Why People Don’t Take the Anti-GMO Movement Seriously?

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I hear, fairly often, from those who are against GMO technology, that they’re tired of all the mean “pro-GMO” people not being very nice to them, or not being willing to answer their questions. Now, some of the reason that people often reach that point is that they get tired of the same questions that depict a severe lack of knowledge of the topic, over and over and over again. Often, these questions are so easily answered with a quick google search, and it shows that the people asking haven’t bothered to research the topic. They typically spit off sound bytes that we’ve heard a thousand times.

Another big reason, however, is that people in the rational community, those who value logic and evidence, and understand science, often see the actions of these people akin to the actions of other extremist groups, as they have, as shown above, led to what can only be referred to as eco-terrorism. Groups that are vehemently anti-GMO have burned and destroyed GMO test fields all over the world, really helping to discredit their ideology even more.

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Another all too common cliche is that most of the anti-GMO sites or postings all over the net use an image like this, tomatoes being injected with a syringe. First, there are no GMO tomatoes on the market. Second, this shows a huge lack of understanding of how genetic modification works at any fundamental level.

Then, of course, you get extremely disturbing, bizarre, fear-mongering, and fundamentally dishonest imagery like this.

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When I see that, I see an ideology that doesn’t care about facts, logic, or evidence. They only care about spreading fear.

And let’s not forget that their protests look way too much like the Westboro Baptist Church.

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Even with all this, however, that wouldn’t be enough to stop the conversation. The problem is that a large portion of those conversations involve an anti-GMO person ranting and yelling and throwing out cliche after cliche, while ignoring evidence and refusing to have an adult conversation. Don’t look at the following conversation and think that it’s a rare occurrence. This happens more often, by far, than civil discourse on this topic.

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So, the next time you wonder why no one is paying attention to your anti-GMO message, well, remember that there are some very good reasons for that.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Bioethics and Ethical Philosophy student at Cleveland State University, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes. He writes about science, technology, politics, human rights, feminism, religion, and any other topic that catches his eye.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

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Dr. Carl Sagan, Prophet

I am about to piss everyone off for about a minute:
Dr. Sagan was a prophet.

If you have managed to not drop your phone or laptop in disgust, sent me an extremely hated filled email, or sought me down to execute me prisoner style between reading the above and now, I applaud your self restraint!
I deem Dr. Sagan a scientific prophet.
In this article, he makes a few specific “predictions” in the that have come true.
We now DO have a grade school lack of science education, we DO see the apathy bred into today’s youth in regards to STEM, we DO see the influence of religion on the laws and policies in our nation. Dr. Sagan seems to have proven that prophesies can be real, but only in the context of the right mix of science, critical thinking and skepticism.
To wax philosophical for just a moment, Dr. Sagan’s words echo down the halls of time from the past for us to listen to here in the future.

We might do well to heed them.

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/wonder_and_skepticis/m

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Ad Ignorantiam

Ad Ignorantiam

Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam ( or Ad Ignorantiam, for short) means “argument from ignorance”. This is a fun fallacy, everyone!

Before I start on the fallacy itself, let’s start with a caveat. Never confuse ignorance with stupidity. Those are, or can be, two mutually exclusive topics. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or information. Stupidity is the lack of the ability to learn and understand things. To surmise that your opponent’s argument is ignorant is one thing. To assume that your opponent’s argument is stupid is a slippery slope to a fallacy itself. Even after your co-debater has proven themselves to be lacking of factual knowledge, you cannot say that they are stupid.

When you boil this fallacy down, it basically follows ,the formula of, “what I believe is true because we don’t know that it can’t be true”. This could be difficult to deal with, as the person just might be right. The “trick” is, as you probably have surmised, that we have critical thinking on our side.

Many of the arguments that you might make if you travel the circuits of pseudoscience or religion will be against this very fallacy. A Bigfoot believer will tout that his/her dubious hair samples will outweigh the fact that no definite DNA has been produced. The “UFOlogist” (and this one is the funniest one to me as it’s just that rich) that their blurry photo or video proves that the unidentified flying object has been identified as an unidentified flying object. Or, one that can truly affect us all, the Creationist or Intelligent Design proponent that claims that evolution is false (therefore god is real) because that humans cannot be “proved” to have sprung fully formed as a species because the fossil record doesn’t provide such evidence. This is known as the “god of the gaps”.

