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Posts archive for: July, 2012
  • science, faith and g m food

    http://www.annaraccoon.com/politics/science-as-religion/

    Contemplating protests so widespread in America about genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.s), I’m struck by the facts that Americans to-day, just as peoples around the World, are taller and generally have a greater life expectancy than ever before. (Admittedly the Dutch are taller but that’s because much of Holland is below sea level and they have to be or they wouldn’t be able to see over the walls.)

    Whilst it’s true that some parents are burying their children, this is due to a diet of manufactured food heavy in refined sugar, saturated fats and, to a lesser extent, salt — more significantly to an excess of such food. The general population, which ingests G.M.O.s not incidentally, as one might expect of animals, but as part of its diet, appears to be thriving – in America as where ever such products are available.

    For a myriad of years we have as farmers been effecting genetic change in both crops and livestock. For most of that time the process has been slow : we could not isolate individual genes and, in any case, had no understanding of the precise mechanism that brought about the traits we sought. What the agrochemical industry is doing is merely condensing the work of decades, even centuries, in to years.

    ****

    This is not to say that genetic modification is without risk : that exists whether scientists do it over a decade or farmers over a century ; development, something man is able to achieve at a rate not available to other species, entails risk. We sail the oceans and fly the skies ; occasionally a boat sinks or an aeroplane crashes : even the animals, having developed these skills organically over millennia, sometimes suffer such failure. So what ? Ought we then not to take risk ?

    Safety is the management of risk and it’s because experience tells us that, left to their own devices, industrial corporations might not tell us about failures in their tests or about failures later in the field that we have the Food and Drug Administration and similar agencies in other countries to keep them, as far as they can, honest.

    If we’re to feed the World’s burgeoning population — and the longer the poor are left in poverty (sc. not allowed to burn their own fuels so that they have reticulated electricity) the more rapidly it will grow — we must find ways of making the land more productive. One way is to increase crops’ resistance to pests. We can do this by spraying crops with almost indiscriminate pesticides, inherently risky to wildlife and the environment generally for obvious reasons, but much more efficiently by targeting particular pests with dedicated characteristics of the crops that will eliminate just those pests.

    Till we become omniscient, however, we shall not be in a position to avoid risk altogether ; what we must guard against is fear of the unknown. We must get away from regarding science as a system of religious belief, its church the Internet, and return to science based on honest research, clear thought and scrupulous peer review — all things sorely lacking in the ‘science’ on which so much public opinion and policy are now based.

    *****

    Is it actually science that is at fault or is it the green religion on which the blame must be placed?

    At the moment it appears the green religion is leading the fight against science and advancement in all spheres, climate change, GM crops, population growth and so on, with their cry of ‘the earth is doomed’.

    The more people that believe the doom and gloom the more self fulfilling it will be.

    There is an answer to that – better education in science and engineering with the emphasis on teaching people to think for themselves. Unfortunately, that precludes the current generation and maybe the next until the necessary teachers can be produced that do not bow down to the green leftist religion.

    *****
    Indeed. The problem is not science, but the wilful manipulation of scientific research reports (which are often, by their very nature, inconclusive, hedged with uncertainties, sometimes even vague) by people with axes to grind. So the report that states that the Earth’s climate may, if current modelling is correct, warm by between 1 and 3 degrees over a period of 50 to 100 years becomes “Climate will warm 3 degrees in 50 years, say boffins”.

    The GMO objections of about a decade ago arguably had one thing about right. The results of the science were commercially exploited with ruthless drive and merciless resort to litigation against any who stood in the way, intentionally or not. That was a great tactical error by the corporations concerned. Had they been a little more patient, they would have won the day, I think – and by more honourable means.

    Science and engineering are often highly complex and nuanced, and don’t readily respond to soundbite journalism or the sort of simplistic responses commonly found in the humanities. I agree with Ivan that better education is the key – but better journalism must play a part, too.
    *****
    Me.
    I’ve no qualms about eating GM crops although if we want better yields to feed the burgeoning population pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere is a better and cheaper way to go. What does worry me about the push for GM however is how it would concentrate almost total control of the food supply in the hands of a few corporations led by Monsanto which has as good a record on environmental sensitivity as Hitler had on racial diversity.

