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HuckleB

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 35,773

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Is Science Broken?

http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/is-science-broken/#more-6063

"...

At the same time the skeptical approach requires that we explore and discuss all the various flaws, errors, and weaknesses in the institutions and process of science. Science in theory is fantastic, but it is practiced by flawed people with all their cognitive biases and perverse incentives (much like democracy or capitalism).

I think the best approach to this apparent contradiction is transparency, honesty, to be as constructive as possible, and avoid sliding into nihilism. It’s easy to focus on all the negatives about any institution, and conclude that it’s hopelessly broken. Some institutions are broken and unfixable, so it’s not an inherently unreasonable position. We should strive for a balanced and fair assessment (just like Fox news).

A recent article published in The Economist is getting a lot of play in scientific and skeptical circles. It reviews what skeptics have been talking about for years. There is a lot of crappy research out there that is unreliable. This means that just because you can find some studies that appear to support your position, it does not mean your position is correct. You cannot know the answer to a question by cherry-picking the studies you want. You have to do a critical analysis of all the research.

..."



A very thorough discussion of the matter by Steven Novella. It's worth your time, IMO.

Top 10 Annoying Words About Agriculture by "The Foodie Farmer"

http://thefoodiefarmer.blogspot.com/2013/11/top-10-annoying-words-about-agriculture.html

"A few weeks ago, I emailed around a poll to my farm and Ag friends both near and far to ask them to give me their top 10 words that most annoyed them that are used in referencing agriculture and farming. I received a lot of interesting responses. There were many, many repeats which I have ranked in order from top to bottom. What it boils down to is that as a culture, we want everyone "in their place". We want to define the people whose opinions differ from ours and confine them to a box. Social media is littered with examples of people and organizations lumping together and defining those who hold different beliefs in a negative way. It is a way of stereotyping, generalizing, misrepresenting, and for some, the ulterior motive of spreading misinformation. Thanks to my friends who contributed.

Here are the results:

1. "BIG" - In the context of activist groups, "big" is a derogatory term linked to the perception that the majority of farms are corporate farms.Frankly, the term "big" used in this context sounds rather kindergarten-ish. It has little to do with size but more to the idea that family farms are small farms whereas big farms must be corporate. In fact, 96% of all farms in the US are family owned and operated. Farms vary in widely in size as USDA defines a farm as any entity generating $1000 or more per year. (Which includes my daughter's 4H projects I suppose). $1K sets the bar pretty low in terms of defining a farm.

"Big" is also used negatively by some who insinuate that because "Big Ag' is seen through corporations, that some how we farmers are not able to make independent decisions about our family farms. That some how "Big Ag" dictates what we buy and what we do on our farms. We aren't beholden to any corporation. We like most consumers, look for quality and customer service. Those two elements dictate our purchasing decisions and who we do business with.

A good example of double-speak however, is Chipotle who started a "big" campaign to redefine itself as "small". Established in 1993, Chipotle has expanded to over 1500 restaurants and ranks 2nd only to Taco Bell in the Top 50 QSR (quick service restaurants) in the Mexican food segment. Chipotle's 3rd quarter 2013 profits increased 18% to $827 Million. Let's be clear, if there is "Big" in food and agriculture it is Chipotle, not the US farmers supplying them.

..."



Very interesting stuff, IMO.

The Right to Know What I’m Eating

http://food-ethics.com/2010/09/28/the-right-to-know-what-im-eating/

"In the debate over the labelling (or non-labelling) of genetically-modified foods, one of the most common refrains is that consumers “have a right to know” what they’re eating. I’ve commented briefly on that here before. (See “Should Companies Label Genetically Modified Foods?”) But it’s an important and complicated topic, so I’m going to say a little more here.

We first need to distinguish legal from moral rights. Legal rights are established through legislation or through precedents set by courts. But when people say they have a “right to know” what they’re eating, they’re not usually referring to a legal right (especially given that, as far as genetic modification goes, there just is no such legal right in the U.S. or Canada). No, when people say they have a right to know what they’re eating, they’re talking about a moral right to that information — they mean that it is ethically obligatory for someone to provide it to them. But simply claiming a right doesn’t cause that right to spring into being. It needs to be justified some way, grounded in some strong ethical argument.

So, when does someone have a moral “right” to some piece of information? The philosophical literature on rights is enormous. I’ll just offer here what I think is a fairly straightforward explanation of the ethical grounding of rights, without going into too much philosophical detail.

Rights are mechanisms for protecting important human interests. In free societies, for example, we have a right to security of person and a right to own property and a right to free speech, because we see these things as crucially important to living a good human life. We may have other interests or needs, but not all of them are protected by rights. Why? Well, it’s worth remembering that when someone has a right to something, this imposes obligations on other people. In some cases (as in the right to free speech) it means an obligation not to interfere. In other cases it means an obligation actually to provide something (for example, if I’ve performed my job as promised, I have a right to be paid and my employer has a positive obligation to provide me with my wages). It’s also important to note that, given that rights impose obligations on other people, we need at least to consider just how burdensome those obligations are, before we assert the correlative right with any certainty. (For example: even if you desperately need a kidney, you don’t have a right to mine while I’m still using it.)

