> I would like to know who here is anti-science. "Science" comes
> from the Latin /scire/, which means "to know."....It is a complex
> human enterprise, whose methods change over time, whose
> epistemologies are open to reinterpretation, and whose established
> findings are open to retesting and falsification.
> (In the Popperian sense.)
Oh, I think the science wars are indeed waged on this list, at least
tangentially. I think there is a strongly constructivist element that
clashes with the more traditional scientists. But, my purpose isn't to
fight the science war right now.
I happened on a book review by David Hull in the current issue of Science.
The book is "Mystery of Mysteries, by Michael Ruse. It sounds very relevant
to this proto-thread. I think I'll get the book.
Here is an excerpt of the review:
"On the contemporary scene, Ruse sets out the disputes between two pairs of
adversaries, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin and
E. O. Wilson. These paired evolutionary biologists disagree with each other
about a lot of things: the data, the implications of data, the nature of
science, and the social responsibilities of scientists. Gould and Lewontin
are allies, both scientifically and politically. Both opt for a hierarchical
view of evolution and profess allegiance to some sort of Marxism. In doing
so, they acknowledge (as Marxists should) that their scientific and
political beliefs "interpenetrate" each other, to use an embarrassingly
androsexist term. One major objection they raise is that other scientists
are na´vely unaware of this interpenetration. In saying so explicitly, they
have transgressed one of the most fundamental and widespread metalevel
beliefs about science--that it is value free."
> The implication that science is not open to critique, rethinking, or
> challenge smacks of an historically earlier attitude about another
> institution, called religion. And the implication that anything that
> questions science cannot be rational makes rationality the sole
> provenance of science--a common enough assumption in this age, but
> quite flawed.
> Harold, SANET is an Internet list server, where diverse people share
> their thoughts. Those thoughts are not, contrary to your assertions,
> a unified perspective. You may see a unity in that you disagree with
> many perspectives here--but all that implies is a unity in *your*
> perspective. I.e., that you think a certain way and few subscribers
> here may agree with that. But the thousand or more people on this
> list are very diverse, and some portion of them changes regularly, as
> people subscribe and unsubscribe.
> If you want a unified perspective that agrees with your own, I'm sure
> there are plenty of media--including industry trade
> publications--that would qualify. I understand that it can be
> frustrating and daunting to learn about communities of people where
> ideas are expressed that do not agree with one's own. But that seems
> to be more a limitation of one's own tolerance than of others'
> > Comments such as the importance of "values" in addition to
> > science....implying that the progress we have made in agriculture
> > has been at the expense of values. There also seems to be a
> > general trend in this thread to looking for any negatives about
> > GMOs and other technology.....implying that GMO is a BAD thing.
> There are those in the SANET circle who believe GMO is a bad thing.
> There are those here who haven't yet formed an opinion. There are
> those here who believe it could have benefits. I can't believe that
> you're suggesting that this list should have as its purpose the
> quashing any thinking or expression that doesn't agree with your
> own. Nor the artificial creation of a unified perspective, when this
> medium is clearly not for that. This is a discussion area. And one of
> the few ones that encourages wide-ranging expression.
> > I had hoped this was a forum for a more balanced discussion and
> > assessment of facts. I guess that is asking too much.
> You are a new subscriber. Stick around a few years, and you'll see
> that this also happens. Perhaps not to your 100% satisfaction, but
> do remember that your needs and wants are not the only thing at
> issue in this circle.
> There've been times, over the years, folks have criticized this list
> because it hasn't provided them with the thing they thought it
> should. Yet, instead of sticking around and taking responsibility for
> facilitating that thread of discussion or assessment, it tends to
> happen that people holler, loudly, about what's NOT happening. And
> then either fall silent, or go off and start their own discussion
> groups, or whatever. One is left with the impression that they came
> here to be agreed with, rather than to engage in dialogue. I suppose
> approval is a good thing...but it, like reactionary disagreement,
> rarely fosters creative growth.
> > But I am concerned about the comments that the new technologies in
> > agriculture are creating hazards and quality problems when there
> > is no evidence to support such claims.
> Again, stick around awhile, and be open to receiving and considering
> such evidence when it's presented. If you have it in your head that
> you are right, a priori, and that certain others are wrong, this
> will not prove to be a comfortable discursive community for you.
