Department Of Things That Make Me Want To Slap Somebody

Aka: Don’t you hate it when those you admire use the same tactics as those you loathe?

IMHO everyone, sooner or later, needs to realize that their idols have feet of clay. Easy for me to say, since I have no idols.  I do have people whom I admire, including he-of-the-many-slash-attributes, British evolutionary biologist/professor/writer Richard Dawkins, for his science advocacy, even as I have not overlooked his, shall we say, weaker points.  [1] But a recent social media posting of his…

 

 

 

On January 2, Dawkins’ Foundation For Reason And Science posted a bullet list on Facebook. Using what I took to be a riff on a New Year’s resolution list, eight declarative statements were posted under the heading:

Embrace conclusions based on evidence.  Still true in 2018!

 The statements included several of what should be no-brainers, including

* Homeopathy is water
* Humans are causing global warming.
* The earth is not flat

But I was shocked to see this one as #4 on the list:

* Organic food is not healthier

WTF ?!?!?!?  Really ?!?!?!? Organic food is not healthier.

That was the statement, in its entirety.  And it frosted my entire butt.

Healthier than or as compared with…what? And “healthier” defined as/in terms of…what?

There is no exposition in the Foundation’s list, which seems written to be eye-catching, sound-bite worthy, pithy, gotcha proclamation. But that tactic, when it is employed by creationists and other anti-science/pro-woo/religious conservatives, is rightly criticized by Dawkins and other pro-science advocates, who point out that their opponents speak in generalizations, do not define their terms and use reductionist, simplistic reasoning.

I am p.o.’d at both Dawkins and the Foundation, who advise folks to embrace conclusions based on evidence and then make such a dick, evidence-ignoring statement as, Organic food is not healthier.

 

 

 

beanhuh

They said what?

 

 

 

I’ve seen videos/read transcript excerpts of science advocates taking on, say, climate change deniers, in debates or other public forums, and one of the first things they – or any rational debater – will do is to insist that the participants define their terms.

Organic food is not healthier…for ___ whom? For me? For my allergy-prone Aunt Erva? For silicon-based life forms? There is an unstated object in that declaration. And, Healthier”  – to what aspects, measures and scales of health and does this declaration infer?  Having previously encountered similar organic food soundbites by (self-described) rational thinkers, I’m guessing/assuming that the Foundation’s use of healthier refers to a food’s specific nutrient content; e.g., an organically grown plum tomato contains no more lycopene than a “conventionally” grown plum tomato; an organic strawberry has no more Vitamin C than a conventionally grown strawberry.

A momentary digression, if you will:  [2] how odd to use that label, as it is only relatively recently in the history of agriculture that conventional refers to plants grown with the aid of non-organic/synthesized fertilizers and pesticides.  Despite its name, today’s “conventional” agricultural methods have only been in development since the late 1800’s and did not become widespread until after World War II.  [3]  What was once conventional – farming and ranching sans non-organic/synthesized fertilizers and pesticides  – is now called organic.

So, where were we? An organic strawberry has no more vitamin C than a conventionally grown strawberry (with its residue of up to 45 pesticides residue, as per by the USDA).

That is a true statement.

It is also a narrowly-focused, blinkered, missing the fucking point/ignoring the evidence statement. For either and all you s, organic food is “healthier,” for us all, even for those who’ve never eaten an organic strawberry, in so many ways that have nothing to do with nutrition/RDA content.  A Foundation whose name touts “reason” should know about the plethora of reasons, based on evidence, why organically raised food is healthier, for us all.

Neurological disorders, contaminated drinking water, nutrient-depleted habitats and global warming don’t give a rat’s ass about Vitamin C content.  Fuck the Vitamin C content.

 

 

astonishedspock

That would seem to be an anatomical impossibility. Nevertheless, I am interested in your arguments.

