knowledge

GMOs

What Would It Take?

A few weeks ago Ken Ham ‘the creationist’ and Bill Nye ‘the science guy’ had a debate. The subject of the debate was ‘is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?’ During the Q&A session afterward, they were both asked a question asking them what it would take to change their mind. This made me think of people on opposing sides on the subject of GMOs; pro, con, or on the fence. It was a brilliant question, and one that should be asked in every debate.

Following the vein of the question, I’d like to ask to you, my readers, whichever side of the GMO fence you sit on: what would it take to change your mind that the opposing side is correct?

To be more specific:

If you are against GMO use: what would it take to convince you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the currently approved GMOs are safe?

If you are for GMO use: what would it take to convince you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the currently approved GMOs are dangerous?

Let me know in the comments below…

From Anti-GMO to pro-science: A Layman’s Guide to GMOs

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.

Read more…


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.

You can read reviews of the Lowdown here, here, and here.

Exploring Meaning, God, and Science

This is a post I had on my other website that I replaced, so I am reposting it here, so it may live again…

A conversation between two friends on meaning, god, deism, the Universe, and a few tangentially-related subjects that sprouted off and grew wings of their own. It clocks in at 11,315 words long, but if you prefer the summary, read only the last two sections.

Enjoy, and we would love to hear anybody’s thoughts on the subject-matter.

Josh:

Hi Foo

Hope all is well with you. Congratulations on getting the book finalized and out there. I watched a video of a lecture today that I thought you might enjoy. The speaker has written a book onthe subject of how there is something from nothing. It touches on recent cosmology with some interesting history on thought and how it has led to todays understanding. My own thought is that he doesn’t really answer how something came from nothing, rather he re-describes “nothing” as a form of quantum something, which to my mind begs why is there a quantum something rather than nothing (perhaps straying into reductio ad absurdum territory). Anyway i thought you may enjoy it.

http://www.openculture.com/2011/09/a_universe_from_nothing_by_lawrence_krauss.html

Fourat:

Thanks, I appreciate it. It’s been a bit of a ride to get it finally finished! I had watched this lecture before, and I loved it. I devoted a chapter to it in my book. I love this question, and I have been thinking about it recently. I think the question is wrong to begin with. Nothing is a concept of our language and our mental constructs we use to express ourselves. Think of making a chair from wood. Before you begin to create the chair, does it exist? Of course not, but the raw material does, the potential for a chair to exist does (probabilistically speaking), and the energy (person) to assemble that chair. But in our day-to-day paradigms, we think we made the chair, and before the chair existed there was nothing. Nothing is an expression of our language, and not an inherent concept of the Universe. Might be a bad example, but I think it makes sense.

(more…)

Random Awesome Quotes

Just three days until Random Rationality is released. Until then, here are twenty random and awesome quotes!

“How fortunate that men do not think.”

Adolf Hitler

“Universal truth is not measured in mass appeal.”

Immortal Technique

The time will come when you will see, we are all one.”

The Beatles

We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”

Unknown

In the end we discover the only condition for living is to die.

José Saramago

“I am only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.”

Unknown

You cannot reason a man out of that which he was not reasoned into.”

Benjamin Franklin

“The first principle is you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard Feynman

“The greatest tragedy in mankind’s entire history may be the hijacking of morality by religion.”

Arthur C. Clarke

We long to be here for a purpose, even though despite much self-deception. None is evident.

Carl Sagan

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

Plato

As long as you still experience the stars as something above you, you still lack a viewpoint of knowledge.”

Frederick Nietzsche

“Depressions and mass unemployment are not caused by the free market but by government interference in the economy.”

Ludwig von Mises

“Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.”

Carl Sagan

“There are many things given to us in this life for the wrong reasons. What we do with such blessings, that is the true test of a man.”

Gnannicus

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

There is no such thing as a self-made man. We are made up of thousands of others. Every one who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”

George Matthew Adams

“Many people, especially ignorant people, want to punish you for speaking the truth, for being correct, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or for being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, speak your mind. Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is still the truth.” 

Gandhi

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of poison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing, then to have answers that might be wrong. I have approximate answers, and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things, and I’m not absolutely sure about everything, and there are many things I know nothing about. I don’t have to know an answer, I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it is as far as I can tell, and so all together I can’t believe the special stories that are made up about our relationship to the Universe.

Richard Feynman

The Kingdom of God

In the 17th chapter of Luke is written the phrase, “The kingdom of God is within man.”

In this post, I am not going to go into how the Bible contradicts itself at every turn, how God commands Moses to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people for fun (as God put all those people there to be slaughtered), or any number of things that just don’t make sense. (I know I kind of just did.) I want to talk about just that one quote above from the Gospel of Luke, and show how it reveals the true nature of God, and how it’s not where you might think it is (if you’re a believer that is).

It is the truest representation of God ever committed to paper. God is not out there, he’s inside us. We are God. We have created Him in our image, not the other way around. When viewed in this light, it seemingly explains the varying interpretations of God that religions and people have. One book says this, the other says that, and the third says “No, it’s this.” Then some other group claims to have all the answers, while still another starts a religious war in His name and others curtails this right or that in some society here or there. God is not up there, He is in here. We are him and that is why he is so stupid like us. Everyone thinks they have the right answer, yet only one answer can exist.

God is the gift of consciousness, though the answer was invented before we ever knew what that meant and before we began to ask the unanswerable (at the time) questions for which we used Him as an explanation for. It is the ability to look into the mirror and know that you are staring at yourself. To have the knowledge to remake the world in your image. To not be constrained by Nature’s laws, but to go above them and beyond. Yet most of all, the choice. To be a part of nature, or to be separate from it; We have chosen the latter. This has given us some remarkable things such as cities, automobiles, crops and medicine. However, before we had the knowledge of how such things worked, we started asking questions like where does lightning come from? Why does it flood? Why does the Sun rise and set, or more appropriately, why does the Earth spin on its axis at 23.5 degrees creating the illusion of the sunrise and sunset? Why do some stars (planets) wander across the sky?

When we started asking these questions, we didn’t have the knowledge to answer, so we resorted to our imagination. We made up Gods, internal approximations of our selves and externally projected them into celestial beings who involve themselves in our daily lives and make the world work in order for us to live and prosper. But, now that we have the real answers, we are unwilling to let of the original answer, wrong and unfulfilling as it is due to the emotional attachments that have been artificially created for us through external forces such as religion.

As time went on. Religion itself evolved, along with our societies. We went from Polytheism to Monotheism beginning with Judaism, then Christianity, and finally Islam. Monotheism is now the predominant form of belief now. But is it really that different from the days of Polytheism? Much as ourselves, are we really that different from our ancestors 7,000 years ago at the birth of civilization?

Monotheism has hundreds of saints, angels, prophets and Messiah’s whom all have a job to do as they serve God, though God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere at once, yet cannot be without help. How can this be? Because he is a personification of ourselves; we have manifested him, created him from our imaginations, and we have projected our societies and characters upon his imaginary shoulders so that we may turn to Him for consolation.

There is no good reason to believe in God. Far better and far more satisfying it is, to believe in one’s self and in the human spirit. Something we have evidence of and see in action everyday.