It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Danger of Science Denial

Not what you're expecting, perhaps.



"Be sceptical, ask questions, demand proof. Demand evidence. Don't take anything for granted. But here is the thing: When you get proof, you need to accept the proof. And we're not that good at doing that." (*)

"You know, science isn't a company. It's not a country. It's not even an idea. It's a process. It's a process. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But the idea that we should not allow science to do its job because we're afraid, is really very deadening and it prevents millions of people from prospering."
There's some discussion at the TED site.

(*) Or, as my wife, Irene, puts it, "Question authority, but listen to the answers!"

3 comments:

Moth Incarnate said...

Excellent piece!
There's a few self-appointed experts out there that should hear this.
Tim

Dion said...

This presentation trivializes the scope and speed at which genetic engineering takes place over traditional selective breeding methods. As a result, the feedback is significantly altered, and the opportunity for substantial impact from unanticipated outcomes is greatly increased. This is a legitimate concern.

Also, the presentation presents policy on genetically engineered foods and the use of same a separable issues. Since there are a few large companies with the resources to bear, control of policy is their entry fee. Therefore the issues are not at all separable.

William said...

Interesting - I was just reading Bill Joy's "Tipping Point" essay, which takes a different view of the price of technological progress, particularly as driven by commercial imperatives.

The presenter here (didn't catch who) makes a number of assertions that may not be strictly true. FOr instance:

- GM is the ONLY way to solve the nutrition problems.
- That the potential risks of GM are trivial in comparison to the proposed benefits
- That the proposed benefits (eg increased yields, higher nutrition) will in fact eventuate
- That these aims are in fact the main goal of commercially-driven GM research.

I think there is some doubt on these assumptions, so the conclusion that "opponents of GM are killing people" ain't necessarily so.