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Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:32 AM

condemning Monsanto with bad science is dumb

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamar-haspel/condemning-monsanto-with-_b_3162694.html

Did you see the latest indictment of Monsanto making the rounds? It's a "peer-reviewed" paper in the journal Entropy, co-authored by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, blaming glyphosate, the compound in the herbicide Roundup, for virtually all the ills that can befall us.

But here's the thing -- they made it up. Or, all but. They say, "We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease, and we show that glyphosate is a 'textbook example' of exogenous semiotic entropy: the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins." Exogenous semiotic entropy! That sounds serious. Google it, though, and you find that those three words occur together in only place. This paper. They made it up. At first, I thought the whole thing was one of those jargon-laden academic hoaxes but, alas, it isn't.

(snip)

Here's the list of ills they blame, at least in part, on Roundup: inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, Alzheimer's, autism, anorexia, dementia, depression, Parkinson's, reproductive issues, liver diseases and cancer.

The evidence for these mechanisms, and their impact on human health, is all but nonexistent. The authors base their claim about CYP enzymes on two studies, one of liver cells and one of placental cells, which report endocrine disruptions when those cells are exposed to glyphosate. Neither study is CYP-specific (The effect of pesticides on CYP enzymes, by contrast, has been studied specifically.) As for the gut bacteria, there appears to be no research at all on glyphosate's effect on them.

more@link


I'm often accused around here of shilling for Monsanto. Nothing could be further from the truth. I despise Monsanto's business model. What I shill for, if anything is science literacy and good research design. Science without external agendas.

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Arrow 33 replies Author Time Post
Reply condemning Monsanto with bad science is dumb (Original post)
mike_c Apr 2013 OP
bunnies Apr 2013 #1
mike_c Apr 2013 #2
bunnies Apr 2013 #5
mike_c Apr 2013 #8
socialsecurityisAAA Apr 2013 #9
appal_jack Apr 2013 #20
mike_c Apr 2013 #22
appal_jack Apr 2013 #23
BethanyQuartz Apr 2013 #3
mike_c Apr 2013 #4
BethanyQuartz Apr 2013 #6
socialsecurityisAAA Apr 2013 #10
BethanyQuartz Apr 2013 #11
socialsecurityisAAA Apr 2013 #12
BethanyQuartz Apr 2013 #13
socialsecurityisAAA Apr 2013 #19
Zoeisright Apr 2013 #15
Progressive dog Apr 2013 #7
Zoeisright Apr 2013 #14
mike_c Apr 2013 #17
shava May 2013 #24
hrmjustin May 2013 #25
shava May 2013 #27
hrmjustin May 2013 #28
shava May 2013 #29
KT2000 Apr 2013 #16
AverageJoe90 Apr 2013 #18
uriel1972 Apr 2013 #21
Newest Reality May 2013 #26
shava May 2013 #30
Newest Reality May 2013 #31
shava May 2013 #32
Newest Reality May 2013 #33

Response to mike_c (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:40 AM

1. Whatever.

 

Theres plenty of science to use when condemning monsanto.
http://rt.com/news/monsanto-rats-tumor-france-531/

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Response to bunnies (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:47 AM

2. that study was also bogus....

Thanks for pointing it out.

http://news.discovery.com/earth/plants/gm-corn-tumor-study-120920.htm

"There is very little scientific credibility to this paper," said Martina Newell–McGloughlin, a plant biotechnologist at the University of California, Davis. "The flaws in the test are just incredible to me. To be totally honest with you, the type of statistical analysis they used is really a type of fishing expedition. One individual referred to it as 'fantasy statistics.'"

"You never, ever design an experiment to look for specific outcomes," she added. "If you're a real scientist, based on observations you find, you put forward hypotheses about how you are getting these types of outcomes. They do none of this."

(snip)

One immediate problem, Newell-McGloughlin said, is that the line of rodents used in the study, known as Sprague-Dawley rats, are frequently used in cancer research because a large majority of them naturally develop tumors at a high rate, regardless of what they eat or how they're raised.

