Throwing the Baby Out With the Bathwater

By Keith Kloor | May 29, 2012 11:57 am

In Europe, anti-GMO activism has turned increasingly confrontational, which seems to have backfired in one recent case. In the United States, anti-GMO sentiment has taken a different form, which Amy Harmon of the New York Times wrote about last week in this excellent piece:

For more than a decade, almost all processed foods in the United States “” cereals, snack foods, salad dressings “” have contained ingredients from plants whose DNA was manipulated in a laboratory. Regulators and many scientists say these pose no danger. But as Americans ask more pointed questions about what they are eating, popular suspicions about the health and environmental effects of biotechnology are fueling a movement to require that food from genetically modified crops be labeled, if not eliminated.

On twitter, Harmon noted that of the hundreds of comments on her article, “what you really see is extent to which GM is proxy for (perceived) ills of industrial ag.” In the comment thread of a recent post of mine, a plant scientist echoes this observation:

People are blaming GMOs for all the ills of big ag. And because of that they can’t think past it to the possible benefits. And to me the benefits outweigh the risks.

The extent to which people oppose a technology because of what/who it has become identified with is fascinating to me. So I got to thinking of where else such logic can also be applied. Below are some examples:

If you require prescription drugs for an illness or medical condition, do you decline the medicine because it was produced by Big Pharma (and their profit motive)?

If you know that esteemed investment companies and banks are still engaging in behavior that contributed to the recent global economic meltdown, do you oppose capitalism?

If you know that many politicians are corrupted by special interest money, do you oppose elective democracy?

If you believe that some climate scientists exaggerate the current impacts of global warming, do you distrust all climate science?

If you believe that environmentalism, in recent decades, has perverted the meaning of the precautionary principle, do you oppose all regulations for industrial contaminants?

If you know that the conclusions drawn from research published in biomedical journals are frequently “misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong,” because of bias, do you reject all peer reviewed science?

Call me crazy, but wouldn’t reform of aforementioned institutions, companies, and practices be the more rational way to go, instead of outright rejection?

Feel free to play along and offer more examples.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: biotechnology, GMOs, science
MORE ABOUT: biotechnology, GMOs, science
  • http://www.earthlab.net Brandon Keim

    Even if GMO opponents drive the call for labeling  GMO-containing products, labeling itself doesn’t necessarily represent opposition; it can also represent the right of consumers to make informed choices. It also makes it possible to avoid specific types of GMO while encouraging others; a citizen might be perfectly happy to eat a drought-resistant rice engineered with farmer-friendly IP, for example, while avoiding soy engineered to allow more-intensive spraying with four different herbicides and pesticides (made necessary because the Roundup-ready trait was so woefully mismanaged.)The list of examples would be better formulated thusly: If you know investment banks are still engaging in economy-threatening behavior, do you have a right to know when they’re connected to an economic transaction of your own? If you know that many politicians are corrupted by special interest money, do you have a right to know who you’re voting for? And so on.

  • Keith Kloor

    Brandon,

    Sorry, I think your nuances are wishful thinking. I see the labeling movement on whole as just a proxy for anti-GMO sentiment.

    Most people make very simplistic determinations that can then lead to sweeping, generalized conclusions. So it is with GMO’s et al.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Most people make very simplistic determinations that can then lead to sweeping, generalized conclusions. 

    Ahem. 
    :roll:

  • Keith Kloor

    @3

    Would this be your daily “I’m rubber, your glue” contribution to the conversation?  

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Naw, Marlowe reads, Keith is conveniently dyslexic

  • huxley

    If Steve Easterbrook makes an arguable claim in a blog post, then do you throw out everything that he says?

  • huxley

    If someone opposes one particular experiment or one type of research, then do you say that person is “anti-science”?

    If someone is mistaken on on the risks of one type of experiment, then do you say that person is “anti-science”?

    This is a fun game. Everyone can play.

  • Sashka

    Your questions are rhetorical. But despite the fact that the issues that you have listed are well-known the institutions are not amenable to reforms. So, not an outright rejection but deep deep skepticism. That’s my version of precautionary principle.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Let’s try again.

    If you believe that environmentalism, in recent decades, has perverted the meaning of the precautionary principle

    together with your comment:

    Most people make very simplistic determinations that can then lead to sweeping, generalized conclusions.  

    suggests that your irony and/or self-awareness meter is broken. 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @7labels are fun. they can also serve as a convenient substitute for critical thinking.

  • Sashka

    said the guy who accepts “consensus” because academies cannot be all wrong.

  • harrywr2

    Call me crazy, but wouldn’t reform of aforementioned institutions,
    companies, and practices be the more rational way to go, instead of
    outright rejection?
     Krazy Kloor…making  nuanced arguments and taking nuanced stances  makes it almost impossible to maintain ‘sides’.  Without a ‘them’ how could we have things like war.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Call me crazy, but wouldn’t reform of aforementioned institutions, companies, and practices be the more rational way to go, instead of outright rejection?”

    Good suggestion. On climate science at least, the approach of the better sort of sceptic is to call for reform, and only in the interim to reject the conclusions until the reform has been carried out and they’re properly confirmed.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Apparently when the trolls are confronted with the contradictions at the core of their belief system, their only recourse is to insult someone…anyone… everyone… 

  • Menth

    Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest proponents of the gmo labeling effort is the organic food industry who would be a massive winner. A text book example of how industry uses regulation to benefit itself. 

  • Menth

    Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest proponents of the gmo labeling effort is the organic food industry who would be a massive winner. A text book example of how industry uses regulation to benefit itself. 

  • Menth

    Oh no! Just mentioning gmo in my post caused uncontrolled cloning! I change my tune!

  • huxley

    Call me crazy, but wouldn’t reform of aforementioned institutions, companies, and practices be the more rational way to go, instead of outright rejection? (KK)

    Again, the answer is “It depends…”

    Should Americans have fought the Revolutionary War or tried to reform Great Britain?

    Should a Catholic disillusioned by all the corruption and pedophilia leave the Catholic Church or stay within and try to reform it?

    Should Judith Curry have struck out on her own with Climate Etc. to be branded a “heretic” or tried to work within RealClimate?

    The baby / bathwater is a real dilemma that arises from the desire to avoid the tedious careful thinking about all the specifics each situation presents and instead reach for an easy general purpose answer.

    In its way, this topic is an example of that tendency.

  • Jarmo

    Would demise of Goldman Sachs destroy capitalism? Would demise of the IPCC destroy climate science?Or might capitalism and climate science both be better off without the aforementioned institutions?

  • harrywr2

    #14Apparently when the trolls are confronted with the contradictions at the
    core of their belief system, their only recourse is to insult someone

    It’s a standard defense mechanism. We all have to make thousands of ‘friend or foe’ and risk assessment decisions every day.(There is a two year old that appears to have something in his pants…is he an ‘underwear bomber’ or in need of a diaper change?)

    So we develop systems that ‘kind of work for us’ to quickly categorize things. Since this is the system that ‘keeps us safe’ pointing out that the system has flaws becomes a direct threat to personal safety.

    Then to make life even easier/more complicated we also ‘outsource’ friend or foe identification and risk assessment to other members of our tribe.

    Of course the truism that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ creates the problem that we may be outsourcing ‘risk assessment’ to people who share our blind spots…or having the ‘fox guard the hen house’

  • MarkB

    A particular bugbear of mine is the animal research/rights crowd. I’d respect them far more if they’d sign a legal document rejecting any medical treatment developed from research using animal experiments. That is, doctors and hospitals would not be required to provide for, and insurance companies and the government would non be required to pay for any such treatment. And that includes family coverage.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @21

    <p i="" find="" your="" suggestion="" deeply="" offensive. the="" idea="" that="" a="" person,="" on="" moral="" grounds,="" should="" be="" required="" to="" forego="" lifesaving="" treatment="" because="" they="" object="" the="" means with which said treatment was discovered is ‘anti-ethics’.

    As a thought experiment consider the following:

    Research conducted on incarcerated individuals either through war or civil crimes yield a cure for cancer, aids, and ageing! Should people that object to the means through which this knowledge was gained be denied treatment? 

    Moral philosophy 101 is your friend. Give it a go.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Marlowe’s question points out that one of the most annoying thing about this blog is the “gee whiz look what I thought of stuff” on issues that have long been known, debated, and in many cases answered (FWIW try and get IRB approval for that experiment on prisoners, you have to show that the benefit to them greatly outweighs the risk)This whole nonsense about GMOs has a real deja poo air about it.

  • Tom Scharf

    If an energy solution is not solar or wind powered, do you oppose it no matter what?  Apparently yes.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304363104577390432521371296.html?mod=opinion_newsreel&_nocache=1338401165217&user=welcome&mg=id-wsj 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    surely it can’t be this hard to fix the commenting software. i realize you’re doing this site on your own dime Keith, but still. 

    it bears looking into a viable fix, so that the html idiots (myself among them) don’t have our comments mangled beyond recognition :) .

  • huxley

    Marlowe: How in the world did you get that effect @22?

    The comment editor used to work reasonably. It looks like the developer(s) added a feature and broke the editor’s ability to handle carriage returns.

  • Sashka

    MJ, do you feel that 22 is less intelligible than your average comment?

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @25

    a stray bracket got deleted

    @26

    suck my moderately man-scaped hairy balls  :)

  • huxley

    @27: I see — the right angle bracket after the p tag was missing, so the editor used the following words as empty attributes for 256 characters, then closed the p tag. That’s one way to handle HTML errors.

    The real problem is that the comment editor is broken so we’re all having to munge the HTML by hand.

  • Tom Scharf

    @22 Marlowe,

    We get it.  Your reserve the right to feel morally superior to everyone without having to pay any consequences for it.  Waling the walk is for other lesser beings.

