Ever since I first started writing about antivaccine conspiracy theorists (but I repeat myself) back in 2005, it’s always been assumed by many who combat this particularly pernicious and dangerous form of quackery that antivaccine views tend to be more predominant on the political left compared to the political right. I used to believe that as well, but over the last few of years have questioned this bit of “conventional wisdom.” At the time, I based my questioning of the thesis that antivaccine views are more common among those whose politics lean left than among those whose politics lean right on my own experience combatting antivaccine views in the cranksophere, where I found quite a few far right Libertarians adopting rabidly antivaccine stances. This conventional wisdom that antivaccine views are more common on the left than right has also been frequently used as a shibboleth to attack critics of right wing science denialism, particularly when it comes to anthropogenic global climate change, as in, “But the left has science denialists, too—just look at the antivaccine movement!”
There’s just one problem. As I have said time and time again, antivaccinationism appears to be the quackery that is knows no political boundaries. There is quite a bit of right wing anti-vaccinationism; indeed, it’s part and parcel of the “health freedom” movement promoted by General Bert Stubblebine III and Rima Laibow. If you peruse their Natural Solutions Foundation website, you’ll soon see that their big issues are “forced vaccination,” “food freedom,” and the promotion of nutrition as a cure-all. Much of the material on such pages would not be out of place on a steriotypical left-wing New Age, alt-med website. Then the Canary Party, which was formed primarily as an antivaccine group, teamed up with the Tea Party in California to oppose vaccine mandates, which couldn’t have happened unless there was considerable common ground, while the Republican Party in Texas put a “vaccine choice” plank in its platform last year. The final straw is that Mike Adams, that quack who also loves him some right wing conspiratorial politics on the extreme fringe of the Libertarian movement, endorsed the Canary Party. Basically, I came to realize that there are a lot of right-wingers who are antivaccine, generally the Libertarian variety of right-wingers. Indeed, it’s worth reiterating that the entire “health freedom” movement tends to be more affiliated with right wing politics than left wing politics.
So what does drive antiscience views, like antivaccinationism, anti-genetically modified organisms (GMO), and anthropogenic global warming (AGW) denialism? Chris Mooney turned me on to a new study by University of Bristol psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues in the PLoS ONE, which concludes that it’s not so much politics as belief in various conspiracy theories that is correlated most strongly with antivaccine views and various other anti-science views. Is he correct? Maybe. Let’s, as we say, “go to the tape.” (OK, let’s go to the study.)
Basically, Lewandowsky carried out a survey in which he attempted to examine correlations between conspiratorial thinking and belief in conspiracy theories with three major forms of antiscientific belief systems: Antivaccinationism, anti-GMO, and AGW denialism. The three potential predictors of these anti-science views that they chose to examine were endorsement of the free market, conservatism-liberalism, and conspiracist ideation. Lewandowsky and colleagues approached the question by undertaking an online survey of 1,001 Americans, which asked them a variety of questions about conspiracy theories. The survey also asked questions about vaccines, climate change, and foods made from GMOs. The subjects were recruited through electronic invitations by Qualtrics.com, characterized by the investigators as a firm that specializes in representative internet surveys. Participants were drawn from a bipartisan panel of more than 5.5 million U.S. residents (as of January 2013) and weighted to assure a representative sample. The panel comes from USamp.com and is described here. I must admit, this part of the methodology made me a little skeptical, because I’m always skeptical of research using panels that are maintained by private companies. On the other hand, this is a strategy to find a large number of representative people and administer a survey at low expense, given that it was done online and the subjects were recruited electronically.
The survey itself contained 39 items in addition to queries of age and gender, as well as what is referred to as an attention filter question (i.e., a question whose answer tells investigators whether the respondent was paying attention or not). The questions were rated on a 5-point rating scale: “1 = ‘Strongly Disagree’, 2 = ‘Disagree’, 3 = ‘Neutral’, 4 = ‘Agree’, and 5 = ‘Strongly Agree.” There were five items designed for the study but, according to Lewandowsky “derived from relevant precedents.” The two articles he cited for this included an article on the anatomy of motivated rejection of science and an article on the role of consensus in science. I didn’t really see much about vaccines in either article, both articles being far more about climate science denialism than any other form of denialism; so I don’t really see evidence that the questions chosen regarding vaccines have been validated in other studies.
Let’s examine what Lewandowsky found before I go back and look at the specific questions. He sets up the issue thusly:
First, it is unknown how worldviews shape people’s opinions about other controversial scientific issues, such as genetically-modified (GM) foods and childhood vaccinations, both of which have attracted considerable opposition. A better understanding of the role of worldview vis-á-vis those issues is important not only in its own right but also because it can triangulate the reasons why climate science has become so ideologically disputed. For example, if fear of government regulation of businesses were the sole factor underlying Conservatives’ opposition to climate science , then one would expect them to embrace GM foods, like other new technologies , because of the associated business opportunities. If Conservatives were found to oppose GM foods, by contrast, this would point towards a more general opposition to science that transcends pragmatic considerations. Although media reports have implicated the political Left in the opposition to GM foods , , European surveys have variously associated GM-food rejection with the extreme political Right  as well as the political Left . We are not aware of any equivalent peer-reviewed research in the U.S. A similar ambiguity arises with respect to vaccinations. Media reports have ascribed an anti-vaccine stance to the political Left , largely based on the political leanings of spokespersons. By contrast, research has linked opposition to mandatory human-papillomavirus (HPV) immunizations against cervical cancer to free-market and individualistic worldviews , perhaps reflecting fears of government intrusion into parental sovereignty. Likewise, social conservatives have taken a contrarian stance because HPV is transmitted primarily through sexual contact, thereby associating vaccinations with potential promiscuity . To resolve these ambiguities, we examined the role of worldviews in determining the American public’s attitudes towards GM foods and vaccinations using established measures of worldviews in a representative survey.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s “unknown” how world views shape people’s opinions regarding controversial scientific issues. There’s been a lot of research done in this area, and there are some commonalities. However, I’ll let that one slide. As I said in the beginning, conventional wisdom ascribes opposition to GMOs and antivaccine beliefs to the political left and climate change denialism to the political right. The latter is undeniably true; the first is almost certainly false, as I’ve discussed before, and the middle (anti-GMO) is not so clear-cut, as there is considerable right wing resistance to GMOs.
Whatever the case, the survey indicated no correlation between political views and anti-vaccine views, but a correlation between free market world views and rejection of science with regulatory implications, such as climate science. However, far stronger was a correlation between conspiratorial thinking and antivaccine views, climate change denialism, and anti-GMO beliefs. The correlation was strongest for antivaccine views and progressively less so for climate change denialism and and anti-GMO. Actually, I’m more than a bit unconvinced by these results. Well, not quite. The correlation co-efficient for the correlation between conspiratorial thinking and antivaccine beliefs was 0.52, which for social sciences is pretty high. However, for climate change denial and GMO resistance, the correlation co-efficients were much lower, 0.09 and 0.13, respectively. Quite frankly, such puny correlations do not impress me in the least, although the correlation between antivaccine views and conspiratorial thinking is convincing. What I find less convincing are the questions used:
- I believe that vaccines are a safe and reliable way to help avert the spread of preventable diseases.
- I believe that vaccines have negative side effects that outweigh the benefits of vaccination for children.
- Vaccines are thoroughly tested in the laboratory and wouldn’t be made available to the public unless it was known that they are safe.
- The risk of vaccinations to maim and kill children outweighs their health benefits.
- Vaccinations are one of the most significant contributions to public health.
Huh? I’m surprised Mooney didn’t notice the problems with these questions.
