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    Trust Science - Unless You Can't Trust Science, Say Scientists
    By Hank Campbell | November 2nd 2012 12:23 PM | 9 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

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    The American Association for the Advancement of Science did something that was so obvious it was a surprise to find out they hadn't already done it - they formally came out against labeling GMO foods.

    They don't directly mention Proposition 37 in California but that is the only place where labeling counts this election. Why have a position? Well, arbitrary labeling doesn't protect anybody or even make our food more transparent since, like with Prop 37, it can simply exempt billions of dollars in organic food, restaurant food and even alcohol. Instead, labeling implies non-exempt GM food is unsafe, despite any evidence, and implies distrust of science.  Which is exactly what Prop 37 supporters and their sponsors in the magic soap and alternative medicine businesses want to accomplish, so they can sell more stuff.

    Right after AAAS did the obvious pro-science thing, the claims of black helicopters hovering overhead came out.  The anti-science crackpots at Grist alleged AAAS was bribed by Monsanto while the anti-science crackpots at Treehugger called the statement "suspicious".  Within science itself, some people say they are for it even though they don't think GMOs are harmful.  They just hate Monsanto that much and resent their evil corporation-y stuff.  How many of those scientists work for free? Zero.  They just apply an intellectual placebo to themselves and think they are more independent than corporate scientists because they get funded directly by politicians.

    Ask scientists who work on genetically engineered animals if corporate science or current administration politics is the problem in their field. “Twenty years ago, the technology was our hurdle,” Mark Westhusin, who works on GE animals at Texas A&M University in College Station, told Amy Maxmen at Nature. “Now the technology is great and the sky is the limit but good luck getting money for GE animals.”

    That's almost four years after we supposedly saved biology by slightly modifying human embryonic stem cell research funding rules - a move that was declared by science media as 'lifting a ban', though one never existed, and in reality did almost nothing.  The current administration is as anti-science as any has ever been.

    Activist scientists really have blinders on, especially when they declare they are not against GMOs, they are against corporations. Noting that it is akin to saying 'we don't deny global warming, we just deny anyone who wants to do anything about it' falls on deaf ears. In reality, they don't know anything about Monsanto or its scientists, those pro-GMO-except-they-are-anti-GMO militants went into academia because it matched their worldview and not because they love science. A belief that corporate scientists are unethical yet academics are not is silly.

    But the anti-biology community is delighted that 20 people are defying the AAAS stance on science. It's the 'myth of the oppressed underdog', like those people who claim Frankincense can cure cancer but pharmacy companies and the government are conspiring to block this knowledge out. And the open letter they drafted in response couches their beliefs in the kind of emotional hot-button language anti-science people love: AAAS is 'paternalistic'.

    Wait, banning Big Gulps, GMOs and smoking is not paternalistic but a science body saying you should not put warning labels on food that is not harmful is? Where are the science outcries for personal freedom and choice on those other issues?

    "Civilization rests on people's ability to modify plants to make them more suitable as food, feed and fiber plants and all of these modifications are genetic," AAAS wrote, and "Modern molecular genetics and the invention of large-scale DNA sequencing methods have fueled rapid advances in our knowledge of how genes work and what they do, permitting the development of new methods that allow the very precise addition of useful traits to crops, such as the ability to resist an insect pest or a viral disease, much as immunizations protect people from disease."

    In other words, science. A force for good unless we ban it before anything gets done.

    Lead signatory Patricia Hunt, Ph.D. in Reproductive Biology, of Washington State University joins a whole bunch of celebrity chefs - whose restaurants are exempt - saying GMO foods should have labels, well, just because.

    AAAS was likely also considering something only Science 2.0 had considered during the last presidential election, since the tale spun by science media during the Bush administration days was that Republicans took some sort of blood oath against science while Democrats were born being rational and super-smart and science-y, even if they were poetry majors; you can't expect people to trust the science consensus on global warming if you tell them to deny the science consensus on biology. It's as simple as that. Doing so just makes science look like an opinion.

