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  • Fear of science will kill us

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/04/1...ex.html?hpt=C1

    (CNN) -- American denialism threatens many areas of scientific progress, including the widespread fear of vaccines and the useless trust placed in the vast majority of dietary supplements quickly come to mind.

    It doesn't seem to matter how often vaccines are proved safe or supplements are shown to offer nothing of value. When people don't like facts, they ignore them.

    Nowhere is that unwillingness to accept the truth more evident than in the mindlessly destructive war that has been raging between the proponents of organic food and those who believe that genetically engineered products must play a role in feeding the growing population of the Earth. This is a divide that shouldn't exist.

    All the food we eat -- every grain of rice and kernel of corn -- has been genetically modified. None of it was here before mankind learned to cultivate crops. The question isn't whether our food has been modified, but how.

    Read more about Michael Specter at www.TED.com

    I wrote "Denialism" because it has become increasingly clear that this struggle threatens progress for us all.

    Denialists replace the open-minded skepticism of science with the inflexible certainty of ideological commitment. It isn't hard to find evidence: the ruinous attempts to wish away the human impact on climate change, for example. The signature denialists of our time, of course, are those who refuse to acknowledge the indisputable facts of evolution.

    ...
    I agree with the author, denial of scientific results because people just don't want to believe the results will result in a shift back to how we were before we had such great advances as vaccines and advanced genetically modified crops (since all crops have been genetically modified through selective seed retention, cross breeding and grafting of two different plants).

    Sure, some things are bad for us, like lead in paint and over consumption of pesticides, but the negatives are usually outweighed by the benefits. Applying those fringe cases to all scientific progress is the problem.
    |TG-6th|Snooggums

    Just because everyone does something does not mean that it is right to do.

  • #2
    Re: Fear of science will kill us

    Originally posted by snooggums View Post
    I agree with the author, denial of scientific results because people just don't want to believe the results will result in a shift back to how we were before we had such great advances as vaccines and advanced genetically modified crops (since all crops have been genetically modified through selective seed retention, cross breeding and grafting of two different plants).
    So, I'm guessing that you like GMO food and thinks it's great. And anyone who thinks organic food is better is a Denialist and should be equated with the people who think vaccines are unsafe. Is this the correlation your going for?
    Last edited by mp40x; 04-13-2010, 07:10 PM.
    |TG-X| mp40x



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    • #3
      Re: Fear of science will kill us

      I could go on for days about this. To put it mildly, I grew up in more than one house with asbestos and lead paint. I routinely swam in "contaminated" water. I ate all kinds of food that is blacklisted today. I used to sit on the couch and drink TAB as a kid with my dad before saccharine was deemed to be a carcinogen. I got every vaccine imaginable. My reprieves from such a "dirty" life?
      Brushing my teeth. Taking regular showers. Taking a daily multivitamin. Exercise. Sunshine.

      Every study done linking vaccines to autism has been discredited or disavowed because the science behind it was flawed or nonexistent. Some supplements DO have proven effects, such as ginseng increasing energy and alertness, but 99.99% of them are voodoo.

      People turn to science in times of need. Other than that, they would rather deny it because science isnt profitable. If people relied on science, the term "snake oil cure" would never have been invented. Science isnt economically favorable. It's easier to sell someone sugar pills with a handful of sunshine to cure their ills by telling them its "all natural" than it is to prove that a chemically produced and scientifically correct drug with a name that most people cant pronounce will do a better job.

      It's sad, but thats why people like me have jobs. When the voodoo fails, someone has to clean up the mess.

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      • #4
        Re: Fear of science will kill us

        Along the same lines: People love hearing that something is 1% more effective at X that they used as a kid while bemoaning the stuff that is 300% more effective because of a .0001% side effect rate that has been developed since. People also have a lot of trouble understanding statistics in general, even easy ones. Also people like studies that discount specific issues (say poor helmet design) and apply that single study to corrected approaches used at a later date.

        Helmets being used by kids has decreased the death and debilitating head injuries for children by very large amounts and people still spout the "I didn't wear a helmet as a kid" crap while ignoring the facts that:
        They wouldn't be posting if they died in a bicycle accident.
        They wouldn't be posting if they had severe head trauma from a bicycle accident
        Even if only a small percentage of riders gets in accidents something that makes a large percentage of those individuals safer is still a good idea.

        Basically, just because it didn't happen to you doesn't mean it is worthless to address for everyone else. Just because there is one study from 1995 that says wearing a poorly designed helmet increases a specific kind of facial injury doesn't mean purchasing and wearing a more recent model is worthless.