Let’s just put it this way. At least two of these questions suggest to me ignorance of what the antivaccine movement is about. How on earth could Lewandowsky not include one question about the single most pervasive belief among antivaccinationists about what they view to be the chief harm of vaccines: Autism. Seriously. It’s like asking about the JFK assassination and not mentioning the belief that there was a second gunman. It’s a huge, gaping hole in the question list that ignores perhaps the single most important belief that defines an antivaccinationist: That vaccines cause autism. Lewandowsky also completely ignores a couple of other key beliefs of antivaccinationists. One is the belief that, while vaccines are safe and effective for most children, there is a subset of children with a genetic susceptibility to vaccine injury. Indeed, some antivaccinationists might actually agree with the first statement (mostly) enough not to answer no or to answer somewhere equivocally, while those who are pro-vaccine might not give a “strongly agree” answer to #1. Question #4 is also just plain bizarre. Antivaccinationists don’t claim that vaccines “maim” children. “Maim” implies a physical, disfiguring harm. What antivaccinationists believe is that vaccines cause autism and a host of chronic health problems, not that they “maim” children. It’s as though Lewandosky has never done a study looking at antivaccine views before, and—surprise!—when I searched PubMed for his name plus the term “vaccine,” it turns out that he hasn’t.
On the other hand, one finding that rings true is that the relationship between antivaccine views and politics is probably more complex than a simple left-right dichotomy. Mooney actually describes it quite well in an interview with Lewandowsky:
The new study also has some fascinating implications for the longstanding battle over who’s worse when it comes to distorting science: The left, or the right. Addressing this issue was a key motivation behind the research, and the basic upshot is that left-wing science denial was nowhere to be found—at least not in the sense that left-wingers reject established science more frequently than right-wingers on issues like GMOs or vaccines. “I chose GM foods and vaccinations based on the intuition in the media that this is a left wing thing,” Lewandowsky explains. “And as it turns out, I didn’t find a lot of evidence for that.”
When it comes to GM foods, Lewandowsky found no association between left-right political orientation and distrust of these foods’ safety in his American sample. When it comes to vaccines, meanwhile, the study found that two separate political factors seemed to be involved in vaccine resistance, leading to a complex stew. “There’s some evidence that progressives are rejecting vaccinations, but equally there is an association between libertarianism and the rejection of vaccinations,” Lewandowsky explains. Lefties presumably do it because they’re anti-corporate, and Big Pharma is involved in the vaccine business; libertarians presumably do it because they’re anti-government, and the anti-vaccine movement has long levied dubious charges that the government (the CDC in particular) has been hiding the truth on this matter.
One aspect Lewandowsky didn’t look at is the relationship between education level and income and antivaccine views. It’s long been known that antivaccine views correlate with income and, to a lesser extent, education, a relationship that is thought to be due to how much better affluent, successful people are at motivated reasoning. I’m also not sure how to take this study. Of course, anyone who’s studied the antivaccine movement, even as just a blogger taking a close interest in it as I have, knows that conspiratorial thinking is very common among the antivaccine fringe. All one has to do is to read a few antivaccine websites to see it; Age of Autism, The Thinking Moms’ Revolution, and SaneVax, for example, are rife with conspiracy theories involving the CDC, big pharma, and, of course, the medical profession, in particular the American Academy of Pediatrics. So, even given the shortcomings of Lewandowsky’s study, I think it probably is mostly correct when it comes to finding a link between conspiratorial thinking. What surprised me, though, is how weak the link Lewandowsky found between conspiratorial thinking and anti-GMO beliefs and climate change denialism. Anyone who’s perused the websites and read the arguments of the anti-GMO and climate denial crowd knows, there’s plenty of conspiracy mongering going on in these groups too. It makes me wonder about the generalizability of this study, although it’s hard to argue with this:
What is the relationship between our two principal predictors, worldviews and conspiracist ideation? Our main SEM model showed a negative association between conspiracy theorizing and conservatism (as well as with free-market endorsement), suggesting that conspiratorial thinking is more prevalent on the political left than the right. This association is not without related precedent , but it is also not universal: The reverse association has also been found, whereby conspiratorial belief was linked to right-wing authoritarianism . The directional lability of the association with political views may arise because some specific conspiracies are favored among the political left (e.g., that 9/11 was “an inside job”) whereas others (e.g., that President Obama was not born in the United States) are favored among the political right . Depending on the balance of test items, different studies may thus yield associations with political orientation that are of different polarity. We suggest that it would be premature to tie conspiracist ideation firmly to one side of politics or the other, and that this issue awaits adjudication by further systematic research.
Despite its shortcomings with respect to questions that key in on the key beliefs at the heart of the antivaccine movement that made this study strike me as a bit of a missed opportunity, I do think that it nonetheless manages to strike a chord of truth, at least with respect to the antivaccine movement. Conspiracy-mindedness does to me seem to overrule politics when it comes to this particularly harmful pseudoscience.
124 replies on “Antivaccine quackery, anti-GMO pseudoscience, and climate change denialism: Is there a connection other than crank magnetism?”
Hmmm, interesting. I wonder though what the researchers would make of people like me who are opposed to GM, not on scientific grounds (or rather, on anti-science or pseudo-science grounds) but because of economic, political and ethical objections to attempts by companies to patent the biosphere?
Could it be simple contrarianism?
Maybe they’ll swing back to the left when the Republicans are in power again.
This is so typical – try and associate anti-GMO positions with pseudo-science to try and discredit or minimalize the issue. Despite all the lies and marketing hype there are valid concerns with GMO’s that are scientifically grounded.
For example, creating a strain of corn that is resistant to insecticides FORCES bugs to adapt and become resistant to it (think Monsanto and RoundUp). This is happening TODAY, and much faster than we thought. And that does not even address their practice of forcing farmers to re-purchase seed and insecticide every year and suing them into compliance.
GMO’s have much more to address than ‘is it safe to eat?’ They have to ask if the pesticides are safe (they aren’t), if the practice is sustainable (it isn’t)!and if it is affordable to most farmers (it’s not).
If Monsanto really wanted to make a GMO that is useful then they would figure out how to re-enable a plant’s natural defenses against outside invaders so we would not need pesticides at all. Yes, I recently learned that there are dormant defenses that corn and other plants we farm used to have. We protected the plants so it was not necessary to defend themselves, and they stopped producing it.
The vast majority of anti-GMO positions are pseudoscience. The comparison to antivaccinationism is more than apt:
The author is in denial. The models used to predict climate are unable to do so. The hallmark of good science is predictability.
My experience–completely anecdotally, I know–is that those who deny the science (let’s leave non-pseudoscience-based ethical issues of GMOs out for now) of these “controversies” do tend to cling to conspiracy theories, but also tend to harbor an entirely “you can’t tell me what to do!” attitude.
Whether it be a governing body (CDC, AAP, WHO, the Feds, NYS) or just a large group (a corporation? Why, a large group who wants to make money could never be anything but EVIL) or anything mainstream (oh, of course you’d believe that, they’ve tricked everyone into being sheeple! They won’t get me!) there are some people who just insist on being contrary. Conspiracy theories give them that out to question authority and consensus, no matter how ridiculous and unsupported it is. Nobody is going to tell them what to do, add in a dash of undeserved hurbis (they are not smarter than I am!) and then we’re through the looking glass. See! This is on paper! Someone wrote about it! Other people think like I do and you can’t control us! Conspiracry theories allow them to be masters of their domains, sitting around wanking out nonsense that makes them feel good and like they have the one up on everyone else.
I am afraid VT is now leading the US in handing the keys of the medical profession to naturopaths. They can now prescribe most drugs. Why don’t we just let them do major surgery?
Which climate science has gotten pretty good at.
What’s wrong? Don’t like being compared to antivaccinationists? Sadly, it’s an apt comparison.
Which has nothing to do with this post, one notes.
Having attempted to reason with anti-GMOers on numerous occasions, I can vouch for their heavy leanings toward both pseudoscience (including the widely debunked Seralini rate study and the even more laughably bad “pig inflammation” study) and conspiratorial thinking.
As for conspiracies, it’s the usual toxic stew of alleged government coverups, scientists bought and paid for (except the few whose anti-GMO conclusions are praised)* and Monsanto manipulating everything behind the scenes.