    Every American left-wing activism group tells its members that science is on their side when it comes to global warming but scientists are out to kill us when it comes to food and energy. From the Union of Concerned Scientists to Greenpeace to Sierra Club, they are all tripping over each other to declare that 'the science is not settled' on those things. The reason is because they are not in the science business, they are in the fundraising business and they are competing for the same demographic that is both scared of biology and inclined to believe global warming caused a hurricane. That demographic also shares the social authoritarian mentality and science cluelessness of the mayor in New York City who 'paternalistically' bans Big Gulps, because people are too stupid to think for themselves, and then supports a presidential candidate because he thinks the guy can lessen hurricanes by subsidizing failed solar companies.

    Yet 20 doctors and Ph.D.s are all about freedom when it comes to the freedom to scare people about GMOs, writing "the Board’s paternalistic assertion that labeling of GM foods “can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers” is an Orwellian argument that violates the right of consumers to make informed decisions."

    Orwellian? California is the home of Orwellian and Prop 37 makes it worse, not better. It is the home of people who have tried to ban Happy Meals, goldfish and golf because people are too stupid to make those decisions - but they are somehow denied freedom if lawyers can't sue one part of the food chain over a label while exempting others?

    It is not rational because, of course, politics is not rational. The dissent of 20 people against the American Medical Association, the National Academies and every science body is just that - silly outliers engaged in politics that they wrap up in a feel-good fallacy and nothing at all to do with science. 

    Trust scientists on global warming, say scientists.  But on food they are out to kill you, say scientists. Remember that thinking the next time you wonder why the public treats modern science as just another world view.

    Comments

    "It is not rational because, of course, politics is not rational. " Practically nothing is rational. Otherwise why y'all stick around in California, " the home of Orwellian ". Yeehaw...
    Hank
    I could live anywhere but my wife likes the weather and her circle of friends.  As we both said, the world is not rational, humans are not ants, and so I live in a place where I am 'right wing' for not wanting unlimited taxes or to work primarily to subsidize government union employees and yet I was left wing for Pennsylvania.  
    Yup. It's not even politics really, it's just status. Junior high cliques, except these cliques control most of the armies and finances and media.

    Whatever the Cool People say this week is Absolute Truth, spread by plasma Telescreens, enforced by hybrid tanks and lead-free AK-47s.

    A quote from the AAAS statement:

    "Moreover, the AAAS Board said, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and “every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”"

    Hank has said over and over that the "scientific position" is pro-GMO (in the sense that it is "safe" to consume), but continues to get a lot of resistance in the comments on these articles as if that isn't the scientific position at all - even from other scientific contributors on this site.

    Whether you try to use religion, voodoo, science or rationality to get others to submit to your bidding, resistance is born. People like to do what they want to do, like smoke, drink etc regardless of what science and rationality says. There is nothing wrong in wanting to know whats going into the food. The board should not be second guessing or predicting outcomes with - "labeling of GM foods can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers” ... much less trying to force an outcome of their choice (ie keeping the "herd" calm and unalarmed). The scientists are experts in their fields and plantations. They are clueless, awkward, befuddled and lost outside of it. It would be a major mistake for anyone to drop their gut feel and follow what the eggheads say. "Trust Science - Unless You Can't Trust Scientists" is more apt title.
    Most scientists I've known (and I've known hundreds) are extremely intelligent people who excel at anything to which they put their minds. This idea that they are incompetent in everything but their narrow fields is just a stereotype. I have known a few who are probably on the autism spectrum who might fit your stereotype, but they aren't very common.

    vongehr
    Most scientists I've known (and I've known hundreds) are extremely intelligent people who excel at anything to which they put their minds.
    Yes, but they refuse to put their minds to certain topics, which is why they excel (= are selected).
    This idea that they are incompetent in everything but their narrow fields is just a stereotype.
    No, it is the truth, and it could not be any other way. It just happens to be that this is one topic you refuse to put your mind toward.
    There's no reason to not trust science. It's scientists that shouldn't be trusted.

    Non GM food should label have to label themselves more polluting (because of increased pesticide use), lower vitamin content (as they aren't increased via GE) and should labeled that they have no supporting studies for their claimed health benefits compared to GM etc. etc. etc. , then and only then should GM be required to be labelled.