    @23 Eli

    Your obsession with attacking the character of blog author while only indirectly engaging in the topic at hand is becoming a trend that even the IPCC could detect.   

  • huxley

    Most people make very simplistic determinations that can then lead to sweeping, generalized conclusions

    KK: I don’t often agree with Marlowe, but your latest posts on GMO come across to me as scattershot and simplistic leading to … sweeping, generalized conclusions.

    You reduced Steve Easterbrook and “Take the Flour Back” (neither of whom are my tribe) to the “anti-science” cartoon, when they were both making a range of arguments that added up to their opposition to the Rothamsted research, not just “Oh, I’m afraid! I can’t think scientifically. I need to rationalize my fear of GMO.”

    In this topic you parody people’s skepticisms and criticisms (usually well-earned) of existing institutions with a catalog of Archie Bunker-style retorts that boil down to “If you don’t like it here, move to Russia.”

    I get that you were going for a reductio ad absurdum to anti-GMO folks, yet you end the post with smarmy moralizing that really, shouldn’t we all be good little cogs in the machine and if we have doubts, wouldn’t be better off to hang in there and reform the machine?

    I think Leonard Cohen said it best:

    They sentenced me to twenty years of boredomFor trying to change the system from within.

    Seriously, I think you could do better than this.

  • Jeffn

    Huxley, you don’t agree with Marlowe here either. Marlowe took the quote out of context. Kk was noting that the push to label was just a way to scare people who wouldn’t take the time to research the meaning of the label.
    Nobody is denying gmo activists the right to indulge in their fantasies about Franken-foods. We’re saying that the moment they start actively preventing us from discovering the truth – destroying research – they become anti-science.

  • huxley

    Jeffn: Marlowe took the quote of context? He simply quoted KK’s basic point:

    Most people make very simplistic determinations that can then lead to sweeping, generalized conclusions.

    … and added a throat-clearing and an emoticon.

    KK was making a valid observation, but failing to notice that it often applies to himself and his posts. That was what Marlowe was picking up on. Maybe Marlowe is a troll who does this stuff all the time as KK claims, but as far as I was concerned, this time Marlowe was right on the money.

    ***

    I was surprised that in this post KK put his finger exactly on my dissatisfaction with his “Bugaboo” and “Anti-science” topics, except that KK didn’t see he had fallen prey to the same short-circuiting of reason to reach a desired conclusion.

    ***

    If KK wants to take on Steve Easterbrook, he can provide a decent overview of Easterbrook’s post — which was not a long treatise — and respond to Easterbrook’s actual arguments. Not some BS one-liner questioning Easterbrook’s ability to think scientifically, followed by some silly transitive reasoning: Easterbrook likes Goldacre but Goldacre doesn’t like Easterbrook’s GM position therefore Easterbrook’s has fallen for the GM Bugaboo.

    That’s not how is it done if you are claiming the mantle of reason and crying out for nuanced debate.

    ***

    Be clear that I despise Steve Easterbrook for his tribal, ape-like, chest-beating, literal shut-the-f***-up response to Andy Revkin’s mild observation that the climate orthodox can be, you know, tribal too.

    But I thought Easterbrook’s GMO post was pretty reasonable and interesting, even though I disagreed with him.

  • Steven Sullivan

    #32. You can’t possibly believe that stopping a research program is *necessarily* and *always* an assault on ‘discovering the truth’, can you? Or perhaps I should ask, is ‘discovering the truth’ *necessarily* paramount above all other concerns?

    Or perhaps I should just ask, would you stop the Tuskegee syphilis research?

  • Steven Sullivan

    #33 Steve Easterbrook is typically reasonable and extremely thoughtful. Revkin can be too.  But Revkin really did punt that one…as he tends to when he indulges his Judith Curry crush.

    Btw the actual link to SE’s article, with updates, is this http://www.easterbrook.ca/steve/?p=1874 

  • jeffn

    #34 Steven, you aren’t seriously arguing that a researchers test plot of crops is comparable to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, are you? If so, by all means tell us the logic.

    Hux- the quote came in response to Brandon’s suggestion to slap labels on any food connected to GMO. The response is correct- the tactic of “raise inaccurate fear of product X, then require companies to spend money to worthlessly label anything containing product X,” is designed entirely to muddy the waters, not clear them. The reason is the tactic is designed to confused people who won’t take the time to look at the research. Couple that with a willingness to destroy research that demonstrates the safety of product X and you have a perfect storm of anti-science activism.

  • steven mosher

    All people make very simplistic determinations that can then lead to sweeping, generalized conclusions.

    that’s more like it.
    a sweeping generalization doesnt have a qualifier like many or most. it sweeps.

    Id say Keith engaged in a creeping generalization.

  • Steven Sullivan

    #36 You didn’t answer any of my questions.  May I assume from your reply, that you believe there *are* exceptions to your rule that interfering with research is ‘anti-science’?

  • Steven Sullivan

    #36 You didn’t answer any of my questions.  May I assume from your reply, that you believe there *are* exceptions to your rule that interfering with research is ‘anti-science’?

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    #30, see 31 and 33ThanksEli

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    I see a lot of incipient Deltoidism here (so named because of where it is found in abundance). 

    1. I advocate A

    2. You say A is equivalent to B

    3. You then say I advocate B

    Is that a sweeping or creeping generalization?

  • Matt B

    The anti-science moniker has certainly prompted a lot of debate & some good points have been raised, but I think the discussion has gotten away from the original intent that started the conversation. How about this:

    If you oppose scientific research purely on moral/ethical grounds, you are not anti-science (well unless you live in a cave). However, if you object to research on these grounds, you must be prepared to have your moral framework questioned for its validity. Steven Sullivan’s Tuskegee example is excellent for this; it is truly a warped moral/ethical worldview that condones this behaviour and (I hope) all thinking people want research like that stopped immediately. Moral objection to embryonic stem cell research? Well, the moral underpinnings of that are much more questionable, legitimately so. But, these are ethical discussions, not scientific discussions. 

    The problem comes when opposition to scientific research uses the mixture of scientific & ethical objections. If I use science for part of my case & then use moral/ethical arguments as my back-up plan when that fails, that’s where problems arise. Creationists are a prime example of this: for years it was all about the “missing link” argument, a scientifically based argument that says logically there should be that missing link. When evolutionary biology developed to extent that the “evolution the theory” has enough strength to address this “problem”, the argument falls back to a pure moral belief argument. This bailout, using morality/ethics as your crutch when your science fails you, rightly has you painted as anti-science in that particular case. 

  • kdk33

    You do know that “creationism” has a wide range of meanings.  And, depending on which meaning you are implying, there is an equally broad range of agreement or disagreement with the  “consensus”.  You also know that “consensus” has few flavors of its own.

    Just checking.

  • Matt B

    @ kdk33,

    You’re right, I’m just talking about the Adam/Eve version of creationism….and of course there variations on that, just as there are variations on the evolutionary view…………..and hey, I may not have come out with the best example on this………wrote it too quickly….

  • Jeffn

    #39, looks like Stevie is upset that someone took his favorite political cudgel away.
    Hard to call everyone else anti-science when your tribe is tearing up research, ain’t it?
    Yes, I think the democratic process gets to have a say in whether experiments should happen. This is the case with human cloning, and was the case with embryo research (which efforts to halt science you full throatedly supported, right?)
    No, I don’t think a handful of idiots get to destroy research on a whim, though they may certainly argue their case to their congressman or MP.
    Phrase it another way, most of you called Bush “anti-science” for halting some stem cell research. What would you have called it if a pack of activists kicked in the door to a lab to wreck the machinery instead? Is anti- science simply a case of who’s more willing to physically destroy property?

  • Keith Kloor

    I’ve been following the “anti-science” exchanges closely. I just haven’t had time to jump in. But this has been on my mind a lot lately, so look for a post on it sometime early next week.

  • Anteros

    Keith -

    Have you perused the last couple of posts over at Climate Etc? Not quite the same focus as yours but interesting nonetheless.

    To my mind, something on environmentalism’s relationship with technology would be worthwhile. After all, whatever the Take-the-flour-back people are anti, it certainly isn’t science per se. How could it be? Science is either a method or a process or a way of going about things. Nobody is anti-science.

    Some people are anti nuclear power generation (which has nothing to do with science) and some people are anti splicing genes from an animal into a plant (also nothing to do with science).

    There are plenty of things that people are for or against, but science isn’t one of them.

    Perhaps it is worth looking deeper – what are the core values (beyond the cliches) that create the polarisation around human agency?

  • TanGeng

    Pretty much all answers should be yes in absence of additional information for people who are certain of their analysis of the given scenario (if they believe their analysis of the scenario and the correlation of behavior and outcomes).

    People should reject the outputs of undesirable methods;or the methods of undesirable output until said undesirable behavior is reformed.

    Smarter people will be more specific about the undesirable behavior and this is where additional information really becomes helpful. By being so consistent in their rejection, it provides a compelling reason for immediate reform.Of course, you could simply be wrong in the analysis of the scenario and be making totally misguided decisions.

    And this is just pure hypocrisy: “If you require prescription drugs for an illness or medical condition, do you decline the medicine because it was produced by Big Pharma (and their profit motive)?” In other words, profit motive is bad… unless it is producing the drug that I need. H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T.

  • hunter

    Anteros,What about people who want the destruction of technology and the return of humanity to low tech / no tech lives?

  • TanGeng

    Wow have to get used to the spacing here.  Is html code where we do the br’s <br>Test<br>Definitely need a preview.

  • huxley

    TanGeng @ 49: As bizarre as it may seem, you must go to the “source code” view and add carriage returns to each <br> you want to show up in your post.

    There ought to be a sticky at the top of the blog for this workaround. Or, better yet, this ought to be fixed.

  • TanGeng

    Call me crazy, but wouldn’t reform of aforementioned institutions, companies, and practices be the more rational way to go, instead of outright rejection?