The most virulent anti-GMOers are also in my experience the most likely to reject vaccines and promote nonsense about chemtrails, water fluoridation, aspartame etc. This crank magnetism plus the tactics used to shout down opponents are extremely similar to what we encounter with the antivax movement. In addition, the failure of “responsible” anti-GMOers to criticize pseudoscience and the activities of their flakier allies (like vandalism of GM test fields) is quite reminiscent of antivaxers who can’t bring themselves to criticize the Geiers’ chemical castration clinics or the use of bleach enemas on autistic children.
Eric Lorson needs to educate himself about the widespread development of pesticide resistance and the long-standing practice of patenting seed strains which both antedate the introduction of GMOs, as well as the other tropes which anti-GMOers keep repeating despite convincing rebuttals.
I guess I don’t feel as strongly about this as you do but I don’t think that this question is worded poorly. It appears to me as though autism would come to mind if that was a respondent’s persuasion and it’s better to have a question that would capture the most anti-vaxxers given that not all anti-vaxxers believe vaccines cause autism. The questions also strike me as those one would see on an “integrity test”, i.e. asking basically the same question but in a different way.
I’d have to disagree with this, just anecdotally, I had recollections of seeing hyperbolic comments from a plethora of sites that did use the terminology of “maim”. Please remember that they (anti-vaxxers) love to engage in histrionics (not to mention a poor grasp of grammar demonstrated by the average anti-vaxxer) so it’s not at unusual to see this abuse of language. Out of curiosity I did a search and, surprise! Look what I came up with for a sample: http://drrimatruthreports.com/5-big-lies-drugs-vaccine/
@3 Eric Lorson
RoundUp is herbicide, not insecticide. Are you sure you know the actual science about GMOs?
Regarding Sarah´s and Eric Lorson´s comments:
Your arguments have nothing directly to do with GMOs and that is where the pseudoscience begins. Genetic modification is a process in which genes are directly introduced into the genome – not more, not less – while in classical breeding these changes were more random and triggered by radiation, chemicals, cross-breeding with related species or simply by waiting and hoping that something good might happen by itself.
The reasons against GMOs that you mention can also be applied to plants that have been created the old fasion way, e.g. farmers have to re-purchase seeds every year also for non-GMO hybrid varieties (which are sterile) and they do it because even with this extra costs the yield is much higher than with non-hybrids.So, this is not something caused by using GMOs. Another example Eric gave were pesticides. Yes, they can be harmful, especially when applied incorrectly, but pesticides are used with GMO and non-GMO plants alike, so why do you give this as an example only against GMOs? And, as I mentioned, genetic modification is a method, it is not a company, it is not Monsanto. That a big company might abuse its power and position is bad but has nothing to do with GMOs, Big business can (and often does) so with every product, including classically bred plant varieties.
So, if you treat GMOs as if they are something completely different from the organisms that were bred in the past and then equal GMO = Monsanto, then yes, you fall into the trap of pseudoscience.
Although the 3 overlap in some cirlces, antivaccination and anti-GMO are not comparable to AGW “denialism.” (I hate the connotation of denialism btw because it reminds me of Holocaust denialism, a completely unrelated issue). I prefer the word skeptic.
The safety of vaccines and GMOs do not depend on complicated computer models. They are different types of science.
I was about to point that out myself. Remember that farmer who was oh-so-unjustly sued by Monsanto for growing their GMO soya without paying for the seed? He only discovered he had Monsanto’s soya accidentally growing on the edge of one of his fields because he regularly sprayed with Roundup and those plants were the only ones left standing.
My own experience is that people with “rationalist” thinking are only a minority. Most people are “scientists”, believing in the religion of “progress”, or ‘authority”, whereas on the contrary others are “anti-science” either because they are reluctant to changes (conservative) or systematically against any form of authority. Therefore there is some connection to political views, but not in a way that easily separate left from right. And the climate change issue is even more complicated, as it relates to the influence of lobbies.
The subject matter of the survey ,specifically the climate change assumption, would indicate that the results came before the survey..
Wpapke @5 — The claim that climate models have no predictive power is a gross overstatement. They’ve done very well at explaining the general upward trend from CO2, and they’ve also shown that they can faithfully reproduce the effects of real-world forcings (for example, the aerosols from Pinatubo).
The claim that the models fail is usually motivated by the fact that the models did not anticipate the so-called “pause” in the rate of warming over the last 15 years or so (calling it a “pause” is already an exaggeration, since it depends on choosing the exceptionally warm year 1998 as a starting point). But there are good reasons to think that this “pause” is due to unpredictable fluctuations, most importantly La Nina events in the Pacific, as well as minor variations in the solar luminosity. Human aerosol pollution may have suppressed the warming a bit also. Foster and Rahmstorf showed that this explanation holds up quantitatively :
Climate models do not predict these stochastic fluctuations, and the modelers don’t claim that they do. So you’re criticizing the models for failing to do something that no one claimed that they would.
There’s really no serious doubt at this point about the general picture – the world’s climate is heating very rapidly by historical standards, and anthropogenic CO2 is the main cause of this. This is likely to be very disruptive to our civilization. Believe it or not, hardly anybody thinks this is a good thing, but there it is.
Daniel [email protected]:
Is the scare-quote “scientists” supposed to mean what it usually does — roughly speaking, people actively doing scientific research — of does it mean people whose beliefs are characterized (in some quarters) as ‘scientism’, i.e., a belief in material causes that is usually considered overly dogmatic by the person using the term?
Because if it’s the former, my experience is that scientists usually just want to get at the truth and discover interesting and possibly useful things. Some scientists may be motivated by a quasi-religious belief in ‘progress’ and ‘authority’, as you put it, but most are just grappling with the challenges of their work and not impressed by philosophical generalizations.
Speaking about denialism and crank magnetism, I wonder about the underlying psychological/ demographic characteristics that predispose a person to following that thorny, twisted path. There are already some studies about that we’ve seen about a lack of cognitive complexity et al.
From my own observations of woo-topia, I have questions-
– those who accept the conspiracy theory that denies SBM findings ( e.g. anti-vax) constantly harp about how untrustworthy standard sources are ( physicians, governmental agencies, the media) BUT
they are able somehow to gleefully accept *without questioning* any woo-meister, slinking mom or Andy who presents their woo in a friendly manner. What up with that?
( -btw- there was a small focus group in the UK, spoken of by Jon Brock of Cracking the Enigma, that showed that parents were more likely to accept vaccine information from other parents than from “experts”.)
What makes some informational sources *more* trustworthy to them?
– Amongst the alt media I survey, there is an effort to couch their words in a way that appeals to both ends of the political spectrum- no mean feat-
thus there is an amalgamated portmanteau – a “progressive libertarianism” ( not my words, see PRN), similarly, Mikey attempts to speak to “health freedom”-ites ( libertarians) whilst not scaring away the more liberally-bent crunchy, earth mothers and Gaia worshippers who value natural products. Obviously these guys don’t discriminate against anyone’s money.
Similarly some anti-vaxxers speak of health freedom and against governmental control BUT still press for governmental recognition, research, monetary assistance and retribution for the “crimes” that they’ve witnessed.
Thinking this over, the common factor that both positions can be “got to” through is naturalism- that no one interferes with the purity either of foods or children’s bodies. Governments, professionals and industries can all be culprits while moms can rescue their children from their snares. Or declare a revolution or somethin.
I am sorry, I made a gallicism. Actually I used scientist as a translation of “scientiste” in french, which means adherent to science as a religion. In french, the term for research scientist is “scientifique”, which is quite different.
I’ve been receiving articles from “Nation of Change” for some years, and they are usually all over the topic of GMOs, with all the reasons to be anti-GMO. Here’s an example: http://www.nationofchange.org/engineering-more-information-consumers-1380727682
They’ve pretty much got me convinced, for the same reasons that Sarah and Eric give above, to be anti-GMO along with them, because Monsanto saw a way to corner a market and make huge profits without testing whether it was safe for human consumption.
To be fair, I’ve recently seen articles there written by Mercola and Mike Adams, and since then, I haven’t given Nation of Change the credence that I used to. I will also admit that I only had 2 yrs of college, never made more than 25G a yr, and I just don’t know. That said, though I’ve always liked corn, I’m not buying it anymore, and try to limit my intake of high fructose corn syrup.