What's more, the rats were allowed to eat an unlimited amount of food, which increases their chances of developing tumors. And two is a very old age for these rats, which could account for the large rate of cancer seen across all groups, including the controls.

more@link


Seriously, it's embarrassing how quickly the scientifically illiterate jump to tout bad science as confirming their personal biases.

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Response to mike_c (Reply #2)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:57 AM

5. Its a "personal bias" to say that poison is poison?

 

Alrighty then.

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Response to bunnies (Reply #5)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 11:21 AM

8. it is when the actual evidence doesn't support that bias....

I've just provided you with evidence that the study you cited was severely flawed. You've ignored it out of hand because it conflicts with your prior bias. See what I mean?

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Response to bunnies (Reply #5)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 11:22 AM

9. Its only called that by monsanto representatives

If you can even make it on a farm, now that states are attempting to pass legislation aimed at blocking animal abuse whistle blowers, you would see farm animals are suffering from illnesses much worse than were found in the rats studies. Obviously this isn't all attributable to the Gm food that farm animals are fed. Along with Gm corn covered in pesticides cows are given huge quantities of hormones and antibiotics, while fowl are fed huge amounts of antibiotics. Fowl are only supposed to be given antibiotics to treat infections but they are often administered the antibiotics as growth promoters as well. Most of these animals are also fed their own sick and dead, cannibalistically. Anyone that attempts to fool you into believing that eating meat from sick animals is good for you cares nothing about you or your health.
The cancers suffered by the rats in the study differed from the cancer suffered from rats of the same species fed a normal diet, they suffered a much higher rate of cancer by over half, and the cancers they developed were far more aggressive. Of course do you expect any major media outlet to report this? Absolutely not, why would they? These guys are flush with money from Monsanto and similar companies! How else could the campaign to label GMO's have been killed with the majority of voters supporting the measure before the massive lobbying and misinformation campaign waged by GM advocates. Media does what it is paid to do.
When the live Russian study is broadcast they will begin yet another misinformation campaign. I would not even put it past them to attempt to ignite a RED SCARE. Lol

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Response to mike_c (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 12:49 AM

20. What about Monsanto's own studies, Mike?

 

My understanding is that most of the industry-sponsored studies 'proving' the safety of GMO crops lasted only 90 days. I have even heard that when a study found deleterious effects, it was retroactively terminated prior to those effects showing up. Voila! No bad results...

Do you critique pro-gmo study methodologies, or only focus on the anti's?

And what of the very real financial bias within the companies themselves? ANti-gmo activists may have confirmation bias from fears or principles, but negative result for gmo safety could cost Monsanto billions; do you really think that they let the pursuit of knowledge be their only guide? Why do they place such heavy restrictions on the research that is done? Have you seen one of their non-disclosure agreements?

What of Monsanto's history? They lied about PCB's, they lied about Agent Orange. Why should the slate be wiped clean with their latest technology?

-app

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Response to appal_jack (Reply #20)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 10:07 AM

22. oh no, it's well understood that self study is about as objective...

...as self regulation, especially when it is ultimately run by management, which is what self study ultimately boils down to. But let's be realistic. I won't claim that the scientists working in Monsanto labs are incorruptible, but they likely received the same sort of ethical training that I received. Most of us view science as a culture of honesty, and while that might be particularly true of academics, and there are certainly exceptions to the rule, I still believe that Monsanto's scientists are generally honest, ethical people. I won't say the same for management, but if the data collectors are honest and ethical, then short and inexpensive trials are simply insufficient for any purpose, good or bad, and not deliberately dishonest. There is certainly no reason to assume a priori that they are designed to conceal harmful intent.

I'm sure it's also true that Monsanto's management sees little advantage in investing in a product or process and then seeing it proven unfit to market, so I agree with you that their self interest precludes objective self study. But I also believe that most of the folks in the labs are careful, ethical scientists, so I'm a whole lot less worried than most of the anti-GMO crowd. It helps to understand the technology-- although I don't do any molecular biology in my own work I have done it in the past, in lab rotations and in postgraduate work, so I'm not unreasonably fearful of genetic engineering.