 

 

 

Defining the terms, once again:

Conventional agriculture = farming systems which utilize synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides.  Organic farming (aka sustainable agriculture or permaculture) = farming which relies on crop rotation, animal and plant manures as fertilizers, some hand weeding and biological pest control.

Food produced under the latter system, aka organic food, is healthier for you, in many ways and with regard to many factors, including but not limited to:

* Runoff and leaching from non-organic farm and ranch lands pollutes rivers, streams and groundwater, contributes to habitat disintegration for trout and salmon and other aquatic species, and contaminates our drinking water supply.

“Agriculture is the nation’s leading cause of impaired water quality, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
(What Is Farm Runoff Doing To The Water? Scientists Wade In, NPR, All Things Considered)

 

* There is no Plan B – or rather, Planet B – when it comes to where we live. The “environment” is our home. What would you think of someone who shat in his kitchen sink and then used the sink to brine his Thanksgiving turkey?  [4]  The environmental costs of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides include:

“… wholesale pollution of most of our streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and even coastal areas, as these synthetic chemicals run-off into the nearby waterways.”
(How Fertilizers Harm Earth More Than Help Your Lawn: Chemical runoff from residential and farm products affects rivers, streams and even the ocean,
Scientific American)

* Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides and fungicides) are a public health concern.  Synthetic pesticides are known to cause poisoning, infertility and birth defects, as well as damage to the nervous system. Some are known carcinogens.

* The use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides poses dangers to humans working with or in proximity to the same, via exposure through the pesticides’ application and the harvesting and handling of the plants to which the pesticides are applied.

Pesticide exposure causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical-related injuries and, illnesses than any other workforce in the nation.
(Pesticide Safety, Farmworkers Justice)

Parkinson’s Disease, anybody? This devastating, progressive and incurable neurodegenerative disorder has multiple suspected causes, one of the strongest links being pesticide exposure.

“The data confirm it: farmers are more prone to Parkinson’s than the general population. And pesticides could be to blame. Over a decade of evidence shows a clear association between pesticide exposure and a higher risk for the second most common neurodegenerative disease…”
(Parkinson’s Disease and Pesticides: What’s the Connection? Scientific American),

Even without direct consumption of pesticides – let’s say I diligently wash and peel my carrots and never lick an unwashed, Thiabendazole   [5]-dipped apple, pesticides still have many routes of introduction in to human and animal tissues.

“Within a human or animal body, pesticides may be metabolized, excreted, stored, or bioaccumulated in body fat. The numerous negative health effects that have been associated with chemical pesticides include…dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine effects.”
(Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in Agriculture, Frontiers in Public Health, US National Library of Medicine)

* The production, and distribution and use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides contribute to and exacerbate global warming.

Some pesticides produce volatile organic compounds that pollute the atmosphere when they react with other chemicals. This reaction produces tropospheric ozone, which…traps in heat….The base chemicals that are used to create pesticides can be harmful to the environment even before they are combined with other chemicals to create pesticides. For example, nitrogen oxide is a gas that blocks sunlight and traps heat. The legislature body of Roxbury declared in its laws, “Nitrogen-based fertilizers release unnatural amounts of nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere causing the greenhouse effect which results in further global warming.”
(The Effects of Pesticides on Global Warming, greenscience.com )

 

 

DUH

Don’t make me cite even more face-palming evidence.

 

 

“Embrace conclusions based on evidence.” – Yes, that would be nice of you to do so. Organic food is healthier, for us all.

 

*   *   *

Department Of I Have Her Permission To Post About This

The joys of listening to your children babble in a post-surgical,  [6] pain-medicated, happy voice are not to be underestimated. How MH and I wish we’d thought to record son K on his ride home from the oral surgeon’s office, those many years ago.  We remembered to do so when it came Belle’s turn to have her wisdom teeth removed, and although she had some random non sequiturs of note, at least (to our knowledge) she did not propose to her nurse:

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve discovered that opportunities for the gathering of anesthesia-induced babbling memories do not fade with age, and are perhaps even more enjoyable when your children are young adults. Last Friday afternoon, Belle underwent a procedure which required general anesthesia. After MH and I were allowed to see her in the post-op recovery room, I did not record her ramblings (Belle was with it enough to object to that), but did manage to take a few notes. There are some gems I know I missed, mostly because, I just wanted to be present to enjoy the stream of conscious moments caused by her brain only partially connecting with her mouth.

