Salon.com Kind Of Exonerates Me on Honeybees—Gee, Thanks

Andrew Leonard over at Salon.com gives me a backhanded compliment for my column dissecting the anti-biotechies' pathetically ideological attempt to link genetically enhanced crops to the current plague of collapsing colonies of honeybees. To wit:

Pro-agricultural biotechnology journalists like Reason magazine's Ron Bailey quickly scoffed at the theory, and in fact, eagerly used its flimsiness to bash anti-GM activists who are probably over-eager to seize upon any scientific finding that supports their own fierce opposition to genetically modified crops. But the long-established bias of the pro-GM boosters made their own dismissals equally suspect.

Of course, Leonard's own earlier oh-so-delicately-skeptical column suggesting a link between disappearing bees and genetically modified corn couldn't possibly have been driven by his own biases against biotechnology, right? Indeed, why ruin a good scary anti-biotech story by actually reading the scientific literature on the subject?

Even more bizarrely, my column showed that the studies cited by the Sierra Club contradicted its dark hints that biotech is somehow harming bees. By the way, I'm pro-agbiotech only because the scientific evidence shows that it's safe and economically viable. Since that is so, I wonder why Leonard's views skew anti-biotech? Couldn't be because of unstated (and perhaps unconscious) ideological premises, could it?

In any case, Leonard has now more or less repudiated the notion that biotech crops are a likely cause for colony collapse disorder, so kudos to him. He writes:

But now comes the most convincing argument I've seen so far, courtesy of the American Farm magazine (with thanks for the tip to the very pro-GM GMO Pundit) and Galen P. Dively, a professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in integrated pest management. Dively sums up the available research -- and there has been quite a bit on the possible effects of Bt corn on honeybees -- and states that "while this possibility has not been ruled out, the weight of evidence based on a multitude of studies argues strongly that the current use of Bt corn is not associated with CCD [colony collapse disorder]."

Whole Leonard column at Salon.com here.

Disclosure: I sold my pitifully few Monsanto shares many, many years ago. So I own no biotech crop company stocks. And even if I did I am not so lost in my own self-importance to believe that whatever I might write about biotech companies would have any influence whatsoever on their market values.

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  • ||

    And even if I did I am not so lost in my own self-importance to believe that whatever I might write about biotech companies would have any influence whatsoever on their market values.

    Well, uh, why bother then?

  • ||

    Dan T. Perhaps it's just another delusion on my part, but I do hope to explain to certain people (often misled by activist scares) how science and technology generally work to improve human well-being. Not always, just most of the time.

  • ||

    ronald, that i disagree with much of your scientism is one thing, but your tone gets old REAL fast.

  • ||

    Ron: please disclose any bias you may have against bees for their past stings and getting into your soda pop at picnics.

  • Dave W.||

    I might write about biotech companies would have any influence whatsoever on their market values

    How about your market value as a writer?

    Like Leonard said, people like him have their biases, people like you have their own opposite biases. The best thing to do is get all the biases out in the open, and listen to leonard especially hard when he admits that GM did something good, and listen to you especially hard when you admit that GM did something bad. By the same token, we tune out leonard a bit when he says that GM did something bad, and we tune you out a bit when you say that GM did something good.

    The people in your rolodex may not understand that that is how it works, but your smarter readers (and Leonard's smarter readers) know this stuff intuitively.

  • ||

    "By the way, I'm pro-agbiotech only because the scientific evidence shows that it's safe and economically viable. "

    Paint me skeptical on your objectivity. You make this claim as if you came to the issue without a preconcieved point of view... an inhuman feat.

  • ||

    haha yeah there are activist scares and then there are establishment scares.

  • ||

    Dave W. So you tune in only to reported information that you perceive contradicts what you believe to be the biases of the people to whom you are listening? Wouldn't lookig at the data instead of scrutinizing what you believe to be the biases of those who report it be a more effective route to good information and also be fairer to the reporter? For example, take a look at the articles to which I linked in my column on honeybees and make up your own mind.

    BTW, did you write Leonard to complain about what you believe to be his biases, or am I a special beneficiary of your helpful comments?

  • ||

    thats the problem isn't it? you are working under the assumption that looking at THE data will always give the correct answer and thats the old reductionist trap.

  • ||

    Paint me skeptical on your objectivity. You make this claim as if you came to the issue without a preconcieved point of view... an inhuman feat.

    Maybe, but he provides a link to an article that has links to scientific information, as well as admissions from traditional GM foes admitting that all evidence points to its safety. Do you or Dave or chris have any evidence to the contrary? Or is, "Yeah, but you're biased!" a satisfactory way to debunk scientific evidence in your circle?

  • ||

    Mr. Bailey writes to pay the bills. And personally, I prefer Bailey's informal and occasionally mocking tone to the fervent, sweaty proselytizing of some deep green environmentalist thumping the "The Selected Works of Arne Naess." I respect science writers who respect good science. For all of his flaws, Bailey seems to genuinely respect science. His work on global warming has certainly been relatively gracious in its slow correction. This is more than I can say for other writers of a more, how shall it put this, theological bent.

  • ||

    i have no problem with ron's bias. it is as plain as day. i have a problem with his ideology.

  • ||

    The American Farm article is pretty convincing. There is a fair amount of research showing little to no effect on bees from Bt corn.

  • ||

    chris: With respect-data may not be self-evident (that is it always requires interpretation with regard to confirming or contradicting an hypothesis), but if you don't believe data, what do you believe? Revelation? Voices in one's head? The authority of Robertson and Falwell?

  • ||

    Jose - I love your salsa. Do you have skin in the GM game?