I completely agree with you that Monsanto has done considerable harm, although I would also argue that others like petroleum companies have done far more harm, exponentially more, yet the anti-GMO crowd seems oddly silent about REAL social disinvestment in fossil fuels, to the extent that they have demanded bans on all things Monsanto, which would dramatically reduce everyone's quality of life.

I would not spare a single tear if Monsanto bites the dust-- I think its business practices are awful. Science illiteracy chaps my ass though, as does fearful ignorance masquerading as prudence or principles.

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Response to mike_c (Reply #22)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 10:28 AM

23. I agree that most scientists are good, ethical people.

 

I agree that most scientists are good, ethical people, and I certainly agree that scientific literacy is a desirable goal for all citizens in a democracy. However in private companies, researchers are generally powerless against management if and when their interests should collide. In this day & age, the mere threat of a lost job is a powerful motivator.

You & I (I also am affiliated with a biological sciences department of a public university, though I do not have a Ph.D.) have the privilege of being both scientifically literate and comparatively insulated from the tyranny of corporate management and private capital. I feel strongly that these positions of public trust and privilege we hold obligate us to look out for the larger public good at the intersection of science and policy, while also remaining commited to sound science as a piece of that policy puzzle.



-app

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Response to mike_c (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:48 AM

3. Xenoestrogens are known to be toxic

 

Also known to be carcinogens.

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Response to BethanyQuartz (Reply #3)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:50 AM

4. and yet folks doing bad science rely upon confirmation bias rather than...

...good experimental design to hoodwink the scientifically illiterate. Over and over and over. Why do you think that is?

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Response to mike_c (Reply #4)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:58 AM

6. I'm not a chemist

 

I better tread carefully here. The author of the article seems to be saying they extrapolated when they shouldn't have:

They simply speculated that, if anyone, anywhere, found that glyphosate could do anything in any organism, that thing must also be happening in humans everywhere. I'd like to meet the "peers" who "reviewed" this.

I'm extremely worried about xenoestrogens, including in Roundup. None of the studies seem to be saying hey, it's fine, it's safe, go swim in a vat of the stuff, it will make your hair and nails grow!

But yeah, if the writer is correct in her assessment of the research quality, it's very annoying that it got through peer review because people don't need to be confused about things like this. They need to know the facts.

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Response to BethanyQuartz (Reply #6)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 11:31 AM

10. The body produces the estrogens we need

In most cases, we don't need any extra. Certainly not in the form of a toxin!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19539684

This study uses sub-normal levels of exposure. These ultra low levels still show extreme biological activity.

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Response to socialsecurityisAAA (Reply #10)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 11:34 AM

11. You don't have to try to convince me xenoestrogens are horribly toxic

 

I don't have to be a chemist to read abstracts and have nightmares about them. We really need to get a grip on our society and stop letting companies spew this stuff everywhere willynilly without regard for long term consequences.

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Response to BethanyQuartz (Reply #11)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 12:00 PM

12. Just giving you more ammo for your arsenal to use against monsanto reps

What makes my stomach turn the most about this whole issue is that people have been told by the media and the corps that this is necessary. It isn't. There are hundreds of natural compounds that act as effective pesticides and herbicides, and unlike Monsanto products, they still work!

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Response to socialsecurityisAAA (Reply #12)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 12:06 PM

13. More ammo is always good

 

What puzzles me is that xenoestrogens and other pollutants aren't like a lot of other harmful products. These things harm the children of the wealthy too. They're everywhere, they get in everything. Unborn babies are exposed. Including the unborn of the rich.

They're killing themselves and their loved ones for short term profits. It's just baffling.

