Tag Archives: science

GMOoooooops

There was a pretty robust discussion about GMOs over here on a recent Good News Friday thread where some longtime friends of the blog likened my anti-GMO stance to the anti-vaccine hysteria we’ve seen take root among less educated segments of the population.

So imagine my surprise to hear this story discussed on the radio today:

GMOSeralini.org welcomes the news of the republication of the chronic toxicity study on the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup and a commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto’s NK603, led by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini. The republication restores the study to the peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and built upon by other scientists.

The study found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed the GM maize and low levels of Roundup that are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU. Toxic effects were found from the GM maize tested alone, as well as from Roundup tested alone and together with the maize. Additional unexpected findings were higher rates of large tumours and mortality in most treatment groups.

The study was first published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012 but was retracted by the editor-in-chief in November 2013 after a sustained campaign of criticism and defamation by pro-GMO scientists.

Now the study has been republished by Environmental Sciences Europe. The republished version contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication. The raw data underlying the study’s findings are also published – unlike the raw data for the industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. However, the new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.

The republished study is accompanied by a separate commentary by Prof Séralini’s team describing the lobbying efforts of GMO crop supporters to force the editor of FCT to retract the original publication.

GMOSeralini.org editor Claire Robinson commented: “This study has now successfully passed no less than three rounds of rigorous peer review.

I believe this is the study I mentioned in comments on the GNF post that was derided as being not peer reviewed, pulled by the publisher for sloppy work, etc. Turns out it was pulled due to intensive Monsanto-generated pressure.

Dr Jack A Heinemann, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Canterbury New Zealand, called the republication “an important demonstration of the resilience of the scientific community”. Dr Heinemann continued, “The first publication of these results revealed some of the viciousness that can be unleashed on researchers presenting uncomfortable findings. I applaud Environmental Sciences Europe for submitting the work to yet another round of rigorous blind peer review and then bravely standing by the process and the recommendations of its reviewers, especially after witnessing the events surrounding the first publication.”

I continue to maintain that treating the earth like a petri dish with these genetically-modified crops simply for fun and profit is playing with fire.

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Filed under food supply, science

American Morans, Creationist Edition

Buzzfeed did one of its infamous listicles at the Bill Nye/Ken Ham circus sideshow, er I mean “evolution/creation debate” (and no I didn’t watch it — sorry, but we had one of those in Tennessee about 100 years ago and I see no reason to repeat it). You can read the piece here, 22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution.

Most of the questions are rather silly and pointless, IMHO — yes, Virigina, there is such a thing as a stupid question. As Slate’s Phil Plait, who bothered to answer the questions, pointed out,

[…] the vast majority of them are due to a misunderstanding of how evolution works rather than being pointed barbs striking at the heart of science.

I have a question for creationists: why can’t you tell the difference between “their” and “there”?

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Sorry, I know this is a little petty. But I have a hard time taking scientific criticism seriously when it comes from people who don’t know basic grammar.

Also, whopper of the day to the dude who thinks evolutionists/secularists/”huminists”/non-God believing people do believe humans come from aliens and extraterrestrials. What? He probably got that crackpot notion from a book he got at the Grand Canyon bookstore. Seriously, this is what happens when you live in a bubble, folks. You start opening your mouth and a whole mess of stupid falls out.

(Original American Moran here, more American Morans here).

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Filed under American Morans, Christian Right, evolution, science

Good News Friday

Okay, I didn’t have time to compile my usual list. Travel, work, etc. have really thrown my blogging for a loop. But here’s ONE piece of good news, for those of us worried about those “senior citizen moments” we get on occasion:

Yale School of Medicine researchers have discovered a protein that is the missing link in the complicated chain of events that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, they report in the Sept. 4 issue of the journal Neuron.

Researchers also found that blocking the protein with an existing drug can restore memory in mice with brain damage that mimics the disease.

“What is very exciting is that of all the links in this molecular chain, this is the protein that may be most easily targeted by drugs,” said Stephen Strittmatter, the Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology and senior author of the study. “This gives us strong hope that we can find a drug that will work to lessen the burden of Alzheimer’s.”