* “Is there boob PT? (After MH and I told Belle that the upper floors of the building she was in were dominated by Orthopedic surgeons and PTs -Psychical Therapists.)

*   “It stays on for THREE DAYS.” Belle pointed to the anti-nausea patch the anesthesiologist had placed on the side of her neck, then lowered her voice to a solemn whisper. “That’s a lotta days!”

* Belle said the nurses told her she was talking about bear heads (“Let me tell you about the grizzly bear head…”), and that they don’t get many people who talk about bear heads.   [7]

* “Do you remember when people were, like, in the future, everything will be chrome? It didn’t happen. I think they meant stainless steel.”

* Belle: “I’d like to be Spider-Man.”

moiself: “But you don’t like spiders.”

Belle: No sir, I do not. But, I appreciate spiders.”

*  “Seth Meyers is like a marshmallow, with good hair.”  [8]

While waiting for the nurse to remove her IV, Belle began to describe to MH and I, with great seriousness, how the cycle of banana mitosis and meiosis indicates that bananas can tell time. The morning after her surgery, I asked Belle if she remembered doing that. She said she didn’t, but that it’s no surprise because, “Actually, I talk about that a lot.”  [9]

 

 

 

carmen

Why carry a watch when you can just ask the banana on your head what time it is?

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of But I Did *Not* Ask Her Permission To Post *This*

Dateline: Sunday eve. MH was out of town, so it was friend LH, son K, daughter Belle and moiself who comprised our  “movie” awards  night party, a family tradition (previously mentioned several times in this venue, including here and here) consisting of watching an entertainment awards show on TV (but only the “biggies” – the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes and Tonys) whilst dining on “movie food” (defined as hot dogs,  [10] popcorn, nachos,  Skittles and Junior Mints and Red Vines licorice and/or your favorite movie theatre candies and snacks, washed down with liberal amounts of a sparkling beverage).

After enjoying marshmallow man Seth Meyer’s witty opening monologue, we watched as the cameras focused on Nicole Kidman’s table when she rose to accept an acting award.

Belle (commenting on the person sitting next to Ms. Kidman) – “Wait, that’s…her husband? I thought it was a girl.”
Moiself: “That’s Keith Urban, her husband.”
Belle: “Keith who?”
K: He’s a country singer.”
Belle: (snorting in disgust and disbelief): “Nicole Kidman is married to a country singer?!”

 I began to explain why that might be so far-fetched, seeing as how Mr. Urban is a fellow countryman of Ms. Kidman’s.

Moiself: “Well, he’s Australian…”
Belle, interrupting: “Like that makes make it any better?”

 

*   *   *

May being Australian always make it better;
May you embrace conclusions based on evidence; even so…
May you never have to rely upon a banana to tell time;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Including his defending the “mild pedophilia” (physical and sexual abuse) he experienced at boarding school, and his combative and provocative social media comments .

[2] And I obviously will.

[3] see: Green RevolutionW

[4] Or maybe you’re not afraid of dining with my relatives?

[5] Research shows this commonly used fungicide can penetrate apple peels.

[6] This is contingent upon having surgery for something relatively minor, ala wisdom teeth removal.

[7] This one makes sense to me, and probably was not the non sequitur the nurses thought it to be: Belle has prepped stuffed and mounted a grizzly bear head in her work as a docent for her college’s natural history museum.

[8] I likely sparked that comment by mentioning that Seth Meyers was hosting the Golden Globe Awards show.

[9] She’s a Biology major.

[10] Mine vegan, but still….