> Of course, there are those on this list who take that position
> as the Resident Contrarians, but I digress. :^)
> Challenging ideas is part of what happens here. If you a priori
> believe that evidence offered from perspectives you don't share
> therefore doesn't exist...well, there's not much anyone can do about
> that. You are entitled to your perspectives. You are entitled to
> deny the existence of those that you disagree with. Like any
> communications technology, he Internet can be used as a powerful
> buttress for solipsism, as well as for challenging, shaping, and
> re-forming one's thoughts.
> > Agriculture has changed and will never be the same as we remember
> > in the "good old days", but the cause/effect relationship is not
> > nearly so much a result of technology as it is our nations desire
> > to have cheap, abundant and healthy food. We use technology to
> > accomplish that better than any other nation in the world. Our
> > success makes it possible for 98% of our population to NOT live on
> > the farm and grow their own food. Were it not for the science and
> > technology and the large-scale intensive production systems we have
> > implemented over the past 50+ years, more people would be forced
> > into growing food and thus would have less time to attack those who
> > do grow it.
> Your use of "we" here disturbs me. You are speaking, apparently, for
> a collectivity whose membership is not clear. I know you're not
> speaking for me. Nor for many of the farmers I have worked with for
> the past ten years in the Upper Midwest.
> Many of those farmers and aspirants to that profession, would not
> consider growing food to be something they were "forced" to do. They
> consider it dignified, meaningful, soul-nourishing,
> community-building work. Not something to be escaped. And one of
> their premier critiques of industrial farming is that it did in fact
> alienate many people from agrarian lifestyles and communities that
> sustained them.
> And this supplanting happened in the name of profit, progress, and
> Whose values are those?
> > I am proud of the progress we have made in attacking pest and
> > disease problems with reduced reliance on pesticides. Doing it
> > with GMOs, with cultural practices, and overall systems management,
> > we have a great story to tell. There is apparently a certain
> > population who feel obliged to attack progress. They fought
> > pesticides and when we replaced pesticide use with GMOs, many of
> > the same people jumped from the anti-pesticide bandwagon to the
> > anti-GMO bandwagon.
> I can empathize with your frustration if you feel that you are an
> agent of technological progress for which you deserve reward and
> thanks. I recall how frustrating it was for Green Revolution
> scientists to have their thinking challenged around things like the
> introduction of pesticides and high-tech, high-capital farming into
> nations that could not sustain that. I am hearing some
> similar-appearing frustrations coming from the proponents of
> industrial GMO technology. I.e., "we" are trying to solve the
> world's problems--why are you criticizing us?
> Harold, I don't know what to say about that other than remind you we
> live in a free and open democratic society, where the questioning of
> *any* set of ideas or values or actions is not only allowed, but part
> of the fabric of this democracy. It is the creative tension of
> rethinking and questioning that forms the most basic value of all:
> free thinking. No one group of people holds a monopoly on the
> truth--though you can bet there are intellectual property lawyers out
> there who will try to run fence around even that one, eventually.
> Truth is a collective enterprise, and it involves all kinds of
> I doubt that those who founded this nation were foreseeing the day
> when corporations would foist proprietary techniques on the
> citizenry, claiming it was for some greater good, without actually
> checking that perception with those these techniques would affect.
> Nor checking whether they, the citizenry, agree it is indeed for
> their greater good. Never mind wilfully ignoring citizens'
> perceptions that they simply do not agree with the technocracy.
> However, I'm sure that all of them--from John Langdon thru Abraham
> Baldwin--would take exception to the common assumption today: that if
> a representative of a corporation, institution, or other powerful
> organization SAYS a technology is good for everyone, then folks are
> supposed to shut up and do as they're told. And I'd bet that they'd
> take huge umbrage at the idea that common people, with common sense,
> cannot think scientifically, nor provide meaningful critique of the
> science of the experts.
> > Another comment in this thread points out that many of the world's
> > food problems are political, rather than production problems. That
> > is true. And the kind of discussions this thread is fostering help
> > to support those political problems.
> You seem to assume that "production problems" are apolitical.
> "Politics" derives from a Greek word meaning "citizen," later
> generalized to the Latin word for government. In a democratic
> society, the relationships and agreements between people--how they
> agree to negotiate, share, and disburse power--is the fundamental
> aspect of politics. Human relationships will govern how "production"
> is conceived, designed, and executed.
