That sounds like a great line-up for an alt-rock concert, doesn’t it? “Alexandra Morton and Korean Fan Death, with special guests Urban Legend!”
We’d pay a $5 cover charge to see that.
Hopefully someone laughed at that. We promise to try harder next time.
Before we go on, we must state again that we are not out to assassinate anyone’s character. But ridiculous statements and anti-scientific claims cannot go unchallenged. So all apologies to Alexandra Morton, we’re sure you are a very nice person, but the things you say about salmon farms are nonsense.
And although the people who believe her anti-aquaculture sermons and take them to heart are a fringe minority, that group includes a number of doctors, scientists and generally smart people.
That shouldn’t be surprising. Even smart people can believe stupid things.
And even a lot of smart people can believe stupid things.
Take, for example, the phenomenon known as “Korean Fan Death.”
One of our contributors is a fan of the “Skeptoid” podcast, which recently did a show on this strange belief.
Apparently, it is a widely-held belief in Korea that if you go to sleep with a fan running in your room, you could die. The belief stems from several instances in which people were found dead, with a fan running in the room.
It’s a case of “correlation is causation” gone wild.
The wide-spread panic over this belief has prompted warnings, reams of coverage in the Korean press and even prompted some scientists and doctors — including emergency room doctors and at least one Western doctor — to warn people about the danger of fans.
And the panic has snowballed to include government agencies, such as the Korean Consumer Protection Board, to issue warnings and other agencies to require warning labels and stickers on fans suggesting that “this product could cause hypothermia and death.”
To our western minds it seems ridiculous, and we can easily see that there is no scientific basis to conclude that fans had anything to do with the deaths.
But the urban legend persists, fueled by a few scientists and agencies who perpetuate it.
Morton’s myths about salmon farms are the same. How many times has she predicted, backed by a few scientists, that wild runs are going to be made extinct by salmon farms? How many times has she been right? How can people continue to believe these stories, after decades of research showing no definitive connection between salmon farms and fluctuations in wild salmon populations?
And yet she and some well-known scientists hold to this myth, continuing to prophesy that salmon farms will kill wild salmon someday, we’ll see, and then we’ll be sorry we didn’t listen to them.
They are so desperate to be right that they seize on every little piece of correlative evidence they can to scream that salmon farms are doing harm.
Pink run not so great this year? It MUST have been because of salmon farms when the fish went out to sea, or when they came back.
Sockeye run fantastic this year? It MUST be because salmon farms are pressuring salmon to spawn in massive numbers to avoid their impending extinction.
When you have your hypothesis already in hand, it’s easy to find facts to fit it. All you have to do is discard the ones you don’t like.
And like Korean Fan Death, maybe all you have to do is make something innocuous sound scary, cloaked in scientific-sounding mumbo jumbo, to get people to believe you.
Hopefully people trying to understand the interactions between farmed and wild salmon are wiser than to believe that.