        Basically people are really bad at determining relative risk and interpreting information in context. That's why people are afraid of flying, currently the safest form of travel.
        |TG-6th|Snooggums

        Just because everyone does something does not mean that it is right to do.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Fear of science will kill us

          With statistics, you always have to keep in mind the reference class. Flying is the "safest" form of travel, if by 'safest' you're calculating by fatalities per mile per passenger transported. However, if you're measuring safety by fatalities per passenger transported, buses are the safest, and flying ranks far down this list only being better than motorcycles and bicycles - about 3 times worse than car and 30 times worse than bus.

          It's not hard to figure out why the first statistic is the way it is. Airplanes go fast, and are used for long distance travel. So the average distance per trip per passenger is much greater than any other form of travel. So that's going to make your fatality per mile per passenger much smaller. Which statistic is the one that's most relevant to safety? It's not that clear. What is clear is that flying is not as safe as the urban myth states it is.

          I'm inclined to think it's the latter statistic that's more relevant to how dangerous flying is. Each time you take a flight you have a higher chance of being in a fatal accident than each time you take a trip in your car. It's no surprise that the insurance industry uses the second statistic when calculating air travel insurance.

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          • #6
            Re: Fear of science will kill us

            Originally posted by sordavie View Post
            With statistics, you always have to keep in mind the reference class. Flying is the "safest" form of travel, if by 'safest' you're calculating by fatalities per mile per passenger transported. However, if you're measuring safety by fatalities per passenger transported, buses are the safest, and flying ranks far down this list only being better than motorcycles and bicycles - about 3 times worse than car and 30 times worse than bus.

            It's not hard to figure out why the first statistic is the way it is. Airplanes go fast, and are used for long distance travel. So the average distance per trip per passenger is much greater than any other form of travel. So that's going to make your fatality per mile per passenger much smaller. Which statistic is the one that's most relevant to safety? It's not that clear. What is clear is that flying is not as safe as the urban myth states it is.

            I'm inclined to think it's the latter statistic that's more relevant to how dangerous flying is. Each time you take a flight you have a higher chance of being in a fatal accident than each time you take a trip in your car. It's no surprise that the insurance industry uses the second statistic when calculating air travel insurance.
            Can you indicate where you sourced your information and whether you are comparing US/multinational air travel and what time frames are used? Although miles traveled is the common measure (I think hours traveled might be the only other real useful comparison) I'm kind of doubting the sharp change relative to other vehicles when there were several years of commercial flights with zero or near zero fatalities in multiple developed nations on commercial flights and thousands of people die in car and motorcycle accidents each year.
            |TG-6th|Snooggums

            Just because everyone does something does not mean that it is right to do.

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            • #7
              Re: Fear of science will kill us

              http://web.archive.org/web/200109071..._of_travel.htm

              Of course you should also note that the airline industry has been using the first statistic for many many years and not just recently. So people have been, for many many years, stating that flying is the safest form of travel.

              I'm sure it has gotten even safer in recent years. But I just point to it as an example where you had an urban legend that everyone used incorrectly as a stock example when trying to explain to someone how statistics works.

              2007 was apparently the best year since WWII in terms of fewest airplane fatalities: http://www.baaa-acro.com/Communique%...-UK-010108.htm

              [edit] The first chart is inline with the information here, even for recent years, with 190 fatalities per 1 billion departures in 2009: http://www.ntsb.gov/aviation/Table5.htm

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              • #8
                Re: Fear of science will kill us

                Science is a tool. Fear does not reside in the tools, but in the way people may use it.

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                • #9
                  Re: Fear of science will kill us

                  The airplane-to-car safety ratio is flawed anyway. Airplanes are far fewer in number than cars, but even if you were to reduce it to a nationwide 1:1 sample ratio (meaning you compared the same number of cars and airplanes), you have to take into account accountability itself.
                  Airplanes, in majority, are maintained by entire crews of people. The fuel standards are more strictly regulated. There are specific agencies and jobs, such as the FAA and Air Traffic Controllers who are responsible for directing the traffic. There are miles and miles of standards and regulations and qualifications and tests which have to be renewed on a regular basis.

                  With a car, you can go years without maintenance if you so choose. You take your drivers test when you're 16 and if you never move locales where its required, you may never have to take the test again. The fuel standards are relatively loose and vary from location to location. Aside from agencies that post speed limits, paint lines on the roads and maintain the markings, lights, etc, nobody actually directs traffic where to go. The driver of the individual automobile makes all the decisions, whereas the pilot of the plane is usually required to defer to the decisions of others.

                  So you cant really make a valid comparison between car safety and airline safety when the standards are so wildly different. Now, remove those standards for a few years and then make a comparison and it may be relevant.