Antivaccination and anti-GMO fears are deeply rooted in the naturalistic fallacy.
Anthropogenic climate change skepticism is not.
As a side note, it seems that lately Mike Adams denies AGW whilst Null predicts that soon it will speed up and we coastal folk are done for ( move to the interior, start up an organic farm, get off the grid, barter and trade, ad nauseum)
Two different ways to thumb their nose at authorities:
the former gives the finger to climate scientists and government experts and the latter, curses the industries that caused it and the governments that allowed them to destroy our fair planet FOR PROFIT.
HOWEVER both vehemently despise vaccines, pharma, GMOs and governmental regulation about who gets to play doctor and how supplements are advertised.
Oh and both hate taxes.
Heh. Every place I’ve seen this article discussed the comments have drawn CTers like flies. They first say “am not” and then offer a conspiracy theory. Sigh.
And the flailing is funny to watch, but it’s also sad. As the author advised on Chris Mooney’s piece about this paper:
Ya gotta write off the CTers. I mean, I could give people a paper that shows who has more patents on “life” than Monsanto–including the Univ. of California system and the US Government–but that won’t matter one bit.
(For the persuadable, that article is: Not quite a myriad of gene patents.)
I tend to view conspiracy theories as a self-protective psychological mechanism- in other words, a way to deal with uncomfortable emotions like fear and uncertainty. Self-soothing, self-talk , a parental substitute for frightened adults. Alt med is rife** with it.
** hope you like my choice of a verb.
@ Clay (#21)
And that´s the fallacy, rejecting genetic modification because you don´t like Monsanto is like rejecting computer programming because you don´t like the business practises of Apple.
As a disclaimer, I worked with GMOs in my research and I worked in projects with plant breeding companies who did research on GMOs as well, but neither I nor these companies have anything to do with Monsanto. There is plenty of research on and application of GMOs out there and rejecting the whole technique and all aspects of GMOs on the basis that one company abuses its market position is plain stupid.
I hate the connotation of denialism btw because it reminds me of Holocaust denialism, a completely unrelated issue
If AGW happens, millions of people will die, because we won’t be able to continue growing the amount of food we need in the places where food is usually grown today, resulting in food shortages. Some areas, such as Kansas, will become too hot or too dry. (A much smaller climate shift of this kind did for the Anasazi in the American Southwest around 800 years ago.) Other places, like the Ganges Delta in Bangladesh, will be lost to rising sea levels. If we had a millennium to adapt to these climate shifts, we’d have a chance of pulling it off, but paleoclimate data strongly suggest that we may not have that long, and the climate models agree–they give us less than a century.
There are a lot of details to climate modeling, but the basic principle is conservation of energy: if the rate at which the Earth absorbs solar radiation exceeds the rate at which it radiates energy back into space, the temperature of the Earth will go up until these rates are again in balance. (The rate at which the Earth radiates scales as the fourth power of the absolute temperature, so it is possible to reach a new equilibrium–but not necessarily one that we would like.) Certain gases, carbon dioxide among them, reduce the rate at which the Earth radiates energy into space by absorbing radiation within the range of wavelengths that the Earth radiates. Arrhenius knew this by 1896. The real Earth has various feedback processes which affect the details, some amplifying it, others diminishing it. To the extent that scientists have been wrong about climate change, they have generally been underestimating the influence of amplifying feedback and overestimating the influence of diminishing feedback, so the problem actually is worse than was thought 20 years ago.
UH… that should be ‘choice of an ADJECTIVE’
So here are parts of a comment from the MJ article (note I have deleted some phrases, marked as usual with …., and have added paragraphs for legibility)
I checked my anti-vax bingo card, she definitely has a full house.
The Holocaust was genocide that happened in the past.AGW is alarmist speculation about the future based on computer models. Comparing those two is offensive.
POLITICIANS HAVE TO SAVE US OR THE SKY IS GOING TO FALL
In a century every person commenting on this thread will be dead.
Think about how long 100 years is. 100 years ago was the very beginning of refridgeration and the airplane. People are comparing global warming to the Holocaust, but we have no idea what the future is going to bring with technology. This alarmist speculation about millions of people dying because of an event that happens slowly over a century is unbelievable (literally).
I have a documentary I’d like you to watch about global warming projections. It sums up my feelings quite nicely.
Yes, because no one here has children and/or gives a flip about them.
I’ve been a long lurker here and am glad to finally be posting.
I’m a recent transplant to Austin, TX from Seattle, WA, and also spent some time in my youth in San Diego, CA, so I know woo unfortunately.
I wonder how much of this anti-science stance comes from people feeling powerless and needing a sense of control. In my opinion, most of the hard core anti-vax people are either stay-at-home moms or struggling working-class libertarian types.
I’m a working mother, but a common thread with many of my stay-at -home mom friends is that even if they are very happy with their role they often feel unappreciated and overwhelmed. While most of these friends aren’t anti-science I think that for some the appeal is that it’s empowering to be a “mommy warrior”. Most of these types are also “lactivists” and militant attachment parents. It’s a lot better than just being an unpaid, exhausted care-taker to a tiny, demanding person.
Likewise, working class people are seeing their livelihoods go overseas and being replaced by cheap labor at home. They are feeling frightened and vulnerable. Battling against evil government-mandated science offers a much more appealing narrative to their struggles.
Just a thought.
Delysid: “…complicated computer models…”
Climate is complicated, therefore climate models are complicated. Simple models are wrong. Or perhaps by “complicated” you really mean “I don’t understand these models”?
Further, the models in use are not pure mathematical abstractions but calibrated against hard data. No, they can’t be perfect but they’re pretty good.
And what have you got against computers? One thing they do well is make complicated models effective models. Another thing they do well is to help you submit blog comments.
My understanding is that GM varieties are tested in exactly the same way that varieties resulting from ‘tradition’ genetic manipulations (crossbreeding and hybridization, etc.0 have always been tested (long term multi-generational feeding studies in animals, for example.)
And because Delysid does not understand these models, they must be wrong! Also, if you think vaccine safety and epidemiology aren’t also based on complicated models, you’re fooling yourself.
What is it rooted in then, Delysid? The IPCC has factually established that a) mean global temperature has increased unprecedentedly since 1979, b) that neither natural nor anthropogenic factors alone are sufficient to account for the observed rise, and c) that radiative forcing due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases has been a, if not the most, significant driver of this rise.
So what exactly supports skepticism, other than paranoid conspiracy theories?
This alarmist speculation about millions of people dying because of an event that happens slowly over a century is unbelievable (literally).
You are, quite literally, falling into the argument from credulity trap. Just because it will take a century or so for the full effects to be felt doesn’t mean that we won’t start to feel some of those effects sooner. On the contrary, one can argue that we are already starting to feel the effects.
Remember the Arab Spring of a year and a half ago? That happened largely because food prices rose to the point where ordinary people in that part of the world could not afford to feed their families. One of the effects of a warmed climate is that droughts and flooding are more likely to occur, with impacts to the global food supply (the price spike which precipitated the Arab Spring followed a severe drought in Russia and severe flooding in Thailand, which sharply reduced world availability of wheat and rice, respectively). Food shortages in Pakistan haven’t been severe enough yet to create a problem, but Pakistan has had severe crop losses due to monsoon flooding for four years in a row now, which has likely exhausted their food reserves. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and a historic/prospective enemy (India, which also has nukes) on which to use them, if the government either feels they need a distraction or falls to extremists who are willing to use them.
So it’s not just the concern for the children (as Shay pointed out). I happen to not have any. However, as things now stand I can expect to live another 30-40 years. I have zero confidence that nasty stuff won’t start happening in my lifetime. I hope it doesn’t, of course, but hope is not a plan.
You’re right–we have NO idea. Therefore it’s completely irrational to presume that the future offer technology capable of offestting adverse consequences of climate change, and we should begin doing all we can with the resources we have right now to address it.
#15 … that’s not the case in which the farmer then used those roundup-ready plants to take the seeds from, after he knew they were GMOs, and then used those seeds to plant his field, knowingly in violation of the company’s patent, is it?
