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Survey Shows Most Extreme Opponents of GMO Foods Know the Least - Yet Think They Know the Most

The result is consistent with lots of other evidence of widespread ignorance and bias influencing public opinion on political and scientific issues.

A recent study finds that the most extreme opponents of GMO food have the lowest levels of relevant scientific knowledge, but also tend to believe they know much more than they actually do. The Guardian has a helpful summary of the results:

The most extreme opponents of genetically modified foods know the least about science but believe they know the most, researchers have found.

The findings from public surveys in the US, France and Germany suggest that rather than being a barrier to the possession of strongly held views, ignorance of the matter at hand might better be described as a fuel.

"This is part and parcel of the psychology of extremism," said Philip Fernbach, a researcher at the University of Colorado and co-author of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. "To maintain these strong counter-scientific consensus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowledge."

Fernbach and others analysed surveys completed by nationally representative samples of the US, French and German public. Those who took part were asked about their attitudes to GM foods and given instructions on how to judge their understanding of the topic. Next, they completed a scientific literacy test. Among the statements the participants had to wrestle with were: "Ordinary tomatoes do not have genes, whereas genetically modified tomatoes do" (false), and "the oxygen we breathe comes from plants" (true).

The results from more than 2,500 respondents revealed the curious trend. "What we found is that as the extremity of opposition increased, objective knowledge went down, but self-assessed knowledge went up," Fernbach said.

The study itself is available here. As the authors point out, scientists overwhelmingly conclude that GMO foods are no more risky than "natural" ones, yet many in the general public continue to believe they should be severely restricted or even banned.

This is far from the first study to show widespread public ignorance about either GMO foods specifically or scientific and public policy issues, generally. For example, surveys conducted in the US in 2014-15 and 2016 found that some 80% of Americans say there should be mandatory labeling of foods containing DNA (despite the fact that DNA is the basic building block of all life on Earth, and nearly all our food contains it).

Some of this is simply the result of what scholars call "rational ignorance": Most people have little incentive to spend much time learning about government, public policy, and policy-relevant science, because the chance that their votes will make a different to policy outcomes is infinitesimally small. Many people don't have time to study the science of GMOs. Thus, they simply do not know that GMO foods are no more dangerous than "organic" ones, and that most organic foods are themselves the result of centuries of genetic manipulation by humans.

But that does not, by itself, explain why people who most oppose GMOs are not only the most likely to be ignorant, but also unusually confident about the extent of their knowledge. That has to do with bias, not simply ignorance. Studies repeatedly show that many people - especially those with strong views - are highly biased in their evaluation of political information, often acting as "political fans" cheering on their preferred party or ideology rather than evaluating information objectively. That is true of ordinary voters, activists, and even government officials. The most committed partisans and ideologues also tend to have the strongest biases, and thus are probably the most likely to overestimate the extent of their knowledge and understanding.

While such biases occur in many areas of life, they are particularly strong when it comes to political disputes. Both politicians and ordinary citizens are much more biased in evaluating information on political issues than otherwise similar data on nonpolitical ones. A big part of the reason why is that we have stronger incentives to try to keep our biases in check when we make decisions in the private sector than when we vote or otherwise influence government policy. In the latter situations, our actions either have very little chance of making a difference (if we are voters) or are likely to have their biggest impact on other people with whom we have few ties (if we are policymakers). That may help explain why many people hold ill-informed and foolish views on policy issues related to GMO foods, yet also continue to happily eat them.

One possible solution to these sorts of problems is for voters to defer more to scientific experts, at least on technical issues such as the risks posed by GMO foods. Such deference may often be useful. But it is also often difficult to figure out when it is appropriate, and when not. Figuring out who is a real expert and where the limits of their expertise are may itself require considerable knowledge and insight. Moreover, the same flawed incentives that lead voters to make biased assessments of evidence may also cause them to dismiss the views of experts whose findings cut against the voters' own preconceptions.

Another standard strategy for overcoming public ignorance about science is for government to disseminate accurate information about risks (or, in the case, of GMO foods, the lack thereof). Such government warnings can be useful, as in the famous case of the Surgeon General's warning on smoking. But they also have risks of their own. Governments have a long history of spreading inaccurate information about various types of risks, and their incentives to do so are often exacerbated by the very same public ignorance that government-produced information is supposed to cure. While it is unlikely that the US government will start mandating warning labels on food containing DNA, they do have a track record of requiring other misleading warnings, that often impose real costs on society.

In sum, we have good reason to be wary of the influence of public ignorance on government policy - especially when it comes to scientific issues. But there is also good reason for skepticism about the standard solutions usually proposed to fix that problem.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • santamonica811||

    ". . . found that some 80% of Americans say there should be mandatory labeling of foods containing DNA (despite the fact that DNA is the basic building block of all life on Earth, and nearly all our food contains it). . . ."

    Out of curiosity; what sorts of foods (other than water??) do not have DNA? I definitely would have missed that question...I would have assumed that all foods did have DNA. I suppose that some wags would speculate that things like Twinkies and sodas have no DNA, under the theory that there's nothing remotely 'natural' in them. :-)

    [edit: Okay, a quick Google says that things like cheese do not have DNA--which is a big surprise to me. Sodas also, which was less of a surprise.]

  • Toranth||

    My favorites are the foods labeled as containing "No chemicals".

  • Doug Huffman||

    Alphabet G00gle is at the root of the problem. G00gle is not an honest broker of information. How did St. Monica come to such a gross misapprehension but for being G00gle-educated.

    Now, about nuclear power ...

  • ThePublius||

    What the hell is "G00gle?" Is this some slap at Google that I missed, to use zeros instead of the letter "O?"

  • Sarcastr0||

    ...Google is in some conspiracy against Monsanto or something?

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    Are there baked goods without wheat or other plant matter? There's artificial vanilla -- does real vanilla have DNA, or olive oil, or apple juice? Offhand I'd guess yes, but ... while I would have guessed that milk has no DNA, I would expect cheese, yogurt, beer, and other cultured food to have small amounts of DNA.

  • Rossami||

    Other foods not containing DNA include salt, sugar, brandy and some oils. Salt is a mineral (and maybe technically not a "food") - the rest are refined such that there is no DNA left in the final food product. If you live in a culture where blood is considered a food, blood cells also have no DNA.

    Foods like your cheese example actually do have the DNA still in the ingredients but it is so highly degraded by the process that it becomes questionable whether that DNA still exists. Other examples include less-highly refined oils, some refined flours (and the breads or cakes made from them) and maybe other food products such as corn starch, soy lecithin and a variety of syrups.

  • James Pollock||

    " blood cells also have no DNA."

    RED blood cells have no DNA. Blood plasma has no DNA. But there are other kinds of cells in the blood, and they do.

  • Lastseer||

    Salt.

  • Drewski||

    Aside from obvious stuff like salts (and depending on definitions, additives such as iron or many preservatives, emulsifiers, etc.), a lot of processes we use break down DNA. For example, cane sugar and white vinegar typically won't contain DNA.

  • apedad||

    I'm often amazed that we humans have any resemblance of functioning societies;.

    You know, with all the ignorance.

  • WillDD||

    It's a wonder that we still know how to breathe, as Robert Zimmerman once said..

  • Liberty Lover||

    So label GMO's. Just give people a choice to decide what they want. If non_GMO is more expensive, that is up to them. Almost all foods are labeled already, putting three tiny letters on them isn't going to break anyone. It is so insignificant many already label non-GMO. That way everyone has a choice. Unless you oppose informed choice?