    A disinterested rejection is not productive for the institutions.  Another form of rejection, “interested” (let’s say that because I don’t know the word) rejection, both calling for and guiding reform while rejecting whatever is being criticized/rejected is more productive.  It depends on whether or not the verdict is to destroy or salvage an institution.I feel like there isn’t the proper distinction between these two different behaviors.

  • Louise

    hunter – you’ve created your own bogey man. “People who want the destruction of technology and the return of humanity to low tech / no tech lives” are rarer than rocking horse sh!t. The fact that you think they’re a threat says quite a bit about you.

  • TanGeng

    huxley @ 50

    Ok I failed in my post @ 51. I didn’t find the “source code view” Let me see if this works. Newline.

    In continuation:

    Let’s look at possible case study and go through all the possible ways “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” may play out.

    If Keith Kloor makes two highly flawed analogies in the first post you read at collide-a-scape, do you continue to read Keith Kloor?

    1. Uncertainty of premise. Keith Kloor might be making a perfectly good analogies. Maybe Keith was expounding on an earlier post and the analogies make more sense in context. How sure are you that Keith is making flawed analogies?

    2. Lack of causation / confounding variables. The highly flawed analogy may be tangential to the substance of the post, and in the long run, there is no relationship between readability of Keith’s posts and his flawed analogies. You might just be temporarily annoyed at bad analogies or Keith’s writing might be bad for an entirely different reason.

    3. Small sample size. You’ve read only one post! What might happen if you read one more post?

    4. Redeeming factor. Keith makes good points, but his bad analogies are insufferable. Do you excoriate him for his horrible use of literary technique?

    5. No value at all. Keith’s writing has no silver lining.

    Maybe even more.

    In case of GMOs as proxy for ills of Big Ag, we’re squarely in case #2, because of GMOs (the punching bag) and ills of Big Ag (the target) are incidentally related. All the example cases should feature this characteristic and not all of them do.

    If we’re smart, we’d recognized that talking about fighting back in the form of rejection or reformation is highly premature.

  • Jeffn

    Agree with Anteros for the most part.
    “Nobody is anti-science.”
    Or everybody is. Activists don’t get to pick who is isn’t on tribal grounds. Which means we just debunked a whole book.
    I would say that a willingness to ignore science- sky dragons, micheal Mann fans, certain anti-nuke, windmill supporters, is something both different and worse than groups that read it and reject it.
    I don’t think the anti GMO folks care about the science at all, it’s all about the politics. Same with Marc Morano and Joe Romm on climate. Does that make them “anti-science”? Well, yes, according to the definition of the phrase as its used by climate activists against skeptics. Live by the sword…

  • Anteros

    hunter -

    The people who want to destroy modern technology and want to return to misery and disease are anti-technology, anti-modern, anti-’chemical’, anti-electricity etc etc.

    I don’t see how they are anti-science.

    I think it is a fundamental mistake to think of technology as science.

    And most people who have an ‘anti’ feeling about, say, GM don’t give a toss about the process of science. If people were mixing genes from different species for a religious ritual (far-fetched, I know) the objections would be exactly the same. The science doesn’t come into it.

  • huxley

    TanGeng @ 54: As Robert De Niro once said, “You talkin’ to me?”I’ve been reading KK for several months. My meter needle wobbles between admiration that he provides interesting material and one of the few good pro-con websites on climate issues, and my annoyance that he seems oblivious to his liberal prejudices. (And I speak as an ex-liberal by the way.)Say, how did you solve your formatting problems with newline?(The “source code” view is reached by clicking the blue angle brackets next to the red X in the menubar.)

  • huxley

    TanGeng @ 54: As Robert De Niro once said, “You talkin’ to me?”

    I’ve been reading KK for several months. My meter needle wobbles between admiration that he provides interesting material and one of the few good pro-con websites on climate issues, and my annoyance that he seems oblivious to his liberal prejudices. (And I speak as an ex-liberal by the way.)

    Say, how did you solve your formatting problems with newline? The “source code” view is reached by clicking the blue angle brackets next to the red X in the menubar.

    (Dang! I forget again.)

  • huxley

    I suggest those interested in the GM debate read Easterbrook’s essay, Systems thinking and Genetically Modified Food, that KK bashed in The Genetic Engineering Bugaboo topic.

    Easterbrook raises many good issues, none of which KK addresses. Instead KK tries to overturn Easterbrook by analogy: GM is like climate science, Easterbrook supports climate scientists, therefore Easterbrook should support the Rothamsted research.

    The first thing to notice about Easterbrook’s essay is that he is summarizing the arguments about GM without committing himself to any of them. He is taking a metaview starting from this observation:

    I’m fascinated by the debate, because it seems to be a classic example of the principle of complementarity in action, with each group describing things in terms of different systems, and rejecting the others’ position because it makes no sense within their own worldview.

    At the end Easterbrook’s chooses to oppose the Rothamsted work in a quite nuanced manner:

    My personal take is that the experiment should be halted immediately, preferably by Rothamsted itself, on the basis that it hasn’t yet passed the test for beneficence in a number of systems. The knowledge gain from this one trial is too small to justify creating this level of societal conflict. I’m sure some of my colleague will label me anti-science for this position, but in fact, I would argue that my position here is strongly pro-science: an act of humility by scientists is far more likely to improve the level of trust that the public has in the scientific community. Proceeding with the trial puts public trust in scientists further at risk.

    This argument is complex and subjective. How do you quantify beneficence, social conflict and public trust, then weigh them against each other.

    You can’t of course, but since we live in social and political realms and the effects of science can’t be fully known in advance, we are stuck with having to make such judgments. I salute Easterbrook for laying out this complexity as clearly as he has and putting himself on the line.

  • Anteros

    huxley -

    Well put and argued.

    I’d only comment that there is something slightly bizarre about Easterbrook using the expression

    This level of societal conflict”

    As far as I know, a handful of people had a day out in the sun, did some singing and got a fair chunk of publicity for their views. Discussion ensued (here as everywhere else).

    As far as I’m aware, voices were not raised at the demo.

    When I think of ‘societal conflict’ I think of Syria and people having their throats cut, not some well-behaved English middle class people making a peaceful public statement.

  • TanGeng

    huxley @ 58 & 59
    It was multi-purpose, but yes! Thanks to you I was able to inject newlines into my posts.I took the opportunity to test out the formatting, make a facetious case study out of reading KK (personal experience actually; some things never change), while staying completely on topic. Haha!

  • huxley

    Anteros: Thanks!

    The “social conflict” comment raised a flag with me too. Clearly the conflict over GM is nowhere near Syria levels. But considering how concerned GM proponents are about GM food labeling, I’m sure that the public has a deep-seated uneasiness about GM simmering below the surface that might boil over with more heat.

    I wonder if Easterbrook wants to save ammunition for the climate change fight and not squander any “public trust in scientists” over GM.

  • Jeffn

    #62,
    Societal conflict would have been great reasons to halt research into birth control and abortion. I think easterbrook, consciously or not, is saying he thinks people who share his world view get to decide if research is in societal conflict.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Definitions. Definitions. It all comes down to definitions.

    The word “science” is used in many different senses. It might be used to mean the scientific method itself, or the act of applying scientific method, or the set of conclusions arrived at by scientific method, or the expressed views of scientists or the scientific establishment. It might mean the policy of using science to address our problems, or of using science to base our policy decisions on, or the use of science to assess risks. Or it might mean trust in scientific authority – the consensus of the scientific establishment or of select groups of scientists, as a basis for forming opinions and policy.

    You could be “anti-” any of these.

    I’ve used the term myself. I’ve used it for attempts to avoid or prevent the use of scientific method in science. A comment like “Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it” in the context of a piece of published scientific research is anti-science, because it opposes the use of scientific method (replicability, verification, falsificationism) being applied in scientific practice. I’ve used it to mean attempts to redefine “science” as “what scientists say/do” instead of “the use of scientific method”. Science is as a matter of principle opposed to arguments from authority. Attempts to redefine science as an authority figure, and itself normatively trusting of authority, negate one of the primary justifications for science, and one of the main reasons for its success. The birth of science in the Enlightenment was founded in large part on this rejection of authority arguments.

    However, in the climate debate the term has been commonly used to mean opposition to scientific authority, and this is the meaning I suspect Keith is using. What Keith is talking about is that in the climate wars people have been called “anti-science” for disagreeing with the scientific consensus that AGW is dangerous, and opposing the use of that for forming policy, and that this seems parallel to environmentalists disagreeing with the scientific consensus that GMOs are safe, and using that as a basis of policy.

    Keith is really talking about the contradiction – environmentalists use it in one sense talking about their opponents the climate sceptics, and in another about themselves as anti-GMO protesters. You can’t have it both ways.

    So if we agree that the term is being misapplied, then you can’t justify using it against climate sceptics any more. If we think the usage is valid, then environmentalists are commonly anti-science, on a wide range of topics.

    As one would expect, this has led to a more nuanced discussion of what is actually meant from environmentalists. Analogies are indeed a useful way to bypass preconceptions. I would tend to agree that Easterbrook’s argument is somewhat different. He seems to be saying that people should be stopped from doing things (including science) if enough other people don’t like it – that their concern (whether rational or not) is sufficient reason. This stands opposed to JS Mill’s “Harm Principle”, another great advance of the Enlightenment and liberalism, but is not in opposition to science as such, unless science is defined as the use of science to form policy.

    I find Easterbrook’s support for the tyranny of the commons to be unpleasant and inconsistent (if enough other people are concerned about GMO protests, should the protesters be made to stop?), but I wouldn’t think “anti-science” a particularly good description of it.

