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I can do vacuous too! (4/9/2010)
During the week I was referred to a quack web site in order to show me how much I didn't know. The particular page I was sent to contained an article titled "How and When to Be Your Own Doctor". A sensible person in the forum responded by saying "There is so much wrong with what that site spews I don't even know where to begin...", and I replied "The spelling and grammar seem to be correct, and the words are arranged in syntactically-correct sentences".
I decided to set myself a challenge. I would try to write something which made grammatical sense but contained as much semantic content as the article I had been told to read. Here is my effort. Note - I mentioned unicorns because, after all, writing in an alternative medicine forum does require a touch of fantasy.
The greatest natural enemy of the pink unicorn is the Burragorang Sabre-Toothed Bogan Moth. As the weather warms in March with the coming of spring to the Blue Mountains, millions of the moths hatch and leave their breeding caves in the limestone pinnacles near Katoomba and Leura and go in search of food.
The unicorns generally come out of hibernation about two weeks before the moths start hatching, giving them adequate time to feast on the newly-sprouted Wollemi Pine seedlings and then migrate south to their breeding grounds in the Weddin State Forest near Hornsby on the New South Wales-Victoria border. Stragglers, unicorns with illness or injury and the old and weak provide a feast for the moths, but in most years the majority of the herd arrives safely at their destination, which is beyond the flight range of the moths.
In 2005 a change in weather pattern brought on by global warming disrupted the life cycles of both animals, with the moths hatching a few days before the delayed awakening of the unicorns. It is estimated that only 5% of the unicorns managed to make it to safety. This caused a massive crash in moth population in the following two years as there was little for the young moths to eat.
The massive slaughter of unicorns caused extensive environmental damage. One example is an infestation of Wollemi Pine which, with its natural predator reduced in numbers, is threatening to suffocate the mangrove population of the Jamison Valley. The most significant, however, is that the blood pouring into the tributaries of Lake Burragorang severely polluted the lake. Remediation required the closure of Warragamba Dam as a source of water for Sydney and Brisbane, with both cities being placed on severe water restrictions and having to rely on the Bilpin desalination plant for 80% of their water supplies. Lake Burragorang had to be drained, but heavier than usual snowfalls in the Mount Gambier and Mount Tom Price regions over the last two years have meant that the storage contained by Warragamba Dam is now at about 55% of total capacity.
The shortage of water had one unexpected result, when it was found that criminals had ceased using water to irrigate marijuana in plantations in the St Ives and Northmead areas as it was more profitable to sell bottled water than the drug. Another casualty was an attempt on the world water speed record, which had to be moved from the lake behind Warragamba to the Clarence River at Cowra.
With both unicorns and Bogan moths approaching the status of endangered species, both major parties contesting the 2010 federal election promised significant funding into research and recovery of the species. The University of Western Sydney has established an Institute for Bogan Research which has been promised almost $400 million over the next four years to create a gene bank and a breeding program. A professorial chair has been endowed by the Lowes clothing store chain, with the chairman saying that he had been interested in Bogans for a long time and would like them to survive and prosper.
Vocational training of virgins to locate and count unicorns will be undertaken at Lithgow TAFE, exploiting the experience of the teaching staff at locating, identifying and counting the local elusive panthers. The building containing the TAFE's current gymnasium, lyric theatre and recording studios will be renovated to provide office, laboratory and dormitory space, with the existing facilities relocated to new buildings currently under construction at the Tarana campus.
This episode should be enlightening to people who deny climate change or who suggest that its effects will be isolated to the submerging of waterfront properties at places like Glenbrook and Mudgee. The delicate balance between just three species, unicorns, Bogan moths and Wollemi Pine was broken in a single year and might take decades to recover, and only then with an extensive and expensive process of management. If the moth population had fallen to a level where it threatened the survival of the Grose Valley snapping turtle then the entire ecological food chain of eastern Australia could have been placed in danger to a point where the whole country's agricultural industry could collapse. With an economy significantly dependent on exports of bilby meat and farmed dolphin, a moth not flapping its wings in Warrimoo could lead to a tsunami wiping out the stock exchange.
People not familiar with Australia might like to estimate how long it would take to check the "facts" in this story in order to either support or disprove it. Those who believe everything told to them by quacks (and that very much includes the person who referred me to the original quack site) would have to just assume it was all true.
If anyone is interested, there is actually one real, true fact in the story and I invite people to tell me what it is. Of course, using the Fallacy of the Excluded Middle so beloved by believers in all sorts of nonsense, the presence of even the slightest amount of truth negates any amount of error and nonsense in the rest of the article.