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Response to BethanyQuartz (Reply #13)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:22 PM

19. The wealthy can afford organic, free range food.

Last edited Sat Apr 27, 2013, 11:21 PM - Edit history (1)

The ultra wealthy, like Monsanto employees, enjoy organic diets free of pesticides known to cause illness and hormones shown to induce early puberty in 9yo girls. In china one can find organic farms meant for the ruling class that is literally guarded with armed men. No I do not agree the rich eat the same way as those near the poverty level and middle class.
Something else I have been wondering, un-fermented soy products are full of toxins and corn, even non gmo yellow corn, is often grown in poor tired soil lacking in nutrients. How much illness is due to how we farm and consume our food and how much is attributable to genetic modification?
Personally I consume an organic diet and eat fermented soy 4 times a week. I eat no dairy and don't eat corn or wheat at all. My health is great, at thirty years old i am healthier than my younger brother. All of my family suffers seriously from chronic ailments and obesity. I should mention I eat more pork than chicken and eat about 3 lbs of bacon a week. I eat about 400 calories a day in dark chocolate and drink tons of decaf green tea. My point is not to boast but point out that our understanding of food is obviously limited.
I think if we eat something unhealthy we must balance that with something healthy. For instance dark chocolate along with highly salted food to counteract the rise in bp that occurs, rosemary tea with meats and dairy to prevent extensive spoilage within the gut, ginger with any large meals that usually give us an upset stomach etc. Eating needs to be viewed as medicating ourselves because everything we eat has a biological effect, negative or positive or both.

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Response to BethanyQuartz (Reply #6)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 12:48 PM

15. No.

Read my answer below. The problem is our gut bacteria.

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Response to mike_c (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 11:04 AM

7. K&R

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Response to mike_c (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 12:47 PM

14. You have completely ignored the important part of that study.

Which is that Monsanto has claimed for years that since glyphosate targets the shikimate pathway in plants, which people don't have, it's safe.

But our gut bacteria DO have the shikimate pathway. And gut bacteria are critical in human immunity and synthesizing vitamins. That is probably the way glyphosate is harmful. That damage takes decades to manifest itself. In 2005, another study found that glyphosate is toxic to the human placenta. Damage at that point, however minor, could cause cancers decades later.

Do you have any education in science? Because it doesn't seem like it.

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Response to Zoeisright (Reply #14)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 02:49 PM

17. with all due respect...

...the Samsel and Seneff paper does little more than articulate hypotheses cherry picked from other sources that support the author's prior biases. It presents no actual data in support of its major conclusions, but rather obfuscates them by citing other unsupported or irrelevant hypotheses, or by citing studies in systems that are of dubious relevance. I also question the author's competence.

Regarding your last question, I would prefer not to offer arguments from authority, an obvious fallacy, but your comment appears to be a backhanded ad hominem so I'll respond. I am a full professor of zoology at the California State University with over twenty years experience in academic science and higher ed. So yes, I can read unimpressive papers and recognize the woo hidden among the jargon.

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Response to mike_c (Reply #17)

Sun May 5, 2013, 04:13 PM

24. The academy protects its own

Isn't this a trying to be a review of literature calling for a new perspective on existing literature (including Monsanto's own) and asking for people to do confirming studies on this perspective? That's not bad science. That's a literature review with a perspective hypothesis.

It's not very well done, admittedly. I suspect the authors are activists who couldn't get senior people to back them. You know and I know why that is, and it doesn't have to do with good or bad science. It has to do with labs and funding and controversies and the length of time doing this kind of science really takes.

What you are seeing that I think you really object to is a journalism review with a wild confirmation bias. The press is saying the study proves things, because that's what they always say when scientists posit things for further study. And the article doesn't use enough passive voice. Young people rarely do when they don't have a senior advisor to keep them out of political trouble.

What they should have said were things that mangle the English language and make it torture for normal readers, like:

"Here, we assert a correlation through existing studies including those of the manufacturer
showing an established mechanism of use whereby it may be that interference with CYP enzymes acts
synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria,
as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. Consequences should be investigated by additional studies
including studies that may associate diseases
and conditions associated with a Western diet: we might suggest investigations into CYP association with
gastrointestinal disorders,
obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s
disease. We suggest some possible associated effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease,
and we associate glyphosate as a possible example of a new pathway of disease by "exogenous semiotic
entropy:" the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins."