    ****
    I have a few qualms about GM. The “feed the world” thing doesn’t really do it for me, given the previous outcry against “Terminator” genes (thankfully disavowed by Monsanto) and the patenting of basic foodstuffs. In both cases, the farmer is required to go back to the seed producer each year to buy more seed. In business they talk about “owning the layer”. For Amazon, it’s books, ebay does Auctions, PayPal does money, Apple has iTunes and the App Store. In this case the layer happens to be food, which is good for nobody but the big Agro-Tech firms.

    Secondly, we’re not talking about selective breeding – that is taking the best of the plants to breed better ones. The idea behind GM modification is to take a genetic marker that doesn’t appear anywhere in the plant naturally, and introduce it. The resultant creation is visibly the same, but inherently slightly different. In a laboratory setting this might be interesting science, but to redesign the DNA of a crop and then to release it to the wild thereafter to cross-pollinate with all other “natural” varieties has a wide potential impact, and denies choice to those who like their cornflakes as nature (or God) intended. Once out of the box, this cannot be put back. Whilst not quite the “grey goo” spoken of by Eric Drexler there could be a similar effect.

    For what it’s worth, the low tech solution is probably the better one here. Half the world is overweight, whilst the other half is hungry. It doesn’t take a genetic scientist to figure out that one.

    ******

    Saturated (animal) fats are not unhealthy. The idea that saturated fats are unhealthy is based on the “lipid hypothesis” which has been thoroughly debunked by science. Humans evolved eating saturated fats and consequently are well tolerated.

    In the last 50 years healthy animal fat has been replaced with fats that have never existed in human diet (refined oils, corn oil, vegetable oil, etc).. Resulting in the large rates of cardiovascular disease we see today.

    Science has also proved that livestock feed a natural diet, grass feed beef for example, has a very healthy nutritional profile, compared to industrialized methods. Livestock on a natural diet have elevated levels of omega-3. For ideal health humans need a diet rich in omega-3. Fish is the only other major source of omega-3. Additional science has found that pasture raised beef produces significantly less methane (which greens love to ignore).

    We live in a world were science is ignored, much like this article.

    *******

    “If we’re to feed the world’s burgeoning (I had to look that up twice to see how it should be spelled!) population….” We already have the ability to feed the world’s burgeoning (didn’t need to look that up) population. It is not only, however, a matter of transport, it is a matter of political intransigence and financial incentives. The western world throws away twice as much food as the third world requires to avoid starvation. Political barriers (the EU agriculture policy to begin with) prevents the distribution of food around the world, as does the American policies of taxes, import duties and a preference for home grown agricyultural products, even though they cost three times as much as imported products. However, having staved off starvation of a third of the world’s population, it then falls to education to rebuild – chopping down trees so you can grown animale feed is not necessarily a good thing – and this is the real long term problem. I forget who it was who said something like, “First, kill all the lawyers.” Perhaps he should have followed that up with, “and then the politicians, and Jeremy Clarkson, and the French!”.

    *****

  • quotes, science freaks

    Some of the atheists who post on this site are some of the dimmest, most malicious, most bigoted people I've ever encountered, and so naturally they pride themselves on their intelligence and liberality.

    Pavelchicov
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100171648/creationist-free-schools-can-believe-what-they-like-so-long-as-they-teach-that-humans-are-related-to-lobsters/

  • The Death Of Free Markets

    Tim Worstall is a Thatcherite Conservative and a fan of free trade and globalisation. In response to an article in The Guardian about how Dairy Farmers are being squeezed by the supermarkets and broken on the wheel of EU regulations he penned a response accusing our dairy farmers of being uincompetitive and unable to face the challenges of a free market economy. All he proved is that the left don't have a monopoly on stupid, arrogant twats.

    Thatcherite conservatives in the UK and Reaganite Republicans in the USA love to talk of free markets and the utopia they create. But do free markets ever exist. What looks like a free market from above is anything but when viewed from the ground.Policies supposed to protect the efficient have been hijacked by a cartel of food retail chains. Dairy Farmers are being driven to bankruptcy because the"free market" in milk is entirely controlled by the big supermarkets.

    READ FULL ARTICLE
    Dairy Farmers Ruined: Free Markets Versus Corporate Dictatorship

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  • Chinese Economy Heads For Crash - Little Nicky Told You So.

    I told you and so did my friends at The Daily Stirrer. As demand in the west for China's manufactured goods dried up due to falling economic activity in developed nations the Chinese economy would crash.