  • Charles Epperson||

    If you want to you can indeed label it right now, and many do. It is the forcing of the labeling by government that is baloney.

  • Toranth||

    "So label products made by Jews. Just give people a choice to decide what they want. That way everyone has a choice. Unless you oppose informed choice?"
    Not exactly a good argument.

    Anyone is free to voluntarily announce being non-GMO - and many do. But requiring a label, especially knowing that it doesn't mean anything, is catering to the ignorant and biased, on behalf of their competitors.

  • susancol||

    It goes beyond "catering to the ignorant and biased", to creating a false/misleading sense that being GMO is actually somehow dangerous--after all, why require a label if it's not!

  • James Pollock||

    " being GMO is actually somehow dangerous--after all, why require a label if it's not!"

    It has to label the source of the ingredients... why label it a product of Switzerland unless it's dangerous?

  • mse326||

    Because any reasonable definition of GMO will include almost all foods to make the warning useless. Unless you think GMOs can only be lab modified because the human species has been modifying our food through husbandry and breeding for thousands of years.

  • Joe_dallas||

    " Unless you think GMOs can only be lab modified because the human species has been modifying our food through husbandry and breeding for thousands of years."

    Virtually our entire agriculture food supply has been modified in this manner - but dont tell the activists

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    And more recently but still prior to the advent of genetic engineering, new plant strains have been created by using radiation to induce mutations.

  • Sevo||

    "...putting three tiny letters on them isn't going to break anyone...."

    Isn't it wonderful how nanny-statists assume 'it's only three tiny letters', and that they *know* the cost of compliance and how easy it is to run a company for a profit.

  • James Pollock||

    The cost of compliance is paying a designer to add the words "this product may contain GMO ingredients" to the packaging. If that cost pushes the company out of profitability, that business has got other problems.

  • NToJ||

    If people are already allowed to label their foods as non-GMO, why would the government need to mandate disclosure to inform consumer choices? Consumers who don't want GMOs in their food can only purchase foods that are labeled non-GMO, right?

  • James Pollock||

    The fact that it's labeled "non-GMO" doesn't mean it's "non-GMO"... it means that the merchant thinks it will sell better if it's labeled "non-GMO".

  • NToJ||

    And the merchant believes that its litigation risk for false statements in advertising is lower than the overall benefit in sales it will enjoy from the representation.

  • ThePublius||

    Most often when I hear people railing against GMO's, they seem to believe that GMOs are some kind of compound or cellular structural difference. Some seem to believe it's an additive, something that can be identified and even removed.

    O.K., cue the climate science combatants.

  • James Pollock||

    The problem is that there's a lot of irrational fear about the subject, and a bit of fear (caution?) that's entirely rational.

    The scientists generall agree that GMO foods are safe. That means that the scientists aren't aware of any harmful side effects. It doesn't mean that there aren't any, it means that if there ARE any, they haven't been identified yet. Think of the communities where the water supply was considered safe, until the cancer clusters were identified and the harmful impurities in the water found.

    Humans have been interfering in the genetics of the food supply for several millenia, by deciding which food animals produced the next generation, and which food plants were planted for next year's plants. That's had some undesired side effects in the past (such as basing an entire country's food supply on a crop that was susceptible to a blight, for instance). We're trying new techniques for modifying the food supply. It may be (or it may not) that some unidentified problem(s) lurk, undiscovered.

  • ThePublius||

    So, you're saying don't do anything unless it can be PROVEN that there will be no harm or side effects. Got it.

    Historically, people have a lot done more with plants than simply "(decide) which..,food plants were planted for next year's plants. " The most common is hybridization. As far as screwing up by deciding to plant a single crop susceptible to blight, that has absolutely nothing to do with hybridization to other genetic modification. Try to raise alarm over GMOs by invoking the potato famine is to grasp at straws.

    I will have you know that hybridization and GMOs have led to more disease resistance in crops. Crops grow faster with higher yields and higher disease resistance than ever before, and all of humankind benefits from this. There are now blight resistant potatoes.

    Incidentally, hybrid plants ARE genetically modified, and much more so than the current technology, highly targeted and specific GMO methods.

    You cannot advance crop science with zero risk. So far, so good.

  • Joe_dallas||

    "A recent study finds that the most extreme opponents of GMO food have the lowest levels of relevant scientific knowledge, but also tend to believe they know much more than they actually do"

    This is a problem that extends to many other areas of activism, scientific and economic.

    Just to name a few examples:

    Fracturing - most of the activists in this arena have virtually zero knowledge of geology, drilling and exploration practices, hydrocarbons, etc

    climate science - lack of any analytical ability - claims made well beyond the current limits of our knowledge, claims made well beyond our current limits on the tools we have to take measurements.

    The economic arena is also prone to activists with very little understanding of basic economic concepts such as how supply and demand effects changes in minimum wages, male/female wage gap, etc,

  • Sarcastr0||

    Is this satire?

    Your own certitude that all your partisan truths are the real scientific truth (scientific consensus itself bedamned) goes beyond your own expertise, unless you have a bunch of diverse doctorates you like to hide behind short accusations scientists are ignorant.

  • Joe_dallas||

    care to elaborate on which statement is incorrect

  • Sarcastr0||

    You're not even wrong, since all you're doing is saying 'those who disagree with me have zero knowledge.' You are providing your opinion as though it trumps everyone else's.

    The only one I might agree with you (though again you provided no elaboration) is the wage gap, which exists but whose causality is much more complicated than the talking point.

  • NToJ||

    How would we rebut "most of the activists" without knowing how you define the group?

    How would we rebut "claims made well beyond..." without knowing which claims you had in mind?

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "Your own certitude that all your partisan truths are the real scientific truth (scientific consensus itself bedamned) goes beyond your own expertise, unless you have a bunch of diverse doctorates you like to hide behind short accusations scientists are ignorant."

    Ok, I'll do it then. The activists campaigning against fracking (and pipelines, for that matter) don't know their ass from third base about the object of their fury. And before you tell me that I have no expertise in that area, know that I'm a degreed petroleum engineer who retired a couple of years ago after 33 years of practice in the e&p business. The activists just want to shut down hydrocarbon production, so they throw out whatever made up crap they can come up with, hoping that some of it sticks to the wall. There are legitimate reasons to criticize the shale resource play concept, but none of the activists have actually stumbled on those reasons. The pipeline protestors are simply imbecilic.

    As to climate change, there is a lot less consensus among the scientific community than the media would have you believe, particularly regarding the degree to which human activity is contributing and especially particularly regarding the accuracy of the models predicting the future. That last point is the thing that determines whether warming is a problem or a crisis, which makes a huge difference as to how we should react...…..

  • mwester||

    +1

  • Joe_dallas||

    Fracturing is prime example of the activists lack of knowledge

    Both the hydrocarbons and saltwater's toxicity levels are orders of 1,000x greater than the fracking fluids and along with much greater likihood of leaching into the ground water - yet the activists complain about fracturing fluids.

  • James Pollock||

    "yet the activists complain about fracturing fluids."

    I don't pay much attention to that area of activism, but I've never seen activists complaining about the methods of fracking, but rather, the fact that it causes the trapped hydrocarbons to emerge in unwanted places (cue video of flaming water tap).

  • Sarcastr0||

    No one has done a comprehensive study of how fracking works - the market has moved ahead of any study of the consequences. So while you are not wrong about the activists, you are eliding the emptiness of the oil industry's blandishments about safety.