                  But the statistics dont really matter. The salesmanship does. People are afraid of science because they dont understand it. It's complex, it has hard to pronounce terminology and it involves large amounts of mathematics, all of which scare the vast majority of people. It's much easier to believe mary jane rottencrotch who tells them that the all natural supplement made from the leaves of the juju-juju plant cured her high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, diabetes, foot fungus and runny nose, based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence about how good she feels now. The power of fact has never been able to supersede the power of suggestion. This is why trials work in courtrooms with lawyers having to ARGUE their cases. They are having to convince the jury to believe in their power of suggestion, regardless of what the actual fact states.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Fear of science will kill us

                    Duplicate post. I'm still waiting for your reply.

                    Originally posted by snooggums View Post
                    I agree with the author, denial of scientific results because people just don't want to believe the results will result in a shift back to how we were before we had such great advances as vaccines and advanced genetically modified crops (since all crops have been genetically modified through selective seed retention, cross breeding and grafting of two different plants).
                    So, I'm guessing that you like GMO food and thinks it's great. And anyone who thinks organic food is better is a Denialist and should be equated with the people who think vaccines are unsafe. Is this the correlation your going for?
                    |TG-X| mp40x



                    Register for the Forums! | Get on Teamspeak! | Play Squad! | Join Discord! | Support Tactical Gamer!

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                    • #11
                      Re: Fear of science will kill us

                      Originally posted by sordavie View Post
                      http://web.archive.org/web/200109071..._of_travel.htm

                      Of course you should also note that the airline industry has been using the first statistic for many many years and not just recently. So people have been, for many many years, stating that flying is the safest form of travel.

                      I'm sure it has gotten even safer in recent years. But I just point to it as an example where you had an urban legend that everyone used incorrectly as a stock example when trying to explain to someone how statistics works.

                      2007 was apparently the best year since WWII in terms of fewest airplane fatalities: http://www.baaa-acro.com/Communique%...-UK-010108.htm

                      [edit] The first chart is inline with the information here, even for recent years, with 190 fatalities per 1 billion departures in 2009: http://www.ntsb.gov/aviation/Table5.htm
                      Your first link isn't clear, are they US numbers or worldwide? The second mentions some stuff about the US but doesn't have a comparison to any other form of travel. The third I will compare to land vehicle transportation tomorrow. Sure, it's always good to point out that most of the danger in flying is taking off and landing, which is both obvious and irrelevant. A car is on the ground within a short distance of a crash for the duration of the journey and I would guess less likely to be fatal due to lower speeds, not falling out of the sky, etc but I will have to get back to that.

                      @Ferris: the fact that a commercial airline is maintained by a crew of professionals is the primary reason why flying commercially is a magnitude safer than driving.

                      @mp40x: You are attributing a view that is not mine in a clearly trolling fashion, like if I said I liked red black and white color combinations and you said "Does that mean you love Nazi propaganda?"

                      Bananas are genetically modified, they are not naturally yellow easy to peel fruit. Seedless watermelons and oranges, varieties of grapes, apples, cross bred cattle and basically modern cattle period, horses, dogs, cats, corn, tomatoes, carrots, onions and every other thing we eat is genetically modified if we don't just pick it straight off a tree in the forest.

                      Breeding is genetic modification, for cats dogs, pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. I think that the process by which humans became agrarian is great. I know you are referring to the common usage of GMO which is the direct genetic modification of plants and animals instead of crossbreeding or splicing, such as what Monsato does. I think that pasteurization, some pesticides and fertilizer usage is great because it has increased the ability of humans to feed themselves with less waste than before per person.

                      What Monsato does is wrong, things like directly reducing or increasing reproduction and other things and then planting it in the wild, then claiming rights when it moves from field to field. Overuse of hormones and antibiotics to replace adequate living conditions is wrong, but a little use for actual free roaming livestock is fine, just like medicine for people. But all of these things are the same stiff that is normally done, just taken too far.

                      Yes, people who give too much stock to the label 'organic', which means absolutely nothing in the US and are deathly afraid of animals and plants having minor pesticides or medical care are comparable to the vaccine scare idiots who ignore the actual dangers vs benefits. People who are told that to label something organic requires no real change from basic production are in denial.
                      |TG-6th|Snooggums

                      Just because everyone does something does not mean that it is right to do.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Fear of science will kill us

                        While I agree with the original premise of the thread, this part irks me:
                        Originally posted by Snooggums
                        Bananas are genetically modified, they are not naturally yellow easy to peel fruit.
                        I challenge you to prove this as fact. I have lived places where bananas grow wild. I have seen them turn yellow on the tree, climbed said tree, plucked a few off and sat in the shade eating them. This wasnt on a banana farm. It wasnt in my backyard. This was in a national wildlife preserve in hawaii that was established over 200 years ago as a "sacred jungle" by the native people and converted into an untouched preserve under the national parks act. Nobody has been going in there altering the banana trees to produce bigger, sweeter, or more numerous fruit. These are trees that have been growing wild there for centuries.