Or am I thinking of a different case?
With GMOs I worry more about the patent stuff than anything. That could well be abused, and arguably, has been.
I’m not against computers. Nice try with portraying me as a Luddite. I’m the exact opposite.
Yes, the IPCC. No sensible person would criticize anything about their ‘findings,’ right? How could a “science” organization led by an ECONOMIST report anything besides undeniable truth?
Ah, so this is what you tell yourself to avoid actually reading the report and engaging with the evidence.
With GMOs I worry more about the patent stuff than anything. That could well be abused, and arguably, has been.
Which is a legitimate reason to oppose the current patent system, and to work to change it. It doesn’t strike me as a reason to oppose GMOs.
I loved this header from the RationalWiki article on crank magnetism: “A Randroid, a creationist, an anti-vaxxer, and a conspiracy theorist walk into a bar. He orders a drink.”
OMG: What if innocent children were actually were exposed to monstrous foods that contained an abnormal number of genes, or even an abnormal association of chromosomes?
Can you imagine the carnage if we ate, say, foods that contained three copies of each chromosome rather than two? Think of Down syndrome! Think of , say, apples, bananas, and watermelon.
What if there were FOUR copies of each chromosome, rather than two! Ack! That makes me think of two-headed monsters, and of wheat, potato, leeks, and peanuts. But what if there were SIX chromosomes where plants were meant to have only two? I’m talking real monstrosities here, like oats and triticale. Don’t even get me started on genetically-modified octaploid crops like strawberries.
OMG!! Your pasta is made from a plant that contains chromosomes not just from different species, but from different genera! PASTA I
S GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD!
The horror! The horror!
And, BTW, vaccines caused an epidemic of autism.
Please identify exaclty what IPCC findings you believe are inaccurate, providing a similar body of evidence supporting inaccuray that they offer in support of accuracy.
(Hint: noting that any member, leading or otherwise, of the IPCC is an all-caps “ECONOMIST” doesn’t argue that the committee’s findings are invalid.)
“I’m not against computers. Nice try with portraying me as a Luddite.”
I’m reminded of the people who post online comments about how GMOs are horribly dangerous, and have the clincher argument “it’s not NATURAL!”
Something about appeals to nature composed and posted on a computer is giggle-inducing.
“I’m not against computers. Nice try with portraying me as a Luddite. I’m the exact opposite.”
You’re the one who used “computer” in a derogatory fashion. Explain yourself.
How could a “science” organization led by an ECONOMIST report anything besides undeniable truth?
I do get the impression that if the IPCC had been convened by a full-time climatologist, we would be hearing that its conclusions are invalid because it should have been headed by someone with more administrative experience.
Of course you would. However, the word “denialism” describes AGW denialists much better than “skeptic.” They are not really skeptics; they are pseudoskeptics.
So what? AGW denialism is just as much pseudoscience as antivaccinationism and anti-GMO; so whether it relies on the naturalistic fallacy or some other fallacy is irrelevant.
For a rational debate on AGW where science is encouraged and ad hom attacks peppered with illogical fallacies are discouraged, one can do no better than to Read Dr Judith Curry’s excellent blog, ‘Climate etc’
I shouldn’t have used the word computer. It was irrelevant to the concept of modling and a distracting slip up.
I beg to differ about all of AGW denialism as being as pseudoscienctific. There are multiple groups that shouldn’t even be grouped together.
I’m not a “denier” in that I think climate change is not happening (of course it is) or that humans play no role (I’m would imagine they do), I think the projections are greatly exaggerated.
I think Judith Curry sums it up nicely.
Orac are you telling me that questioning the accuracy of unprecedented future events with strong politicization is pseudoscience? Give me a break. I have a bridge to sell you.
Awesome. I didn’t see your post and simultaneously posted Judith Curry’s blog as well.
For readers here who are intimately familiar with vaccination issues but less so with climate science, this imperfect analogy may be helpful: Judith Curry might be thought of as climate science’s equivalent of the late Bernardine Healy.
Judith does not deny the possibility of AGW. She does however view the prognostications of the IPCC withscepticism as any true scientist should because it is a political body prone to making rash and unsupportable statements. It also has a dismal track record of failed predictions.
dear reader if you wish to participate in the debate at Climate etc then you really need to read the blog rules first before posting. An open and rational debate is encouraged there and the free for all approach that is allowed here is definitely frowned upon there.
Make no mistake I enjoy coming here as one does sometimes need entertainment with ones science. If I want a more civilized and scientific debate on SBM I will go and read the Blog Science based medicine whose managing editor David Gorski is an erudite chap
@ Eric Lund:
You clear up a point I made a few days ago about the situation in Syria being exacerbated by drought and relocation to the cities. Thanks.
Your comment is quite meaningful See TMR and Nuture Parenting, Alison MacNeil’s new project.
Stick around: you can be our ‘eyes and ears’ in Austin. See my reportage on folks who live near you. Andy, Alex Jones, Mike Adams, Jake Crosby and probably others. Woo hoo.
I can think of nothing better for the Middle East than drought that makes the land unlivable.
If the “holy land” became unlivable that would end the Jewish/Christian/Arab conflict, would it not?
But of course it’s a sin to think of any potential benefits of global warming.
Drought no longer makes land unlivable. Technology has created ways to move water.
Read up on it.
Scarcity tends to do rather the opposite of ending conflicts…
“illogical fallacies are discouraged, one can do no better than to Read Dr Judith Curry’s ”
Steven Colbert, is that you?
That is weapons grade snark that is.
Shay @ #64:
Indeed. It seems that given sufficiently advanced technology, humans can inhabit any climate and terrain bar icecaps and the highest mountains. We’re just that resourceful.
I’ll agree with that, too. Finally found something.
I meant Roadstergal #65
As one of those “left” opponents of GMOs, I too have noticed the growing trend of right-wing nutjobs (ie: natural news) adopting them as an issue. I suspect “entryism” has a lot to do with it, as there’s a real rural appeal to railing against big agribusiness firms. Unfortunately, it’s clouded the issue with so much pseudo-scientific garbage that it’s often embarrassing to take a public position on the matter (as seen above). For the record, I steer clear of claims about effects on human health, as they really aren’t supported, and wouldn’t ever suggest commercially produced hybrid seed and roundup as an alternative. But that’s beside the point – we can all argue about our own views elsewhere.
What I want to point out are the political connections which exist between the far-right, conspiracy theorists and anti-science advocates. This has a long and ugly history with groups like the John Birch Society (and Klu Klux Klan) and their claims about fluoride, religious fundamentalists and AIDS denial, and of course creationism (didja know Alex Jones is a creationist?).
Today’s conspiracy theorists often come off as politically moderate or even left-leaning, but once you start following links and checking up on sources, it starts to lead in a far more disturbing direction. Conspiracy theories have always been an integral part of extreme-right politics, as they need a way to explain the systemic “corruption” they see without the kind of systemic analysis which might undermine their ultra-nationalist views.
[i]I was about to point that out myself. Remember that farmer who was oh-so-unjustly sued by Monsanto for growing their GMO soya without paying for the seed? He only discovered he had Monsanto’s soya accidentally growing on the edge of one of his fields because he regularly sprayed with Roundup and those plants were the only ones left standing.[/i]
Read the lawsuit. Assuming you’re talking about the most recent case (the one SCOTUS decided last term) that’s not even close to what happened.
He (by his own admission) bought seeds he figured were mostly Monsanto seeds and then intentionally, not accidentally, used RoundUp to kill off the non-Monsanto plants. His whole scheme was — again by his own admission — intentionally crafted to try to get around Monsanto’s patent.
Indeed, given that arguments over water usage of the Jordan River was one of the primary reasons behind the Six Day War in 1967… (Syria decided to divert some of the water in large part to prevent Israel from using it for irrigation, and Israel bombed the Syrian diversion project to stop it.)
@Delysid- there’s a difference between not worrying about a problem when technology might fix it if there’s nothing you can do about it and not taking precautions to prevent a problem because technology might fix it.