    As to climate change, I straight up think you're wrong about the lack of consensus. But it's no longer about the facts anyhow, it's become about partisan tribes. Which is why nothing substantive will get done no matter what in the foreseeable future.
    I'm optimistic about geoengineering efforts.

    The larger issue was Joe_dallas saying 'yeah people don't follow science, here are some examples' and then going for some full-on partisan wankery. It's typical of the genre, but replacing zealotry about an issue with a more broad partisan zealotry is just as anti-reality as any anti-GMO fool.

  • Joe_dallas||

    "No one has done a comprehensive study of how fracking works - "

    That statement is Bullshit - Fracturing has been around since the 1940's. Do you really believe that there has not been thousands of studies on the subject.

    Thanks for validating the main point of the article

  • NToJ||

    He's wrong, but not in the way you think. I'm pro-fracking but see here.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "No one has done a comprehensive study of how fracking works - the market has moved ahead of any study of the consequences."

    What consequences are you referring to? Hydraulic fracturing dates back to the WWII era. The practice of drilling a horizontal well in a shale and applying multiple fracs to it is now more than a decade old. Hundreds of thousands of fracs have been pumped and tens of thousands of horizontal shale wells have been drilled and fracked. There has been plenty of time to observe any negative consequences of the practice. Yeah, the industry is self-serving - as all industries including the industry of government are - but where are the negative consequences from something that has been done more than a million times?

    "I straight up think you're wrong about the lack of consensus"

    You straight up think I'm wrong because you're doing what you accuse joe_dallas of doing. You're filtering it through your political bias. It's beyond dispute that the models that were run in prior years wildly overpredicted the amount of warming that we should have seen to date and the consequences of it. There are plenty of reasonable climate scientists that are pointing this out while trying to dodge continual accusations of being "deniers" from the truly woke. The catastrophic model predictions are what makes warming a CRISIS!!! and pushes for an economy destroying response.

  • Sarcastr0||

    If you're just going to put your word against mine regarding the consensus on global warming, I could point you to any number of surveys of scientists. I'm no arbiter of scientific facts, but I'm hardly the one replacing facts with bias here.
    That you pivot from consensus to attacking past models as overblown is some fancy footwork but doesn't really avoid the core issue. And 'economy destroying' is some partisan narrativism right there, as is your previous sentence about your side being oppressed.

    Going back to fracking, it's again clear you've moved from the pretext of sober evaluation to advocacy. There are countless historical examples of long practice not being proof something is safe, decades long practice is not probative at all. Certainly there are some troubling correlations at work.

  • theobromophile||

    Wikipedia might not be the best citation source for highly political issues, FYI.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Sure, but read the sources and you get quite a few studies of scientific consensus.

  • Joe_dallas||

    Yes - the citation to the Cook, Naomi consensus study.
    I am always impressed by those who are embrace an activists study, while unble to recognize shoddy work, yet somehow possess the superior intellectual capacity to ascertain the validity of climate science.

    John cook, the lead author of the study runs the anti-science website Skeptical Science.

    My original point regarding climate science was that claims are being made which greater exceed the limits of our current knowledge and claims are being made the greatly exceed the tools we currently have to make the measurements supporting such claims. Pointing that out is not and should not be controversial.

    The claims made by Gergis, Pages 2k, marcott fall into the aforementioned category. See climate audit . org for numerous examples.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Yeah, I'm aware of the concerns about that study. (Beyond your ad-hominem). Hence why I didn't like it.
    Luckily there are quite a few others in the wikipedia article. If you're going to argue ad hominem for all of them, that says more about you than the studies.
    As does your question-begging unsupported statement that your issue (based on....?) is that we're getting ahead of our models probity.

    Again - I'm not arguing that I'm correct, only that your postulate that all these scientists are arguing from narrative not facts is in fact based entirely on narrative not facts.

  • Joe_dallas||

    "Again - I'm not arguing that I'm correct, only that your postulate that all these scientists are arguing from narrative not facts is in fact based entirely on narrative not facts."

    The claims made by Gergis, Pages 2k, marcott fall into the aforementioned category. See climate audit . org for numerous examples.

    https://climateaudit.org/?s=gergis - a small sampling of Gergis issues

    Small samplie of pages 2k issues - https://climateaudit.org/?s=pages2k

    small sampling of marcott errors - https://climateaudit.org/?s=marcott

    You should also get up to speed on the wikipedia citation --
    cite 1 - cook osakes, doran 2016
    cite 2 - cook 2013
    cite 3 - yale reprint of cook 2013
    cite 4 -
    cite 5 - nasa citing cook 2013 , cook 2016, osakes 2004, doran zimmerman 2009

    A little bit of inbreeding on all those consensus studies - but i guess you would have already known that since you cited the wikipedia page.

    You also would have known that the scientific papers supporting the consensus included the multiple gergis, pages 2k & marcott studies.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Can't read your links at work, so I can't evaluate the objections. I'll see what I can do tomorrow morning.

    But I will note that while it does deserve attention, linking to an advocacy source to argue that multiple non-advocacy sources are biased is not the sign someone is taking a sober objective view of things.

    To repeat; you barged into a thread about ignorance creating confidence to yell about how your personal understandings were super-duper right and the reliance on so-called scientific consensus was the REAL ignorance. Which remains pretty rich.

  • Joe_dallas||

    "But I will note that while it does deserve attention, linking to an advocacy source to argue that multiple non-advocacy sources are biased is not the sign someone is taking a sober objective view of things."

    Your comment indicates you are not familiar with the Climate audit. One of the few credible climate science websites. Steve Mcintyre is probably the worlds expert on climate reconstructions and proxies. numerous climate reconstruction studies have been recalled due to the errors he located on those studies. Excellent source detailing the limitations on the science and the claims greaterly exceeding existing technology makes such claims .

    Advocacy websites are skeptical science and realclimate ae good examples of advocacy websites. Using basic analytical skills, Compare and contrast those two with climate audit - you should be able to quickly recongnize the difference.

  • NToJ||

    "Steve Mcintyre is probably the worlds expert on climate reconstructions and proxies."

    Oh he's a climate scientist? Interesting. Where did he learn climate science?

  • iowantwo||

    you don't even understand enough to know a degree is statistics will settle way more debates in science than lab work.
    Climate studies is nothing but the study of data.

  • Joe_dallas||

    "Oh he's a climate scientist? Interesting. Where did he learn climate science?"

    It take it that you are not familiar with his work in the field of climate science. he has extensive knowledge in climate reconstructions, proxies, errors in proxies. One of the original peer reviewers in climate reconstructions - though removed from the approved peer review list due to actually peer reviewing the studies. numerous climate reconstructions studies have been retracted due to his work.

    Take sometime to review his work at climateaudit.org

  • Sarcastr0||

    Your comment indicates you are not familiar with the Climate audit. One of the few credible climate science websites.

    Well that's some awesome question-begging.
    Yet again, your confidence in this source's credibility and not that/those is very outcome-oriented.
    The Wiki is a bit of a ride, credibility-wise. Unless you think it's a pack of lies, your charactarization of the site is just more fixing information around a pre-assumed conclusion.

    The fact that the useful brand of an anti-consensus advocacy site is sober and a pro-consensus advocacy site is more about crisis is neither surprising nor proof about the credibility of one or the other.

  • Sarcastr0||

    So I did some poking around on the climateaudit website. A lot of it is very much in the weeds about this detail or that, which is fine for academia but isn't really going to get you anywhere on the large corpus of work as a layperson - unless you're just looking to generalize based on an preconceived conclusion.