When dealing with such arguments, one of the best concepts to use is Occam’s Razor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam’s_razor ). Occam’s razor states, that when given multiple hypothesis’, the one with the least amount of assumptions should be chosen. How is this relevant, you might ask. Well, let’s break down the three ideas in the paragraph above:

1: Which is more likely? That there is a breeding population of several thousand large primates located the world over that have managed to escape pervasive video/camera ubiquity, definitive DNA analysis, or just a corpse. Or that the argument is flawed?

2: Which is more likely? That an alien race has managed to cross the eons of space but cannot navigate the “wilds” of earth and crash, need to perform experiments on cattle, can only communicate through designs in crops, or haven’t figured out that wherever they have seen people (if they wish to stay secret) that they need to avoid such places.

3: Which is more likely? That “man” sprang fully formed from the dust of the earth from the will of a being that is unknowable, and that “woman” was born of a rib of the man that was made of dust. That a talking snake persuaded someone to take a bite of the fruit the tree of “Knowledge”, therefore introducing pain and disease upon the people that “he loves”, not to mention that he would kill the majority of them. Or is it a passing off of a collection of tales from the millennium preceding it?

 

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

People, Profit, and False Dichotomies

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All too often, people look at the world as if everything is a zero sum game. I’ve been seeing this in arguments against GMOs often, when people focus on the corporation as some monolithic evil, while attacking the technology.

Today’s note was “I just have the feeling that those biotech companies aren’t necessarily into helping poor people but into making profit.”

Well sure. Every company is out for profit. That’s how companies survive. They can, however, do both. It’s not always one or the other. Technologies created for profit very often have far reaching positive effects in the world.

Consider that war is the largest driver of technological advances in history. Many of those advances have been applied to modern medical practices, conveniences, and even life extending cultural changes.

Apple is a massive corporation that is involved in countless humanitarian activities. The Bill Gates Foundation is the same, stemming from Microsoft’s success.

All businesses are in it for profit, but not all profitable businesses are inherently bad. We need to set aside blind ideologies and look at everything as a spectrum, instead of the black and white “party line” stances that people tend to follow.

Besides, if they were truly that against all things “large corporation,” then they wouldn’t dare use Facebook to tell people about it, now would they?

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Trendy Activism

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There are a lot of activists for a lot of causes. The problem is that many of them don’t actually believe what they’re advocating. Let’s look at a few activist causes that really illustrate this problem well.

Pro Life

The pro life stance is that a fetus or zygote is just as human as a baby.

I promise you, most of them don’t truly believe that. You see, if you believe that the guy down the street is killing children in his basement and the police won’t do anything about it, you don’t picket his house. You do everything in your power to save those children. If you believe a fetus is the same as a child, then you don’t picket a clinic. The ones blowing up abortion clinics and killing the doctors are the only ones who truly believe what they’re advocating. The rest are on the bandwagon of ignorance because it lets them fit in with their “crowd.” Deep down, they know that there is a big difference. They just refuse to either admit it or take the steps someone would take if they truly believed that.

Anti-GMO

The contention of the anti-GMO crowd is that genetically modified foods, or genetically modified anything for that matter, is inherently harmful and is killing us all.

I guarantee that most of them don’t believe that. If you believed that the food supply was killing people, you wouldn’t protest one of the many biotech companies. You wouldn’t sit around complaining about it and ranting on the internet. You’d be taking real action. The Greenpeace eco-terrorists who are burning golden rice fields believe what they’re advocating. The rest most certainly do not. They’re advocating it because it’s trendy. It makes them hip with the “green” crowd.

Chemtrails

This is a personal favorite due to the sheer absurdity of it. The government is using aircraft to dust the population with poisonous and/or mind controlling “chemicals.”

Aside from how incredibly ignorant it is to begin with (with the other two, I can at least see where their fear and ignorance is coming from. This has to be drug induced.), they don’t really believe that. The ones hiding in bunkers in the woods surrounded by firearms believe it. The rest do not. They talk about their conspiracy theory with everyone they can find who will listen. If they really though the government was doing such a thing to them, then they’d be running like hell or revolting.