    I would say, with Keith I assume, that in the sense it is used regarding climate sceptics – disagreeing with the scientific consensus on their conclusions, and opposing the use of that for forming policy – environmentalists generally and the GMO protesters specifically are “anti-science”. But it’s not a sense I agree with myself. And name-calling is not a particularly admirable debating tactic, anyway.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    I point at

    I find Easterbrook’s support for the tyranny of the commons to be unpleasant and inconsistent [...]

    And name-calling is not a particularly admirable debating tactic, anyway.

    That is all.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    My dog ate my blockquotes:

    I point again at

    I find Easterbrook’s support for the tyranny of the commons to be unpleasant and inconsistent [...]

    and I point at

    And name-calling is not a particularly admirable debating tactic, anyway.

    in the hope that will be all.

  • huxley

    The problem with Easterbrook’s conclusion is that it is a blackbox. He claims that “[the Rothamsted experiment] hasn’t yet passed the test for beneficence in a number of systems,” but he doesn’t show his work.

    Apparently he has totted up the pluses and minuses across the eight systems he describes and decided that the research nets to more trouble than it is worth. Included in his calculations is a good will factor that scrubbing the experiment will show “scientific humility” and enhance public trust in scientists. Interesting.

    Here Easterbrook is thinking like a politician and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Politics is one of the system levels he is considering. As he puts it:

    In this view, the Rothamsted protest is really about democratic control of the risk assessment process. If all stakeholders aren’t included, and the potential impact on them is not taken seriously, they lose faith in the scientific enterprise itself.

    One might say the same of the economic risks of climate change initiatives upon average citizens.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #65,

    “Tyranny” isn’t a name.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Parsomatic strikes again:

    Name calling is abusive or insulting language referred to a person or group.

    Our own strong on “language”, for the sake of thy pun.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #69,

    I was insulting the policy, not the person.

    As it happens, I got it a bit wrong. I was trying to allude to Mill’s phrase “tyranny of the majority” but got it mixed up.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    #70:

    I was insulting the policy, not the person.

    #64:

    I find Easterbrook’s support for the tyranny of the commons to be unpleasant and inconsistent

    Definitions, definitions, definitions:

    Name-calling and labelling are techniques with which even children are familiar. In propagandistic ventures, however, the systematic association between a people (or country, ideal, etc.) with a negative label creates a prejudice, and as such negative opinions will be formulated. The technique leads to the automatic association between the targeted entity and a negative label; this becomes a substitute for critical thinking and a careful examination of actual facts.

    http://www.propagandatheory.com/types-of-propaganda/207/

    PS: Mill got that from Tocqueville. Both are certainly not authoritarian when they say that, of course…

  • huxley

    When I was young I was keen on General Semantics, a movement largely forgotten today, that was an odd mix of psychology, philosophy, and cult. (L. Ron Hubbard subsumed much of GS into Scientology.) Nonetheless, General Semantics supplied some fundamental insights that have remained part of my toolbox since.

    According to GS, the use of the “is of identity” in language causes no end or mischief when people communicate and thus should be avoided.

    For example, much of the recent discussion here has revolved about who is or is not anti-science. But, as NiV notes, what does it mean to be anti-science? Opposed to some science, all science, a little bit of science? Opposed to the scientific method, scientific authority, or scientists themselves? Opposed to science for now, for the rest of the discussion, or for forever?

    In GS one would not say “X is anti-science.” One would specify which people under what circumstances oppose what aspects of science or its method or its authority and therefore avoid these problems.

    GS recommends this approach for accuracy and also for mental hygiene. Since people associate emotions with language, saying “X is Y” packs much more emotional punch than saying “X does Y under circumstances A, B, or C.”

    One proponent of GS went so far as to develop a version of English, called E-Prime, in which all the versions of the “is of identity” were excluded. For a period of time I tried writing and, to a lesser extent, speaking in E-Prime. I found it a very useful exercise. I don’t hold myself to that standard anymore, but I always know that when I’m using the verb “to be,” that I am skating on thin ice.

    Anyway, I think we’d do better discussing “anti-science” as something people do with regard to specific circumstances rather than something people are.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Willard, you do have the habit of defending some of the strangest subjects – and derailing conversations in the process.The Harm Principle is a well-established staple of liberal Enlightenment values, it has been conventionally associated with the term “the tyranny of the majority” since Mill introduced it, and people who associate themselves with the concept associate themselves with the term.You seem to be calling for a form of debate in which nobody says anything harsh or critical about anything. In practice, people commonly do that for harsh language applied to their friends, but not their enemies. Which of course is the point of this discussion.The “anti-science” label is routinely used to mean disagreeing with the scientific consensus or opposing it’s use to direct policy applied to climate sceptics, but not to anti-GMO, anti-nuclear, anti-’chemical’ environmentalists. (That’s biology, physics, and chemistry.) I don’t think the label, especially applied to the people, is useful, but I’ll happily talk about the content and the implications of their policies in less than complimentary terms. Everybody sometimes uses good arguments and sometimes bad ones. You can always criticise a bad argument or policy.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    Nevermind my habits and what I should do to others that do it too. The first is a bad hominem, which is none of your concerns and the second is a tu quoque.

    If you maintain that namecalling is bad, you should argue against democracy insteand of using shortcuts like “tyranny”, more so when you are using the YesButAuthoritarianism gambit in other comments.

    We’re arguing this because you simply used parsomatic to dismiss my comments, by the way.

    This is a no brainer, really.

    If you pursue this conversation, I might be tempted to play with you as you do with BBD.

    One last time, just to make sure you will remember, and that everyone see you have no honor.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Willard, we’re having this conversation because you misunderstood criticism of an approach to policy as criticism of the person advocating it.

    I have no objection to namecalling on the grounds that it causes offence. I’m all in favour of causing offence – it is an important aspect of free speech. I object on the basis that its is a poor argument.

    We already have a process for resolving such conflicts between what different people want and think is right, the scientists have followed it, and the decision was that they can go ahead. Now people want to bypass the process and impose their own minority policies on other people, by force of trespass and vandalism. That’s a straitforward non-consensual tyranny, and I’d like to prevent the principle that this can be justified by the strength of people’s feelings gaining any intellectual respectability.

    As far as I’m concerned you can try to play with me if you like, but I think our endless digressions annoy other people here. It’s off-topic.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    You claim:

    I find Easterbrook’s support for the tyranny of the commons to be unpleasant and inconsistent [...]

    I see no justification for the label “tyranny of the commons”.

    This is the same trick as the Pascal’s Wager trick.

    In the case of Pascal’s Wager, you were shown wrong.

    Tell me what you got to justify that Easterbrook’s claim amounts to a tyranny of the majority.

    There are contexts where the expression “tyranny of the majority” has valid currency. In the same context, “denial” has currency too.

    I don’t believe we’re in such a context.

    You’re free to say whatever you fancy, Nullius, including endorsing any double standards.

    As you’re free to misconstrue Mill’s expression.

    And to attribute it to Mille, whence he borrowed it from Tocqueville.

    And to claim that namecalling referred only to grammatical names.

    And to claim that labelling a claim is not labelling, because it does not directly target the person who endorses it.

    YesButFreedom.

  • huxley

    …tyranny of the commons…

    And I thought that NiV had created a neologism from “tyranny of the majority” and “tragedy of the commons” to encapsulate the ultimate Green Commandment:

    Thou shalt not change Gaia or, through inaction, allow Gaia to come to change.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #76,

    Whatever you say, Willard. I really can’t be bothered.

    #77,

    I think my difficulty with the usual phrase was that they’re not even a majority. You make a good point, though.

  • TanGeng

    Somehow, we’ve gotten very far away from GMOs or KK’s idea of being very critical of one type of activity because of its close association with an unsavory organization. Steve Easterbrook is susceptible to KK’s angle of critique, but I felt like this post was an extremely clumsy attempt at it.

    Steve Easterbrook laid out the eight “systems of thinking,” but he is definitely not operating in all eight and actually showed limited appreciation of some. I prefer the social science and psychology term “framing” to refer to analysis from various points-of-view, and for the rest of this post that’s what I will use instead.

    If you look at the essay linked, he rejects “scientists doing research” and sees political activity in framing the destruction as purely “anti-science” or destruction of research. Framing of “intellectual property” should incorporate the idea of large corporations gaining and smaller producers losing, but Easterbrook files it under under the framing of “economic boost.” It almost feels like Easterbrook didn’t understand those two at all. Someone is funding research, someone is betting that probabilistically, it will be worthwhile. That’s pretty much the essence of “boosting economy.”

    Framing of global supply and demand pretty much runs counter to his conclusion but he contends other things are more important. The global market economy doesn’t do one thing at a time.
    This leaves behind “ethics and risk,” “ecosystem contaminants,”"health and well-being,” and “sustainability.” For “ethics and risk” the analysis in the other three show his intense risk aversion on everything GMO by mentioning only downside risks.
    There is also a tinge of ivory tower approach to every problem in that primary stakeholders are assumed to be dumb rocks. On the matter of sustainability, soil conservation is a matter for land owners, the primary interested party in maintaining quality of arable land. Likewise in maintaining long term yields, farmers owning land would be the primary interested party. These people are going to do something about it.
    Finally, Easterbrook fails to mention the key difference in climate science and GMOs in the economic framings of “economy” and “global supply and demand” and the environmental framings of “health” and “sustainability.” He’s ignoring the elephant in the room, which is clearly the industrialist vs environmentalist agendas in contention.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    Thank you.

    ***

    BBD,

    Please learn this line:

    Whatever you say. I can’t be bothered.

    It might come handy.

  • huxley

    TanGeng: Welcome aboard. “Framing” strikes me as a reasonable characterization of Easterbrook’s system levels, but I’ve got to say that I don’t get most of your post.

    Try it again more slowly and maybe focus on your strongest point.

    Easterbrook’s essay is dense.

  • huxley

    Once upon a time I played tournament chess and read chess magazines, including Russian ones. (At least I tried to — I had a subscription to “Shakhmaty” and took college Russian.) Back in those days, you could send technical questions to chess magazines about tricky chess positions and some resident chess expert might respond.