So hold on a minute here. Delysid was giving the usual denialist talking points, from my personal favorite, the “the computer models didn’t say it would be as bad as it’s proving to be, so therefore it isn’t happening” to the “hey, maybe global warming has good points too, we might as well do nothing, let it happen, and hope for the best” one.
But then it looks to me like he just said that it would force a regional conflict in the middle east over scarce resources like water, and force the destruction of all but one of the warring factions, and this would be a good thing.
Delysim, did you just suggest climate change motivated genocide as a possible upside?
Apologies for the typo, I wasn’t intentionally trying to make a cough remedy reference, but I couldn’t get the similarity between Delysid and Delsym out of my head and it leaked out through my fingers.
my own experience combatting antivaccine views in the cranksophere, where I found quite a few far right Libertarians adopting rabidly antivaccine stances.
And right on time, everyone’s favourite ex-comedian and anti-vaccination campaigner Rob Schneider has denounced the Democratic Party for being, I don’t know, insufficiently right-wing.
Turns out that he has a vested interest in encouraging ignorance and alt-health crankery in his audience:
An underlying theme for anti-vaxxers, AGW deniers, hiv/aids denialists, anti-SBM alties, anti-GMO naturalists** ..
is denial of scientific consensus as espoused by relevant organisations, universities, and governmental bodies worldwide.
As a corollary, they suppose that non-experts can do a better job of understanding the science than can professionals ( see AoA , TMR, PRN).
-from my perspective ( my areas of expertise),
they don’t even know where to start. You can’t survey and criticise disciplines on your own without guidance. Maybe you could cover entire fields solo 200 years ago. Not now..
** MIkey scores all 5: a royal flush.
@ HDB, thank you thank you thank you for that; I had quite the chuckle. Per Schneider:
How does a political majority affect whether one can work on a film or not? It couldn’t possibly be that Schneider is a talent-less hack who has been reduced to doing voice overs for crappy anti-vaccine video propaganda could it?
The anti-vaxxers whinge on about how pharma isn’t regulated enough so they’re evil and killing all of us but their spokestwit and fellow anti-vaxxer Schneider complains about ‘over-regulation’ harshing his vitamin business. This can only make sense in anti-vaxx lala land.
Eric Lund: Food’s getting more expensive here, too.
Schneider is a talent-less hack who has been reduced to doing voice overs for crappy anti-vaccine video propaganda
That’s not true! He’s also reduced to touring to NZ performing stand-up comedy!
That must be a few steps lower than Las Vegas.
#47 I don’t oppose GMOs. 🙂
Schneider declared that he hasn’t worked on a film in California in seven years because of the recent rise of Democrats in state elections.
In comments on that thread, people point out that the details are freely available about the movies, filmed in California in the last 7 years, which Schneider worked on… and the number is significantly greater than zero (though Schneider has good reasons for wanting to pretend they never happened).
Except for the antivaccinationists who try to blame clear cases of shaken baby syndrome on vaccines.
I’ve been posting back and forth at the Dachelbot’s assistant, all day today.
Meleck just admitted to me that she recovered one of her autistic grandchildren with invasive biomedical treatments:
Time for lilady’s Media Update of the Dachelbot’s Media Update:
From Maurine Meleck:
Anti-vaxx bollocks is education? They have “vaccine choice”; no one is forcing them to vaccinate. They actively fight against any state which introduces “parental consent” vaccine bills.
How can they possibly think that anyone else is buying what they’re selling?
@Eric Lorson #3
A few points that haven’t been completely addressed:
Perhaps, but it’s worth noting that they are as safe as non-GMO foods just as you would expect: several billion meals and no reported problems.
If you are referring to Roundup, you should read some of the safety studies. They found that the detergents added to Roundup are more toxic to humans and to the environment than the herbicide itself. It s remarkably safe, as it affects enzymes that don’t occur in insects and animals.
Why is the practice of making pest and herbicide resistant crops unsustainable? I can see that monoculture may be unsustainable, but there is no requirement to grow GMOs as a monoculture. There are sustainable organic farming techniques which is great, though I don’t see how they will feed the 8 billion people we will have on this planet within a decade.
Pests and weeds may develop resistance, just as they do to conventional herbicides and pesticides, but I fail to see why it is worse for an insect to become resistant to a pesticide produced by the crop itself than one that is sprayed on the crop. When weeds have developed a resistance to Roundup no doubt someone will develop another herbicide and genetically engineer crops to resist that.
Why would a farmer want to buy seeds for a crop that you think is so terrible? The farmer can go on buying traditional seed and growing a traditional crop, no one is stopping him, just as he can use sustainable farming techniques and polyculture. No one is forcing anyone to buy GMOs from Monsanto or anyone else.
Why do you believe these “natural defenses” are superior (safer? more effective?) to the strains of corn and cotton that have been genetically modified to be pest resistant? Do I detect a naturalistic fallacy?
Science Mom, alt media also refer to their material as “education”- I think the correct appellation is ‘crap’.
At any rate, on libertarianism and pseudo-science-
I’m surprised that no one mentioned RI’s scoffer/ frequent flyer, Robert/ Sid, and his Vaccine Machine blog & facebook page, where the non-elite meet- more than 30 000 of them.
Also today, Mikey, who promised us that he wouldn’t discuss politicis any longer but would devote his time to pseudo-scientific research and spouting naturalistic balderdash, again discusses politics:
he compares the ACA to hostage taking and the mafia and calls for a revolution.
I think it’s a way to get libertarians to spend their money buying his products. After all, when the economy comes crashing down, when people are starving and rioting in the streets whilst martial law prevails, you’d better make sure that you don’t run out of your non-gmo supplements and you have all the super-food ingrdients your daily green smoothie.
Too true; I clean stuff out of my cats’ litter boxes that makes more sense than these numpties do.
Evil scientists have been deliberately creating genetic mutants in their laboratories for decades, using radiation and toxic chemicals to create these monstrosities. It seems that these mutants include, ” a sizable fraction of the world’s crops…including varieties of rice, wheat, barley, pears, peas, cotton, peppermint, sunflowers, peanuts, grapefruit, sesame, bananas, cassava and sorghum.” The horror indeed!
When did “GMO = Monsanto” happen? They’re just one of many players, aren’t they?
I suppose Monsanto is the most well-known?
To many if not most anti-GMOers Monsanto is the face of genetic modification. If they can get the public to identify the technology entirely with a corporation that sometimes behaves in a sleazy manner*, they hope to turn opinion decisively against its use, even those biotechnology projects that are run by government or academic entities with foundation grants (for some reason, anti-GMOers hate to hear about the benefits of golden rice, which has nothing to do with Monsanto).
It’s like attributing everything one doesn’t like about medicine to “Big Pharma”.
*as if this can’t be said about virtually any large corporation.
More on pseudo-science ‘educational’ materials:
I just ran across a new anti-vax opus, “Silent Epidemic: The Untold Story of Vaccines” by Gary Null, @ you-tube: it’s 1 hr 48 min- I only watched about 32 of them- it assembles every anti-vax trope and every anti-vax MD, DO and PhD that you can imagine in one place ( mostly female- I suppose that that has propaganda value when selling ideas to mothers- AND Andy is featured). They ‘teach’ about immunity and vaccines. Right.
Delysid was the trade name Sandoz used for LSD when they introduced it in 1947.
Rob Schneider hasn’t worked because producers like their films to be a success. That said, I have to loop back around to the brain droppings of our Gallic pal with the antacid-sounding name. Be careful Delsyn™, you are treading into genocidal advocacy with your comments on the middle-east. Now, I’ll cut you some slack because you’re an ESLer and might, I said might be employing parody, but I think it’s most likely antisemitism festering below the goopy skin of cheese on top of your ramekin. So, dear Deltine™, I’ll leave you with a saying from my dear old grandmere, “beaucoup une vérité est parlé en plaisantant,” or, “many a truth is said in jest.” Or, your slip is showing, Dr. Freud.