    Certainly nothing is discussing your original charactarization of the issue - lack of any analytical ability - claims made well beyond the current limits of our knowledge. That still looks like it's just you taking your feeling and turning it into a statement of fact.

    Anyhow, I did some poking around about something I was better able to evaluate. So I did a search on 'consensus.' I turned up:

    Saying because of Enron, all consensus is bad.

    Attacking a NOAA paper with the exactly the same ipse dixit style you say he's a counterexample for

    The NSF doesn't comply with the DATA Act

    Endorsing that clown Lord Monckton.

    So he's really just a version of you with more jargon, but just as partisan and just as outcome-oriented.

  • James Pollock||

    "One of the few credible climate science websites."

    Barging in here, I'm assuming that all this means is that this is the one that reinforces all your existing biases without challenging any of them.

  • ThePublius||

    "Scientific consensus" is an oxymoron. There is no such thing in the scientific method as voting for the result.

    Most of the models used by alarmists are garbage, can't even predict the past.

    Whatever happened to "the end of snow," by the way?

  • Sarcastr0||

    When experts disagree, ThePublius, what do you do?

    From this post, it looks to me like you make a call based on your personal feelings. Others prefer to look to the set of experts generally before they evaluate where they stand.

  • Mike W.||

    You just can't admit when you're wrong.

  • Mike W.||

    That was directed to Sarcastr0 by the way.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Strong argument, Mike. I have seen the light.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    I'm not going to argue climate science with you. Arguing climate science with either side is as bad as arguing religion. Suffice it to say that the information you're getting is incomplete and terribly biased. Because of politics. If you choose to ignore the counter arguments that reasonable scientists are trying to make despite their being personally attacked for doing so it's your choice. Dissent and counterarguments have historically been a part scientific advancement, but its discouraged as to current climate science because the climate argument has left the realm of science and entered the realm of politics. And my reference to economy destroying is related to the so-called Green New Deal, which is a technological pipe dream and a disaster waiting to happen.

    And you don't know your ass from third base about fracking. Not gonna try any more.

  • Sarcastr0||

    We are on the same page about how partisan the argument has gotten on both sides, even if I take issue with your unsupported statement about the real state of scientific consensus. Which is not the same as the existence of some counterargument.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

  • gormadoc||

    The study that reports 97% consensus wasn't a good study but is the one used to slam that point repeatedly. They received ~3000 questionnaires of two questions but decided that only 77 responses counted. Extremely shoddy, if not intentionally misleading, work.

    Those two questions, by the way, were "When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?" and "Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?" Those questions aren't representative of what the theory of global warming/climate change is supposed to be. Current models are dangerous, not because of the human factor, but because of a positive feedback loop that does not have as much consensus as is portrayed.

    The positive feedback loop isn't demonstrated and is merely assumed in current models. They have the past data, make assumptions as to the magnitude of the loop, and then fit a curve until it matches the data. Then they extrapolate forwards in time. That's why we've had so many models of future (now past) temperature that haven't panned out.

    The problem in climate research is that reporters and activists bundle things with large consensus (greenhouse effect) and low consensus (high positive feedback) as if they're part of one coherent theory. The problem is that it isn't yet. We don't know how they play together, if they play together, or the existence of some of them.

  • NToJ||

    "It's beyond dispute that the models that were run in prior years wildly overpredicted the amount of warming..."

    I'm disputing it. Which models specifically did you have in mind? And have you considered the many accurate models?

    "...from the truly woke."

    You are not coming from a place of objectivity.

    "The catastrophic model predictions..."

    Which ones?

  • Joe_dallas||

    'I'm disputing it. Which models specifically did you have in mind? And have you considered the many accurate models?"

    Are the models really that accurate -

    There has been a general warming trend since circa mid 1800's - predicting a continuation of the same general warming trend really isnt that hard
    Broecker 1975 - projected a continuation of the same general warming trend then predicted an increase in the trend which results in significant departure from actual staring early 2000's. So in reality, his has not been close

    hansen 1988 - prediction of same general warming trend with 3 scenerios A ) B) & C)
    Through 2015/16, his prediction has matched scenerio C even the emmissions matched scenerio A. Only got close in 2015/2016 due to the el nino and because his prediction included a reduction in warming due to volcanic activity (which did not occur ).

    Bottom line Hansen prediction wasnt close - except for the fluke of el nino and including the non existent volcano activity.

    I am presuming you were already aware of those facts Since you cited Carbon brief.

  • Sarcastr0||

    You are not an expert in this area, and yet you keep pretending that you are. When called on it, you pivot from your own certainty and point to an expert who disagrees with the consensus and say 'he's the only truly credible expert!' and then don't even parrot his thesis properly.

    Despite your protestations, you are not coming from a place of objectivity but rather of group affinity.

  • NToJ||

    "So in reality, his has not been close..."

    For Broeker, his prediction did not exceed observed temperature until 2005. Which means his relatively simple model was accurate for 30 years. That's remarkable.

    Hansen's 1988 Scenario B was off by about 10%.

    You didn't mention the IPCC mean, Sawyer, etc. What giveth?

  • Mike W.||

    Excellent comment. Thank you.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "Both the hydrocarbons and saltwater's toxicity levels are orders of 1,000x greater than the fracking fluids and along with much greater likihood of leaching into the ground water - yet the activists complain about fracturing fluids."

    Well, I wouldn't want to drink frac fluid either.

    And the activists complaints relate to contamination of shallow drinking water reservoirs. By definition, the hydrocarbons and saltwater have not contaminated those (over thousands of years) or else they wouldn't be fresh water reservoirs. It's virtually impossible for any of that stuff to get into freshwater zones because they're vertically separated from the deeper zones containing salt water or hydrocarbons by a couple of miles of impermeable rock. In the rare instances in which there are hydrocarbons in shallow fresh water formations, the culprit is usually either natural fractures that connect stuff vertically (which happened before any of us people were around and means that the fresh water zones were never actually fresh water zones) or old wells that were completed or plugged poorly. By old wells I mean wells that are 30 to 60 or 70 years old, so the contamination happened long, long ago.

  • NToJ||

    "It's virtually impossible for any of that stuff to get into freshwater zones..."

    Really? People can't accomplish that?

  • Sarcastr0||

    I like how analytical your head is at, but I'd like operational studies rather than applied theorizing. But no one wants to pay for that.

    I mean, your expertise is clearly more than my own, but I'm naively not sure fracturing the substrate is quite as cut-and-dried in it's lack of unpredictable consequences as you make it out.

  • Rossami||

    Voter ignorance may be a problem but deference to experts is much, much worse. Not only are the experts subject to exactly the same cognitive biases as the general populace, so are the people who select the "experts".

  • apedad||

    bevis the lumberjack might disagree with you.

  • Rossami||

    No, I don't think he would. Because bevis used his expertise to make a coherent and compelling argument supported by facts, evidence and logic to convince rather than attempting to compel. Note that bevis did not even bring up his expertise until Sarcastr0 challenged it. bevis is not asking that we defer to him - only that we listen to him.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    I'm not asking for any deference. My experience is what it is. Same with my education. I'm not trying to influence public policy (I'm damn near as apolitical as a person can be) or profit from my expertise. I have areas in which I know a lot, areas in which I know a little, and areas in which I don't know jack shit. Just telling you what I know and what I've observed through my experience. You can accept it or you can not accept it - that's up to you.

    It's the experts who are highly politicized and the experts who are trying to make money off of their expertise that are the problem.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Yeah, that's how you do it.
    For whatever issues I have with your posts, I concur that you're not working an appeal to authority. And you have even been good cabining your experience as anecdotal.

