Posted on December 6, 2013
My latest article on biotechnology has been featured on The Genetic Literacy Project website. It is now featured on the home page. The opening paragraphs are below, but be sure to head over to the GLP the rest. Enjoy!
From Anti-GMO to pro-science: A Layman’s Guide to GMOs
Knowing whom to trust on the touchy issue of GMOs (biotechnology) is a thorny issue—especially on the Internet, where tensions flare to a 100 with an absence of nuance and body language. Leaning on an authority is, of course, a shortcut. Who has the time these days to understand a field as diverse and comprehensive as biotechnology? Very few of us; in that light, it is a perfectly reasonable shortcut—provided one seeks out the correct authorities, that is.
That is why appeals to authority are the main weapon on both sides of the e-divide on GMOs. However, in many ways, many such arguments fall flat on their face as they exhibit fallacious reasoning (often called the argument from authority fallacy). The trick, of course, is finding an authority one can trust and that is right—no easy task.
What happens if one picks the wrong authority and psychologically ties oneself to a person expressing an argument, rather than to the evidence—doing just that is a quirky trait of human psychology. Over the past few years, this is the dilemma that I faced. The authorities I trusted in were wrong. Thus began the project that led to my book.
And don’t forget my latest project: The Lowdown on GMOs: According to Science has been released as a free eBook featuring contributions from molecular biologists, plant pathologists, farmers, journalists, and authors on the what the evidence concerning GMO actually says. Go grab it.
Posted on December 6, 2013
Benjamin Franklin said two things are certain in life: death and taxes. Another one we could add to this list is that on any given news website and in almost all print media there will be articles about health and nutrition that are complete garbage.
Posted on December 3, 2013
I’d like to announce that my project at which I’ve been working on since April has finally sprouted its wings and made its way into the digital ether. The Lowdown on GMOs: According to Science features chapters from the likes of plant geneticists, plant pathologists, molecular biologists, farmers, professors, journalists, renowned authors, a couple of bloggers and even a historian. The subject matter tackles fear-mongering, gene commonality between species, knowledge discrimination, how GMOs reduce farming inputs, the myth-making ability of the human brain, and many more.
Lastly, I haven’t mentioned the best thing about the eBook: It’s FREE. You can download it for Kindle, Nook, iOS, or as PDF here at Smashwords.
I have an upcoming guest post at Genetic Literacy Project which should come online later today. In it, I’ll be discussing the role of the authority in an argument from authority, specifically when it comes to arguments of the scientific type in promotion of The Lowdown on GMOs: According to Science. In the meantime, there are two reviews below. And, if you’d like to share the pro-science message, click here to tweet about the eBook.
Get The Lowdown on GMOs: According to Science for free
“I enjoyed the synthesis provided by “The Lowdown on GMOs According to Science”. Janabi recombines writings from researchers, farmers, former anti-GMO activists, science writers, and consumers into an operon that expresses a lot of great information about genetically-modified organisms. It’s hard to find this level of quality discussion on this topic around the internet, where murky misinforming fearmongers overwhelm the discussions.
Scientists, farmers and folks who had the drive to learn more about the issues provide a variety of perspectives on GMOs. Their grasp of the historical context, the present directions, and the current and future benefits will help anyone to understand why GMOs are tools that people who have experience with them *want* to use.
The writers here use their own experiences, their years of work, and their own due diligence to assess the issues. They explain the framework of misinformation and how it clouds attempts to see the facts. And it might be a perspective you haven’t heard much before. Overall it is a compelling plea for people to look at the real evidence and decide.”
~ Mary Mangan, PhD (Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology), President and co-founder of OpenHelix LLC
“The use of biotechnology in agriculture is a topic you hear a lot about these days: farmers in distant regions of the world, looking to improve their yields, receive two versions (this will save you/this will poison you); voters in conditions altogether more comfortable than those small holder farmers weighed down by debt, are driving up to vote on whether products should be labeled to let consumers know they were grown using biotechnology. All of this and more is contained in 3 letters GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms). But what exactly does this mean? To anyone advocating for food policy issues, the superficiality of information (or, in some cases, complete misinformation) which form the basis of debates on GMO are held is worrisome. So I am happy to be the bearer of some good news: “The Lowdown on GMOs: According to Science” is here and is going to be an excellent source of information for anyone seeking to learn more about this issue.