A Thinking Mom seems to have proved your point, today: http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/a-different-kind-of-birth-story/
See opening line that links “the business of the medical complex and the business of Monsanto.” Who knew?
Disclaimer up front, I’m a Monsanto employee, the musings contained herein are entirely of my own devising and are not those of the company (who would, I am reliably informed, prefer them to be far less confrontational and filled with stories of how I relate to you on a personal level – so um, hey, we all enjoy living in an atmosphere with jsut the right amount of oxygen in it right? Good, now let me tell you why I think you’re wrong)
Mostly in response to #3
As already mentioned you’re getting confused here. There are two types of trait that are currently widespread. Insect resistance (wherein the plant produces a potent insecticide) and herbicide resistance (wherein a plant is resistant to a certain herbicide) – both uses can (infact almost certainly will, given what we know) fall afoul of evolution, but then so will any and all methods to control things – arms races occur because evolution is a bugger.
One does rather question *why* you’re concerned about the rise of resistance though – if you can’t use roundup on crops (and you can’t if they aren’t RR (or some equivalent – I believe there is a version of roundup resistant crop that was created through traditional breeding, so GMOs aren’t alone in the rise of resistance)) then a roundup resistant weed is… the same as a non roundup resistant weed. The damn things don’t grow teeth and start eating combines. Likewise insects which evolve resistance to Bt…. are only a problem if you use Bt to control in the first place, if you are against Bt then your ideal scenario in the modern world is to have farmers use it as widespread as possible such that its longevity as a viable product plummets to a handful of years)
This, however, doesn’t happen. Farmers are not forced to re-purchase Monsanto seed, or even traited seed – a farmer could, if they so wished, buy Monsanto RR seed one year, Pioneer RR seed the next, Syngenta RR seed the following year, get sick of the whole rollercoaster, get hold of some university extention seed the following year and then save their seed for the next 5 years. You are contractually obligated not to save RR seed because the trait is patented, but you are not contractually obligated to repurchase, and neither are you obliged to purchase *herbicide* (using Bt drastically cuts down your use of insecticides (at least those purchased, some would count the Bt protein as insecticide use, and I dunno how quantities compare there)) from the same source – Roundup has been off patent for a long time now, and Monsanto went through a really tough time with its roundup business ~4 years ago due to supply from China etc – farmers are free to buy RR seed from Monsanto and glyphosate from whoever the hell they want.
Except that in the case of glyphosate and Bt they absolutely are.
No method of biological control is sustainable by this measure then, because evolution will trump any approach. I assume however that next time you are told by your doctor you need an antibiotic you’ll likely take it, despite any given antibiotic being a non-sustainable prospect. New traits, new genes, two sided arms race. Bazinga bugs, we have more in our arsenal than a single approach.
That would certainly explain why 90+% of all corn/soy planted is GMO, and why in India adoption of GM cotton is at similar levels… clearly it is unaffordable.
If such a thing were within the realms of possibility one can be sure Monsanto would be trying to do so. Most likely through breeding (Monsanto spends ~50% of the R&D budget on breeding, yet for reasons unknown to me are not even remotely known for it, despite having the best breeding programs in the world (what, no, I’m not at all angling for a job in breeding, how dare you accuse me of that!))
If the “holy land” became unlivable that would end the Jewish/Christian/Arab conflict, would it not?
You know what? I really don’t like where this line of thinking goes, as I have quite a few friends and acquaintances in Israel, some number of whom were born there and had parents and ancestors born there, and it’s home for them.
I’ve also been there twice, and it’s a really lovely place. Religious books aside, people’d fight over it for the scenery, not to mention that Israelis put gardens in places where North Americans don’t even have places, and practically everything flowers, smells nice, and/or has fruit, so there is that, too. (Jerusalem in winter smells like rosemary, cedar, and lavender, which is a damn sight nicer than the brisk metallic tang of smog.)
But yeah, go ahead and be snarktastic about sectarian conflict, it’s not like those are real people or anything.
If the “holy land” became unlivable that would end the Jewish/Christian/Arab conflict, would it not?
The mental gymnastics you just performed was worthy of a gold medal.
I was talking about the actual land itself and the supersititious, imaginary “holiness” that has been ascribed to it.
My opposing government involvement in climate change does not make me responsible for conflicts in the Middle East. I think it is laughably hilarious that people think governments are capable of stopping climate change in the firs tplace.
Delysid – you realize that the global environment would be the most obvious example of “the commons” I’m not seeing a way around that unless someone is going to receive ownership rights to the atmosphere (see The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress).
To quote George Carlin. “We’ll all still be able to breathe–just not as often as we’re used to.”
Or as Tom Lehrer sang,
If you visit American city you will find it very pretty.
Just two things of which you must beware, don’t drink the water and don’t breathe the air.
FWIW – I wrote this in my blog (yes, I have one, no, I’m not providing a link) several years ago. I repeat it for no particular reason:
About 20 years ago, I became convinced that several things are true:
Carbon dioxide, water, and methane are all greenhouse gasses.
Greenhouse gasses reflect infrared energy (heat) back to the Earth.
An increase of greenhouse gasses will, in the absence of other factors, increase the average temperature of the earth.
If the average temperature increases, the amount of water that evaporates will increase, further increasing the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Various measurements have shown recent increases in greenhouse gasses including carbon dioxide, both near human activity and also distant from it.
A number of human activities generate carbon dioxide (e.g. burning fossil fuels) while a number of other human activities reduce the amount of plant life capable of removing carbon dioxide (e.g. development and improper land management).
My conclusion: human activity demonstrably increases the amount of greenhouse gasses, and this will (in the absence of other factors) lead to changes in climate. I don’t have enough training or knowledge to predict exactly what those changes will be or how quickly they will occur, however there are those who claim to have such training and knowledge who have published their projections. I have no basis to dispute their claims.
However, I have issues. In no particular order:
I find it difficult to comprehend that someone really has developed a method to determine the average temperature of the earth based on local weather readings that is demonstrably accurate to a tenth of a degree Celsius, and that this method has been demonstrated to be consistent for the last hundred or hundred and fifty years.
It amazes me that people are able to extract a trend line for this data that shows an upward trend of a degree every few decades, given that the instantaneous temperature at any point in the planet can change 5 degrees Celsius in less than an hour. A huge amount of noise has been processed to extract a very quiet signal.
While the computer models have made a number of predictions, it’s not clear to me that different models show the same predictions nor that these have been confirmed by observation.
When the weather is colder than average or storms are less intense than predicted, people are very quick to point out that weather is not climate, and that local effects in no way are representative of the planet as a whole. When extreme weather hits or there is a local heat wave, people are quick to say that this is exactly the kind of thing we should expect as the planet heats. Now, granted, both may well be true because weather is highly variable both day to day and year to year, and perhaps we would be seeing more heat waves, droughts, and severe storms (depending on your location) on a hotter Earth. However, this ends up sounding very much like the financial analyst who blames all losses on the market but takes credit for all gains.
The magnitude of what will really need to be done to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions to a pre-industrial level – given that the human population more than doubled in the last 50 years – is rarely fully discussed.
Mephistopheles O’Brien, JGC–
The quote in that light I think of most is by David Letterman. It went something like, “I love autumn in Los Angeles. It’s the time when birds change colors and fall from the trees.”
Some quotes by Carl Sagan might be pertinent here:
“In science it often happens that scientists say, “You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,” and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”
“Science is […] a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan, political or religious, who comes ambling along.”
I can’t help to compare the difference between Climate science and Cosmology. In the latter controversial hypotheses are rigorously debated predominantly without resorting to personal attacks and the liberal use of ad homs. Not so in climate science. For the life of me I can’t really put my finger on why this has happened but I expect it is due to the enormous amounts of money that have been thrown at it.
This is why I consider the debate on AGW to be a political one. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.
