Could the earth’s weakening magnetic field “kill tens to hundreds of millions of people in the next few decades,” as the YouTuber Ben Davidson (Suspicious0bservers) claims? No, says the solar physicist behind the YouTube channel, Space Weather.
In the video, “DEATH by COSMIC RAYS?,” the expert, Space Weather, debunks Ben Davidson’s (Suspicious0bservers’) outlandish claim about how the weakening of the earth’s magnetic field, “could kill tens to hundreds of millions of people in the next few decades.”
A partial transcription of some of the more important takeaways from this video can be found at the end of this blog, and I encourage readers to watch the video in its entirety for more information. But first…
@ 00:00 There has been a significant amount of misinformation presented to the public, especially on YouTube, with respect to: galactic cosmic rays and whether or not we should be afraid of them.
@ 00:11 One of the primary pushers of this, ‘you should be afraid of cosmic rays’ idea comes from Ben Davidson, also known as, ‘Suspicious0bservers.’ He has from day one been fairly staunch about declaring that: cosmic rays could kill humanity or kill a significant number of people if the earth’s magnetic field decreased in intensity.
Moving the Goalposts on a Classic Bait-and-Switch
For starters, when Space Weather points out that Ben Davidson (Suspicious0bservers) is speaking about ‘magnetic field strength’ while showing a map of magnetic field declination @ 3:53, this is just another great example of how Ben’s continually misrepresenting even the most basic things.
Talking about one thing while showing an image of another is misleading, and these are exactly the kinds of ambiguous and vague inferences that can later be changed and reasoned/argued as being meant this or that way. Vague claims and ambiguous inferences typically signal that someone’s about to use the logical fallacy known as “moving the goalposts.”
According to RationalWiki, moving the goalposts is:
“an informal logical fallacy in which previously agreed upon standards for deciding an argument are arbitrarily changed once they have been met. This is usually done by the ‘losing’ side of an argument in a desperate bid to save face. If the goalposts are moved far enough, then the standards can eventually evolve into something that cannot be met no matter what (or anything will meet said standard if the losing side is trying to meet the standard using this tactic). Usually such a tactic is spotted quickly. Often, moving the goalposts is an exercise in slothful induction” (RationalWiki 2018).
As the science journalist Peter Hadfield (Potholer54) recently found out during his “Discussion with SuspiciousObservers,” Ben Davidson (Suspcious0bservers) is a fan of not only moving the goalposts but also of the classic “bait-and-switch.” According to RationalWiki are bait-and-switch tactics used:
“in cults and other authoritarian settings to conceal doctrine from outsiders and new inductees. Since many such groups base themselves on principles that outsiders often find outlandish, such groups often choose to spoon-feed doctrine to inductees rather than letting them study it independently, in hopes that the extreme points of doctrine will be much more acceptable to the new believer after a period of
conditioningbrainwashing” (RationalWiki 2018).
Take the concept of how “such groups often choose to spoon-feed doctrine” rather than allow someone to “study it independently” and juxtapose it to what Ben Davidson (Suspicious0bservers) tried to tell Peter Hadfield (Potholer54) during their 41-minute “discussion”:
Ben @ 3:32 Now, because this is just apparently the first video in this series that you’ve commented on and it is a bit like coming into Wednesday in week nine in a seminar class, and so we’d been talking about the different phases of ice: there’s ice accumulating everywhere, there’s ice accumulating at the poles, and then there’s ice melting everywhere; those are basically the only three phases earth has.
Ben @ 13:51 No, but so, so here’s the point and let me, if I may, run you through weeks one through eight that you missed; and you can maybe tell me if something’s going wrong here. Alright, so, sooner or later, and I have actually read a couple of different things about where we are in the Milankovitch Cycles but we are not exactly in the favorable side if you want a warmer planet. Ah, we are gonna, basically from here on out we are going towards the colder period. Now, that’s not something that’s going to be playing in our lifetimes, but it is something that should be thought of when they’re talking about hundreds, thousands of years ahead of time.
Ben @ 24:10 Brother, I think that was a kind way of saying it. If you were to walk into this seminar, week nine in this video, the whole thing seems like a wild misrepresentation.
Peter @ 24:22 Oh, okay. Well that’s fine, I didn’t misread anything, so, even you would agree that [Ben interjects: No, but what you did do…but what you did was…] – sorry – even you would agree that if you just watch this video and you haven’t watched the entire series, of which most people when they watch YouTube videos, they watch videos because it has an interesting headline. They watch it and they get kind of taken in by it.
Peter @ 24:44 Now, if they hadn’t seen the previous seven they wouldn’t know what this video is saying. So, when you say, well, you know, ‘you’re misrepresenting what I said,’ actually, I’m just taking exactly what you said. Now, maybe there were a lot of thoughts behind that that you didn’t put out in the video – there were a lot of things you’d said earlier that were not in this video – that’s fine, I’m just saying that this is what you were putting out in this video which is what a lot of people would see without having seen the entire series.
