DENIALISM SPECTER PDF

A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon Earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings. In the late 18th century, Edward Gibbon fretted about getting into trouble for his blunt take on the early Christians. Short summary: their intolerance and stupidity unwittingly helped bring down Rome. Like the great institutions of European Christianity, modern science has amassed tremendous power—and not always lived up to its founding creeds. In his intro, Specter sets up the defining focus of the book.

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A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon Earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings. In the late 18th century, Edward Gibbon fretted about getting into trouble for his blunt take on the early Christians.

Short summary: their intolerance and stupidity unwittingly helped bring down Rome. Like the great institutions of European Christianity, modern science has amassed tremendous power—and not always lived up to its founding creeds. In his intro, Specter sets up the defining focus of the book. According to Denialism, organic farming threatens millions in Africa.

According to the UN, not so much. Like the arts, it lives on its patrons—and their interests shape its contours. Here in the United States, public funding for universities and research has plummeted since the Reagan era. Into that void have stepped monied interests—corporations more inclined to finance the generation of proprietary knowledge than the sort of pure science Specter so values.

Does this factor automatically invalidate the scientific enterprise? Of course not. But anyone who takes on the topic of modern science has to account for it—or risk playing the fool. Specter blithely ignores the political economy of science as it is practiced. That oversight severely limits the value of his book. So what do we find in these pages? But what about the successful deniers—the ones who have managed to block any meaningful response to climate change from the federal government, and are even now fouling up the effort to pass an effective climate bill?

James Inhofe, who airs his views not in a blog but on the floor of the U. Monsanto has certainly shaken off its deniers; it now dominates the U. Astonishingly, not very much science. Two major assumptions underlie it: organic agriculture delivers frightfully low yields, and GMO agriculture delivers reassuringly high yields. Here are two studies, both of which came out in time for consideration in Denialism, that Specter really should have grappled with: 1 a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists showing that after decades of research, transgenic seeds have yet to deliver yield increases; and 2 a study in Bioscience summary here showing that yields of organically grown corn and soy match those of their conventional counterparts—with dramatically lower energy inputs.

Straddling his two wobbly, undefended givens about GMO and organic yields, Specter leaps to the conclusion that proponents of organic agriculture are dooming millions to starvation. Or as he puts it:. An organic universe sounds delightful, but it would consign millions in Africa and in much of Asia to malnutrition and death. To hear Specter tell it, the only thing standing between the African continent and a future marked by widespread famine is a complete surrender to GMO technology.

A three-year project, it has been called the IPCC of agriculture. It openly doubts whether GMOs actually increase yields; and deplores the patent regime that now governs them. In developing countries especially, instruments such as patents may drive up costs, restrict experimentation by the individual farmers or public researchers while also potentially undermining local practices that enhance food security and economic sustainability.

In this regard, there is particular concern about present IPR instruments eventually inhibiting seed-saving, exchange, sale and access to proprietary materials necessary for the independent research community to conduct analyses and long term experimentation on impacts.

Farmers face new liabilities: GM farmers may become liable for adventitious presence if it causes loss of market certification and income to neighboring organic farmers, and conventional farmers may become liable to GM seed producers if transgenes are detected in their crops. In doing so, he lurches toward a kind of denialism of his own. Generally, he might have more fully engaged the major literature on ag development in the global south.

Yet Specter ignores a more recent paper this one from , by the U. The paper concludes:. Organic agriculture can increase agricultural productivity and can raise incomes with low-cost, locally available and appropriate technologies, without causing environmental damage.

Furthermore, evidence shows that organic agriculture can build up natural resources, strengthen communities and improve human capacity, thus improving food security by addressing many different causal factors simultaneously … Organic and near-organic agricultural methods and technologies are ideally suited for many poor, marginalized smallholder farmers in Africa, as they require minimal or no external inputs, use locally and naturally available materials to produce high-quality products, and encourage a whole systemic approach to farming that is more diverse and resistant to stress.

Again, no need to agree with every science-based report that praises organic ag. Judging from his organic chapter, Specter spent a lot of time trolling the aisles at Whole Foods, marvelling at the simplistic comments of the shoppers. I have no doubt that he heard silly, science-denying things there. But where is the push to find the intersections between organic and science—such at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, which has for years been running a test organic farm, complete with control farm?

The results of its work , often in conjunction with USDA researchers, show that innovative organic techniques have at least as much promise for mitigating and surviving climate change as some patent-protected transgenic seed cooked up in a Monsanto lab. Scientific output is messy and full of contradictions. GMOs are hardly a product of the kind of pure and objective science that Specter celebrates. Indeed, the few companies involved in GMO seed production have been accorded such extraordinary intellectual property power by the U.

From the Times:. The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes. To be sure, the kind of know-nothing, reflexive anti-scienticism that Specter deplores certainly exists; and its adherents need a kick in the pants.

Moreover, he sees deniers everywhere, except where they are actually powerful and effective: denying climate change. By Tom Philpott on Nov 1, Or as he puts it: An organic universe sounds delightful, but it would consign millions in Africa and in much of Asia to malnutrition and death.

The IAASTD states: In developing countries especially, instruments such as patents may drive up costs, restrict experimentation by the individual farmers or public researchers while also potentially undermining local practices that enhance food security and economic sustainability. The paper concludes: Organic agriculture can increase agricultural productivity and can raise incomes with low-cost, locally available and appropriate technologies, without causing environmental damage.

From the Times: The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. Grist's comments only work with JavaScript. Please enable and refresh the page. Related Posts All Posts. Money votes. Can't Miss. Fall of Home.

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Few journalists appreciate what is at stake better than Michael Specter, who has spent the last twenty years reporting on everything from the AIDS epidemic to the digital revolution. In Denialism , he eloquently shows how, in a world where protesters march against childhood vaccines and Africans starve to death rather than import genetically modified grains, we must reconnect with the rational thinking that has underpinned the advance of civilization since the eighteenth century. What emerges is a manifesto that brilliantly captures one of the pivotal clashes of our era. In this provocative and headline-making book, Michael Specter confronts the widespread fear of science and its terrible toll on individuals and the planet.

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Michael Specter’s new book ‘Denialism’ misses its targets

Good survey of a few faddish denials, if temporal Big pharma not in favor , anti-vaccines Jenny McCarthy This book was well worth the read. Having read it from the library, I've just bought a copy to lend to a few acquaintances with whom I've had past discussions touching on topics here. I feel I've Michael Specter.

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