    Nowadays they don’t bother. Anyone who cares has access to a chess program capable of grandmaster-level chess analysis. Mobile phones can win serious tournaments these days.

    It occurs to me that we are KK’s computer chess program. He throws some topic out with a bit of his own thought, then we chew through it from our various angles, and he gets the benefit of our analysis which he incorporates into his journalism.

    I’m not complaining. Sometimes I wonder about KK’s motivation. That’s my theory du jour.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Now people want to bypass the process and impose their own minority policies on other people, by force of trespass and vandalism. That’s a straitforward non-consensual tyranny [1], and I’d like to prevent the principle that this can be justified by the strength of people’s feelings gaining any intellectual respectability [2].

    [1] Parsomatic strikes again.

    [2] Strawman.

  • Anteros

    huxley -

    I’ve been thinking along similar lines…

    It does strike me as somehow missing the point when people complain about the particular way in which KK presents a topic, idea or slant on something. By about ten minutes into the thread, people are commenting on “The Topic” or wherever the post has wandered and its initial presentation is both forgotten and largely irrelevant.

    Even if the thread hasn’t deviated far from its origins, KK’s ‘generalisation’ or ‘spin’ is neither here nor there. If it was slightly provocative well at least it provokes interest.

    And whenever I hear someone (Marlowe?) whining about bias, I invariably hear more about the whiner than KK. Perhaps it’s worth remembering that the complaints arrive from ‘both’ sides..

    If we provide some chewing over of ideas for Keith’s journalism, I’m happy to say that I similarly benefit from discussion of topics that I’m also personally interested in. After all, isn’t that the purpose of blog commentary?

  • huxley

    willard: I’m familiar with the strawman fallacy, but what the heck is “Parsomatic”?

  • TanGeng

    Let’s try again then in an expanded fashion where I take it slowly and break it up into many many pieces. This will be the first of many.
    The “systems” or “framing” consists of baseline knowledge, assumptions, and values. The boundary critique should identify the strengths, emphasis and competencies while exposing the weaknesses, ignorance, false assumptions, and blind spots. The supposed boundary critique does not read like a boundary critique because SE never fully captures the spirit of the “framings” that he doesn’t ascribe to. It read rather like a critique from an individual with a very sophisticated “system of thinking” or “framing” that starts out somewhat like a boundary critique. I’ll probably inject my own “framing” so watch out for that.
    Let’s start with the first “framing” which is “scientists doing research.” This “framing” has the primary characteristic of valuing the pursuit, communication, and propagation of knowledge.  In my discussion, I would have skipped the first two sentences of SE’s and skipped directly to “anti-knowledge” and “anti-science” because the emphasis is just that strong. Ethical considerations, potential beneficiaries, and even potential applications are all subservient to the pursuit of knowledge. The only reason to care is because potential applications and beneficiaries are opportunity to secure more funding. Source of funding is immaterial; more funding is always better.Rather than being entirely indifferent to “who might yield benefits,” this framing has affinity for potential beneficiaries with deep pockets. These beneficiaries are cash cows that will be able to fund a significant effort in the intrisically good act of pursuing yet undiscovered truths.
    tbc…

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    huxley,

    The expression “parsomatic” is an invention of Eli:

    http://rabett.blogspot.ca/2012/02/law-blogging.html

    In that neologism, there is the word “parse”. To parse is to break down a text by its syntactic elements. If you look at the example, you see the example of an overanalysis that leads to paralysis, as is often the case when lacking charity or gentlemanship.

    Suppose you want to insert the word “tyranny” in a discussion. All you need to do is to parse the case and the concept of tyranny as to make them one for another. The trick here is to implicitely define anything that breaks the harm principle as tyrannic.

    This is not what a tyranny is. This is not what the expression “tyranny of the majority” was. This expression is not used in the context of a discussion of political philosophy. This is pure mind framing.

    The concept of mind framing has been developed by George Lakoff. Here’s a general introduction:

    http://explainer.net/2011/01/george-lakoff/

    Thanks for your chess story, which motivated me to write this.

    I’ll try to find another word than parsomatic.

    w

  • huxley

    TanGeng: Sorry, man. Still not getting it.

    Slower. More concrete. Say something simple, then elaborate.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    huxley,

    The expression “parsomatic” is an invention of Eli:

    http://rabett.blogspot.ca/2012/02/law-blogging.html

    In that neologism, there is the word “parse”. To parse is to break down a text by its syntactic elements. If you look at the example, you see the example of an overanalysis that leads to paralysis, as is often the case when lacking charity or gentlemanship.

    Suppose you want to insert the word “tyranny” in a discussion. All you need to do is to parse the case and the concept of tyranny as to make them one for another. The trick here is to implicitely define anything that breaks the harm principle as tyrannic.

    This is not what a tyranny usually is. This is not what the expression “tyranny of the majority” means. This expression is not used in the context of a discussion of political philosophy.

    This is pure mind framing.

    Thanks for your chess story, which motivated me to write this.

    I’ll try to find another word than parsomatic. Perhaps I should use that concept instead.

    w

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Here’s the second part of a comment that had two links, so got stuck in moderation:

    The concept of mind framing has been developed by George Lakoff. Here’s a general introduction:

    http://explainer.net/2011/01/george-lakoff/

    Perhaps we should simply call it spin.

    Thanks for your chess story, which motivated me to write this.

    Bye,

  • huxley

    willard: I’ve read Lakoff and heard him on NPR. I’ve also had liberal friends approach me with big beaming grins to tell me how simple it is to get neanderthal conservatives onboard by using Lakoff’s E-Z framing techniques.

    My problem with Lakoff is that he strikes me as a basic liberal who is so unreflective of his biases that it doesn’t occur to him to question his biases and it doesn’t occur to him to question that he doesn’t question his biases. He just knows that he is right and conservatives are wrong and that it falls upon him to devise a technology to bring conservatives to reality.

    Riffing Mae West: I’ve been conservative and I’ve been liberal. Believe me, conservative is better.

    Parsomatic strikes me as a typical liberal complaint which liberals wheel out when they are overmatched but don’t know why.

    NiV is, IMO, formidable. Perhaps at times his fine-grained analysis is overmuch but other times just what is needed.

    I get your point with him over “tyranny” but “tyranny of the majority” is a concise, clear construct with a legitimate history behind it.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Eli is not in love with the word parsomatic, although the concept is fine, the sound is ugly.  A term that suggests itself is reflexive nanoscale fisking, although that is somewhat obscure.  Any other suggestions??

  • BBD

    willard @ 80

    Duly noted :-)

  • BBD

    huxley

    NIV isn’t formidable. He just thinks he is. But it’s rhetorical facility in the service of self-deception. It doesn’t impede glacial flow ;-)

  • BBD

    sorry – missed this:

    Thou shalt not change Gaia or, through inaction, allow Gaia to come to change.

    In the North, amongst the dark satanic mills where I was raised, this would be expressed differently:

    p>Don’t sh*t on your own doorstep.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #79,

    I agree that psychological “framing” better describes what Steve’s doing with his analysis. It’s worth noting that he described it as a work in progress and incomplete.

    I don’t think that he should necessarily be thinking faithfully in all the frames – some of them are frames he doesn’t agree with. It’s rare and admirable that he makes the attempt, but fundamentally that is what conversation with opponents is for – to fill in one’s own blindspots about different ways of looking at it.

    I don’t really have a problem with the analysis part of his essay. It’s incomplete, certainly, and I could spend a lot of time filling in gaps and offering further perspectives. But his conclusions don’t follow from his analysis. They’re drawn in one short section:

    “So where does that leave the proposed protests? Should the trials at Rothamsted be allowed to continue, or do the protesters have the right to force an end to the experiment, by wilful destruction if necessary? My personal take is that the experiment should be halted immediately, preferably by Rothamsted itself, on the basis that it hasn’t yet passed the test for beneficence in a number of systems. The knowledge gain from this one trial is too small to justify creating this level of societal conflict.”

    This is the bit I have real problems with. First, only two choices are offered. Arguably this is a false dilemma, but if we take this framing as the right question, just for the sake of argument, which of them has he picked? His answer seems to go for “the protesters have the right to force an end to the experiment, by wilful destruction if necessary”. He’s been a bit indirect about it, but that’s how I read it.

    And what reason does he give? The first part “it hasn’t yet passed the test for beneficence in a number of systems” seems to imply a requirement that it be seen as a good thing in every possible frame. I don’t think that’s even possible, and I don’t see any obvious reason why it should be required. Maybe Steve has explained it in previous essays, but here it jumps out as a non sequitur.

    Nor do I think his analysis has established it. He has described the thinking in a number of frames, but not made any comprehensive balance of moral judgements in each. That’s especially hard to do if you’re trying to think in a frame ‘foreign’ to you.

    His clarification is worse. “The knowledge gain from this one trial is too small to justify creating this level of societal conflict.” This would imply some sort of rule-by-protest, in which social decisions can be forced by threatening trouble if you don’t get your way. It is the logic of giving in to extortion, bullying, and terrorism. Once you have paid him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.

    It’s illogical for another reason, which is that societal conflict goes both ways. We can argue, and usually do, that the criminal gain from such destructive protests is not worth the societal conflict, and therefore the protesters ought to be stopped. Argument from adverse consequences doesn’t work when you’re the one creating the adverse consequences.

    People don’t agree on stuff, and on many things will never agree, but we have to come up with some framework for fairly resolving conflicts and deciding who gets what they want. Some people, operating in some psychological frames, will be unhappy about that. But if you’ve got one, it’s worth the cost to keep it.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #82,

    It seems like a good reason to run a blog. I think the idea is that the benefit is reciprocal, though. We comment, and that might lead KK (or others) to offer us a different angle which we can incorporate into our own thinking.