  • ||

    "thats the problem isn't it? you are working under the assumption that looking at THE data will always give the correct answer and thats the old reductionist trap."

    I used to look at THE Magic 8 ball for answers but found that I had fallen into the old Magic 8 ball trap. Curse you, you fickle black plastic oracle!

  • ||

    and one more thing because i have to go to work and i know the flood of ad hominem attacks on "deep green environmentalists" is on its way:

    going back to "good" science doesn't get us anywhere because all that science is a part of the food industrial complex. i am out here on the prairie and i can tell you prairie with me and tell me industrail agriculture is only a good thing for the people who make the rules. but i don't care because soon enough all the convential growers retire or get parkinsons (bless their souls) and there aren't going to be any young people intereste din taking their place. why would they?

  • ||

    "I love your salsa."

    Ah, a reader of my long lost tome, "Meditations on Condiments."

  • ||

    JOyG: Mr. Bailey writes to pay the bills.

    Actually, I write because that's the way I get to learn lots of new information. As one wag put it: "Journalism is getting your education in public." Fortunately, it also pays the bills, kind of. Ask my credit card companies about that. ;-)

  • ||

    ron don't try to paint me in a strawman corner here. i believe science is fallible because we are AND because science is often working under bad assumptions like everyone else. all this is has been hashed out by philosophers of science all the time and it trickle its way down eventually.

  • Grotius||

    mike,

    I wonder what Ortega y Gasset would have thought of the mass use of salsa. ;)

  • ||

    sorry for the illegible posts. i am late and i need to go!

  • Guy Montag||

    Yea, but what about the killer bees? You keep avoiding that one!

  • ||

    "going back to "good" science doesn't get us anywhere"

    Out of respect for the Enlightenment, I must refuse to read anything that is written after the above sentence.

  • ||

    Perhaps the bees are dying of embarrassment because of those allergy medication commercials...

  • Urkobold®||

    Great day for idiots, yes?

    Ron Bailey has far more patience that Urkobold.

  • ||

    Wow, when trolling offends the Urkobold, it really has gone too far.

    I have a theory. The fuzzier a scientific field gets, the more vulnerable it becomes to the subjective values and biases of the participating scientists. In other words, chaos and/or hard-to-fathom complexity can turn the objectivity of science into something else. Psychology comes to mind, as does, to a lesser extent, climatology.

  • ||

    Chris:

    I'm not sure if you are referring to either Ron's libertarianism or is 'scientism'.

    However, it appears pretty clear that a return to pre-industrial revolution technology is not an option, unless you want to kill off 80% - 90% of humanity and turn 90% of the survivors into peasants. Ron and the rest of us are fully aware that there are severe problems with the current situation - global warming being only one of them.

    Given that we can't go back and can't stay where we are, the only way out is technological development - including GM foods and advanced energy technologies.

    Will the new technologies be 100% safe? If you have read threads here before, you know that none of us believe that anything is 100% safe. Anyone who offers a "100% safe" solution is peddling snake oil. Anyone who demands that things be made "100% safe" is either a fool or a knave.

  • ||

    Mike,

    "Or is, "Yeah, but you're biased!" a satisfactory way to debunk scientific evidence in your circle?"

    I made no attempt to debunk anything beyond RB's claim that he comes to the evidence with a blank slate. RB did not present any scientific evidence regarding his decision making process.

    Does writing criticism equate to scientific examination in your circle?

  • ||

    "Of course, Leonard's own earlier oh-so-delicately-skeptical column suggesting a link between disappearing bees and genetically modified corn couldn't possibly have been driven by his own biases against biotechnology, right? Indeed, why ruin a good scary anti-biotech story by actually reading the scientific literature on the subject?"

    Um, Leonard's column refutes the link, and puts forward the two pieces of evidence that work against the theory. I really don't see what you're bitching about.

    For a "skeptic," Mr. Bailey, you certainly seem discomfitted by expressions of less-than-perfect certainty.

  • ||

    NM: With respect, did you click the link to my column discussing the scientific consensuses on climate change and agbiotech? That column contained several links to comprehensive reports from a number of national academies of science dealing with the safety of crop biotechnology. Also you may want to take a look at my old article Dr. Strangelunch.

  • ||

    "Wouldn't lookig at the data instead of scrutinizing what you believe to be the biases of those who report it be a more effective route to good information and also be fairer to the reporter?"

    Wow, lotta balls coming from Ron Bailey.

    Especially given your characterization of Leonard's piece. Talk about letting "what you believe to be the biases" of the speaker cloud your perception.

    Just read the Leonard story he links to. Apparnetly, it's not enough for those who bring a different point of view than Mr. Bailey to be cautious and skeptical, when even the most cautious and skeptical statement by them is going to generate this level of bitchiness.

  • ||

    "By the way, I'm pro-agbiotech only because the scientific evidence shows that it's safe and economically viable."

    Everyone who thinks that Ron Bailey wasn't "pro-agbiotech" years before he read the first study of its safety, please raise your hand.

  • ||

    I have no problem with a writer having his/her biases so long as they are consistent. These biases can easily be balanced out by just sampling many writers, each with a different set of biases.

    I don't always agree with Ron Bailey, but I don't recall any specific case where I thought he was being irrational or was espousing a position he didn't believe in just because he was being paid to espouse that position.

    The bottom line is the two well-meaning people can review the same set of facts and come to different conclusions. This is the result of differing philosohpies (aka biases).

  • Dave W.||

    BTW, did you write Leonard to complain about what you believe to be his biases, or am I a special beneficiary of your helpful comments?