                        Also, your theory about everything that doesnt grow wild in the forest being genetically modified is a slippery slope. Yes, breeding is genetic modification. If you want to go that route with circular logic, then EVERY ORGANISM ON EARTH is genetically modified. We're not living in the primordial soup here. The genetic modification discussed with regards to food is the kind that alters plants to have longer harvesting times, produce greater yield or alter flavor. With animals, it can be seen in turkeys and chickens that are bred to be huge, often with results that produce anomalies like being born without heads. Thats genetic modification.

                        The use of fertilizers, pesticides and the like is fine by me. Its necessary to do these things with food shortages in a population of over 6 billion.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Fear of science will kill us

                          Originally posted by snooggums View Post
                          Sure, it's always good to point out that most of the danger in flying is taking off and landing, which is both obvious and irrelevant. A car is on the ground within a short distance of a crash for the duration of the journey and I would guess less likely to be fatal due to lower speeds, not falling out of the sky, etc but I will have to get back to that.
                          No, no you're making the exact mistake that you warn people not to make in your previous post - not understanding how to interpret statistical results within a context... There is no single statistic that counts as 'the chance that you'll be involved in a fatal air accident'. There are as many statistical facts regarding airplane fatalities as there are reference classes (an infinite number) regarding airplane fatalities. You're pointing at specific bits of information that matter in particular contexts and that don't matter in other contexts and then choosing arbitrarily which ones to focus on in deeming air travel "safer" than car travel.

                          If you want to talk about fatalities per passenger per takeoff, there's the statistic. If you want to talk about fatalities per mile per passenger, there's the statistic. If you want to talk about fatalities per mile per passenger per US airline, there's the statistic. If you want to talk about fatalities per male with 2 sons per hour spend in the air per takeoff per Continental Airlines flight, there's the statistic. At least, there is one in principle, since I doubt anyone actually keeps track of that. You could start keeping track of it, if you want. And so on.

                          We could talk about fatalities per mile driven per passenger. We could talk about fatalities per passenger per automobile trip made in the US. We could talk about fatalities per female automobile passenger ages 35-36 who never drives above the speed limit per well maintained car in some small town in the middle of nowhere. We could talk about fatalities per Snoogums per automobile journey (which I take to be 0). And so on.

                          You want to talk about fatalities per passenger per mile traveled per flight per major US airline. And it's not clear what statistic you want to compare that to for cars. I take it one that's going to make cars come out unfavorably. But why are those the relevant statistics? As Ferris points out, there is no absolute flying to driving fatality per _____ ratio. It all depends what reference classes you're looking at for each statistic. And there's no fact about which reference classes are the absolute right ones to be looking at in any given context.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Fear of science will kill us

                            I agree with the author, denial of scientific results because people just don't want to believe the results will result in a shift back to how we were before we had such great advances as vaccines and advanced genetically modified crops (since all crops have been genetically modified through selective seed retention, cross breeding and grafting of two different plants).

                            Sure, some things are bad for us, like lead in paint and over consumption of pesticides, but the negatives are usually outweighed by the benefits. Applying those fringe cases to all scientific progress is the problem.
                            I dislike the authors "lets dump a little garbage in the grocery bag to spoil everything else in the bag" approach to those who have concerns with genetically modified food and vaccines.

                            I'm okay with genetically modifying food (either selective or artificially) to have bigger and better output (i'm all for it!), but I don't like having one company with a monopoly on this food and not sharing what ingredients they're putting into it. How do we know all the chemicals that are put in there are safe? Is the FDA doing its job and conducting its own independent studies, and not relying on the companies own internal results? That is a perfectly reasonable stance to me.

                            The other are vaccines. They're genuine concerns with the amount of mercury, among other toxins that make their way into an increasing number of vaccines. Much of my skepticism and concern comes from the meticulous research of Mary Tocco and Dr. Sherri Tenpenny. Considering these vaccines are usually mandatory, it is worth looking into before blindly injecting your infants and children with them.

                            Not to single you out snoogums, but the philosophy that "as long as the greater number of people benefit from it, the occasional birth defect or disorder is acceptable" is problematic. Using this mentality, any act can be justified as long as it benefits the majority. Scientists are not excluded from using this type of rationale. Scientific progress cannot trump the rights of the informed individual to protect either themselves, or their offspring from harm.

