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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 29,589

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Online comments hurt science understanding, study finds


"A new obstacle to scientific literacy may be emerging, according to a paper in the journal Science by two University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

The new study reports that not only are just 12% of Americans turning to newspaper and magazine websites for science news, but when they do they may be influenced as much by the comments at the end of the story as they are by the report itself.

In an experiment mentioned in the Science paper and soon to be published elsewhere in greater detail, about 2,000 people were asked to read a balanced news report about nanotechnology followed by a group of invented comments. All saw the same report but some read a group of comments that were uncivil, including name-calling. Others saw more civil comments.

"Disturbingly, readers' interpretations of potential risks associated with the technology described in the news article differed significantly depending only on the tone of the manipulated reader comments posted with the story," wrote authors Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele.


Well, this does explain a fair amount.

The Science of Mom: A Science-Based Book about Baby Care


"When a baby is born, parents are often awed and alarmed to find themselves responsible for this tiny new person, and they desperately want to do their very best to keep their infant safe and healthy. New mothers worry about everything from SIDS to vaccines, from feeding practices to sleep hygiene, and they are bombarded with conflicting advice about caring for their babies. Myths and misinformation abound. Finally someone has written a truly science-based guide to the first year of life: The Science of Mom. The author, Alice Callahan, is a research scientist with a PhD in nutritional biology. When her first child was born, she had a lot of questions, and thanks to her background she knew how to look for reliable answers in the scientific literature. She started writing the Science of Mom blog and eventually turned her findings into a book.

Her first chapter covers the important concepts for understanding how to think about scientific studies: ... In subsequent chapters she delves into what science has to say about various topics. She finds that there is seldom a simple yes-or-no answer to these questions, and she presents the evidence on both sides fairly, adding a common-sense perspective.


This is science-based medicine writing at its best. Callahan doesn’t cherry-pick. She knows how to evaluate the entire body of research and put it into perspective along with practical parenting considerations. She enhances her message with a personal touch, including anecdotes about her own experiences as a new mother and about the experiences of her friends and family. If I had three thumbs, I would give this book a 3-thumbs-up recommendation. If every new parent could read this book, it would go a long way towards immunizing them against the misinformation they will inevitably encounter, misinformation that so often clouds their judgment and worries them unnecessarily."


Good stuff!

Marin School District Goes GMO-Free, Fails Basic Science



I don’t want to diminish the importance of a nutritious, fresh and delicious school lunch. The pilot school — Bayside MLK — is located in Marin City, where many residents live below the poverty line and 93% of students qualify for free and reduced government subsidized lunches. I applaud Conscious Kitchen for serving its students fresh seasonal meals.

Unfortunately, that food comes with a giant serving of false propaganda — that a healthy diet must be an organic, GMO-free one.

Conscious Kitchen’s agenda relies on fear and chemophobia. “Students everywhere are vulnerable to pesticide residues and unsafe environmental toxins,” argues Judi Shils, executive director of Conscious Kitchen’s parent organization Turning Green.

Actually, pesticide residues are present in both conventional and organic produce (at perfectly safe levels, by the way). Conscious Kitchen also questions the safety of GMO foods, even though the overwhelming evidence shows that these foods are safe.


Americans are still scientifically illiterate — and scientists still need a PR team



Usually when Americans gets surveyed about science, we learn that they don’t know a lot about it — and then we proceed to lament how dumb they are. In fact, we did that just last week, when we learned that Americans want to label food containing DNA. (Har har.)

But in 2009, Pew and AAAS dared to treat the problem as two-sided. They surveyed scientists, not just citizens — members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, no less. And they found that, hey, it takes two to tango in the science-society relationship, and scientists might, if anything, be more down on the public than the public actually was on them!

I recall all this now because a long-awaited successor to this classic report has now come out. Same game plan, same structure. Except for one thing — the overall framing seems to have subtly shifted back toward the old “public doesn’t know stuff” presentation. Perhaps not intentionally, but that’s how I suspect the report is going to be interpreted (whether its authors intend it or not).

The reason is the prominence of figures like this, showing just how wrong people are about factual stuff:

(go to the link to see)..."

Science matters. We need to utilize it to be truly progressive.

ND Confession, Part II: The Accreditation of Naturopathic “Medical” Education


Another fine piece at SBM, by the author of The Naturopathic Diaries.

