I sent the essay off a few days ago. It’s a fine feat of ham-fisted
sophistry. Actually, it’s ludicrous, and not even particularly well
argued. In silly arguments reeking of cane toad, it reckons human genes
should be engineered into all manner of crops and organisms.
The swung torch scatters seeds
In the umbelliferous dark
And a frog makes guttural comment
It conflates food crops with pharming.
And it’s laden with bogus “facts”, like CSIRO’s plans to engineer human
genes into cows and wheat to prevent cancer, and mosquitoes to help
stop malaria. (I nearly wrote how important that this was with climate
change, and the consequent rise in mosquito populations, but then
I remembered, Quadrant, that you’ve long been a refuge for
climate-change deniers.) None of the CSIRO ‘plans’ mentioned in the
essay are, as far as I know, bona fide.
The essay is rife with outrageously stupid arguments. For example,
it accurately reports that GM Golden Rice is bound in 70 patents and
it’s natural for those companies to expect returns — yet it also argues
(parroting biotech industry spin)
that Golden Rice was developed for altruistic reasons, to solve third
world malnutrition problems. Leaving aside the reductionist nutritionism and blinkered agronomics, and leaving aside the health, social and environmental hazard potential of Golden Rice (not to mention other traditional non-GM crops that could do the trick), if Quadrant fails to see the absurdity of this argument, if it fails to scrutinise utopian claims of biotechnical ’solutions’ to social, political and environmental problems, it’s not alone. Much science reporting tends to see anything labelled ’science’ as apolitical and unproblematic, existing outside the social.
This, dear Quadrant, is why the essay is so wrong; it is
precisely why we need the fourth estate principles to scrutinise the
way these products and utopian claims are promoted in the name of
’science’. It is precisely why my arguments might seem plausible to an
uninquiring editor, journalist or reader.
And Quadrant, the very constructivist arguments
Windschuttle and this essay deride are used in your own climate-change
denial articles! Have you never thought about that? To really get a
handle on this (and other issues surrounding this hoax), have a read of
this wonderful essay by David Demeritt.
I’m hoping you’ll agree with essay’s argument that Rudd ministers,
journalists and the public aren’t scientists and therefore shouldn’t
have a say in regulating how ’science’ is applied. This thinking, Quadrant,
fails (to quote Professor Demeritt) to make a “distinction between the
scientific work of discovering new facts and the political work of the
values to regulate them.”
My essay sets up strawman objections to GM and then bludgeons them
with nonsense. It also argues
that the forces
shaping ’science’ are somehow beyond public and media scrutiny,
because, well, science is empirical. Always. Full stop. And just too
complicated for us pundits (including journalists). And beyond our
moral comprehension. Much evidence contradicts this: many studies
suggest that the more educated people are about science and technology,
the less likely they are to uncritically accept new products peddled in
the name of ’science’. When it comes to these products, people tend to
be good at sniffing out a daft notion when they see one.
Considering Windschuttle’s fixation with academics’ footnotes (and the 98 media articles this fixation reportedly
spawned), I thought I’d include some bogus ones of my own, and see if
he bothers scrutinising those. Some of the footnotes are completely
fabricated. Others are genuine references to science articles, but have
nought to do with what’s asserted in the essay.
Lastly, I make some claims which are laughable. For example, the
made-up stuff about epigenes. I’m no scientist (didn’t even do
Year 11 science), but I don’t imagine epigenes do the stuff I said they
do. Even if they did, the essay totally ignores hazards like horizontal
gene transfer, unpredictable novel proteins, etc. But hey, if you say
you’re a scientist, you can get away with saying anything. Scientists,
see, are a one-size-fits-all authority.
How did that wonderful intellectual adventure that is science become so abused in your pages, Quadrant? Here’s what Windschuttle wrote of the Sokal hoax:
Anyone with a familiarity with high school science
should have seen the article was a spoof and the assertions so
nonsensical that they were self-evidently untrue. The fact that the
editors of Social Text failed to recognise it for what it
was, and published it in all faith as a serious academic article,
demonstrated the paucity of their understanding of the very field of
which they had long been critics.
Here’s what Tim Lambert said about Quadrant:
Quadrant, Australia’s other pseudo-science magazine (besides Nexus), has published an HIV/AIDS denial piece by Bauer. And they also published an extremely positive review
of Bauer’s HIV/AIDS denial book. The author of the review, one Sev
Sternhell, also has an AGW denial piece in the latest issue of Quadrant.
(It’s not online, but it’s the usual stuff, falsely claiming that the
IPCC have dropped the hockey stick down the memory hole, and
recommending junkscience.com as the place to go to learn about the science.)
Anyhoo, Quadrant, that’s just a short summary of what a
stinking pile of fraudulent nonsense the essay I sent you is, and of
the issues surrounding many truth claims made in the name of ’science’.