    It's the experts who are highly politicized and the experts who are trying to make money off of their expertise that are the problem.
    But this is just inviting ad hominem.

  • NToJ||

    "...deference to experts..."

    If the experts are subject to the same cognitive biases as the general population, why would deference to them be "much, much worse"?

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    As usual, the problem comes down to a monolithic government which attracts control freaks like moths to a light. Government simply does too much, so everyone who has any interest in any matter has to put up with the tyranny of majority (or minority!) rule.

    GMO labeling is a perfect example. People who demand it could only buy products voluntarily labeled -- but they won't let other people buy unlabeled products. Seat belts and air bags and crash standards are another example -- their absence doesn't affect anybody outside the car, yet people who want a cheap car for local travel only cannot buy such a product, and have to settle for lesser alternatives.

    Government just does too much, and does it almost entirely incompetently.

  • M.L.||

    People lack knowledge because they want to lack knowledge.

    Do you think it takes a scientific genius to know that there are only two sexes, and that it's not possible to change one's sex? No. In fact, it takes something of an "intellectual" to deny the obvious.

    It's less about ignorance and more about cognitive bias, and even more about the infinite deceitfulness of human desire and the heart.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Ahhh the appeal to common sense, and any who do not share that are just being irrational.

    Certainly there is the siren call of certainty via worldview, but don't pretend that getting at the truth is easy.

  • NToJ||

    "It's less about ignorance and more about cognitive bias..."

    You are an expert.

  • James Pollock||

    "Do you think it takes a scientific genius to know that there are only two sexes"

    The scientists know better, at least the ones who studied biology or genetics.

  • M.L.||

    Studies repeatedly show that many people - especially those with strong views - are highly biased in their evaluation of political information, often acting as "political fans" cheering on their preferred party or ideology rather than evaluating information objectively. That is true of ordinary voters, activists, and even government officials. The most committed partisans and ideologues also tend to have the strongest biases, and thus are probably the most likely to overestimate the extent of their knowledge and understanding.

    Somin on Somin on Immigration

  • Sarcastr0||

    That's opinion, dude. I think he's wrong, but don't pretend apples are oranges.

  • theobromophile||

    I haven't been in R&D for quite some time, but one of the things I took away from the experience was that we know a lot less than we think we know, and that a lot of things can be variables that we don't even know are variables. (As but one example: we found that the method of manufacturing a certain type of polymer affected its properties, such as conductivity, by an order of magnitude. We also had to get creative in order to figure out how to create some sort of method of comparing these products before incorporating them into other materials, to figure out what was due to the different manufacturing method and what was due to us improving our processes. Even then, it was very much "A has 10-20% more of a certain property than does B," not "86.7% of the improvement is attributable to the new method and the remainder is attributable to the polymer.")

    So when I hear bleating about "scientific certainty," I wonder if the people involved are actually as certain of this as the think they are, and I wonder if the cited conclusions match the research that was done.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I'm all for humility and skepticism, but at some point you need to adopt the conventional wisdom since you can't examine every scientific postulate yourself.

    Eschewing the consensus of experts is how we've gotten some of our most exciting discoveries and technological breakthroughs, but careful you're not replacing blind faith in science with some other dumb narrative, especially when it comes to policymaking.

  • theobromophile||

    "I'm all for humility and skepticism, but at some point you need to adopt the conventional wisdom since you can't examine every scientific postulate yourself."

    That's a nice way of saying, "Just don't worry your little head and trust the experts, sweetie."

    The preferable option is to set up a system wherein these things can play out with reduced consequences. On the GMO front, if food producers are given the option to label their foods as GMO free, those opposed to GMOs can simply purchase this other food. If they are wrong about GMOs, they are wrong on their own dime; if the rest of us are wrong, we're hurting ourselves and not them. Food producers can have a choice, too. Contrast with, say, a government mandate banning GMOs, or requiring all foods to be labelled as having or not having GMOs.

    On the fracking issue, if there are concerns about groundwater contamination, that's a state issue if the groundwater won't cross state lines in substantial quantities. Let each state take that risk, and let the federal government decide what is an acceptable risk for pollution or potential pollution that crosses state lines.

    Ideally, we set up our systems so that ignorance (or getting something wrong from a scientific perspective) has less of a consequence on other people, then let people make their own decisions.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Don't put words in my mouth to make me condescending towards you. I'm noting that at some point you need to trust expert consensus to function as a curious individual. Do you disagree?

    I love labeling. It's a solution to so much. EnergyStar ratings are one of the most effective and yet least coercive government programs ever
    But here, I am given pause by Toranth's 8:27AM post, especially given how irrational people are about GMO; while many things are, this won't be saved by a properly informed market.

    We don't usually do the laboratories of democracy thing with lives. Now, I'm not saying we should follow the protestors and halt all drilling or even stop fracking right now, but right now the oil industry is very much in the policy driving seat, and I don't think that's the right balance either. From the EPA to Yale to Science the correlations look unfortunate. There are lots of examples of greed getting in the way of what the government knew was killing people. We aren't there yet, but I wouldn't mind getting ahead of this one.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "From the EPA to Yale to Science the correlations look unfortunate....but right now the oil industry is very much in the policy driving seat"

    Oh good God. Look at your studies. They're all theoretical. Coulds and mights. There are literally a million real world tests out there. Where is the extensive damage?

    And if you think that the oil industry is in the drivers seat when it comes to the protection of fresh water, you've been spending too much time on the Friends of the Earth blog. The states, even (hell, especially) blood red Texas, are fanatical about protecting fresh water. That's how the states are balancing the potential health effects of fracking. It's how they've been doing it since FDR was president.

    I mean, cell phones could cause brain cancer. Could. They haven't, over 20 years of massive useage. But they could. Let's ban 'em, amiright? If we don't, we're doing a laboratory of democracy thing with lives.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I did look at the studies. Did you?
    They found statistically significant effects on birth weight, birth defects, miscarriages, etc. Also asthma.

    That's not theory. It's not causal either. But it's certainly worth a careful look.

    I think your point of view is showing again - states are not fanatical at protecting fresh water. At least New York and Washington DC are counterexamples.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "states are not fanatical at protecting fresh water."

    Yeah, they are. Have you ever worked with or under the oversight of a state natural resource regulatory agency? I have. Politically, damage to water resources causes damage to people that are politically as powerful as the oil industry (big ranchers and landholders) as well as other people (everybody else in the state). The industry is going to lose that one.

    I'm gonna quit the argument because you're doing the political thing of filtering everything through your political bias, but I'll leave you with one more fact, since climate change is so important to you. Widespread fracking has reduced the USA's carbon emissions. Counterintuitive (if you listen to political bullshit) but true.

  • Ridgeway||

    Did they adjust for increased meth and opioid abuse? I'd wager that those two factors correlate well with areas that see significant fracking, and make a lot more sense as causes of the symptoms you mention (other than asthma, but i don't see how fracking causes asthma either).

  • gormadoc||

    Those could be potential confounders; another might be fertility medication, which is the primary reason the US seems to do badly on infant welfare measures. There may be socioeconomic or time factors linking people near wells to fertility medication.

    I think the Science study in particular is pretty low power for the tiny effect size. For example, the change in health index is -0.054 standard deviations. If you look at height, that would put a 5'10" man to 5'9.855". As for the low-birth rate chance, even the higher rates for people near a well were around than the national average. The non-exposed mean was 6.5%, the possibly exposed was 8.1%, and the national average meandered around 8% during the time frame. There's something else going on with these populations but I don't know what.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Science did:

    "Estimates of fracking-independent aspects of maternal health in these models are controlled by comparing the health of fracking-exposed and unexposed siblings born to the same mother."