It comes down ugly, unethical marketing practices by organic producers.

They decided to demonize GMOs in order to scare people to their products. Now they face competition from "Non-GMO" companies, which often means they use older plants that utilize far more toxic herbicides and pesticides.

See what Chipotle's silliness really means for the environment here: http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2015/05/what-does-chipotles-switch-to-non-gmo-ingredients-mean-for-pesticide-use/

It's really just one big marketing scam.

The debate over genetically modified organisms is a great case study in how to think critically.


"It’s gut-check time for the anti-GMO movement. In the past couple of years, some of the country’s best science journalists—Amy Harmon, Nathanael Johnson, Keith Kloor, Michael Specter, and others—have shredded many of the movement’s claims and arguments. Three weeks ago Slate poked more holes in the case for banning or labeling genetically engineered food.

some GMO critics, to their credit, seem open to reforming the movement. Gary Hirshberg, the chairman of Just Label It, has been pounded by GMO advocates for unscientific statements. But in his latest essay, Hirshberg shows tentative signs of turning away from allegations that GMOs per se are dangerous. He’s trying to refocus the debate on transparency, herbicidal applications, and long-term monitoring.
Others are clinging to the same old discredited attacks on GMO safety. Chief among them is Claire Robinson, an editor at GMWatch and researcher for Earth Open Source. Two years ago, when Johnson investigated issues on both sides of the GMO debate for a series in Grist, Robinson accused him of parroting industry spin. Now Robinson has written a three-part series leveling a similar charge at Slate. Her arguments fail, but they do so in an instructive way. By exploring these common anti-GMO errors, you can learn a lot about how to think critically, and not just about GMOs. Here are some of the lessons.

No. 1: Don’t rely on authority. Robinson says you shouldn’t settle for vague assurances from scientific organizations. I agree. That’s why I drilled down into four case studies to look at specific evidence. The evidence, not the assurances, is what debunks the arguments against these GMOs. So when Robinson tries to drown out that evidence with her own appeals to authority, citing bogus “science-related organizations” such as the American Academy of Environmental Medicine—a quack group dressed up as an association of scholarly referees—don’t fall for the act.


A fine follow-up by Saletan.

Why am I reminded of this? -- "The Lies that Whole Foods Tells"


This professor put Gwyneth Paltrow’s health advice to the test. The truth is even worse ...


"There are a few things we know for sure will make us healthy: exercise, don't smoke, eat a variety of whole foods — but not too much — and watch your alcohol intake and sun exposure. Yet every day, we are bombarded with messages from celebrity culture about things we must do to be healthier and more beautiful. They usually involve gimmicks like juicing and detoxing, a new "miracle supplement," shake, or body-firming exercise. Some advice is more extreme — such as Gwyneth Paltrow's suggestion that women steam their vaginas.

And sometimes, even when celebrities don't tell us what to do, we follow them anyway — going under the knife to achieve Kim Kardashian's bum or seeking out advice about a double mastectomy because Angelina Jolie had the operation.

No matter the form it takes, the message is clear: celebrities hold the secrets to health.

Or do they? Timothy Caulfield, author of the new book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?, spent the past few years looking at the scientific literature and testing out insane celebrity health and beauty tips to better understand the impact famous folks have on us. Through a hilarious and introspective journey, the University of Alberta professor finds that not only are most celebrities wrong, but they also distract us from things that will actually make us healthy and happy.


Just turn these people off, please.

Thank you!

Those are two of the common talking points.

Monsanto may be a corporate problem, but it's nowhere near as big as many other corporations. Also, it makes all types of seeds, including organic. The anti-GMO movement has worked to make it synonymous with GMOs, but that's simply not honest.

Knowing the seed development technology tells you nothing about the food in question. No other seed development technology is labeled, including Mutation Bred Organisms. The reality is that organic companies and the "non-GMO" followers have simply used GMO as a fear mongering point to market their foods and sell them at higher prices. We have choses to get angry at the wrong people on the GMO issue. It's really time to turn the tables if we are progressives who care about science, good information, food security, and the environment.

This covers some of the reasons labeling is not based in sound science.

A piece that covers mutation breeding.

And a good piece that covers some of the issues with the anti-GMO movement.
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