                            Ferris if you're reading this thread I'd love your input on the matter, particularly with vaccines since you probably deal with this stuff often.
                            Last edited by aeroripper; 04-13-2010, 11:33 PM. Reason: chrome didn't post edit, grr
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                            • #15
                              Re: Fear of science will kill us

                              Originally posted by Ferris Bueller View Post
                              While I agree with the original premise of the thread, this part irks me:


                              I challenge you to prove this as fact. I have lived places where bananas grow wild. I have seen them turn yellow on the tree, climbed said tree, plucked a few off and sat in the shade eating them. This wasnt on a banana farm. It wasnt in my backyard. This was in a national wildlife preserve in hawaii that was established over 200 years ago as a "sacred jungle" by the native people and converted into an untouched preserve under the national parks act. Nobody has been going in there altering the banana trees to produce bigger, sweeter, or more numerous fruit. These are trees that have been growing wild there for centuries.

                              Also, your theory about everything that doesnt grow wild in the forest being genetically modified is a slippery slope. Yes, breeding is genetic modification. If you want to go that route with circular logic, then EVERY ORGANISM ON EARTH is genetically modified.
                              It is believed that Hawaii’s original settlers arrived here from the Marquesas between 500 and 700 AD. These first visitors to Hawaii brought with them pigs and chickens along with a variety of staple food crops including: Kalo (taro), Ko (sugar cane), Mai`a (banana), Niu (coconut), Uala (sweet potato) and `Ulu (breadfruit). Journals from the voyages of Captain Cook in 1778 document the trading for food and supplies with the native populations of both Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii.
                              http://www.kauaiplantationrailway.com/aghawaii.htm

                              Like corn, bananas have been a crop for centuries, the bananas that are 'growing wild' in your example are simply domesticated varieties that have been move to a climate where they can flourish. Corn, wheat, bananas, oranges and everything else is NOT the original wild plant that humans started with and have been changed over the centuries through selective retention of the plants with desirable traits, less seeds in bananas, larger kernels in corn. This is humans modifying the plants intentionally and can be considered genetic modification because it is intentionally selective. Sure, you could stretch it too far to include evolution in general, but that would negate the difference between genetic modification and evolution.

                              In evolution two dogs mate and survive to breed based on the conditions of their environment. When humans remove the normal dangers and selectively breed two animals it becomes modification, just like if they removed the DNA and combined it separately. Yes, wild bananas are generally inedible, the yellow variety you know is not the result of evolution in the wild.

                              Originally posted by sordavie View Post
                              ...pointing out that statics can be made worthless...
                              By your argument, it is actually impossible to tell which mode of travel is safer, so logically therefore they should all be treated equally dangerous. Additionally, we can use statistics to prove that mercury has zero harmful effects, water will kill everyone that drinks it within 125 years and short people are tall when compared to other short people because we can just use more statistics.

                              That doesn't mean that there is no reasonable way to determine relative safety by ignoring stupid comparisons. Your chart with distance vs journeys vs hours is also basically flawed for one major reason: All three measures are completely different per mode of transportation.

                              A one hour flight will equal several hours in a car, more people will be on a single plan, etc. Miles really are the best measure because they represent travel, getting from point A to point B. I also want to note that your chart is from the Web archives, while air travel and car safety have both improved since 2000, as you noted 2007 had the fewest fatalities, but so did 2008. The US commercial airlines had ZERO fatalities in 2007 and 2008.

                              http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/01/12...ety/index.html

                              ZERO. That is fewer than cars and other modes of transportation. Do I have to argue that when flying is safer the comparison is private driving to commercial flights whenever it is brought up?

                              Originally posted by aeroripper View Post
                              The other are vaccines. They're genuine concerns with the amount of mercury, among other toxins that make their way into an increasing number of vaccines.
                              No, those are stupid concerns and repeatedly shown to be completely baseless over decades of data from multiple countries, most of which have REDUCED the number of vaccines with mercury because of scaremongering idiots like Jenny McCarthy getting time on the news for views that have the same proof and scientific support as Scientology.

                              Mercury is poisonous if you absorb or ingest enough, there is not enough mercury in vaccines to have any effect, the benefits of the vaccine are hundreds of times better than the occasional side effect which most likely has nothing to do with mercury and it makes distributing the vaccines more expensive and slower with absolutely no benefit to anyone. These concerns are not valid and actually hurt everyone.
                              |TG-6th|Snooggums

                              Just because everyone does something does not mean that it is right to do.

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