> My concern--which I've voiced many times in this circle--is that
> this aspect of the big picture is being forgotten: we live in a
> democratic, diverse society. Having more money or more power or more
> degrees or more branch offices or more PR staff or whatever doesn't
> mean doodly squish when you live in a society where citizens are
> allowed to say what they think.
> Including that they don't want any parts of GMOs. Including their
> perception that certain agricultural interests are in the game for
> money, power, prestige, and influence. Including their unwillingness
> to have powerful people speak for their interests.
> I've been thinking about this one a lot. Harold, a lot of the farmers
> I work with earn less than $28,000 a year, are listened to by no one
> but their neighbors, have no agenda of changing the world, and are
> constantly ridiculed and ignored, either for the content of their
> thinking or the way they express it.
> I ask you: would you do, and keep doing, your current job if you were
> making $28,000 a year or less?
> Would you do it if no one listened to you, or didn't feel your
> degrees or position meant anything?
> Would you do your current job if you knew that you weren't changing
> the World, but rather some small quarter-section of it? And then you
> weren't so sure about that?
> Would you do your current job if no one took your thoughts, opinions,
> or perspectives seriously?
> Think about it, please. Set aside your fixed assumptions. Including
> your assumptions about the writers of the words you disagree with
> here. And then return to SANET, and try LISTENING to what the
> farmers, inspectors, processors, activists, policy makers, etc., on
> this list are saying. I believe--based on years of experience
> here--that there are many valuable ideas exchanged in this group. I
> believe you will find that to be the case. They may not be *your*
> ideas, nor ones you immediately agree with or understand. But value
> is not measured in this way.
> > There are also some anti-Avery comments that I am concerned about.
> > Dennis has a pretty solid story that if it weren't for our use of
> > technology, much more of the world's natural forest ecosystems
> > would be turned into food production.
> Since the debunking of several of his ostensibly "scientific"
> assertions (most recently, his comments on E. coli in organic food),
> you will find many people here not willing to take his word on much
> of anything. Except, perhaps, his self-proclaimed role as
> > Our high yield management systems in the US can do much more to
> > help save the rain forests and deserts and to protect fragile
> > ecosystems than any other option we have before us. Most of our
> > food crops could not survive in nature. Most of our agriculture
> > could not survive without continuous infusion of technology. It is
> > our success with technology that gives us the abundance and
> > efficiency that allows more people to NOT be involved in food
> > production. I doubt that you will find a large percentage of the
> > 98% non-producers who would trade their life styles with going back
> > to producing their own food.
> You are setting up a big Man Of Straw here.
> We at CIAS are constantly swamped with requests for information,
> training, mentoring, internships, etc., from people who would love to
> produce food for themselves and others. I had this same experience
> over ten years as a community gardening activist in Wisconsin. In the
> portion of each year that I spend in California, I see the same thing
> in the cities, suburbs, and rural areas there. Is it a "large"
> percentage? Damned if I know, but it's a sight more people than I can
> help very effectively in a given month.
> Look at your assumptions, Harold. These people who come to us for
> assistance in getting into farming don't see growing as "going back."
> They see it as going forward, into a future where their food security
> is not dependent upon the dicta and perspectives of ever-fewer
> increasingly powerful corporations whose main goal is an ROI to pass
> along to stockholders. Or institutions whose decision makers wouldn't
> know what end of a seed to put in the ground first if you dug the
> hole for them. They see growing food as an act of grace, of
> connection, and of human dignity. They don't see it as a "trade" of
> anything. Except maybe the time they'd otherwise spend consuming
> pointless, soul-murdering consumer drek through their eyes and ears.
> And may I remind you of the many millions of people who *do* produce
> their own food, but are not counted as farmers by the statistics
> > Maybe instead of complaining about the direction of this list, I
> > should just remove my name from it. For now, thanks for letting me
> > vent my concerns.
> You have the option both to withdraw from communications that trouble
> you...as well as becoming part of that, both as a "venter"...and as a
> listener. I would like to invite you to stick around for a year or
> two. Stretch your tolerance a bit. You might learn something here.
> And so might we, from you.
> Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and also for considering mine.
> Michele Gale-Sinex, communications manager
> Center for Integrated Ag Systems
> UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences
> Voice: (608) 262-8018 FAX: (608) 265-3020
> There is something fascinating about science.
> One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture
> out of such trifling investment of fact.
> --Mark Twain
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