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Neil deGrasse Tyson: Politicians, Stop 'Cherry-Picking Science' for Political Gain

Climate

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson participated in a Q&A panel on Monday night with doctors, mathematicians and other scientists. The panelists took questions on topics including climate change, extraterrestrial life and artificial intelligence. Tyson said it's "one of the great tragedies of modern society that we have politicians who are cherry-picking science in the interest of social, cultural, political or religious belief systems."

The astrophysicist said he does not have a problem with people believing in what they want. “But if that belief is not based on objective truths, you should not be creating legislation based on it,” Tyson said. He also believes our educational system has failed to promote scientific literacy, arguing if we had strong scientific literacy, there would be no debate as to whether climate change exists.

“If you’re trained to understand how and why science works, then the two opposite factions can have a genuine political discussion about how to react to human-induced climate change,” he said. “That’s where the debate should happen.”

Watch the full clip here:

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Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

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"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

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The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

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