Rather than what they said, which was what bothered you, because they are young and arrogant in
challenging your academic seniority:

"Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts
synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria,
as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. Consequences are most of the diseases
and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders,
obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s
disease. We explain the documented effects of glyphosate and its ability to induce disease,
and we show that glyphosate is the “textbook example” of exogenous semiotic entropy: the
disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins."

This is terse and ballsy, and this sort of thing just isn't tolerated by senior scientists, which is why independent scientists crossing discipline boundaries gets squished and their papers get buried regardless of the content. They should have found some moldy old doctor or biologist or someone to take credit for their ideas, and give them a grateful acknowledgement just like any good grad student would, my dear, and you and I both know it. Then their idea might have been taken up and challenged in other studies as brilliant. As it is it will be a seven day wonder in the press, and a footnote on someone else's study down the road when we're all sterile and senile, if they're right.

Scientists state things with or without couching language for other scientists to challenge. It's what we do. Then other labs pick them up and see if they can confirm a hypothesis by study results.

I'll note that Silent Spring was a discursive and similarly ill received "bad science" document on the long term effects of a similar "Green Revolution" miracle chemical. Perhaps they should have written a book instead of a literature review PDF for a small journal, including an independent scholar and a CSAIL researcher. It would have been a wiser course, to my mind.

The ivory tower protects its own and industry even more. This was a very poor political move, regardless of the quality of the science. They needed better PR consultation.

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Response to shava (Reply #24)

Sun May 5, 2013, 05:08 PM

25. Welcome to DU my friend!

 

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Response to hrmjustin (Reply #25)

Sun May 5, 2013, 05:39 PM

27. long time listener first time caller

Thanks, been a lurker now and again since the Dean campaign, actually (july 2003)... this is just my first post

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Response to shava (Reply #27)

Sun May 5, 2013, 05:44 PM

28. We are glad you came aboard!

 

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Response to hrmjustin (Reply #28)

Sun May 5, 2013, 08:16 PM

29. for more discussion on this on my G+

https://plus.google.com/101371184407256956306/posts/hHB4qJnYF3S

Not to draw people away to there necessarily, we can discuss it here.

I am a little concerned, though -- if there is a chance that these kids are right at all, it should be investigated. As I say there, when a friend said that he made sure to wash up after using and before eating when handling RoundUp:

===
Use in your driveway and on your sidewalk is the very least of your worries.

Roundup is mostly likely to come at you as a systemic in food that is resistant to it, where it's been broadcast in a field to kill weeds around the resistant crop.

http://web.mit.edu/demoscience/Monsanto/about.html

It's in the grains we eat, particularly, and there's no label requirement to divide GMO and non GMO cereals as they go into the food supply, although some suppliers at "health food" outlets voluntarily label that they don't accept GMO grains that are more likely to be "RoundUp Ready" GMO crops.

(This said, this is not an area I worry about, largely because I can't afford to at this point. Not only are these non-GMO grains expensive, but I'd have to give up every meat product and non-organic dairy product in my diet, as well as every non-organic sweetener, pretty much, too).

Can you say endemic, if this is a risk? DDT was the same. And DDT was created by people who were trying to solve world hunger. (And make money...) They weren't trying to kill all the birds and poison the water supply. They weren't trying to destroy the steppes in Asia and kill the Aral Sea forever. But that's what the Green Revolution did (that took nitrogen fertilizer and DDT and over-irrigation together).

They were just trying to save the world and make some pocket change...

RoundUp is just another artifact of the "green revolution" monoculture agriculture that keeps the current density of human life going on the planet. We are more talented than ants at keeping our hives/nests going.

Could it be a disaster? If it is, we might be afraid to find out. Because without it, we might be a billion or so over population cap. Wouldn't that be a drag?

It's freaking amazing how specialized we've gotten, and how we project that specialization into nature as we touch it as engineers and scientists.

