eHow or NoHow?

Posted by Roger Lederer   @   14 February 2013 0 comments

So I’m looking up information on the internet today and found a couple of sites that boldly stated that ducks don’t have nerves or blood vessels in their legs and that’s why they can swim in cold water. No, the reason they can swim in cold water has to do with something called “countercurrent exchange” between the blood vessels; and nerves aren’t affected by cold water. A blog by Garth and Bev states this nonsense as does the Lifestyle Lounge  , whatever that is. Even the eHow site that purports to have answers spouts this myth. Maybe it’s because the writer of that page has degrees in journalism and history. Don’t these people check facts before disseminating them? Guess not. How about the site (not eHow) that said that birds lay their eggs in a pattern and position you find them in egg cartons. That’s not even close to sensible.

Well, I got curious about the eHow site and looked up a few more pieces of bird information that they are spouting. The one about keeping European Starlings from your feeder, written by an undergraduate in journalism, has a photo of a Superb Starling of Africa. Another eHow page tells us that the official California bird is the California valley quail. And all this time I thought it was the California Quail. And then there is the eHow site on Seagulls, not gulls; but what do you expect when the author has a degree in advertising? Yet another page tells you how to take care of Killdeer eggs which require 28 days of gestation; clearly the author does not know that mammals gestate and birds incubate. And no mention of the fact it is illegal to take Killdeer eggs.

eHow tells us how birds fly but gets the important points dead wrong and the pages comparing birds and reptiles are so sketchy as to be laughable. A writer with a master’s in theology writes a bumbling article on how birds migrate and another article on Identifying Migratory Birds is all but useless.

Why are all these people with little or no knowledge or education in biology, certainly not ornithology, passing on this, excuse the term, crap? Having a degree in journalism or English and being a free-lance writer doesn’t justify writing anything without doing some homework. Now, not all eHow pages on birds are bad, but none of them, to me, are satisfactory as they lack a lot of information or give emphasis to the wrong facts.

One of the things I taught my biology students at the university was how to examine claims and critically think about statements and conclusions. And when they wrote a paper I expected them to justify their statements, facts, and conclusions. The internet seems to have give rise to a generation of writers who feel that correct spelling and grammar are sufficient; facts don’t seem to matter. That’s my humble opinion of eHow, anyway, or should I say noHow?

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