  • gormadoc||

    "Controlled" is very loose here. They really mean that they just evaluate the outcomes of children with siblings and the children without siblings and if they look similar it provides more certain conclusions (which isn't wrong). Such controls look at "time-invariants", race, genetics, and some chronic conditions. It wouldn't have any effect on a child whose mother had taken up meth in between births or an aging mother who felt she needed fertility medication.

    They also state just after that that's the principle and not necessarily the outcome in this case: "In principle, this comparative technique controls for all the unobserved time invariant characteristics of the mother such as race that could confound conventional difference-in-differences estimates (that is, before and after comparisons of places with and without fracking). However, in practice, the mother fixed effects estimates are imprecise because there are relatively few sibling pairs with an exposed and an unexposed sibling even when we are examining all Pennsylvania births."

  • theobromophile||

    "Don't put words in my mouth to make me condescending towards you. I'm noting that at some point you need to trust expert consensus to function as a curious individual. Do you disagree?"

    So you would like to put words into my mouth. Got it.

    I shouldn't respond to this, but here goes: who gets to decide who these "experts" are, and what is the standard of proof for ignoring them or listening to them?

    From April onwards, I planned my wedding. We went five figures under budget; our friends and family loved it; the food was fantastic; and the venue was world-class.

    When trying to make a budget, it became apparent to me that different "experts" had different opinions on what matters and what percentage of the budget should be spent on each area. The florists think that a higher percentage (or dollar amount) should be spent on flowers than everyone else thinks should be... and the same goes for every other vendor. Listening to each "expert" about what you "need" quickly blows the budget and the stress levels.

    In hiring actual experts, though, we were able to assess their work product before meeting with them - whether it was our reception venue or our photographer. There is only one that I couldn't really vet before hiring, but that was a $192 charge to hire someone to run errands for us the morning of the wedding. When I "trusted" the "experts" to do their job, they were experts whom I had vetted and chosen.

    Just a thought.

  • Sarcastr0||

    I absolutely agree that credentialing experts is an underappreciated problem. But the lack of a perfect solution doesn't mean the current solution should be discarded. (The current solution being a hodge-podge of reputation and credentialism).
    I don't see a way to engineer a better solution than the one we've had since we started moving towards a national educational enterprise around the 1860s. If you have a thought on a better system, I'm intrigued.

    Of course experts disagreeing is also to be expected; reasonable experts can differ without either of them being fake experts.
    But your wedding example doesn't scale; when you start doing statistical studies of expert opinions, it's no longer about reasonable people disagreeing; hence why everyone throws around the term 'consensus.' Again, yt's not perfect, but it's the best we have.

    I didn't vett or choose Einstein. Neither did I experimentally validate his theories. But I sure did use his equations assuming they were true.
    That's my main thesis in our exchange - you have to draw the line somewhere, and a lot of people draw it all curvy around their sacred cows. It's hard not to. I'm sure I do it as well; doesn't mean I'm not going to point out when others are conveniently choosing when to be skeptical.

  • Mike W.||

    Reply to Sarcastr0 @ 1:53PM

    The thing is that Einstein has been vetted by hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists over the years. But that is what has broken down in things like climate change -- because it has gotten so political there is a lot of pressure on scientists not to vet the "consensus" position. When someone does, they are vilified and called "deniers". No one does that when someone comes out with a new theory questioning Einstein. I will admit that people on both sides of the climate change issue behave badly, but the point remains, because the whole issue has gotten so political, the "consensus" is not as valuable as you would normally expect.

  • Sarcastr0||

    Climate change has been vetted as well.

    Your argument that when something gets politicized you should stop paying attention to experts is a loophole that swallows the rule - it would prevent any expertise to be brought to bear on any subject of public concern.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "Your argument that when something gets politicized you should stop paying attention to experts is a loophole that swallows the rule - it would prevent any expertise to be brought to bear on any subject of public concern."

    But that's not an argument. If we can't rely on experts on politicized subjects because they may have a political agenda, then we can't rely on experts on politicized subjects.

  • theobromophile||

    "But that is what has broken down in things like climate change -- because it has gotten so political there is a lot of pressure on scientists not to vet the "consensus" position. "

    That also makes it nearly impossible to vet experts or want to put much faith in what they are doing. People are more than happy to make their mark proving someone else wrong and demonstrating that they have a far better understanding of the subject matter. When that competitive system breaks down, it's hard to trust the results.

    That is part of the reason why I advocated a political system that is less dependent upon "expertise" than one run by techocrats.

    Another issue is that one set of experts may suggest changes in their own pet area that create problems in other areas. Even assuming that the climate scientists are correct, carbon dioxide is not the worst pollutant imaginable. We may be better off releasing CO2 and then working on, say, reforestation or somesuch, than we would be trying to reduce emissions by strip-mining land for lithium for car batteries.

  • Sarcastr0||

    That's a nice way of saying, "Just don't worry your little head and trust the experts, sweetie."

    The sweetie is what got to me. Maybe it's the liberal circles I run in, but I'm sensitive of people accusing me of mansplaining.
    If this implication was not your intent, I apologize. But that's how it reads to me.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "If this implication was not your intent, I apologize. But that's how it reads to me."

    Wait, what if that was her intent? What are feminist men supposed to do if a woman feels that they are being mansplained to? Are they supposed the call the woman out for having invalid feelings?

  • Sarcastr0||

    I can say I don't care for the implication, and put her to the question, as I did in my 12:19PM post.
    I'll note that she responded to that by saying I mischaractarized her words, and I apologized.

  • gormadoc||

    Perhaps your bodied masculinity has cowed her into acquiescence and she doesn't want to trespass on your own lived experience space for fear of reprisal.

  • James Pollock||

    "That's a nice way of saying, 'Just don't worry your little head and trust the experts, sweetie.'"

    If that's a message you're desperately interestested in hearing, maybe you could get it. If that's NOT the message you're looking for, though, it's not in there.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "...at some point you need to adopt the conventional wisdom since you can't examine every scientific postulate yourself."

    So should we believe that the US is the 10th most dangerous country for women, ahead of all of South America and most of Africa and Asia?

  • Sarcastr0||

    What do you think? Nowhere am I saying to blindly trust experts, just that I see a lot of people choosing their skepticism based on quite predictable partisan outcomes.

    No doubt I'd see the same thing on a liberal forum as well, but I'm seeing it a lot here. And saying 'the problem with widespread ignorance is the other side trusting all these scientists' is the height of partisan blinders.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    "What do you think? Nowhere am I saying to blindly trust experts,"

    Well, I don't know, that's why I asked. The study was reported uncritically in respected news outlets based on a survey of experts. It sounds like a bunch of politically motivated bullshit to to me, but I don't have any special insight into comparative levels of violence against women, other than my non-expert intuition that what the experts are saying can't be right.

    So what should non-experts do with something like the study I linked to? Blindly trust the experts, or blindly trust our non-expert intuition? And if I can't trust experts to get it right when it comes to something that seems obvious to a non-expert, why should I trust them about something I have no idea about.

  • NToJ||

    "So what should non-experts do with something like the study I linked to?"

    Focus on science. That's got nothing to do with the climate change consensus, which was based on meta studies of scientific studies rather than subjective rankings by experts.

