Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Intentionally misleading title?

I stumbled on the following internet news link headline/title at

Darwin's 150-year-old theory jellyfish
("Darwin's 150-year-old theory jellyfish,", 7/29/09").

Based on that title my suspicion was that the article would explain how Darwin's theory of evolution, which is 150 years old this year, is supported, or even "proved" by jellyfish.

It turns out, however, that the article is about the 50-some year old theory of Charles Darwin's grandson, also named Charles Darwin, about role wildlife plays in creating ocean currents. Here's the heart of the article:

PARIS (AFP) – Creatures large and small may play an unsuspectedly important role in the stirring of ocean waters, according to a study released Wednesday.

So-called ocean mixing entails the transfer of cold and warm waters between the equator and poles, as well as between the icy, nutrient-rich depths and the sun-soaked top layer.

It plays a crucial part in marine biodiversity and, scientists now suspect, in maintaining Earth's climate.

The notion that fish and other sea swimmers might somehow contribute significantly to currents as they moved forward was first proposed in the mid-1950s by Charles Darwin, grandson of the the legendary evolutionary biologist of the same name.

But this was dismissed by modern scientists as a fishy story.

In 1960s, experiments compared the wake turbulence created by sea creatures with overall ocean turbulence. They showed that the whirls kicked up by microscopic plankton or even fish quickly dissipated in dense, viscous water.

On this evidence, sea creatures seemed to contribute nothing to ocean mixing. The clear conclusion was that the only drivers of note were shifting winds and tides, tied to the gravitational tug-of-war within our Solar System.

But the new study, published in the British science journal Nature, goes a long way toward rehabilitating the 20th century Darwin, and uses the quiet pulse of the jellyfish to prove the case.

The scientific findings in this article have nothing to do with Darwin's 150 year old theory. I recognize that article title is different at the source, but the link title is what the reader first sees and clicks to reach the article.

My first, somewhat paranoid, reaction was to think that the article was purposefully misleading to draw readers. My second and even more paranoid reaction was that the title was intended to suggest to those that didn't read the article that new research on jellyfish has somehow strengthened the theory of evolution. Does Yahoo and/or the AFP hope to subtly prop up a controversial theory like evolution because of some socio-political or religious agenda?

Perhaps I'm overthinking this.

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