    I haven't written to Leonard specifically because Salon.com has always been too crapped up with subscriptions and registrations, thereby marginalizing Leonard in the Dave W. world. They just don't get the funding over there that they need to appear on my radar screen.

    Nevertheless, I can assure you that I have been banned from sites all over the political spectrum, from DU to Freerepublic, and pretty much all points in between. The only "reason" I last here so long is that this site prizes free minds as highly as it does, and it is pretty well understood that freedom ain't free: Dave W. is the terrible tribute that must be paid to the ideal. Even so, I have had my scapes here at Reason. I still can't post from home -- I am under sort of a reverse house arrest here.

    here are what some other people (at another site) have said about me on the Tubes this week:

    When Witttle Davey was in law school, he had a professor who used the Socratic Method in questioning and challenging his students. Young [Dave W.] was so impressed, he tried using his own bastardized, incompetently done version on this forum--playing "devil's advocate" as some have said. Of course, he doesn't do it very well, and rather than get people thinking, as the prof did, he only succeeds in pissing most people off. But I'm OK with it--the poor dear must lead an extremely lonely life if he has to spend so much of it on here doing that. I'm not angry--I actually feel sorry for the guy.

    And I would welcome the opportunity to meet you as well, [Dave W.]. I would love the chance to make fun of you in person.


    Another testimonial:

    I shall no longer call you [Dave W.].

    DA i will call you. Or perhaps DA (known by most as [Dave W.])

    No not Ducks Arse.

    Devils Advocate.

    If we say black, you say white.

    We say yes, you say no.

    We like Rowntrees fruit pastilles, you tell us about the bad things about Rowntree Fruit pastilles.

    Debate is more important than anything. Get those fingers typing.

    True?


    The tersest cut I have sufferred this week was probably also the deepest, to wit:

    I regret allowing myself to respond.

    But, really, I kind of quibble with the devil's Advocate label in the sense that I do not disagree with people for the sake of disagreeing. My disagreements, whether they be with feminists about the Duke rape case, the cops about no-knock warrants, libertarians about food and drug labelling, or scientists about funding bias are all genuine and important issues to me.

    I guess what puts me sort of at odds with my cyberworld is that I pretty much only find it interesting to discuss things with people where I feel opposite. In that sense I am a Devil's Advocate. I am sincere, but I exercise a selection bias so that I mostly argue and seldom agree. It is intentional. I am not ashamed of it, although sometimes I think people think I should be. I mean, sometimes people even make physical threats and stuff, but adversarial discussion of the issues is more important to me than unlikely threats to my physical safety.

    To answer your question about whether I prefer adversarial process to unmediated dissection of raw data: yes, I have a distinct preference for adversarial process. I have wanted to be a lawyer since I was in 3d grade, and it was the adversarialness that attracted me to the profession then, even though I didn't know the word. I was merely aware that people argued in court and that the truth emerged. i think you have to have a dialectic, both sides, if you are going to get anywhere meaningful intellectually.

    Sometimes, when banning me, admins will say that there are plenty of sites for my kind of person on the Internet. HnR is about the closest I come, but maybe someday I will find the El Dorado of adversarial minded folks just like me, who cuss like me, who just don't give a fuck like me, who dress like me, walk, talk and act like me. OTOH, maybe I can shape the rest of the world, such as it is, like some kind of Jedi master working on a universal Luke, so that others adopt my mental methods and attitudes and be cool with hashing out the issues and getting to better syntheses in the future than what we did in the past.

    Final note: if anyone wants to dissect what I have written, in my area of speciality, please click on my sig link to go to my patent blog. Adversarial comments welcome, but no name calling. I am sure you will find many intellectual vulnerabilities in my comments on the Fed. Cir. patent cases. It is always hard to know what is right in the area of patents.

  • ||

    Did Dave Ws comment below remind anybody else of Vizzini's iocaine monolog in the movie the princess bride?

    Like Leonard said, people like him have their biases, people like you have their own opposite biases. The best thing to do is get all the biases out in the open, and listen to leonard especially hard when he admits that GM did something good, and listen to you especially hard when you admit that GM did something bad. By the same token, we tune out leonard a bit when he says that GM did something bad, and we tune you out a bit when you say that GM did something good.

    Now compare to Princess bride

    Vizzini: But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

  • ||

    Oh, joe, why are you always on about Ron's biases? I mean this in all bloggly friendliness, but you, sir, have a beam or two in your eye as well. You should maybe just accept that Ron has a different viewpoint and attack his conclusions rather than his biases. I don't think he's "bought and paid for". Shills are usually pretty obvious in their shilliness--look at, say, Sean Hannity.

    Naturally, Pro Libertate is purely objective in all things. Bow to my Solomon-like wisdom, fools!

  • thoreau||

    I have, on many occasions, committed the most famous of the classic blunders: Never get involved in a flame war in blogistan!

    Every time I do it, afterwards I tell myself that it is INCONCEIVABLE that I could possibly do it again. And then I do it again. So maybe I'm confused on the definition of "inconceivable."

  • ||

    thoreau,

    You're right, of course.

    Now I'm off with my army to invade Asia. I'll then turn to European Russia during the winter.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    My name is Inigo Montoya. You banned my IP address. Prepare for a virus.

  • ||

    Dave w. The issue isn't that you are adversarial. The issue is that some days you are completely effing neurotic ;-)

  • ||

    Pro Libertate,

    1. I didn't accuse Bailey of being "bought and paid for" in any of my comments on this thread.


    2. The difference between Bailey and myself is that I admit that my "biases" come from my beliefs and values, while he poses as SuperRationalMan, who only adheres, with as much consistency as carrick could ever dream of, to the whatever the anti-environmentalist line of the day is "only because the scientific evidence shows" that the position that comports most comfortably with the pro-corporate, anti-environmentalist position is correct. Even when it doesn't, such as the state of global warming science for the past five years.

