinstien, who
calls for the arrest of people who don't subscribe—by
virtue of their common
sense and examination of the facts—to
man caused climate change;
chance that this nerf-ball will even allow himself to be educated on
matter? Slim to none. Rabid dog. Click-Click.