If Heinlein said "Specialization is for insects," he really underestimated human technology, I think. We are so specialized that very very few modern people could survive a reasonable electrical downtime with a good camping kit, far less a Zombie (or any other) apocalypse of a season or more.

"Today, Roundup Ready crops account for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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Response to mike_c (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 02:09 PM

16. this paper describes areas

of research needed to fully understand the effects of glyphosate. It has exposed pathways for illness to result. They have pointed researchers into the direction that further testing should go.

There are many toxic products in our environment and that has been caused by the failure of our so-called science establishment. By allowing itself to become trapped in the "causation" standard, science has proved to have become neutered in its ability to protect health. As you know, definitive causation is impossible to prove but it keeps everyone employed and the products pouring into the market.

The trending illnesses in our society deserve attention - chronic illnesses, autoimmune diseases, brain impairment (ADD, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's etc.) increased childhood cancers because we cannot support this level of disability (see Sequester solutions).
This paper looks at the potential role of glyphosate - a product that is ubiquitous in our environment, including food.

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Response to mike_c (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 08:45 PM

18. Thanks, Mike. (And, TBH, I wish Mrs. Haspel could do a similar article on the AGW issue as well.)

 

I do see some rather interesting, and unfortunately similarities here, TBH: Like with the GMO controversy, in the AGW argument, too, there is a significant problem with some on our side combatting denialist bullshit with bad science(i.e. "Venus Syndrome", Permian-style "clathrate gun" stuff, "Canfield Oceans", "runaway" warming), and even outright junk(such as New Agey mumbo-jumbo crap like sudden dramatic climate temperature shifts without corresponding increases in greenhouse gases, etc., or David Wasdell's "Earth System" junk, in which he claims a climate sensitivity of 7.8*C per doubling.).

And, like yourself, I too, have been called all sorts of things for doing what I do; a "minimizer", a "lukewarmist", and even accusations of secret denial were thrown around occasionally, just as you were (wrongly, I believe) accused of shilling for Monsanto by a few extremists. So I understand where you're coming from.

As with climate change denial, it is a very good thing that Monsanto's dishonesty is being challenged, and combatted; GMOs still have MANY issues that need to be sorted out, and too often, safety and quality are sacrificed for profit. But we need to do it with REAL science, and not unverifiable junk, as what you might see on InfoWars or some other kooky fringe site.

What I shill for, if anything is science literacy and good research design. Science without external agendas.


Amen to that!

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Response to mike_c (Original post)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 01:07 AM

21. I don't like Monsanto's practices either,

but any attack on them should be made with accurate science. If anything the less than rigorous accusations actually help Monsanto and others who defend them as they can broad brush all opposition as "junk" science.

Go get 'em!, but do it proper.

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Response to uriel1972 (Reply #21)

Sun May 5, 2013, 05:22 PM

26. That is a reasonable

and practical concern.

If we are going to hammer back on Monsanto, then it should be done with the utmost accuracy, integrity, presenting something more bullet-proof and proper.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #26)

Mon May 6, 2013, 03:05 PM

30. I assume you have a plan to fund this then?

Because, you know, that's why these kids probably came out with this seat-of-the-pants treatment. No one is going to fully fund this research against Monsanto. It puts their reputation up against a PR machine that will go out to destroy them, likely sue the living crap out of their lab for things perhaps having nothing to do with this particular research, and so on.

So perhaps if you were the biological equivalent of George Soros, you could criticize like this, then back a lab for further development. Otherwise, it rings a bit hollow. Who is this "we" who has to have a plan, eh? Who will bell this cat before we are all poisoned maybe?

How would you feel about that with a correlation in hand and a twenty year old heart beating in your chest?

As I said, they had cojones (pardon the sexist tone -- ovaries are quite equivalent! I am female...).

They couldn't possibly have gotten the funding in this climate. It would have been nearly impossible for them to have gotten good advice from anyone in the established academy even if he or she believed in their hypothesis. Even at MIT (where I used to be associated) where they are known for sheltering mavericks historically on either end of various odd spectrums (Chomsky and the Kochs, for example).