  • ||

    Chris,

    You said

    i am out here on the prairie and i can tell you prairie with me and tell me industrail agriculture is only a good thing for the people who make the rules. but i don't care because soon enough all the convential growers retire or get parkinsons (bless their souls) and there aren't going to be any young people intereste din taking their place. why would they?

    There are plenty of young people who would like to take their place.

    They just can't afford to because farm subsidies have completely decoupled the actual productive capacity and value of the land from the land cost.

    In other words government policy is why there aren't many young people who have the means to take over from the older farmers when they retire.

    US government policy and farm subsidies have killed more family farms then anything else.

  • ||

    Invading Russia in the winter is foolish, Pro Libertate.

    You should invade in the summer. That way, you'll have the war all wrapped up before the snow falls.

  • Urkobold®||

    Dave w. The issue isn't that you are adversarial. The issue is that some days you are completely effing neurotic ;-)

    UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE DAY

  • ||

    joe,

    No, not on this thread :)

    I don't think Ron is doing what you are saying that he's doing, though I'm sure he has his leanings, too. Trying to be objective and actually getting there is not just a little bit difficult.

    As for Russia, I like a challenge. Napoleon and Hitler came so close, after all. No, no, I'm sure that my forces will succeed.

  • ||

    Just remember, if it starts to get late in the season, that just means you have to go faster.

  • Grotius||

    Pro Libertate,

    The Poles always have immunity against the "land war in Asia" rule.

  • Grotius||

    Pro Libertate,

    The Mongolians invaded and defeated the Russians during the winter. All you've got to do is repeat the success of the Golden Horde.

  • ||

    Well, some people have won land wars in Asia, of course, but it's rarely a good idea to make the attempt yourself. Maybe all my hordes need are some koumiss. Yum!

    joe,

    Nah, I'm going to run past my supply lines. What the heck, we'll just take over Russian supplies. They wouldn't destroy their own stuff, right?

  • Wikinger Elch||

    For ProGLib:

    some other advice for Russia.

    hier

  • Grotius||

    I can think of dozens of successful land wars in Asia.

  • ||

    Grotius,

    I think the idea was land wars launched from Europe. Of course, we fought in Asia in WWII, the British ran things there in the subcontinent, etc. All things told, there's a lot of land to cross on the Asian mainland, and a lot of it is less than hospitable. But sure, go ahead, invade!

  • Dave W.||

    UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE DAY

    I used to be worse. Crane and Darkly did a little tutorial for me, and helped me get rid of some of my worst excesses, like spelling and getting overly personal and being like that super-intelligent cat in the comic.

    Crazee Mona tried to teach me stuff, too, but she just ended up pissing me off. There is good teaching and bad teaching, i guess.

  • ||

    lol @ people's posts. i love how libertarians (and i WAS one or am one who knows) think they can use their irrefutable logic to defeat any arguments yet clearly don't understand logic 101.

    "I'm not sure if you are referring to either Ron's libertarianism or is 'scientism'."

    the 'latter'.

    "Given that we can't go back and can't stay where we are, the only way out is technological development - including GM foods and advanced energy technologies."

    thats fine. we can agree to disagree. this is a very huge issue with many tentacles and i think you all are talking past me and vice versa.

    "Anyone who demands that things be made "100% safe" is either a fool or a knave."

    i never demanded that.

    "US government policy and farm subsidies have killed more family farms then anything else."

    yes I agree absolutely. all you have to do is ask what kind of family farms are successful these days.

    (btw i am beginning market gardener who voted for harry browne in 2000 and haven't bothered to vote since and i don't own any stocks in anything. so there are my biases. now i have to go repot some tomatoes.)

  • Grotius||

    Pro Libertate,

    I think the idea was land wars launched from Europe.

    Sure. It is mostly a post-Napoleonic deal though.

    Then again, Asia has invaded Europe a lot more often than vice versa.

  • ||

    Don't forget winners like North Vietnam.

  • otto||

    We did not lose Vietnam. It was a tie.

  • Archie||

    I'm tellin' you they whipped yer little ass there, boy! They whipped yer hide reeeel good!

  • ||

    Damn you, VM, damn you to hell! I was just typing that! May the Urkobold task you like the White Whale!

  • VM||

    [runs off]

  • Urkobold®||

    Don't worry, you'll always have Greenland (Bar & Grill).

  • ||

    Ah, yes, my fiefdom of Greenland. I'm developing a robust exile industry, taking on people that other nations want to exile to a place quite like Greenland.

  • Viking Elg||

    Grønland. Mit Grønland.

    vhy oh vhy oh great Urkobold, vould you forzake us og give Grønland to...

    *sobs.

  • Urkobold®||

    You can keep Grønland.
    He gets Greenland.
    What's the problem?

  • ||

    I made no attempt to debunk anything beyond RB's claim that he comes to the evidence with a blank slate.


    Where exactly did he say that? You're rambling on about the phrase "only because the scientific evidence shows that it's safe and economically viable", and any declarations of a blank slate seem pretty absent. If anything, the remark would seem to hint that absent such evidence, he'd be wary of it...

    But then, I try not to read too much between the tea leaves.

  • Viking Moose||

    arwoo?

    *stops chewing on ottoman. looks up quizzically.