Ben Davidson’s (Suspicious0bservers) tactic of using a bait-and-switch while moving the goalposts against Peter Hadfield (Potholer54) is not unlike what Lucy always does to Charlie Brown with the football.
Death by Cosmic Rays in the Next Few Decades? Nope!
Keeping these tactics in mind: it is NOT important that you view any and every video by Ben Davidson (Suspicious0bservers) about the earth’s magnetic field to understand the points being made the video “DEATH by COSMIC RAYS?”
Important point @ 11:29 “It is seriously flawed, and simplistic reasoning, to assume that a doubling in measured beryllium-10 is caused by a doubling in cosmic ray intensity…”
@ 19:58 If the earth’s magnetic field decreased by 50%, to this value here, the total biological radiation dose we would receive would increase to 0.42 millisieverts per year. According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a fatal dose of radiation needs to be around 4,000 millisieverts; that results in about a 90% chance of death.
@ 20:20 If we pull up our calculator here *number crunching* it would take about 9,500 years to accumulate a dose that could kill you just based on cosmic ray radiation at 0.43 millisieverts per year. Now contrast that with what Ben Davidson has been telling people since at least 2014, by the thousands:
Voice-over of Ben Davidson @ 20:47 “In 2014, we drove around the country to meet many of you, discuss and share information about the thing that concerns us most. 41 states, four provinces and tens of thousands of miles later: we have met thousands of you, seen some amazing things and seen some amazing places. ‘So we’ve lost about 15 to 20 percent of the magnetosphere right now, if we get down to 50% we can’t…we can’t do this *hand-waving*.’”
@ 21:16 Since 2014 he has been fear mongering about cosmic rays and about the effects that it might have if the earth’s magnetosphere dropped to ‘even just 50%’ of its current value. He’s been harping on this, to the present day, and he’s claimed: tens of millions of lives could be lost because of this.
@ 21:36 Voice-over of Ben Davidson saying: “I guess I’ll preface this by saying, ‘could kill tens to hundreds of millions of people in the next few decades.’”
@ 21:42 Without any justification and his business has undoubtedly benefited very well from this, fear sells. Chances of you dying from cosmic rays is pretty slim unless you’re going to live 9,000 years…I’d worry about other things.
@ 21:56 Even if you consider a magnetic moment of 0%, so in other words if the earth’s magnetic field completely disappeared: the dose of radiation, from all of the cosmic rays and the secondary particles that reach the earth, would only be 0.65 millisieverts per year and if we do the math on that *number crunching* then it would take 6,000 years to kill you. Now you understand why I get upset when I hear people make completely unqualified statements like Ben has done, and continues to do.
@ 22:32 The only way he can benefit from this is if he can convince people that this sort of catastrophe could happen within their lifetimes. That’s why he said, within the little snippet that I did before, ‘that tens of hundreds of millions of people could die within the next few decades,’ he thinks it could happen within the next few decades.
@ 28:12 If you’re worried about radioactivity and the influence of radiation of in your life, in other words: if you believe anything that Ben Davidson’s been saying about cosmic rays then you should be 10 times more worried about radon gas. Because the influence of radon gas – dosage wise – is 10 times higher (at least) than cosmic rays.
28:35 The EPA estimates that about 21,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year in the US because of radon. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. And for ‘never smokers’ it is the leading cause of lung cancer.
@ 29:05 Start worrying about things that really matter, rather than listening to people who pretend to know science and are misleading you into fearful situations that you really don’t need to worry about.
If that ain’t the truth, I don’t know what is. Be sure to check back soon for a new blog article!
Davidson, Ben. “Cosmic Rays During Last Reversal | S0 News Mar.24.2018.” YouTube: March 24, 2018. Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m39tbYf5SoA
Davidson, Ben. “Energy from Space | The Shift Has Begun.” YouTube: February 27, 2018. Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsqZJP54shg
Hadfield, Peter. “Discussion with SuspiciousObservers.” YouTube: April 03, 2018. Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttmQbCeSQAg&t=3s
MacIntosh, Rachael L. “Ben Davidson: MILLIONS Will Die as Magnetic Field Weakens.” YouTube: March 23, 2017. Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ovGVNEgKqaw
Space Weather. “DEATH by COSMIC RAYS?” YouTube: April 01, 2018. Website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htxGISxQO2M&t=1348s
The Rational Media Foundation. “Bait-and-switch.” RationalWiki: March 05, 2018. Website: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Bait-and-switch
The Rational Media Foundation. “Moving the goalposts.” RationalWiki: March 12, 2018. Website: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Moving_the_goalposts