    #85,

    I interpret Parsomatic to mean mindlessly nit-picking grammar or semantics as a way of dodging instead of answering the question. In this case, I was actually obliquely answering the question – “tyranny” was not referring to a person (‘name’) but a policy – but it’s a distraction so I don’t intend to argue it further.

    #91,

    The term “framing” has been abused somewhat. The original meaning is from psychology, and simply describes a context for interpretation, a worldview. But it’s been adopted by the propagandists as a means to manipulate contexts for the purposes of persuasion – as Willard says: “spin”.

    I came across Lakoff quite a few times when I used to hang out over at Chris Mooney’s blog. The reference to the Enlightenment at the start of that interview is pure Chris Mooney, and as I recall, Lakoff initially disagreed with it.

    This interview was unusually frank and revealing.

    “Journalists always wonder, “˜We’ve reported on all the arguments, why do people vote wrong?’” Lakoff says.

    And that’s basically what all this communications theory debate is about. Ditch objectivity and balance, we know the answer, the truth is obvious, you just have to phrase it using your opponent’s frames to get them to accept it.

    So far, their approach hasn’t been particularly successful. I did try to tell them it wouldn’t work, but people with a Big Idea never listen.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    #91

    I agree with you, huxley: NiV has remarkable skills. See for instance:

    I interpret Parsomatic to mean mindlessly [1] nit-picking grammar or semantics as a way of dodging instead of answering the question. In this case, I was actually obliquely answering the question ““ “tyranny” was not referring to a person (“˜name’) but a policy”“ but it’s a distraction so I don’t intend to argue it further.

    The first sentence shows good understanding of parsomatic.

    The second sentence shows even better understanding: it picks name in namecalling to argue that labeling a policy tyranny is not namecalling. We’ve already saw in #71 that the argument has no merit.

    To be able to hypnotize you like this takes talent.

    I hope you’ll find his sophistry helpful for your self-reflective moral crusade against liberalism.

    Did I just used the word moral crusade? Do not worry, it has currency:

    http://sf.oxfordjournals.org/content/75/3/957.short

    I hope you don’t mind me using this concise and correct concept.

    Best of luck.

    PS: Nullius is misconstruing the Millian argument, but nevermind. Mill is dead. He could not be bothered.

  • kdk33

    I’m always looking out my own eyes – Benjamin Buttons.

    Framing…

  • kdk33

    Name calling is abusive or insulting language referred to a person or group.

    -Wiki

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    reflexive nanoscale fisking (TM ER), is not dodgeball, but the attempt to fish out of anything, no matter how inoffensive, something to take umbrage at, for example what Keith did with Steve’s post.T

    The downside of reflexive nanoscale fisking is that eliminates any possibility of discussion, but that was the point, no?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    kdk33,

    Thank you for reminding us what was already quoted in #69, with a strong emphasis on the word language.

    I’m not saying that Nullius is namecalling, kdk33. I’m saying that namecalling is a verbal abuse. One is against namecalling because it’s a verbal abuse.

    If one is against one type of verbal abuses, but not against verbal abuses in general, one has some explaining to do. If not, that’s a double standard.

    To try to hide this fact away with an appeal to a definition is a semantic defense. The only that this semantic defense works is to use parsomatic obstruction. To use parsomatic against someone who studied philosophy of language is a losing strategy, in the long run. And we’re on the Internet: an eternal process has a long run.

    Nullius’ use of tyranny amounts to labeling. This belongs to a process of stimatization:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_stigma

    Unless you want to argue that namecalling is bad, but stigmatizing by way of labeling is OK, or that one can define tyranny as any infraction to the harm principle, a principle that would deserve due diligence, you just suck it up.

    In other words, you’re making a mistake as elementary as BBD’s misunderstanding of statistical mode.

    But thank you for pursuing the dictionary game. Philosophers like that game.

  • BBD

    Thanks, willard :-)

    One lives and learns. Or at least, some of us do.

    This doesn’t favour the magicians. They are focussed on doing the tricks. But the audience works out how it is done, eventually, then the tomatoes start to fly.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #100,

    Sigh.

    “One is against namecalling because it’s a verbal abuse.”

    You might be, but I’m not. You’re making assumptions.

    “Unless you want to argue that namecalling is bad, but stigmatizing by way of labeling is OK…”

    Name-calling and stigmatisation can be OK if they’re deserved. Some things deserve stigma – that’s why it exists. You are welcome to make the argument that it’s not deserved in this case, and if you do we can examine that argument on its merits, but a blanket ban on any form of harsh criticism or offensive language is simply not viable, and moreover violates free speech – another policy with an ugly history. If we were to apply such a policy consistently, then you wouldn’t have been able to call me a hypnotically dishonourable sophist, or whatever it was. But you can, and I don’t care.

    The moral objection is to unjustified stigmatisation, which means there is a case to be made. Likewise, stigmatisation of genetic engineers, bankers, rich people, oil company executives, and climate sceptics are also “deserving of due diligence”. Or for that matter, environmentalists, climate scientists, and creationists. Round here, we routinely stigmatise all sorts of people. Why have you suddenly exploded in outrage over this one? Do you support GMO protest vandalism?

    “…or that one can define tyranny as any infraction to the harm principle”

    That is how many people define it. People rightly fear the tyranny of governments, but the tyranny of society, and of any groups and organisations within it, is also of concern. A tyrant rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics – against anyone who gets in their way. Trespass and vandalism when the law fails to take their side is operating without law, is done to achieve their own aims, and the harassment and death threats and destruction of years of work practiced by many protest groups are cruel. They are people who have failed to get what they want democratically, or by persuasion, and therefore turn to force to make other people do as they wish.

    You keep on saying things like “YesButFreedom”, as if you wasn’t in favour of freedom, or thought it a trivial concern, or that it shouldn’t be argued for. I’m not sure why.

    Name-calling is usually a bad argument because it distracts from the issue itself. People are complex, and bringing the person into it drags in all sorts of other issues and considerations. It also tempts one to ad hominem, and association fallacies, and questions of relative morality. It’s also often associated with lazy thinking, using stereotypes, and lacks class. But I am absolutely not supporting politically-correct limits on offending people I think need offending. No more than I would impose any limits on you offending me.

    As it happens, in this case I wasn’t talking about the person, I was talking about the policy, and no personal offence was intended. I would need to know why Easterbrook supported the policy before I could comment personally – maybe he just hasn’t thought it through. But I’m not going to go easier on the policy because a maybe-nice person supports it.

    “To use parsomatic against someone who studied philosophy of language is a losing strategy, in the long run.”

    I’m happy to argue climate science with climate scientists. Do you really think I’d be bothered by philosophers? :-)

  • kdk33

    Arguing with Willard is like squeezing a balloon.  He has no position, only circular objections that slowly spiral to the inane.  But he is more amusing than BBD.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    #64

    [N]ame-calling is not a particularly admirable debating tactic, anyway.

    #104

    Name-calling and stigmatisation can be OK if they’re deserved.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > I’m happy to argue climate science with climate scientists.

    http//scienceofdoom.com

  • BBD

    kdk33
    I’m not sure I recall you <i>arguing</i> with willard  ;-)

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    #97

    I was actually obliquely answering the question ““ “tyranny” was not referring to a person (“˜name’) but a policy ““ but it’s a distraction so I don’t intend to argue it further.

    #104

    As it happens, in this case I wasn’t talking about the person,

    Like squeazing a balloon.

  • BBD

    [This is a formatting test]Faust. Where are you damn’d?    Meph.  In hell.    Faust. How comes it then that thou art out of hell?    Meph.  Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #105,

    Willard is a lot smarter than BBD, and usually a lot better quality than this. It’s sometimes hard to figure out what he means, but it’s usually worth reading.

    I don’t know what’s got into him this time, though. He keeps quoting random bits as if there was supposed to be some obvious meaning to them, and going on and on and on about it as if this was somehow very significant, and worth the wildly off-topic diversion.

    I’m not going to chase after it much further. Something’s obviously bothering him, but blog comments are not worth staying up all night for.

  • BBD

    NIV

    Of course willard is smarter than me. But see # 103. And review our discussions which were not on your favoured territory.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    Thank you for the kind words. I might have been a bit carried away. My point is simply that it might be tough to maintain that name-calling is not a particularly admirable debating tactic, and also maintain that it can be OK if they’re deserved. To quote our favorite David:

    The history of a Tiberius or a Nero makes us dread a like tyranny, were our monarchs freed from the restraints of laws and senates: But the observation of any fraud or cruelty in private life is sufficient, with the aid of a little thought, to give us the same apprehension; while it serves as an instance of the general corruption of human nature, and shows us the danger which we must incur by reposing an entire confidence in mankind. In both cases, it is experience which is ultimately the foundation of our inference and conclusion.

    One should mind his metaphors.