  • ||

    Ron does well-researched articles and posts, he is pretty damn good about including links to the data he bases his assertions on, and he is up front about his beliefs. What more can you people ask from a journalist? Jesus Christ. If you don't like his conclusions, point out where the data contradicts him, or where other data contradicts the data he bases his arguments on. All this "you're biased, I can't hear you, nyah-nyah" bullshit is incredibly tiresome.

    joe - we get it. You believe everything that comes out of Bailey's mouth (or keyboard) is a lie. OK?! We get it. Seriously. You can stop now. You don't have to do this for every post. It's just familiar repetition at this point.

    Neu Mejican, you are among the smartest and definitely the most consistently data-oriented regular commenter on this site, so to see you get involved in that game is pretty sad.

  • highnumber||

    Neu Mejican, you are among the smartest and definitely the most consistently data-oriented regular commenter on this site

    *,

    MikeP wants to have a word with you.

  • ||

    Ron wrote: "Disclosure: I sold my pitifully few Monsanto shares many, many years ago. So I own no biotech crop company stocks. And even if I did I am not so lost in my own self-importance to believe that whatever I might write about biotech companies would have any influence whatsoever on their market values. "

    Ah, but you didn't disclose that you're a triffid.

  • ||

    he poses as SuperRationalMan

    What else would you expect from a magazine that calls itself Reason ;-)

  • ||

    * where does the obsession with data come from? are you a robot? that would be cool.

  • ||

    where does the obsession with data come from?

    Without data, the only thing left is faith and emotion. Are you saying these are preferable to data for making decisions?

  • ||

    no. those are my only three choices? i am not big on data so much as language. i am begining to feel there is a connection here between peoples interest in bias and their interest in data. those are not my projects.

  • ||

    *

    "Neu Mejican, you are among the smartest and definitely the most consistently data-oriented regular commenter on this site, so to see you get involved in that game is pretty sad."

    I have no beef with RB's position on GM (other than his overly simplistic characterization of the position of those that see problems with a move towards it...but that is more about politics and socio-cultural practices than data regarding harm and economic viability).

    I have a lot of respect for his public changing of position on GW, for instance.

    But the point of this particular post seemed to be primarily a "RB is more objective than those who disagree with him" pat on the back. I am not sure there is any evidence that RB is more objective than those who hold a different position on the topic.

    I was reacting to the "nyah nyah" tone taken in his post.

    Eric .5B.

    ""only because the scientific evidence shows that it's safe and economically viable", and any declarations of a blank slate seem pretty absent. If anything, the remark would seem to hint that absent such evidence, he'd be wary of it..."

    That is what I am skeptical about. Like most people RB would be more likely to maintain his belief and declare that the science was not yet conclusive until the evidence stacked pretty heavily against it (c.f. RB & Global Warming).

    "blank slate" was a discourse device meant to highlight the absurdity of "I'm pro-agbiotech only because the scientific evidence shows..." as if no other factor impinges on his opinion.

  • ||

    Pick your language and let us know.

    This issue is between rational decision making using facts, data, information, or whatever you call it and irrational decision making based on not having facts, data, etc.

  • ||

    i speak English, personally. you seem to speak it as well.

    if someone makes a desicion that is not based on fact or data or information what are they making it on? faith and emotion? can anyone make desisions purely on one or the other? i think it is very hard to seperate the two (cf the bush administration) and some people theorize that humans often make their desicions by gut and go and rationalize them later on. i tend to agree with that position.

    i am a bit of an anarchist so i'd side w/baukin and berry and disavow specialists and abstractions. i am not an athist either. go figure.

  • ||

    Ron,

    "NM: With respect, did you click the link to my column discussing the scientific consensuses on climate change and agbiotech? That column contained several links to comprehensive reports from a number of national academies of science dealing with the safety of crop biotechnology. Also you may want to take a look at my old article Dr. Strangelunch."

    I have read the article.

    Many who have an issue with GM are more concerned with the intellectual property and control of resources issues that get entangled in it more than the safety issues. Even if GM crops are safe and economically viable (I have no doubt that they are), they may not be the best choice.

    Sometimes older methods provide the solutions that newer methods are aiming for...

    Look into the reintroduction of Tiwanaku agricultural practices in the Lake Titicaca region of Bolivia which has provided for crop yields far greater than modern farming techniques.

  • ||

    carrick,

    You missed the opportunity to quote Hume's great bit on the topic:

    If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

  • ||

    Hume discusses the [is-ought] problem in book III, part I, section I of his A Treatise of Human Nature:

    " In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it shou'd be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it."

  • VM||

    giggle. he mentioned titties and kaka.

  • ||

    I don't know much, but I know that "Copulations of Propositions" should be a blog.

  • Dave W.||

    Without data, the only thing left is faith and emotion. Are you saying these are preferable to data for making decisions?

    You need data. You also need somebody ready, willing and able to point out flaws in the data. Somebody motivated.

    If there are two, apparently conflicting sets of data, then you probably need a different motivated person to point out the flaws in each, respective data set.

    If there are two data sets that deal with different aspects of a subject, then once again you need a motivated and knowledgeable person dedicated to attacking the relevance and probativeness of each.

    Science and engineering types like to think that data is the thing and that peer review is adversarial. Really, data is just the launching point and peer review is much more hierarchical than adversarial.

  • ||

    can anyone make desisions purely on one or the other?

    Every decision based on facts is filtered through the values (biases) of the person making the decision.

    I am not arguing the people are automata. However, I am arguing that facts are the foundation for making decisions.

    Perhaps I misundertood your previous posts. Were you trying to state that data was not necessary for making decisions? Or were you complaning that someone else was stating that data was sufficient for making decisions?