  • Sarcastr0||

    At some point laypeople can't evaluate the science, though. At that point you're left blind. You can do what these folks do and just pick a side and push their papers as gospel (with loads and loads of healthy skepticism of everything the other side says),
    or you can start looking at what the consensus is and evaluate what science you can from that position.

  • NToJ||

    "At some point laypeople can't evaluate the science, though."

    That's a defect in a scientific paper, then. And if laypeople can't understand the science, what makes you think they can understand "the consensus" any better?

  • Sarcastr0||

    I agree that being unable to explain something to the layperson means you don't completely understand it yet. But sometimes that's where the science is, and it's still probative, and I still want policymakers to consult it over their own preconceived notions.

    When policymakers are looking for the best analysis, and analyses materially differ, they need to pick a side without much understanding or context. I've seen two options: Consensus or 'mah common horse-sense.' And I find the former to be preferable (although rebuttably so)

  • NToJ||

    Since policymakers are laypersons, and if the scientists don't completely understand the science yet because they can't explain it to policymakers, I don't think we need policy. This is not a binary choice between unscientific consensus and common sense. There is a third option: do nothing.

  • Sarcastr0||

    The Null policy is still policy.

    Lack of complete understanding doesn't mean lack of scientific probity. We don't get a lot of stuff about cancer. But we have some pretty good actions to take based on the science. Same thing with policy - complete understanding isn't required for if-then connections or solid probabilistic correlates. And those are good to inform policy decisions.

  • NToJ||

    I'm not demanding complete understanding. But if we have "pretty good actions to take based on the science" that will be because the limited science we have can be explained to policy makers and laypersons. I thought the entire stipulation here was that condition was not met.

  • mydisplayname||

    Early in 1925, the concerns of Dr. Alice Hamilton (who commented that "perhaps a man may be poisoned from the tetraethyllead without showing clinical evidence and that therefore, there may be a considerable number of individuals so poisoned who have not come under observation") and Dr. Yandell Henderson (who commented that "in the past, the position taken by the authorities has been that nothing could be prohibited until it was proved to have killed a number of people. I trust that in future, especially in matters of this sort, the position will be that a substance like tetraethyllead cannot be introduced for general use until it is proved harmless") were reported (see U.S. Public Health Service, Public Health Bulletin No. 158, Proceedings of a Conference to Determine Whether or Not there is a Public Health Question in the Manufacture, Distribution, or Use of Tetraethyl Lead Gasoline, GPO, Washington, DC, 1925.) and resulted in a ban on the production of leaded gasoline.

  • mydisplayname||

    Later in 1925, Dr. Robert A. Kehoe stated that "potential health hazards in the use of leaded gasoline..., while well worth investigating, were hypothetical in character," and thereafter espoused a "paradigm predicated upon categorical distinction between expectations and conjecture ('show me the data' mentality) from hard scientific facts on exposure outcomes... [which combined] a cascading uncertainty rule (there is always uncertainty to be found in a world of imperfect information) with a highly skewed cost-benefit concept."

    A a result of Kehoe's scientific work, the ban on leaded gasoline was lifted (see R.R. Sayers, A.C. Fieldner, W.P. Yant and B.G.H. Thomas, Experimental Studies on the Effect of Ethyl Gasoline and its Combustion Products, U.S. Bureau of Mines Report, Washington, DC, 1927.) and about 20 trillion (20 x 1012) liters of leaded gasoline were produced during the 60-year period between 1926 and 1985.

    Just sayn'.

  • ||

    IMO the same people who are so anti-science regarding GMO and organic foods, are the first to accuse climate skeptics of being anti-science.

    The sad truth is that public debate in the modern world has been largely replaced with name calling and labeling.

  • iowantwo||

    "climate Skeptic" gee I don't know anyone that denies their is climate. I know lots people that don't believe the proposed remedies will produce a measurable result. Since no scientific evidence has been presented to support the claim.

  • Alf1||

    This article is at least partially question-begging. On what grounds are the study's respondents judged to be ignorant? On grounds of the paradigmatic scientific consensus that those same respondents apparently reject.

    So what have we actually learned from the study? That people who reject "scientific consensus" get the wrong answers to questions written by people who accept it.

    I'm underwhelmed.

  • gormadoc||

    You didn't learn anything from the study because you didn't read it. They aren't all questions on GMOs specifically, so no question of "paradigmatic scientific consensus". They're basic science literacy, like "True or False? Lasers work by focusing sound waves" and "True or False? All plants and animals have DNA."

    Just so you know, that's 1) False and 2) True.

  • Alf1||

    Reading the study was irrelevant to my point, else I would have cited it. The intended audience of a study like that, and this article, is a pre-defined choir. Sure, maybe it is right, I never said it wasn't. I only point out that you'll never convince anyone who isn't convinced already, with this sort of argument.

  • gormadoc||

    1) They aren't necessarily looking to convince anyone: research in the field is done more for public health policy or market research than outreach.

    2) The problem they outline is that GMO opponents do put stock into scientific consensus, they just believe they know the consensus when they actually don't.

  • Alf1||

    And, given the unwarranted tone of your final sentence, perhaps I'll add some smaller words of my own: I was criticizing the F-o-r-m of the argument, not its C-o-n-t-e-n-t.

    Clear enough for you?

  • gormadoc||

    What's wrong with the form? They aren't targeting the ignorant people like you seem to think; they're writing for public health experts who need to know why people don't know the consensus, even after decades of outreach.

  • gormadoc||

    These folks deserve praise for preregistering their study. Good on them.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    I wonder what would happen if the anti-GMO activists began entering the fields that study GMO's in large degree. Would the activists change their views based on the science, or would the scientific consensus change? I wonder what that says about other fields that appear to be dominated by experts.

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    *other fields that appear to be dominated by activists.

  • Sarcastr0||

    'If I used a speculative hypothetical, could that disguise begging the question?'

    What does your logic say about the scholarship of the Conspiracy, consisting of just about all scholar-advocates?

  • TwelveInchPianist||

    About individual works of scholarship? Nothing. But surely you wouldn't suggest that we accept a VC consensus about a particular issue without examining details, because they're experts.

  • Sarcastr0||

    No, and neither am I saying to accept something with the imprimatur 'womens' studies profs all agree: ...' But that doesn't mean that such scholarship should be discarded as too prejudiced to address either.

  • less lean eel son||

    The questions trading scientific literacy mostly look okay, but this one is God awful:

    T/F: The oxygen we breathe comes from plants.

    With answers ranging from definitely true to definitely false. They say true is the right answer.
    The more you know, the more likely toy are not to answer definitely yes.

    Plants (and cyanobacteria - bacteria) release oxygen after breaking down co2, and the oxygen molecules are not from earth at all. Knowing some c02 is broken down by bacteria, you can at best say the statement is probably or maybe true. Knowing the source is stars you're most likely to answer false.

  • gormadoc||

    You mean that the oxygen atoms are not from earth. The oxygen we breathe (molecular oxygen) is most definitely from earth. Before photosynthesis really caught on virtually all oxygen would have been in some reduced form and not breathable.

    Most free oxygen comes from algae and cyanobacteria, but algae are variably plants depending on who's talking. I do suspect that most oxygen we breathe does come from plants, as the output of cyanobacteria is probably mostly consume by marine creatures.

  • less lean eel son||

    The questions trading scientific literacy mostly look okay, but this one is God awful:

    T/F: The oxygen we breathe comes from plants.

    With answers ranging from definitely true to definitely false. They say true is the right answer.
    The more you know, the more likely toy are not to answer definitely yes.