    That is all.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    On a more constructive note, here’s an example showing why system theory is a bit more dynamic than framing theory:

    Since it is the system that ratifies the product””ipso facto, no one outside the community of experts is qualified to rate the value of the work produced within it””the most important function of the system is not the production of knowledge. It is the reproduction of the system. To put it another way, the most important function of the system, both for purposes of its continued survival and for purposes of controlling the market for its products, is the production of the producers. The academic disciplines effectively monopolize (or attempt to monopolize) the production of knowledge in their fields, and they monopolize the production of knowledge producers as well. This is why, for example, you cannot take a course in the law (apart from legal history) outside a law school. In fact, law schools urge applicants to major in areas outside the law. They say that this makes lawyers well-rounded, but it also helps to ensure that future lawyers will be trained only by other lawyers. It helps lawyers retain a monopoly on knowledge of the law.

    http://harvardmagazine.com/2009/11/professionalization-in-academy

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Since many people take offense at anything there is no point debating whether they have been offended.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    And since we’re discussing Steve’s post, here’s his main claim:

    Let’s return to that question of whether there’s an analogy between people attacking the biotech scientists and people attacking climate scientists. If you operate purely within system 1, the analogy seems compelling. However, it breaks down as soon as you move to system 2, because the risks have opposite signs. In the case of GMO food trials, the research itself creates a risk; choosing not to do the research at all (or destroying it if someone else tries it) is an attempt to reduce risk. In the case of climate science, the biggest risks are on the business-as-usual scenario. Choosing to do the research itself poses no additional risk, and indeed reduces it, because we come to understand more about how the climate system works.

    http://www.easterbrook.ca/steve/?p=2905

    To debate that claim, a claim that is a conclusion of an exercise in applying critical systems thinking, Mill’s Harm principle might come more handy than any label one can find.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    And to make sure that everyone got the memo about boundary critique, here’s the abstract Steve is pointing to:

    This paper begins by presenting the theory of boundary critique, which is a key aspect of current work in the area of critical systems thinking. The theory suggests that researchers should remain aware of the need to access a diverse variety of stakeholder views in defining problems, and to ‘sweep in’ relevant information. It also offers an understanding of how conflicts between stakeholders can become stabilised, leading to the marginalisation of some stakeholder groups and the issues that concern them. This indicates the importance of taking processes of marginalisation into account during interventions, promoting and revaluing the contributions that can be made by marginal groups. The theory of boundary critique is illustrated through a case study in which the researchers supported the multi-agency development of housing services for older people. Reflection upon this case study reveals that the principle means by which the theory of boundary critique informs intervention is through the design of methods. Methods can be developed specifically to explore the boundaries of problems. Also, the design of methods to address these problems can take account of the need to preserve the contributions of marginalised groups.

    http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jors/journal/v49/n5/abs/2600531a.html

    The string “margin” is read a few times in that abstract.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    And to also make my previous point in the most direct way, here is what Nullius heard:

    If we were to apply such a policy consistently, then you wouldn’t have been able to call me a hypnotically dishonourable sophist, or whatever it was.

    Here’s what was written:

    To be able to hypnotize you like this takes talent. I hope you’ll find his sophistry helpful for your self-reflective moral crusade against liberalism.

    I don’t think I called Nullius a sophist. Or have I?

    The wedge that Nullius is willing to insert between namecalling and labeling is non-existent.

  • kdk33

    What do philosophers say 5 years after graduation?

    Want fries with that?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    kdk33, do you realize how thoroughly you are being trolled?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #114,

    If you was talking about free markets and protectionism, then institutions could/would easily be seen as protectionist cartels in that free market frame. It may be that systems theory includes part of the development of the context, rather than taking it as a given as the psychologists do.

    #115,

    Any real decision has risks on both sides. Campaigners for issues, especially ones operating in the context of the precautionary approach, routinely only exhibit the risks from one side, the side they don’t like, to make the conclusion obvious.

    In the case of GMO, you also have to look at the risks inherent in non-GMO food, and the risks of pests, drought, and famine that the GMOs are meant to alleviate. In the case of climate change, you have to look at the risks to development and prosperity of cutting off cheap energy, the risks to the environment of sticking windmills up everywhere, the risks to the reputation of science claiming certainty where it is not justified, the risks of expending all our resources preventing an imaginary disaster only to find we have nothing left to deal with a real one, the opportunity costs, and so on.

    Each issue has both positives and negatives – the signs aren’t different, it’s just that Easterbrook is on the ‘progress’ side on one of them and the ‘business as usual’ side on the other, and operates in full-on advocacy frames in which all the risks are always entirely on the other side.

    #116,

    Would you class climate sceptics as a marginalised group?

    #117,

    No you didn’t. But we were hypothetically applying your policy with consistency.

    Would you like to borrow my Parsomatic? You might want to take yours back to the shop and complain.

    #118,
    :-)

    #119,

    We know. But we find it entertaining.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Eli would class climate skeptics with Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > we were hypothetically applying your policy

    Citation needed: which policy?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Eli,

    I agree with your point in #115 about debating positions which take offense of other positions. That’s why in the sentence underlined where I entered this discussion:

    I find Easterbrook’s support for the tyranny of the commons to be unpleasant and inconsistent [...]

    No need to fisk unpleasant on a any scale. But the word tyranny deserved due diligence, and still does. Not because people can take offense, like the D word, but because it’s inaccurate and unjustified.

    We could also maintain that it’s irrelevant, because Steve Easterbrook is not supporting anything, except that when we analyze the situation with a boxology, the analogy on which Keith relies should be turned around.

    Yeah, philosophers call these kinds of analysis boxologies. This is not a compliment. Philosophers rarely need to tone troll. What one can say without shrieking is amazing.

    Perhaps, instead of verbal abuse, I should have said mental abuse.

    If I am right in saying that Nullius has built up a strawman by presuming that Steve supports anything, he’d have a case.

    And since Steve’s analysis, when considered in the proper light of a few quotes, makes us fall down right at the heart of the matter, which could be attacked with Mill’s harm principle instead of his sensationalistic use of the T word, I don’t believe that the accusation of trolling has any merit.

    And to answer your question, dear Eli, I believe that the usual expressions to refer to parsomatic are “lawyerly mode” and litteralism. My favorite is litteralism, of course. I will use it, while reserving Parsomatic to a specific kind.

    As far as policy is concerned, as long as people can justify their use of labels, I don’t mind much. I discuss at length strictures on labelling:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/tagged/AboutLabeling

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > If I am right in saying that Nullius has built up a strawman by presuming that Steve supports anything, he’d have a case.

    By “he’d have a case”, I was referring to an imaginary commenter who’d consider I was trolling.

    Speaking of tone trolling reminded me of this comment at Eli’s place a while ago:

    The tone troll is wrong when he conflates civility with humaneness. It is quite possible to mock, tease, deride, vex “with all due respects.” Anyone with schooling experience should know that.

    A tone troll would be silly to expect blog comments to show more politeness than mundane scholars’ gatherings. A tone troll would be sillier to believe that politeness safeguards against verbal violence or that politeness’ warnings will increase civility.

    A tone troll would be right in saying that it’s more challenging, more inspirational and more fun overall to take the effort to mock, tease, deride or vex someone “with all due respects.” Like anywhere else, authenticity is key. But who can judge if an exchange really is authentic? Something between a mob and a deity always have to moderate.

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/10316501287

    Readers will notice a Post Scriptum to that comment that expressed a disagreement with Eli. Contrary to what spinners try to portray, disagreements between Eli and willard are multifarious. By chances they’re only fictional devices, for they would have to settle them with pistols.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > By “he’d have a case”, I was referring to an imaginary commenter who’d consider I was trolling.

    My addendum makes no sense, since the sentence where I was considering that if I could be wrong about the conterfactuahas been deleted in the editing process.

    To simplify, if I am correct that Nullius’ jab has no bite on Steve’s post, I don’t believe that I’m the troll here.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Perhaps, instead of verbal abuse, I should have said rhetorical abuse.

    I object to the rhetorical effect, not the tone, and my main argument is about its lack of justification.

  • TanGeng

    @Nullius 96Nice of you to point out the a difference in the political application of framing and its origins in psychology.  Psychology framing goes as far as talking about a difference in perception of the same situation.  Advocates and critics, scientists and clerics, optimists and pessimists will focus on different parts of the picture, pick out different details, and the divergence will continue from there.The applications in the social sciences like political science and persuasion, e.g. talking points, are ways to manipulate the debate to favor one frame that makes the debate for one side easier.  This usually involves looking at the issue narrowly and thus marginalize many peoples and their points of view.@huxley 88In simple words, I find Easterbrook does not adequately appreciate the frames and systems of thinking he is laying out.  The descriptions and analysis in his essay is off the mark and isn’t a genuine attempt at “initial comments towards a boundary critique.”  Instead the comments is evidence of his frame of thinking.  It is neither objective nor neutral, and this gives Keith Kloor and opportunity to attack.His miss in attempting to capture the scientist’s frame of mind is particularly troublesome considering his recommendation for the Rothamsted Institute scientists to terminate the experiment themselves. While his logic and rationale might find friendly ears in the Directors and PR Directors, it would be totally unacceptable to the scientists that populate the Rothamsted Institute.But for KK, if you look at much of SE’s analysis, it is heavily one-side and the topic of Big-Agra comes in in multiple times. I believe it is evidence of the frame of mind that Easterbrook uses to approached the GMO issue, and KK’s point about attacking GMOs as proxy for Big-Agra has some merit.@Nullius 121Full-on advocacy frames. Very pithy. I like it.

  • TanGeng

    Arg – try again
    @Nullius 96

    Nice of you to point out the a difference in the political application of framing and its origins in psychology.  Psychology framing goes as far as talking about a difference in perception of the same situation.  Advocates and critics, scientists and clerics, optimists and pessimists will focus on different parts of the picture, pick out different details, and the divergence will continue from there.
    The applications in the social sciences like political science and persuasion, e.g. talking points, are ways to manipulate the debate to favor one frame that makes the debate for one side easier. This usually involves looking at the issue narrowly and thus marginalize many peoples and their points of view.

    @huxley 88

    In simple words, I find Easterbrook does not adequately appreciate the frames and systems of thinking he is laying out. The descriptions and analysis in his essay is off the mark and isn’t a genuine attempt at “initial comments towards a boundary critique.” Instead the comments is evidence of his frame of thinking. It is neither objective nor neutral, and this gives Keith Kloor and opportunity to attack.
    His miss in attempting to capture the scientist’s frame of mind is particularly troublesome considering his recommendation for the Rothamsted Institute scientists to terminate the experiment themselves. While his logic and rationale might find friendly ears in Directors and PR Directors, it would be totally unacceptable to the scientists that populate the Rothamsted Institute.
    But for KK, if you look at much of SE’s analysis, it is heavily one-side and the topic of Big-Agra comes in in multiple times.  I believe it is evidence of the frame of mind that Easterbrook uses to approached the GMO issue, and KK’s point about attacking GMOs as proxy for Big-Agra has some merit.