  • ||

    peer review is much more hierarchical than adversarial.

    You've obviously never come out of a peer review bloodied and bruised before.

    I am really good at what I do. And still, I have never come out of a peer review with a rubber-stamped seal of approval.

  • ||

    data is not something i typically talk about. i don't know what definitions you are working with so it is hard to understand the contxt you are using it in.

    before you get data you have to run through the scientific method and all that, right? well that doesn't always work so great. yeah people are always working with their own set of assumptions and scientists can be pretty conservative in playing with those. i don't think so linearly like a scientist does. kuhn is good on this.

  • ||

    i mean to say kuhm is good in talking about the evolution of scientific ideas. sorry...

  • Dave W.||

    You've obviously never come out of a peer review bloodied and bruised before.

    I am really good at what I do. And still, I have never come out of a peer review with a rubber-stamped seal of approval.


    Oh, I have been bloodied, bruised and/or metaphorically crushed by higher levels of a hierarchy. I have been disgusted by upper levels of a hierarchy to the point where I have (justifiably) left the hierarchy. I have also fought the hierarchy on points where I was wrong and they were right and I should have kept my fool mouth shut. But that has more to do with hostility than adversarialness.

    By "adversarial," I do not mean "particularly hostile." It has more to do with the nature of the relationship between the opposed parties in the conflict. In litigation I never argue with the judge (appeal maybe, but never argue). Peer review is all about arguing with the judge. Both adversarial and hierarchical conflicts can be heated, polite or somewhere in between, but they are fundamentally different types of conflicts.

  • thoreau||

    You've obviously never come out of a peer review bloodied and bruised before.

    I am really good at what I do. And still, I have never come out of a peer review with a rubber-stamped seal of approval.

    And yet, at the same time, as painful as the review process is (and I've been there, you can indeed get worked over pretty bad), in some sense it's still a remarkably low hurdle. Given enough time, one can usually find a journal, an editor, and a couple of reviewers who are willing to accept the paper and put it out there for scrutiny by the larger community of researchers. Maybe not in the prestigious journal that one wants, but some place.

    I mention this because the rather low hurdle of peer review makes it all the more damning when certain communities (communities that frequently consider themselves the misunderstood skeptics or persecuted Galileos of our day) are unable to come up with much in the way of peer-reviewed research. Peer review, as important as it is, is just the beginning. All it means is that a couple of reviewers and an editor figured that your stuff is plausible enough to put out there for wider examination.

    Lots of stuff gets published without gaining any wider acceptance. And that's perfectly fine. Publication isn't the final word, it's just an offering for further examination. But those who can't even get past the very minimal hurdle after numerous tries are pretty much guaranteed to be missing something in their work.

  • ||

    "blank slate" was a discourse device meant to highlight the absurdity of "I'm pro-agbiotech only because the scientific evidence shows..." as if no other factor impinges on his opinion.


    In other words, it was a claim you pulled out of your ass and tried to put in Ron's mouth. How unhygienic.

    Look into the reintroduction of Tiwanaku agricultural practices in the Lake Titicaca region of Bolivia which has provided for crop yields far greater than modern farming techniques.


    If the techniques are so much more efficient, then they'll clearly out-compete modern techniques, absent government interference.

  • ||

    First for Dave W. Peer review means "peer" review, not your bosses beating on you.

    For Dr. T. You are a scientist, and your peer review involves getting authorized representatives of a publication to deem that your article/report worth publishing.

    I am an engineer working in highly regulated industry. My peer review involves my fellow engineers scrutinizing every detail in my work to make sure there are no latent errors in the product. The consequences of not finding errors is spending time testifying under oath how your product succeeded in killing someone.

  • ||

    By the way, when I was in college I wanted to grow up to be Dr. T. Somehow I wound up an engineer instead ;-)

  • thoreau||

    Sorry for my misunderstanding, carrick.

  • ||

    Sorry for my misunderstanding, carrick

    No problem, I was just trying to explain the wide difference in meaning of the phrase "peer review".

    It is going to be difficult for non-technical people to understand what peer review means when even scientist and engineers use the phrase differently.

    Dave W. and I have argued over peer review in the past. He puts much less stock in it than I do. I think that is due mostly to different interpretations of peer review.

  • ||

    Eric.5B.

    "In other words, it was a claim you pulled out of your ass and tried to put in Ron's mouth. How unhygienic."

    For one who claims not to read between the tea leaves, I think you have a hard time with even explicit inference in communication.

    When RB claims his position is based "only because the scientific evidence shows" he is using a linguistic exclusivity modifier "only" attached to a form indicating cause (i.e. "because") to say that there are no other causal factors linked to the result (his support for agbiotech).

    So no, I didn't pull it out of my ass.
    It came from RB's words.

    Been reading long?

  • ||

    Eric.5wit

    "If the techniques are so much more efficient, then they'll clearly out-compete modern techniques, absent government interference."

    That is a wonderfully naive belief in the simplicity of the world. Only two factors need to be considered - efficiency and government interference.

    That must mean it was the early Tiwanaku government meddling that resulted in the technique being lost and the society collapsing.

  • ||

    Re Peer Review: Martin Blume, editor-in-chief of the American Physical Society and its nine physics journals, says, "Peer review doesn't necessarily say that a paper is right. It says it's worth publishing."

  • ||

    NM: I don't think you'll find that I've ever claimed that agbiotech is a panacea for all farming problems.

  • thoreau||

    "Peer review doesn't necessarily say that a paper is right. It says it's worth publishing."

    Yes, that is a much shorter way of saying it.