The book is put together with articles from a range of experts in this domain: molecular biologists, Alan McHughen and Kevin Folta; plant pathologist Steve Savage and plant geneticist Anastasia Bodnar, among others. The scientific viewpoint, often so frustratingly opaque to those of us who were relieved to be done with science on high school, is presented here in clear terms and the reader can come to their own conclusions.
Also interesting are the accounts of the journey of those who started out as skeptics but after doing the research became convinced by the actual facts to support the use of biotechnology in agriculture. This is especially useful because it resonates with those of us who may still be educating ourselves but feel intimidated by all the noisemakers into taking up a hasty position. This perspective is a nuance often lost in the noisy and often vicious debates that characterize this topic. It also helps that one of these journeys is that of Mike Bendzela who is a farmer. That farmers’ voices are not heard often enough in the food debate is something I have often blogged about. You may think you know all that is there is to about Monsanto, but after reading Brian Scott’s views on using Monsanto’s products on his farm; you might look at the picture differently. Of particular note is the piece by Mark Lynas, the British journalist and environmentalist who recently changed his viewpoint and came out in strong support of GMOs.
In his own piece, Fourat Janabi replies to the “Nature does it best” argument that the anti-GMO lobby is so fond of, pointing out that nature is full of experiments which created our diverse world; also drawing our attention to the fact that the Big Ag lobby is matched by a robust Organic lobby!. He also takes up the question of how to feed 9 billion people in a time of climate change and it is here that biotechnology is going to prove crucial. The use of biotechnology can increase yields, enable climate resilience and improve health outcomes through biofortification of crops. It is not the only or perhaps even the most important tool but it is a crucial one and throwing it away on the basis of misinformation and fear mongering would be a grave mistake.
The conclusion consists of an impressive list scientific bodies from all over the world that have found that biotechnology is no more risky than any other conventional breeding technology and is safe for human consumption; hopefully this book will convince many people of that point of view.”
~ Arpita Bhattacharjya, Formerly worked in developing Economic Policy for Agricultural and Rural Development
Spread the pro-science message by tweeting about The Lowdown on GMOs: According to Science.
Posted on November 19, 2013
If you have previously purchased S3: Science, Statistics, and Skepticism (thank you, by the way!), then you should soon receive the below email from Amazon informing you of the update. The updates to the book are substantial, so allow me to enumerate three:
1 – Whereas before S3 was some 15,000 words long; it is now 25,000 words
2 – Whereas before I hired a sub-par editor; it has now been edited professionally by the fine folks at Command + Z (seriously, they’re awesome!); difference is night and day (night and supernova might be more accurate)
3 – Whereas before some of the chapters contained far more information than others which disrupted the flow; all the chapters have been updated with more science, explanation, and content to even out the flow and distribution of information and balance
All in all, the differences between the old and the new almost make it an entirely new book. However, you have to opt into the update as it will overwrite any notes and highlights you have made.
If you haven’t bought it yet, the price is now $1.99 here. Alternately, if you buy the book and leave a review (positive or negative; 1-star or 5-star, I’ll give you your $1.99 back. (See conditions below.)
Thanks & Happy Reading!
Posted on November 15, 2013
Full question by Logan Rees:
Do you believe in the finality of objective reality, despite that our only source of knowledge about that reality is subjective experience. In other words, do you believe that the physical universe is all that exists?
I think the question falsely uses the word belief. Granted, there are two definitions of the word belief:
Posted on November 4, 2013
A very personal question. Short answer: no. Medium answer: yes. Long answer: Maybe. Confused? I'll elaborate, but allow me a brief digression first.
I'm not an armchair atheist. What I mean by that is I'm not going to in some future dying moment—hopefully far in the future, I might add—repent in my final moments and cry out for god. Some might wonder how can I say that with such conviction.
Posted on November 3, 2013
This is an oft-repeated creationist question. Usually, it is meant to be rhetorical. Anyway, here goes.
Humans did not evolve from monkeys—not in the near past; however, more on this soon. Besides, the term monkey is, unintentionally or otherwise in this case, misleading. Monkey is a generic term typically used to refer to a primate with a tail; specifically, they comprise the new world (Platyrrhini) and old world (Cercopithecoidea) primate suborders.
Posted on October 21, 2013
To begin, the title is a truncated description of the question we received, which was: "Why do atheists like Richard Dawkins consider religion to be child abuse? Do you agree or disagree with this assessment?" Isn't that the loaded question? To start off, I’ll clarify Dawkins position.
He did not come up with this particular position himself. He was recounting what a former theist had told him of her experience.