    Well the depth of the recession in western nations might have been disguised by printing money (aka quantitative easing) but that inevitably results in inflation which erodes the value of earnings and savings.

    Ergo people have less to spend on cheap tat from China.

    So how does that affect us? It means China will have less money to buy the bonds western governments must sell to underwrite the value of the bonds they sell. Which will mean the value of money will fall further. Which will mean peoples' earnings and savings will buy less. Which will mean economic activity will fall further which will mean ... oh you should know how it works by now.

    Anybody fancy a weekend break in Weimar?

    RELATED POSTS:
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  • How The "Yooman Rights" Brigade Plan To Boot You Off The Internet

    For years I have argued that the internet should accept some form of regulation to the extent only that everything posted ought to be identifiable to a source thus imposing the constraints of normal decency on people and curbing the criminal activity the world wide web has spawned.

    You should have heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth from lefties and "yooman rights" campaigners about how this would curtail freedom. if you are familiar with how the left operates and how control freakery comes as naturally to them as sucking on a tit comes to a mammilian baby you might have found this commitment to freedom a bit suspect. After all the only freedom the left have ever been concerned with is their own freedom to Impose their ideals and values on the rest of us (by force if necessary).

    It should come as no surprise then that the left's commitment to internet freedom lasted only as long as it took them to come up with a way to get independent websites and blogs off the cybersphere and ensure that we could see ONLY officially approved propaganda. Hat tip to Anna Raccoon for bringing this to my attention.

    Last month in a little noticed case in the US, a Federal Judge made a ruling that has implications for us all. We may think that the truly sensitive and the terminally offended have been making inroads into the freedom of the Internet, but they are piffling flea bites compared to the implications of this case.

    What the ruling – that the Internet is ‘a place of public accommodation’ – boils down to in plain English is that the Internet has the same status as a Public House, your local council offices, Disneyland, the O2 Arena, and anywhere else you can think of that has to comply with disabled accessibility legislation. It will be your responsibility to ensure that the blind reader has a voice over of your hastily crafted howl of anger at the latest government outrage, that the deaf have suitable sub-titles on your YouTube efforts, and one can only presume, that the terminally stupid have a simplified version in words of one syllable, to ensure that everyone has an ‘enjoyable and enriching experience’ when they land on your blog.

    The lawyers are sharpening their quills already, for it matters not that you are penning your anguished prose from a bed sit in Bridlington – your reader may well be a one eyed Albanian asylum seeker in the US, libel law has long since established precedent that if he can access your words in the US, then you are publishing in the US, regardless of where your ‘server’ is.

    Could YouTube be obligated to close-caption videos on the site? (This case seems to leave that door open.) Could every website using Flash have to redesign their sites for browsers that read the screen? I’m not creative enough to think of all the implications, but I can assure you that ADA plaintiffs’ lawyers will have a long check list of items worth suing over. Big companies may be able to afford the compliance and litigation costs, but the entry costs for new market participants could easily reach prohibitive levels.

    One common argument for imposing accessibility obligations on physical businesses is that it is unrealistic to expect the disabled to simply ‘go somewhere else’ if the nearest business can’t accommodate their needs. The Internet doesn’t have territorial limitations – by extending this ruling to the Internet, the lawyers are in effect saying that everyone must make every part of their ‘public life’ accessible to anyone who wishes, worLd wide, to partake of the opportunity.

    Now I don’t expect this to affect Joe Bloggs blogging from his back room in Bridlington overnight – but it doesn’t require too much imagination to realise that if Google get sued for failing to provide a voice over on their political blogs, they will immediately refuse to host any blog that doesn’t comply. Netfix, the company which the American Association for the Deaf successfully sued for failing to provide sub-titles on the videos which they streamed, may be able to afford the costly technology to comply with this ruling, individual bloggers won’t. Netfix may respond by not hosting movies which don’t carry sub-titles, I would expect Google to take the same route.

    Read the full post: Wheelchair access to the blogosphere

    Now as Anna says this law willl not be enforced right away to make sure we bloggers, contributors and site owners provide access to a braille translator or a text to voice converter so that your partially sighted visitors can have access to our rants, pithy observations, homilies, philosiphizing, self indulgent rambles and scintillating prose. but once the "yooman rights" brigade find a site that challenges their prejudices and does not conform to these requirements there is not much doubt about which way a court verdict will go.

