Bee EinsteinI’m in the midst of some work and decided to take a break with a quick post on Animam Recro. On a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Mahr, the host said the following on air:

“Here’s a quote from Albert Einstein: “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.” Well, guess what? The bees are disappearing. In massive numbers. All around the world. And if you think I’m being alarmist and that, “Oh, they’ll figure out some way to pollinate the plants…” No, they’ve tried. For a lot of what we eat, only bees work. And they’re not working. They’re gone. It’s called Colony Collapse Disorder, when the hive’s inhabitants suddenly disappear, and all that’s left are a few queens and some immature workers…”

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Originally, I was going to write about how the recent disappearances of bees. No one knows where they are going or if they’re still alive. We depend on pollination work of honey bees to grow over 90 varieties of vegetables and fruits. How do we know about these missing bees? Well, many are misinformed and believe random bees just fly around and pollinate our crops. This is not the case. Bee pollination is a large industry and the import/export of bees from around the world is a large part of it. Beekeepers will travel around the country and offer their services to farmers, letting their bees fly and pollinate crops. These beekeepers soon realized that millions of their bees are disappearing.

So, Bill Mahr raises awareness about human impact on the environment as a possible cause of these disappearances. This is one issue that needs to be addressed, especially if Einstein was correct.

However, this is not the only issue that has been brought up by Bill Mahr’s statement. Being a blogger who tries to back up his facts (partly because I deal with highly controversial issues), I googled the Einstein quote to find a source. What I found instead was a series of websites, including the SNOPES forum, who are questioning the validity of the quote. No one has found an actual source to verify it yet. What can be learned from this? The psychological effect of attributing information to an authority figure as a method of persuasion. Attribute a quote to Einstein and a piece of information suddenly becomes much more believable. He was a genius after all.

But not an ecologist or botanist alive today.

Does this falsify Bill Mahr’s statement? I wouldn’t say so. Will the disappearance of bees mean the end of man? Probably not. But it goes to show how masses of people can be influenced by a meme regardless of an individual’s intention. It also offers a glimpse into the beauty and dangers of the Internet. Before the Internet it would be very difficult to discuss the statements of public figures and find relevant information in such an immediate and organized way. Yet, misinformation can spread like wildfire as well.

As far as we know, these are current media outlets using the Einstein quote without verification:

-Discovery Channel Europe -BBC Radio 2 -The Independent -The Telegraph -Der Speigel

At this point no verification of the quote has been found and major Einstein scholars are highly skeptical of its authenticity.