..."

The Right to Know What I’m Eating

http://food-ethics.com/2010/09/28/the-right-to-know-what-im-eating/

"In the debate over the labelling (or non-labelling) of genetically-modified foods, one of the most common refrains is that consumers “have a right to know” what they’re eating. I’ve commented briefly on that here before. (See “Should Companies Label Genetically Modified Foods?”) But it’s an important and complicated topic, so I’m going to say a little more here.

We first need to distinguish legal from moral rights. Legal rights are established through legislation or through precedents set by courts. But when people say they have a “right to know” what they’re eating, they’re not usually referring to a legal right (especially given that, as far as genetic modification goes, there just is no such legal right in the U.S. or Canada). No, when people say they have a right to know what they’re eating, they’re talking about a moral right to that information — they mean that it is ethically obligatory for someone to provide it to them. But simply claiming a right doesn’t cause that right to spring into being. It needs to be justified some way, grounded in some strong ethical argument.

So, when does someone have a moral “right” to some piece of information? The philosophical literature on rights is enormous. I’ll just offer here what I think is a fairly straightforward explanation of the ethical grounding of rights, without going into too much philosophical detail.

Rights are mechanisms for protecting important human interests. In free societies, for example, we have a right to security of person and a right to own property and a right to free speech, because we see these things as crucially important to living a good human life. We may have other interests or needs, but not all of them are protected by rights. Why? Well, it’s worth remembering that when someone has a right to something, this imposes obligations on other people. In some cases (as in the right to free speech) it means an obligation not to interfere. In other cases it means an obligation actually to provide something (for example, if I’ve performed my job as promised, I have a right to be paid and my employer has a positive obligation to provide me with my wages). It’s also important to note that, given that rights impose obligations on other people, we need at least to consider just how burdensome those obligations are, before we assert the correlative right with any certainty. (For example: even if you desperately need a kidney, you don’t have a right to mine while I’m still using it.)

..."

Regarding those mistakes made by science…

http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php/mistakes-science/

"I know I shouldn’t use the conspiracy theory fallacy when talking about the pseudoscience-pushing science deniers, who are the bread and butter of topics for skeptics. But, when I keep observing the same ridiculous and insanely illogical arguments used in the same manner by all of the deniers, I begin to wonder if they don’t get together annually at the International Society of Pseudoscience meeting, usually held in Sedona, Arizona, ground zero of woo. They obviously share their stories, because we hear the same regurgitated stories in different contexts.

The antivaccinationists, creationists, anthropogenic global warming deniers, and whomever else pretends to use science to actually deny science frequently focus on a trope that “science makes mistakes.” And then they produce a list of historical events that “prove” that science is wrong. Of course, this indicates more of a misunderstanding of what is science and the history of science than it is a condemnation of science. But your typical science denier is probably not going to let facts get in the way of maintaining faith in their beliefs. So let’s deconstruct and discredit these “science makes mistakes” tropes.

...

So cherry picking a few errors of science (if I were an anti-science person, I would have focused on some real winners, like thalidomide, canals on Mars, or using an ultra-high speed drill to open calcified atherosclerotic lesions) just to confirm your cognitive biases about science, does not provide support for your pseudoscience belief. It just makes you look foolish. Moreover, for every “mistake” you can find about science, I can easily show you that it was real science that uncovered that mistake.

...

Only in an imaginary world would anyone think that science is perfect. But in this real world, science makes our lives better in innumerable ways. My life has been devoted to science, and I have made more mistakes doing it than you can ever believe, but in the end, what I have done in the pursuit of scientific knowledge has helped my fellow man in direct, quantifiable ways. I think that’s what science does best, it helps mankind, both directly and indirectly. And finding a few errors along the way? That’s just part of the process. And all of you should be thankful that the process self corrects, or you wouldn’t have that computer that allows you to read my words. Or detect cancer. Or guide a spacecraft 100 million km (give or take a couple of km) from the Earth to Mars.

..."



Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/05/science/herbal-supplements-are-often-not-what-they-seem.html?from=homepage&_r=0

"Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

Using a test called DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting that has also been used to help uncover labeling fraud in the commercial seafood industry, Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice.

...

Those findings mirror a similar study of black cohosh supplements conducted at Stony Brook University medical center last year. Dr. David A. Baker, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine, bought 36 black cohosh supplements from online and chain stores. Bar coding tests showed that a quarter of them were not black cohosh, but instead contained an ornamental plant from China.

Dr. Baker called the state of supplement regulation “the Wild West,” and said most consumers had no idea how few safeguards were in place. “If you had a child who was sick and 3 out of 10 penicillin pills were fake, everybody would be up in arms,” Dr. Baker said. “But it’s O.K. to buy a supplement where 3 out of 10 pills are fake. I don’t understand it. Why does this industry get away with that?”



Oh, I know, the supplement pushers will not be happy at this additional reporting on this study and others that show the same results. Unfortunately, it makes no sense for them to continue to push an unethical product as if it's fine and dandy.

:hi"
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