Because I always enjoy reading/ listening to a quack or crank tear apart a person who towers above them …
Dan Olmsted ( AoA) disparages Bill Gates because he trusts experts: he “admits that his excess IQ capacity doesn’t totally translate outside his own computer/math field”**
Mr Gates has become the *bete noire*/ whipping boy for altmed/ woo/ anti-vax mavens because of his campaign to eradicate infectious diseases in poor countries primarily through vaccination ( I’ve heard similar trashing across woo-topia from the usual suspects). The B & M Gates Foundation have attempted to ‘put a dent into the universe’. Instead, Dan holds, the universe is putting a dent into Gates. Bill and Melinda have been foolish enough to trust the experts.
Following experts’ advice has already “damaged” children through vaccines- “1 in 6” has problems, there is chronic illness and autism. Gates will spread the plague around the world.
Both “ChildHealthSafety” and John Stone agree.
I don’t. Three cheers for Bill and Melinda!
** I assume that DO isn’t directly quoting Gates here.
One common source of conspiracy theories has been the ubiquity of Malthusian rhetoric. As a result, policies that seem slightly questionable are attributed to an attempt to limit population. The really weird part is that explaining away opinions one disagrees with by attributing them to Malthusians can be used for a wide variety of opinions, many of them on opposite sides of a question. For example, are pesticides intended to kill off the excess population or are pesticide bans intended to allow population-stabilizing diseases? You can make similar arguments for both sides of vaccines, GMO foods, or nuclear energy.
I take theories that counterproductive policies are due to Malthusianism less seriously now.
#107 I heard the latest IPCC report actually admitted that there’s been a pause in the warming recently. It’s more scientific than many of the people trumpeting it.
I saw a news article about that, so I posed a question to William Connolley, who blogs at Stoat. His response can be found here.
As an agricultural biologist I am concerned with the decline in butterfly populations. BT corn, a GM variety has a powerful pesticide derived from Bacillus thuringiensis inserted into the genome. Because corn is wind pollinated, the pollen becomes an inoculum that covers fields and hedgerows between crops. All lepidoptererus larvae are killed by eating the pollen. Because it is indiscriminate I am wary of that particular GMO. There is not a lot of studying being done to monitor moth and butterfly populations that are not considered pests. The recent drastic declines in Monarch populations could be from migrating through the GMO gauntlet. New pesticides often have unforseen consequences. The ubiquity of new neonicotinoid pesticides are the likely cause of colony collapse of honey bees. Because neonicotinoid pesticides like imidocloprid are systemically active, the whole plant becomes toxic. It works great for sucking insects like aphids but if bees use the pollen for a food source then they die too. Because of this and other environmental concerns I am wary of GMO crops. Whether tit harms me by eating GMO crops is not that important to me.
Mike Callahan, I am really concerned that as an agricultural biologist you are not keeping up with the relevant literature. More than a decade ago, this issue of PNAS http://www.pnas.org/content/98/21.toc had a series of papers looking at just this issue.
The conclusions are that most corn pollen has vanishingly small amounts of Bt in it. One type had more, but that was never more than a 2% of the Bt corn market. That most pollen falls in fields and remarkably little is spread over the landscape. That most monarch butterflies would not consume the large amounts of corn pollen used to produce damage in the laboratory.
I’ve been tangling with Lowell Hubbs and a few trolls on Emily Willingham’s blog, including a real loon who argued with me about mycoplasma bacteria. He’s a piece of work…surprise, surprise, he’s also a chronic Lyme disease sufferer (Expand All Comments, p 20).
Meanwhile, today’s AoA has this tidbit; Popular Science has recently closed down their “Comments” section:
“The 141-year-old magazine Popular Science announced recently it was shutting down the comments section that follows its articles. Online content director Suzanne LaBarre blamed “trolls and spambots,” claiming that “even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story.”
Popular Science is but one more magazine struggling with shrinking ad revenue, market share and staff. Surely a lack of staff also played a role in the decision to close off comments, but one wonders whether troll patrol could be handled by interns or trusted volunteers. When once-venerable publications like PopSci shut down all reader dialogue – especially on global and personal topics, such as vaccine safety issues – they risk reader alienation and lapsing into bully pulpits for hire by industry…..”
Now John D. Stone and others comment that Popular Science is stifling dissent…blah, blah…”we’re just to go for them to handle us”…blah, blah… and other mutterings about conspiracies.
It’s only anecdotal, but I have yet to find a traditional publication that views comments as a resource and not a nuisance. Part of the issue is that they take up a great deal of time.
You assume that PS has interns or trusted volunteers. The publications that I’ve worked for have typically had neither.
It’s a shame; I really like comments and they’re being removed by a lot of good publications these days. I wish they were seen as communities that could thrive and increase traffic and revenue rather than troll-heaps.
A few points.
For people who missed his antics in other threads, Delysid is your garden-variety “goverment is bad and should not be involved in almost anything” libertarian sociopath. Just a little background, that’s all.
That’s an obvious and stupid lie. Curry is a complete shill. You should be ashamed of yourself. Here’s an old but quite pertinent example:
Back on topic:
Monsanto is such a BP-level hive of scum, and is so often directly involved in any news story involving GMOs that it is hard for most people to differentiate. There’s nothing wrong with GMOs per se, but what corporations are doing with them is not just bottom-feeder despicable, it actually directly aims to limit genetic diversity in crops which is absolutely petrifying.
Alas this is both an obvious, and stupid lie. There is no aim whatsoever to limit genetic diversity in crops, why would there be? You appear to be basing this assumption on a complete lack of understanding of how crop breeding in general works, or indeed how GMOs are used in conjunction with breeding.
I wasn’t talking about crop breeding, I was talking about corporate practices. Being flippant works better if you actually read.
Which specific corporate practices were you referring to? My research into this has found surprisingly little that concerns me at all.
Not allowed to save seeds, not allowed to mix seeds, if any of it is found on your land, you pay, that kind of thing.
Is exactly what you said. I am not being flippant at all. You directly stated that the actions of Monsanto, in particular, were to reduce genetic diversity in crops.
Not allowing saving of seeds categorically doesn’t do this.
Not allowing mixing of seeds… is, as far as I can tell, made up (refuge in a bag, for instance, is a seed mix) generally however one wouldn’t want mixed seeds in the crops which are GMO (for corn at least you ideally want everything to be as genetically similar as possible within a field so that everything flowers at pretty much exactly the same time to ensure complete pollination, you also don’t want a mix of hybrids which may result in uneven competition and non-uniform yield)
More disinformation – Monsanto will actually pay to remove trace quantities if they are suspected, legal only gets involved where the presence is clearly a conscious effort on behalf of the farmer to circumvent patent law.
It’s a shame, because you’re spot on in savaging a glibertarian for spouting climate denialism, but then you hop onto a mixed bag of made up nonsense and incoherency regarding GMOs.
I’ll be offline for a few hours. I’ve been posting on this blog (amazing that the Dachelbot has not Spammed the comments, yet):
FYI, it’s not completely true that Monsanto prohibits seed saving. I believe they actually permit it as long as you’ve paid the appropriate license fee. It’s an intellectual property thing, after all, so it works like other intellectual property things. Like bundling software, or distributing proprietary device drivers compiled into your software. You’re making the copies yourself and then selling the results, but the originator is okay with it because you’re paying them sort of a royalty.
@112 and 113:
Rather than the Bt, it’s the glyphosate applied to fields that might be impacting Monarch numbers. Google search “glyphosate monarch” points to several articles expressing concern, some peer-reviewed. The reason is simple: fields of roundup-ready corn and soy that have glyphosate applied, have less weeds (we are shocked), sadly including milkweeds. Most milkweeds like disturbed land, and farmers make plenty of it, and for the last 100 years we’ve had lots of milkweed, ergo lots of Monarchs. Other pollinators might also not like the absence of those weeds, but most weeds I know on farmland are alien, milkweeds are a bit of an exception to that. I’m a bit skeptical about estimates of how common milkweeds were in farmer’s corn historically, but on RR-fields maybe the edges do have less. I can spot the non-RR corn near me easy: giant ragweed is present.
I’m not saying that is sufficient cause to stop use of glyphosate. I am saying plant some milkweeds. The orange one (butterfly milkweed or butterfly weed) is beautiful in gardens, and it’s name accurate. It’s tough as nails to drought too.