There is possibly a book to be written, "Barnstormers of Science," which starts in the 1800s noting that the brave idiots would have qualified as *everyone*, and documents how in the later 1800s and into the 1900s the academy gradually ossified and established pecking orders and journals and a mandarin system such that young people never had a chance without buying in and being just more fodder. It didn't start out like that from perhaps the 1500s to 1900-ish though.

Science (and by extension, engineering) was the instrument of the Enlightenment, nearly outside of the old priestly scholastic system at first, especially 250-200 years ago, supercharged by the industrial revolution, much more free of politics and hierarchy.

This is some of the romanticism you see around steampunk and "mad science" today, as the increasing commodification of tech continues to whore out science, tech, and engineering to mere chattel of the lords of capital.

Some of the science is there to destroy the world, some is there to save it -- all very adventurous -- but until fairly recently more of those decisions seemed to be in the hands of the technologists, not the money men, quite so consistently. Properly, non-science people feared that. Geeks tend to impulsivity. But in groups they tend to more morality than capitalists, because they tend to work out trends more long term, in self-regulating communities. The memetics of geek culture are fascinating, and they've turned, generationally, to sustainability from militarism -- so capital is systemically taking the tech out of our hands.

Structures, increasingly, are being created in finance to make sure that tech people are locked out of leadership in their own companies, because, I think, we often have ideas that take more factors into decision making that go beyond profit, beyond single products, and into what makes a good lab or engineering company long term and not just a good cash cow.

But it's also very hard to get geeks to do more than bitch on the Internet about this. In fact, after more than thirty years on the Internet, I'm frankly disappointed at the binky quality of the medium -- it satisfies so much of the need for people to feel a sense of community (say on forums such as this) that they never leave the comfort of their ergonomic chairs for one or two evenings a week for a community meeting or two to effect real change.

That would involve breaking the silo and dealing with difficult people. Challenging preconceptions, crafting and living with compromises. Nasty uncomfortable things, make you late for dinner. Much easier to stay home and watch Game of Thrones and anticipate the politics than to actually deal with risks in the real world.

My time of adventuring is likely over. I had a rather bad stroke in a good instrument that laid me low a couple years ago, so all I can do is write and bitch now, and wait for the SSDI to kick in, and hope I don't end up homeless in the meantime (the safety net has holes -- seems that if you are too smart, and present too well, it's very hard to convince people you only have a couple good hours a day twixt migraines/seizures and people won't pay you for them if you can't meet deadlines consistently, as a former engineer with a wiped math center -- c'est la vie).

But now that I have time to stop and observe, rather than my former 4x normal speed forward, I see people substituting talking about the problems for doing anything about them. Signing petitions for contacting the actors doing harm, or any direct action at all, or even contacting their delegation in DC to say "Don't support these people if they come to lobby you."

Most congressional offices throw away internet petitions -- did you know that? They ignore them because they are too easy. They serve as ways for organizations like Change.org to collect your address and raise money, and education you on an issue (that last being a worthy enough end if it gets you to do something as a follow up...ever...).

So there's my rant for the day. Log of DU, call your congressional delegation. Find a meeting with your local dems this week or with local government or a nonprofit you care about, and get involved if you aren't already.

None of the real work is done online. Democratic committee work isn't here. The laws aren't made online. The schools aren't run online. Utilities aren't regulated online. City and county government isn't run online. The things that matter to you aren't done here, and probably never will be. So if you aren't doing that, please give it a chance and do so, and get involved, because I can't really anymore, and I miss it and worry about it terribly.