    The answer of course is we can all ignore the law and work on the prinbiciple that they can't put us all in prison. "OK, but what if they decide to put me in prison to make an example of somebody?" you might well ask.

    Simples. At the first sign of trouble take your stuff offline. Back it all up and find yourself a host that operates its servers from Andorra, Costa Rica or some such place that does not have any serious libel laws. Pay with your paypal account. Use a proxy server such as Anonymouse and rebuild your website using a pseudonym to disguisE your authorship (something like Aethelred-Naggernunk is good)

    Then the "yooman rights" lawyers can spend their time chasing shadows while you concentrte on building links to your site and getting your ideas out to the widest possible audience and promote the cause of free thinking against the dark forces of "progressiveism".

    UPDATE:
    And it is not just the politically correct Thought Police who don't want you on the web ...
    Latest Google update favours their own products and sites that pay for traffic

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  • Manifesto For A Global Democracy

    Found this on Annarky's blog today:

    Manifesto for a global democracy

    Here's an extract:

    Politics lags behind the facts. We live in an era of deep technological and economic change that has not been matched by a similar development of public institutions responsible for its regulation. The economy has been globalized but political institutions and democracy have not kept pace. In spite of their many peculiarities, differences and limitations, the protests that are growing all over the world show an increasing discontent with the decision-making system, the existing forms of political representation and their lack of capacity for defending common goods. They express a demand for more and better democracy.

    Global welfare and security are under threat. The national and international order that emerged from the end of World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall has not been able to manage the great advances in technology and productive systems for the benefit of all humanity ...

    Now my feeling is that something like this would be too easily usurped by the dark forces pushing the idea of global totalitarian government based on George Orwell's Oligarchic Collectivist system. Democracy would be as meaningful worldwide as it has become in the EU where a democratic vote that goes against what the bureaucrats in Brussels want is simply ignored and the voters are told, "You gave the wrong answer, you must vote again."

    Any idea that prompts people to abandon their interia, give up on the Dr, Panglos philosophy that "All Is For The Best In This The Best Of All Possible Worlds" and start thinking about what kind of furure we are handing to our children and grandchildren is worth looking at.

    Ah buut then, while I know true Anarchy is a political philosophy that could not work in the real world (like Marxism, socialism, fascism, conservatism and corporatism) I am a classical liberal which is about as close to anarchy as a political system involving gover nment can get.

  • Copper and Cuts

    H M Inspector Of Constabulary has warned that because of the cuts necessary to bring runaway public spending under control before the government deficit takes us into the territory currently occupied by Greece, Spain and Portugal, the boys in blue will no longer be able to protect the public (BBC News Police Service Worsened By Cuts).

    Several points occur to Little Nicky about this.

    (1) How long it it since the police could be arsed making the streets safe for the old, weak and vulnerable to walk. And if you were beaten up and robbed in your own home how long is it since you could expect any reponse from the police beyond PCSO Tiny Littlebottom coming round on his Raleigh Chopper two days later to give you some leaflets on victiom counseling.

    (2)As the many faced beast that is the poliical left start kicking off about this, let us not forget that it was New Labour that decided all crims are victims of society and so the victims of crime are as guilty as the perps. And who was it decided that to dish out penalties appropriate to the severity of their crimes violated their human rights?

    (3) As Little Nicky regularly runs up against lefties who yearn for the New Wold Order federalisation of Europe and a totalitarian global government and are wringing their hands, wailing and gnashing teeth at the prospect that we might be heading for a more distant relationship with the New World Order European Union it is my duty to point out that the £40 million a day we stump up to fund the gravy train riding bureaucrats of Brussels whose fat cattery makes even the greed of the most bastardish banker look positively anorexic could put a lot of coppers on the beat.

    (4) The whining of H M Inspector Of Constabulary reflects nothing but self interest from senior coppers. Who was it took officers off the beat and out of patrol cars and put them to work issuing speeding fines, ASBOs and accompanying fines, parking fines, fines for this, fines for that and fines for possessing a threatening beard. The percentage of police officers who are actually assingned to crime fighting and crime prevention is pathetically small. The percentage assigned to revenue collection, bean counting and paper shuffling is gobsmackingly large.

    (5) What effing cuts. Not one penny has yet been cut from public spending. Only the planned increases have been cut.

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