Saturday, October 11, 2014

On Science, GMO's and Philosophy....

It is all the rage these days to accuse a few segments of the population that deny the efficacy of some things as being "Anti-Science". We throw those words around a whole lot when we talk about those who deny Climate Change. Or those who deny the value of vaccines. I've used the words myself when in debate with these two groups.

But the other day I was called "Anti-Science". Why? Because I don't want to eat salmon that have eel genes in them. And I don't want to eat vegetables or grains that have been engineered to withstand Roundup. It was the standard GMO debate and I was lumped into the category of those who don't believe in science. And since, in their view, there have been no studies that demonstrate GMO foods as being unsafe, well, then we have an obligation to feed the starving millions by using such crops en masse, right away, as soon as possible.

Of course, science is just a tool, often of whoever pays for it---but a tool. It should be a part of how we argue points with each other, but not the only, or even the best, points to be made in an argument.

There is still room for Philosophy. And I mean Philosophy in its best sense: the love of Wisdom. And there is still room for Morality.

Or as Saint Ed once said: “Though men now possess the power to dominate and exploit every corner of the natural world, nothing in that fact implies that they have the right or the need to do so.”

Amen, Ed.

And that's where I politely part company with those who have a magical belief that Science is the one thing that sets us apart from the Natural World. It has to do with Dominion, which is as much a part of a Monsanto Scientist's belief system as it is the holy roller Pat Robertson who believes the world was put here for our exploitation and that when we are done, Jesus will rapture us away to some other place, where, I assume the exploitation will continue.

Thus far, we haven't seen good science that demonstrates that GMO foods are bad. And there are those who argue that Three Mile Island wasn't terrible and that Chernobyl didn't kill a million people. But the parallels with Nuclear Power and GMO's are much the same for me. The manipulation of the atom is the same as the manipulation of the gene. Both frightening ethical territory. And the will to proceed with both technologies, I think, stems from what your world view is regarding our Dominion over Creation.

It is a Religious Argument. A Philosophical Argument. An argument that frames science but doesn't rely on science as the end of the argument.

When I call somebody "Anti-Science", I have to think a bit before bringing that arrow out of the quiver. Because I can be Anti-Science too. And I am Anti-Science when it comes to a few issues.

Reason and Science are not the same. We should never forget that.

1 comment:

  1. Bill wrote this to me, but said that he had a hard time posting it. I've heard quite a few people say that lately. My apologies for your wasted time and effort. Feel free to write me directly with your comments. I like to hear them.

    Well said, Allan.

    I think the label of 'anti-science' is just a pejorative term, a
    specious ad hominem rebuttal. It is not 'science' that comes up with
    things like GMOs, but rather some misguided exploitation of a technique,
    which, as you point out, does not NEED to be pursued.

    What scares me is a) the monopolistic thrust behind all this (Monsanto &
    their seeds you need to buy every year), b) the law of unintended
    consequences (specifically Murphy's), as exhibited in the likely rise in
    both pesticide resistance and pesticide use given the mere existence of
    Roundup-resistant crops, and c) the absurd corporate-driven government
    regs that assume safety until proven otherwise. Talk about unbridled
    capitalism! You practically have to have an epidemic, a riot, or 20 yrs
    of litigation in this country to see anything corrected.