Shava Nerad
former technical/research staff, MIT, UNC/CH Hospital, University of Oregon (which is what brought me to this particular discussion)

former chair of Budget and Finance, Multnomah County Oregon (PDX)
former state committee, Oregon
key volunteer, Oregon for Dean
key volunteer, Oregon for Kerry (with the button that read: "I am in love with Howard Dean but in an arranged marriage with John Kerry"
campaign chair, mayoral run, Portland OR (we lost but got the most votes per $ expended, on a first run for my really smart pro-biz/pro-schools but unknown guy so we knew we had very long odds, and he later decided maybe politics wasn't his thing -- but we also spoiled the rather corrupt in-the-pocket-of-developers candidate who we didn't want to win so we were pretty pleased)
(and more before or after but this is the thick of it)
(all of which is which is what brings me to exhort you to go out and do the work since I can't much anymore)

Founding executive director, The Tor Project (which is what I'm probably best known for, oddly enough, after a whole career of other stuff in digital divide and other interesting work in science/engineering)

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Response to shava (Reply #30)

Mon May 6, 2013, 03:12 PM

31. I appreciate your

views and agree with your perspective, but I am curious as to why you used my simple comment of support for a concern for accuracy as a springboard.

I mean, you were pointing much of your in-depth comment at my response and I don't think I contributed much to discussion in a significant way concerning my views, for you to do so.

But thanks for all the information and your investment in the matter and welcome to DU.

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Response to Newest Reality (Reply #31)

Mon May 6, 2013, 09:41 PM

32. When people respond to a news story, it's as though it weren't to a real situation

with real people.

"Someone should do something about this..."

"We should have standards about these sorts of things...' (who is this we?)

"We should only approach these things if we can do them correctly..." (again, what we and with what funding...?)

Then when activists, often scrappy people with no budget and a lot of guts and a few friends who have the heart to jump off cliffs with them, go out to try to save the world, and "do something about this," all they hear is that they are doing it wrong -- the classic syndrome of the left eating our young.

Because we don't fund things. Or hang together rather than allowing various folks to hang separately. We are very quick to criticize and play armchair general from the sidelines.

The people who do these things are often real people struggling with what they see as real and present dangers, very much wishing for our help (even if it were to tell them in this case, "we'll do studies to show conclusively that there's not a danger so you can sleep better, and we'll make sure that money is clean and untainted and so are the studies." Activists operate in an environment of strapped resources.

So it's not ad hominem, sorry -- it's just that your comment seemed like a conversation spark on that very thing. That we should be thinking of these projects as catalytic, not incompetent, and realizing how difficult it would be to do them as competently as you wish, then perhaps accepting that doing them at this level furthers the conversation adequately for the risk/benefit for society over the alternative of [nothing at all].

It was right around WWI that mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a classic on leftist movements, New Roads to Freedom, I think it was, where he tried to explain how the burgeoning labor movements of contemporary England were, in fact, not scary but trying to aid the stuffy middle class of the time. In the introduction he has one of the best descriptions of the character of the activist leader that has ever been written. He talked about how they often come off as angry and bitter and arrogant, because they are men (product of his time) of vision, and it is to clear to them how the run of ordinary men are blind to paths that would liberate them and easily make their lives and society better in so many ways, yet they are rebuffed by the society they try to help.

When I see people tearing down the efforts of young people trying to help society like this rather than rushing to help them -- even if it's to help them modify their approach or to analyze what is wrong with academia that forces this approach -- I feel forced into Russell's model -- a curmudgeon basically grousing in a corner that everyone is "doing it wrong."

See why I lurk, now that I can't just rush to help instead of just bitching about it all?

It's not about you. In another time, I'd be off doing something about it myself, or catalyzing someone to do so more directly. Now I mostly get to just analyze why it won't likely happen.

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Response to shava (Reply #32)

Mon May 6, 2013, 10:14 PM

33. Ok, then.

Glad to be your spark, though I do have strong views about Monsanto's influence and impact across-the-board, hence my comment.

I'd like to make it clear that I was supporting the highest standards possible when battling a megalith like Monsanto, but I did not express disdain, nor do I deprecate the efforts of anyone who works actively to expose and oppose their practices.

I can see you do have much to express, so feel free to do so. Being that close to the subject, your sharing of your insights is also important.

Take care.

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