    @Nullius 121

    Full-on advocacy frames. I like that.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Still going?

    #122,

    “Citation needed: which policy?”

    Read the comment you quoted the quote from.

    #123,

    “But the word tyranny deserved due diligence, and still does.”

    Then apply some.

    The problem with this approach of just pointing at things without saying anything is that often people have no idea what you mean. Like a sad street mime, you dance and spin across between the traffic to end up pointing at the policeman’s hat and the traffic sign, and a challengingly significant look at those watching. Very post-modern. The audience is impressed with the graceful movements and classical allusions, but completely mystified as to the meaning.

    You point and gesture at things and require your audience to supply an argument. And after many failed guesses, the audience starts to wonder if there ever was an argument – did you just point at items at random, wait to see what turned up, and nod wisely if someone suggests something particularly clever?

    We’ve had two dozen comments so far in pursuit what appears to be an infinitesimal point about using the word “tyranny” being a case of “name-calling”. I don’t agree that it is. But even if it was, so what?

    We are operating in a debate where name-calling and attempted stigmatisation are de rigueur; and when we’re talking about the apalling treatment GM researchers are getting at the hands of protesters, to devote this amount of time to a throwaway line in an anonymous blog comment that no one would have even noticed otherwise seems somewhat disproportionate, unless there really is some hidden significance to all this I’m missing.

    In the meantime, your street-dance-and-mime act, delightful as it was to watch, seems to have completely stopped the traffic.

    While we wait for the cops to clear the gridlock and get traffic moving again, perhaps you could get your Parsomatic to tell me why “Try my “pro-trash-the-crop” piece:” doesn’t support trashing-the-crop? I have heard a rumour that this requires some due diligence…

  • Nullius in Verba

    TanGeng,

    Thanks for helping to drag the conversation back to the original topic.

    I agree – “framing” has got a bad name recently because of the uses to which it has been put by the propagandists. In general, it is a useful tool for trying to understand why people fail to communicate, and how people can come to different conclusions on seeing the same data.

    It’s part of a recent trend I’ve noticed for using social sciences research tools as means to politically persuade – usually not with any intention to deceive, but generally from a severely limited our-view-is-obviously-correct-how-can-we-cure-other-people’s-politics perspective that seems deeply ironic considering the psychological mechanisms being studied here.

    That Lakoff interview was fascinating. The Easterbrook essay seems to be trying to do the same sort of thing with systems theory.

  • BBD

    NIV

    I agree ““ “framing” has got a bad name recently because of the uses to which it has been put by the propagandists.

    Surely your repeated use of the term ‘propagandists’ is a bit naughty? Is it ‘framing’?

  • BBD

    Sorry, again with formatting:

    I agree ““ “framing” has got a bad name recently because of the uses to which it has been put by the propagandists.

    Surely your repeated use of the term ‘propagandists’ is a bit naughty? Is it “˜framing’?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #132,</p

    Just descriptive.

  • BBD

    How would that description differ qualitatively from, say, ‘deniers’?

  • BBD

    Imagine two people shouting at each other across a table. Yet to use the d-word is taboo in some circles.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > I believe it is evidence of the frame of mind that Easterbrook uses to approached the GMO issue.

    I believe this is mind probing.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    &t; Read the comment you quoted the quote from.

    What, in that comment, is evidence of any policy?

    Unless a quote is provided, there is no basis for believing that I advocated any policy, which kind of policy is advocated if any and in what sense the argument Nullius raised applies.

  • TanGeng

    @Willard 136It is conjecture. As is KK’s post here as it pertains to GMOs and Big Agra. Mine is based on the observation that SE commentary features the spector of corporate power in three out of eight discussions of systems (see 2,4,5). But it is difficult to see how corporate power is directly applicable.  Rothamsted is a case of public funded research, not a case of IP, not case of lobbyist legislation, nor a case of privately funded research. Without a system of thinking that pays special regard to corporations, the idea of corporate power shouldn’t even come up.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Nullius,

    There is not much words needed to point at this from #129:

    We’ve had two dozen comments so far in pursuit what appears to be an infinitesimal point about using the word “tyranny” being a case of “name-calling”. I don’t agree that it is.

    when I said in #98:

    The second sentence [...] picks “name” in namecalling to argue that labeling a policy tyranny is not namecalling. We’ve already saw in #71 that the argument has no merit.

    implying that I am underlining the labeling aspect of “tyranny”, and quoting #98, which was repeating an argument that has been answered in #71:

    Name-calling and labelling are techniques with which even children are familiar. In propagandistic ventures, however, the systematic association between a people (or country, ideal, etc.) with a negative label creates a prejudice, and as such negative opinions will be formulated. The technique leads to the automatic association between the targeted entity and a negative label; this becomes a substitute for critical thinking and a careful examination of actual facts.

    a point rendered even more explicitely in #102:

    I’m not saying that Nullius is namecalling, kdk33. I’m saying that namecalling is a verbal abuse. One is against namecalling because it’s a verbal abuse.

    It seems that all this does not suffice to stop the litteralist debate about what namecalling means. Insisting on an irrelevant definition is a perfect example of parsomatic.

    But from now on, I’ll keep “parsomatic” for rhetorical defense mechanisms akin to the Chewbacca defense:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/24188591829

    ***

    To make sure I was not tone trolling because of the meaning of the expression “verbal abuse”, suggested “mental abuse” (to keep in the mind framing theme) or “rhetorical abuse”, which I believe is needed, because studying fallacies is not enough to pay due diligence to what I believe is contemporary sophistry.

    This is a work in progress.

    That you want to argue “yes, but that’s not namecalling” is simply irrelevant to the fact that the property and the effect emphasized in the quote about labeling and namecalling above. My criticism applies to both cases. Since you already said that name-calling was not particularly admirable, I believe that labeling a position as tyrannic might not be admirable either.

    While I do appreciate your efforts in turning the the discussion about myself, what matters here is the use of the word tyranny, i.e. what you’re doing by mentioning that “success word”, to borrow an expression from David Stove. Nothing warrants its use so far, even more so that it introduces a discussion that might not be relevant to Steve Easterbrook’s analysis. This word carries strong connotations that it ought to be neutralized, again to use Stove’s terminology.

    Since you agree with me that the word “tyranny” deserves due diligence, and that you need to justify it, I don’t think it’s fair for you to shift that burden on me.

    I hope this comment clears up any confusion about my argument against the use of the word “tyranny”.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    TanGeng,

    Thank you for your candor.

    How will you set up an experiment to falsify that conjecture?

    Speaking for myself, I don’t think that system analysis is needed when one simply wants to say that GMO research and climate research do not share the same kind of risk. GMO research has intrinsic risks associated with it, while climate research has extrinsic risks.

    In fact, this is such an obvious platitude that the only way to attack it is to inspect the boxology from which it is supposed to be inferred.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    In the spirit of the time, perhaps Internet lawyerly mode.Besides, <a href=”http://rabett.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/dangers-of-genetic-manipulation.html”>GMOs have issues</a>

  • TanGeng

    @Willard 140Is it really necessary to make it falsifiable? In certain arenas, e.g. scientific method, it is necessary but in a discussion, it is a point of interest to be noted and fleshed out. We could directly ask Steve Easterbrook about why corporate power was such a prominent part of the essay.Biological experimentation, unlike physical sciences, e.g. climate science, introduces certain risks and ethical concerns in experimentation.  This risk is laid out in SE’s 3rd system of thinking, “ecological contamination.”The ethical concern is a question, “Should we be playing around with genes?” and it applies to all biological experimentation. Human embryonic stem cell research is the best analogue to GMOs.Rothadmsted could argue that the contamination risks were addressed to their best abilities and the experimentation procedures were approved, and the ethical consideration is duly noted just as it is in all other instances of biological research on genetics. The argument of significant intrinsic risk isn’t strong in SE’s writing. If it is the centerpiece of his argument, I would have expected it to get far more attention.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    TanGeng,

    In a discussion, we certainly can try to psychologize someone and then wonder if we could ask him questions. We certainly can try to ask him questions without psychologizing too. The conjecture might be unhelpful, but I don’t know about Steve, so I won’t conjecture if he’d like it or not.

    In any case, instead of conjecturing anything about his mental states, you could also conjecture that Steve would welcome any constructive criticism. The justification for that conjecture is that anything that will help him present a better case to his students might be appreciated, ceteris paribus. A way to test that conjecture would be to go on the comments thread and offer your criticisms.

  • TanGeng

    @Willard 142I’m just analyzing his work for the benefit of people on this website while we are discussing the issue, A.K.A. on topic. I’m pointing out the references to corporate power, i.e. Big Agra, is a point of attack against SE’s supposedly well-thought out conclusion. In addition to contributing here, I could conjecture that Steve would welcome constructive criticism. That would be both off-site and off-topic.
    Frankly, I’m not sure what you are trying to do. We’re having a discussion. I wrote up an short incomplete exposition of SE’s essay. There is no need to reach 100% certainty or be perfectly strict of choice of words or even have 100% correct grammar and spelling. We don’t even need to be correctly on a statistically significance level. HA!

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    TanGeng,

    I would welcome your analysis of Steve’s work. When you will post it, could you copy and paste it on Steve’s comment thread?

    Many thanks!

  • DeNihilist

    Hey Keith, thought this might interest you. A suburb of Vancouver has just banned the farming of GMO crops. Here is a opinion piece from a local scientist, who tried to get the Richmond council to hear the science, not the the BS. He failed. http://www.theprovince.com/health/Junk+science+leading+junk+public+policy/6722137/story.html

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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