  • thoreau||

    Ron Bailey | May 3, 2007, 4:20pm | #
    NM: I don't think you'll find that I've ever claimed that agbiotech is a panacea for all farming problems.



    On the other hand, how seriously can we take this comment when we consider the time that he posted it?

  • ||

    "Peer review doesn't necessarily say that a paper is right. It says it's worth publishing."

    That is most certainly the standard used by every discipline the requires published research, both technical and non-technical.

    I have a tendency to forget that my industry is probably a small niche application of the phrase "peer review".

  • ||

    thoreau: On the other hand, how seriously can we take this comment when we consider the time that he posted it?

    Hey, I was away all afternoon trying to finish up an article on what do about biomedical conflicts of interest for the magazine.

  • thoreau||

    What, you couldn't have waited until 4:21 pm to post it and avoid all the innuendos?

    :)

  • ||

    carrick | May 3, 2007, 4:25pm | #
    "Peer review doesn't necessarily say that a paper is right. It says it's worth publishing."

    That is most certainly the standard used by every discipline the requires published research, both technical and non-technical.

    I have a tendency to forget that my industry is probably a small niche application of the phrase "peer review".


    It means the same thing to me as it does to you. Review by other engineers looking for errors.

  • ||

    It means the same thing to me as it does to you. Review by other engineers looking for errors.

    Yeah, but peer-reviewe journals are used by scientists, engineers, historians, artists, and so on.

    An engineering peer review is probably not something that anyone who wasn't an engineer would understand.

  • ||

    Peer review (in the academic journal sense) is better than nothing, but not by much. Thoreau is right. As there is an ass for every seat; there is a journal for every article. Well, this isn't quite true. If you are trying to publish research that goes against the existing dogma for a particular field, the search can be harder. The larger point, perhaps lost in the dancing and twirling of the Pedant's Ball, is that dogmatic points of view (for or against biotechnology, let's say) are not particularly conducive to good science or good journalism. Well, at least the way science and journalism were once defined. What I like about Bailey is that he a writer who concedes that he could be wrong, and (gasp!) has actually admitted changing his mind on an issue. For the deep green acolytes, there is no scientific process of error and correction. There is only faith and heresy.

  • VikingMoose||

    *dreams of URKOBOLD searing Neu's soul... (1/2B clearly won the day. that moronic "1/2twit" just meant the score was run up. And it wasn't funny)

    ** new dream hoping to URKOBOLD that Neu's semiotics course ends soon, and that he forgets he ever heard of John Fiske.

    ***aaahhhhhhh

  • ||

    "An engineering peer review is probably not something that anyone who wasn't an engineer would understand."

    And a cheer rises from the Veblen section. Seriously, which one of you guys said engineers don't have people skills?

  • thoreau||

    Peer review (in the academic journal sense) is better than nothing, but not by much. Thoreau is right. As there is an ass for every seat; there is a journal for every article.

    Yep, so if somebody can't even clear that low hurdle we generally feel safe ignoring them.

    Well, this isn't quite true. If you are trying to publish research that goes against the existing dogma for a particular field, the search can be harder.

    Even then, if you really have something solid you ought to be able to find some less controversial, fairly technical aspect of the work that you can publish. If you can't even clear that hurdle, it means that you don't have any useful data.

    For instance, as a biophysicist I work on things related to an issue raised in the 1970's by a doctor named Judah Folkman. He had some insights into cancer and offered some Big Ideas. At the time, many people thought he was thinking way too big, that the stuff he was proposing would never work out as well as he hoped. And, even to this day, while there has been a lot of progress, there's still some question over whether it will really work out as well as might be hoped.

    But he was able to publish from day 1. Why? Because even though his Big Idea was very, very far from validation, he got some reproducible data that was at least consistent with the beginnings of it.

    There were a lot of doubts about whether it would lead to all the revolutionary things he was hoping for, a lot of Big Picture questions to address before anybody could judge the significance of his work. But the data was there, it was real, it was reproducible, it was well-documented, the procedures used were reliable, the statistics and error bars were all there, and so he was recognized as doing real science.

    The crackpots always like to whine that they're misunderstood, but if their stuff is real then they ought to be able to show some data that is solid but less controversial. For every ground-breaking experiment there is a calibration. For every revolutionary theory there is a mathematical foundation. For every medical breakthrough there is a real insight into a real disease. If people won't believe that your miraculous experiment is working, how about using the same techniques to do something less controversial first? Show that the techniques work in a less controversial setting, then show us the bigger stuff.

    If you can't even find that first step, that first technical point, and get it through the low hurdle of peer review, then you've got nothing.

  • thoreau||

    I should backtrack a bit. I don't know if Folkman was literally able to publish from day 1. But he was able to publish from early on. There is a long literature on his subject, going back to the early 1970's. It took a while to persuade a lot of people to join in this area of research, but that's in part because it took a while for him to develop the techniques that he needed to get the data that he needed. And to the extent that he was getting data, he was able to publish from very early on in his work, long before his ideas on cancer therapy were a broadly acccepted paradigm.

  • ||

    So Jose, have you ever spent an eight hour day reading source code to ensure that a software module can't fail in a way that would to someone's death?

    Of course while you are doing this, you are trapped in a small room with a collection of detail freaks that want to argue about grammar in the non-executable comments section.

  • ||

    OOPS,

    So Jose, have you ever spent an eight hour day reading source code to ensure that a software module can't fail in a way that would lead to someone's death?

  • ||

    well, I must depart now. It has been a pleasure.

  • ||

    "new dream hoping to URKOBOLD that Neu's semiotics course ends soon, and that he forgets he ever heard of John Fiske."