    Plants (and cyanobacteria - bacteria) release oxygen after breaking down co2, and the oxygen molecules are not from earth at all. Knowing some c02 is broken down by bacteria, you can at best say the statement is probably or maybe true. Knowing the source is stars you're most likely to answer false.

  • NToJ||

    "Most people have little incentive to spend much time learning about government, public policy, and policy-relevant science..."

    You say this every time, professor, but this is a poor example. People who are anti-GMO are not rationally lazy. They're actively discovering facts that aren't so. If there is an incentive against learning, why are aggressively learning things that aren't true?

  • arch1||

    Does anyone happen to know good studies of various behaviors/attributes' correlation with reaching correct conclusions on (what at the time were) controversial questions?

    (If there's a non-obvious reliable signal there, that could be very useful in several ways).

  • iowantwo||

    Pick a side on catastrophic global climate change, exhaust your self. In the end, warming or not is of little consequence. I want a scientist to prove the remedies that are sought will move the needle, even a little bit. More importantly, does it go anywhere near solving the cited catastrophe,

    This would be a good place to tell all the experts here that the United States is the only nation in the world to meet, or in the case of the United States, exceed the carbon emissions goals as laid out in the UN climate change treaties. The United States accomplished that by ignoring all the scientist that reached their consensus of what really needed to be done.

  • ReaderY||

    Why should ordinary people behave differently from Supreme Court justices?

  • ReaderY||

    In assessing rare and essentially unknowable risks, like the risk of an epidemic or catastrophe from unexpected effects of novel genomes, it isn't clear expertise is of much help. People's general risk aversion profiles, or general rules of thumb like be very cautious with anything new, might be as good a basis as any.

    One of the consequences of modernity is that obscurantism - the idea that unforseen side effects of complex novel things can lead to unexpected problems, even disasters - is not nearly as crazy an idea as it might have seemed in the 18th, 19th, or early 20th centuries.

    I am much more inclined than Professor Volokh to treat the opposition here as a potentially legitimate political position that is as entitled to have a stall in the marketplace of ideas as any other. It has a rational basis. It's not the courts' business. Professor Somin is entitled to present his viewpoint and to portray those who disagree with him as ignorant fools. But it is not the place of courts to do so.

    Assessing small risks of major catastrophes is a very hard problem. We can't know how much expertise experts actually have until problems occur, and by then it may be too late. Almost any position, from ignoring the risk completely to being completely driven by it, is rational.

  • NToJ||

    "...might be as good a basis as any."

    But how do you know this? Where's the evidence?

    "...is not nearly as crazy an idea as it might have seemed in the 18th, 19th, or early 20th centuries."

    The opposite is true. It made a lot of sense when society was going through massive social changes without a good history of having done so, but is more crazy now that we've come out the other side of novelty mostly unscathed.

    "It's not the courts' business."

    Who said it was the courts' business?

  • NToJ||

    "Assessing small risks of major catastrophes is a very hard problem."

    Apparently not since you just did it in this sentence.

    "Almost any position, from ignoring the risk completely to being completely driven by it, is rational."

    This is impossible. If it is rational to ignore a problem because we have no sense of its possibility of risk, it is irrational to be driven by it. We have no way of knowing whether ghost-tigers are going to emerge from the Indian Ocean tomorrow and eat us all. Experts won't be able to inform us about this risk until it's too late. But nobody who is driven by that risk is behaving rationally.

  • ReaderY||

    It's not in the least impossible. Two people could have very different views of the evidence, or very different risk profiles, resulting in reaching very different conclusions, both rationally. If they could have different value systems. One could see an issue as a major affront to their values, the other as not a big deal.

    Consider a speed limit. Banning motor vehicles entirely is a rational balance of liberty vs. saving lives that results in maximal saving of life, taking the view that it trumps liberty interests completely. No speed limit at all is a rational balance that results in maximum liberty, taking the view it trumps safety comsiderations. And any particular speed limit lies at a point representing a balance, somewhere in between, that gives some weight to each value. Lots of things are like that.

  • NToJ||

    "Two people could have very different views of the evidence, or very different risk profiles, resulting in reaching very different conclusions, both rationally."

    We've just assumed that there was no evidence. What are they having different views about? And what difference do their risk profiles make, if they don't have any evidence to test against their values?

    "One could see an issue as a major affront to their values..."

    How can this be possible in the absence of evidence?

    "No speed limit at all is a rational balance that results in maximum liberty..."

    Right, but the person wouldn't be able to make this calculus if they had no evidence of the liberty interest or saving lives. If they don't know whether speed limits save lives, or interfere with liberty, why would it be rational to place the line anywhere?

  • jello.beyonce||

    Et tu, Ilya?

    While Somin has provided some useful information in a few select works, he has been largely limited to just that, merely some, limited use.
    Funny that the another "Libertarian" engages in short-sightedness.

    Interesting that Somin accuses others whilst engaging in the same.
    What about your own massive acts of ignorance?

    One of the largest problems with GMO is the protectionism that follows.
    Protectionism, a very non-"Libertarian" ideology.

    GMO allows genetic fingerprinting, thus protectionism of Intellectual properties.

    GMO seed and their resultant GMO crops can, AND DO, contaminate non-GMO and organic crops through cross- pollination on the field or through seed or grain mixing post-harvest, and through pollen drift.
    (https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/agf-153)

    The rate of biotech crop adoption averages some 85 percent of agriculture in key regions (including the U.S.).
    (https://bit.ly/2W1ZrIb)

    In 2016, the top 10 companies owned over 75 percent of the seed market (this is up from 16.7 percent in 1996).
    These companies secure and manage patents and intellectual property rights. And they have a strong influence on regulations, laws and treaties (how "Libertarian" is that?).

    HOW IS THE "LIBERTARIAN" CONCEPT OF "FREEDOM" DEFINED AS RELIANCE ON LARGE MEGA-CORPORATE INTERESTS WHOM HAVE INFLUENCED PUBLIC-POLICY AND LEGISLATION?

  • jello.beyonce||

    Cross-contamination means farmers and growers can no longer use their own seed produced by their own crops, as it is now protected by IP.

    Further,
    Somin claims "One possible solution to these sorts of problems is for voters to defer more to scientific experts, at least on technical issues such as the risks posed by GMO foods."
    Yet industry and scientific "experts" often lie at the very heart of the problem.

    I wonder if this "Libertarian" proponent also supports the work of Lobbyists?
    They are the supposed policy "experts" whom influence the growing sphere of special-interest legislation that flies in the very face of the ideologies of "Libertarianism" and "free-trade".

    "the same flawed incentives that lead voters to make biased assessments of evidence" are also highly-utilized by Lobbyists and industry Associations to sell lawmakers on legislation and public policies.
    THIS IS CALLED PROPAGANDA.

    Somin's own summary:
    "In sum, we have good reason to be wary of the influence of public ignorance on government policy - especially when it comes to scientific issues. But there is also good reason for skepticism about the standard solutions usually proposed to fix that problem."
    OUTLINES AND CONTRADICTS HIS VERY PREMISE.

    THIS IS WHY "LIBERTARIANISM" AND THE "LIBERTARIAN" PARTY ARE SUCH MASSIVE FAILURES.

    HYPOCRITE!

  • jello.beyonce||

    Somin uses rubbish like this most solely for shameless self-promotion.

    What? Your books not selling well enough?
    Your publicly-funded salary via your employment at a publicly-funded institution not enough?

    "Libertarians" are most often those whom siphon massive amounts of taxpayer money then use that money to tell others why it's bad to do the same as they.

  • Exposing the Others||

    After all there are too many people on this planet, some might say.

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