And so…

People join these “causes” because they are trendy. They’re like the Kony campaign. They don’t care about facts. They don’t care about being intellectually honest. They only care about the bandwagon ideology that they’ve jumped on and makes them sound “real” in front of their friends. This is the sort of thought process that those of us in the rational community are up against every day.

As Sam Harris said…

“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide that proves they should value evidence.

If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?”

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

 

 

The Ad Hominem

The Ad Hominem…. I will venture to say that this is almost everyone’s favorite logical fallacy, regardless if you are the purveyor of “woo”(better known as pseudoscience) or the skeptic. Or, at least, this seems to be everyone’s favorite logical fallacy to MAKE! It’s never fun to be on the receiving end of it…

Let’s start with the definition of the word in modern day usage. From Latin, literally meaning “to the person”, an ad hominem attack is defined as a rejection of an argument or claim because of a non-related fact of the entity making the argument. I say fact as while it is true that you cannot dismiss the argument of an opponent because of a non-related fact or opinion, you can still HAVE an opinion of an opponent: “Bob is a pedantic ass” is just an opinion of Bob. Saying “Bob’s take on homeopathy is wrong because Bob is a pedantic ass” is an ad hominem. The basic argument from a believer of “woo” might go like this: “You skeptics are closed-minded! That is why your argument against my claim is wrong!”. Whether or not the skeptic is close-minded or not has nothing to do with the validity of the purveyor of “woo”s claims.

We, as critical thinkers, must be wary of ourselves as it is FAR too easy to fall into using ad hominems against true believers. You cannot dismiss the argument of the true believer by saying that they are “all insane”, as that is very much not the case for a large majority of the people that believe. Most of them can be very sane in every other part of their lives and can be quite sane about the topic they are arguing about (whether the topic is even close to the truth is another matter).

Here’s another thing: You can also flip ad hominems on their heads. Even if you have avoided all of the above pitfalls, acknowledged to yourself that you shouldn’t commit an ad hominem, and realize that your opinion of the person isn’t a valid rebuttal of their premise, you can still be on the path to a logical fallacy; or, at least a subset of the fallacy. If you are in a public debate with someone, you should even refrain from speaking your opinion of the other party. Why, you might ask? By voicing your opinion, you are committing what is known as “poisoning the well”. This subset is done by hinting that the other party has qualities that are untrustworthy. If you are aware of “Godwin’s law” (http://tinyurl.com/6cnjm), you have a good understanding of “poisoning the well”. If you don’t know what Godwin’s law is, it’s pretty simple and you’ve probably seen it before. In1990, lawyer and author, Mike Godwin, stated that given enough time, any online conversation about any topic, someone will inevitably make a correlation to Hitler or the Nazi regime. This has become a meme within the internet culture. Another meme closely related to Godwin’s law is “Don’t be that guy”….

Until next time!

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Anti-Technology On The Rise

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Reason.com reported in 2001 that an anti-technology movement was on the rise. They discussed people’s fear of technology, especially nanotechnology and biotechnology, two very present and topical new technologies that are carving out a place for themselves worldwide. What I found very telling, however, is something I’ve noticed and written about in the past. The anti-technology sentiment is intrinsically linked to anti-corporation ideologies.

We see this a lot today with the anti-biotechnology movement in particular. There was always the anti-corporation undertone, but post-occupy it’s become a loud mantra for those against technological advances. It’s become so ingrained that people will make up their own “facts” to support the rhetoric and ideological stance against large corporations that produce new technology.

Even when you go back not long ago, people were protesting turning on the Large Hadron Collider because they were sure it was going to start creating black holes and destroy the planet.

Today, people insist that biotechnology is poisoning the population.

It’s no different. This is a good illustration of the fear induced rhetoric that can come from holding to ideologies instead of facts and evidence.

What I’d like to see is a move towards better public education of new technologies and the discarding of political ideologies to make way for a more evidence based worldview for the general population. Well, I can hope at least.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.