    If I ever heard of John Fiske, I have forgotten.

    But I can't get the searing memory of Stanley Fish out of my brain.

    Saussure's Saucier's saucy error don't make that dish palatable.

  • ||

    VM,

    "1/2B clearly won the day."

    Oh so an "ass" beats a Titicaca.

    Now that I know the scoring system I might have a chance.

  • ||

    Ron,

    "NM: I don't think you'll find that I've ever claimed that agbiotech is a panacea for all farming problems."

    I have never seen you make that claim.

    There is an interesting body of qualitative research building up around the GM debate that looks at how the various groups talk past each other.

    There are quite a few studies that look at risk assessment and its varied manifestations in the GM debate. Those that are doing the scientific studies are using a much different definition of risk than the general public. The resulting dialogue makes little progress. It is much more complicated than a simple lack of knowledge on the part of those that are not on the GM bandwagon. And it is not a simple tussle between evidence and ideology.

    Just as a consensus that GW is happening doesn't inexorably lead to particular public policy, the consensus that GM crops are safe doesn't lead to support for their use and further development.

    When supporters and skeptics snark at each other across the middle with claims of superior understanding of the issue the real debate remains superficial.

    imho

  • ||

    "What, you couldn't have waited until 4:21 pm to post it and avoid all the innuendos?"

    Oh, I don't know. It's a bit like a spinal tap thing.

    "Why not make 4:20 stronger?"
    "But this goes at 4:21. It's one greater."

  • ||

    I have no beef with RB's position on GM (other than his overly simplistic characterization of the position of those that see problems with a move towards it...but that is more about politics and socio-cultural practices than data regarding harm and economic viability).

    I have a lot of respect for his public changing of position on GW, for instance.

    But the point of this particular post seemed to be primarily a "RB is more objective than those who disagree with him" pat on the back. I am not sure there is any evidence that RB is more objective than those who hold a different position on the topic.

    I was reacting to the "nyah nyah" tone taken in his post.


    Fair enough, I suppose. I'll agree that this post was a bit on the gratuitous side. Bailey, Leonard, myself, and everyone else on the planet have some biases. It's fair to point that out. I perceived some of the criticisms of RB to be "you're biased, so nothing you ever write ever can be true", but it seems you had a more nuanced concern.

    I'm sure as a journalist it's always tempting to lash out at those who criticize you, especially when the facts back you up. But as this case seems to demonstrate, as a journalist you are probably better off just relating the facts. If you make the story about yourself, personal attacks are to be expected.

  • Dave W.||

    An engineering peer review is probably not something that anyone who wasn't an engineer would understand.

    1. You'll have to demonstrate your Wu Tang style on Mr. Bailey sometime so we can be amazed.

    2. I still say it is hierarchical at a design review (and, yes, I have attended some as an engineer). If you are on the same organizational chart, your peer review is hierarchical. Engineers do adversarial, as opposed to hierarchical, arguing when they bid against rival engineering firms for business.

    3. Hierarchical type argumentation is good for resolving some issues. Adversarial is preferable for other issues. The kind of argumentation to best resolve the controversial issues that Mr. Bailey writes about is adversarial, rather than hierarchical, imo.

  • ||

    For one who claims not to read between the tea leaves, I think you have a hard time with even explicit inference in communication.


    Mmm, perhaps. Recognizing disconnects between implication and possible inferences, particularly autoproctological examples of the latter, is something I think I am managing rather well, here. :)

    That is a wonderfully naive belief in the simplicity of the world. Only two factors need to be considered - efficiency and government interference.

    That must mean it was the early Tiwanaku government meddling that resulted in the technique being lost and the society collapsing.



    Ah, another disconnect. I had briefly mentioned the government interference angle only because there might be some pedantic libertarian person who'd jump in and point out all the possible government interferences (including those sponsored by interested businesses) that could sabotage those techniques. You're new-ish, but I'm famously not fond of lengthy, un-comedic disclaimers - it's all good, Thoreau ;) - meant to cover every possible circumstance when making a statement.

    On the other hand, you inferred that I mean that those two factors were the only possible variables in the situation, ruling out the existence of any other possible factors, such as inapplicability beyond the region of their development and crops used, climate change, or a small asteroid wiping out most of South America. Further, you concluded that I thought a general characterization of activity being carried out by people in the present time applied to circumstances many hundreds of years ago. :)

    I can't speak for anyone else, but seeing the serious disconnect between what I meant and said and how you've interpreted it makes me only more certain that your "blank slate" ranting at Ron is at best rather misguided, at worst simply trolling. I'm afraid I can't in good conscience respond to it further.

    Now, if you'd like to make a contribution to the discussion about the matters being discussed, beyond your semantic/semiotic/silly accusations, so be it! :)

  • ||

    Eric.5wit.

    Ahhh. The difficulty of conveying sarcasm in writing.

    You have a nice habit of complaining when others misinterpret your words, while at the same time complaining about things the other person hasn't said.

    Implicatures do most of the work in communication.

    "if you'd like to make a contribution to the discussion"

    So that I can put myself in contrast with you?

  • ||

    N&M,

    I'm afraid you're the only person expressing difficulty understanding anything I've said in this thread.

    So that I can put myself in contrast with you?



    No, in order that what you write here can cross the boundary between "somewhat amusing" and "genuinely interesting" - particularly because you're barely managing the former, lately. I've had hopes for the latter, but I've realized that I can't think of any time I've seen you comment on anything but your semiotic obsessions. If that's just your thing, that's cool, but it leaves me cold.

    So, I'm going to leave you be, at least until I happen to see you engaging in substantive discussion. Catch you around.

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