Yay we’re saved!

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Filed under Good News, science

Don’t Know Much About Biology

I can’t imagine why Republicans have a woman problem with idiots like Erick Erickson spouting insane shit like this:

“I’m so used to liberals telling conservatives that they’re anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology — when you look at the natural world — the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it’s not antithesis, or it’s not competing, it’s a complimentary role.”

Actually, no. Not even close, idiot.

Erickson, who shared these pearls of wisdom in an all-male panel discussion about working women on Loud Obbs, is showing his remarkable ignorance of science, evolution, and the natural world — not to mention history and anthropology. He’s pathetically trying to shoe-horn his right-wing ideology exactly where it doesn’t belong, and he’s making an ass of himself. May I suggest another place to put that ideology? Some place dark, moist, and not all that pleasant-smelling?

The one thing any observer of the natural world knows is that the animal kingdom is marked by its diversity. Boy Biologist Erick’s first mistake was to open his yap and say “typically” in regards to the natural world. Because nothing is typical in nature. No such thing, Boy Biologist. But Erick seems to think because male homo sapiens are physically larger than females, every species is that way. His second mistake was to equate size with dominance — something else not borne out in the natural world. Sometimes, but not always. Especially not when dealing with species such as humans, with our ginormous brains and all.

Let’s start at the bottom of the food chain for an example. That would be the male spider, frequent post-coital meal of the larger, more dominant female spider. Or let’s look at fish. Did you know that all clownfish are born male? And the most dominant male clownfish becomes female? True story. It appears a male clownfish’s highest aspiration is to be female. Suckit, Boy Biologist.

The animal kingdom is filled with examples of female-dominant sexual dimorphism. And in many animal species, it’s not just size which matters: it’s social order and behavior, too. Look at hyenas, where females have all the power — and it’s inherited, regardless of other hyenas’ age or size. Even in primates, female dominance is prevalent.

But silly me. Boy Biologist Erickson and his friends at Loud Obbs don’t care about science. They are anti-science, we all know it. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t keep opening their yaps and letting all the stupid fall out.

Here’s some science for you guys. This one comes from the Southern Beale archive:

You know, I can’t imagine what it’s like to have my reproductive organs flying around loose in the breeze where any predator, fungus or hunting accident could come along and snip it all off, making me evolutionarily irrelevant. That’s a hard burden to bear, a not-so-subtle reminder of how biologically dispensable you guys really are. There are always more males out there willing to spread their seed; it’s the female of the species who carries the burden of the species’ survival. We’re the ones who not only bear the young but care for them as well.

This isn’t me talking feminist claptrap, this is basic evolutionary biology: the bird that’s going to get snapped up at the feeder is the bright red highly visible male cardinal, not the drab brown female blessed with a natural protective camouflage. She’s more important in the grand scheme, which is why she’s been given this protection. God I know that chaps y’all’s ass big time.

It’s the battle of the sexes, played out over thousands of years. Men are bigger and stronger and take down a mammoth but for all your bravado it’s we women who keep the species going. And you’re just dying to control that, too.

Sorry, fellas. I love you, I really do. But when it comes to science and stuff? You’re sorta disposable. That doesn’t mean I’m ready to retire to Amazonia, I’m just pointing out what we science-y types learned in evolutionary biology 101.

So yes, Republicans, do tell me how the war on women is all in our pretty heads and how you’re not anti-science. I’m all ears.

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Filed under conservatives, Erick Erickson, evolution, feminism

This Explains The Republican Base

Finally, a behavioral study that explains the eternal conundrum posed by the Republican Party: why do people vote against their own economic self-interest?

The National Bureau of Economic Research’s study enlisted student and community volunteers. Each participant was given a unique amount of money that differed from the next person by $1. Then, everyone was given an additional $2. They were not allowed to keep the $2; they could only give it to the person just above them or the person just below them in wealth.

Kuziemko says in this scenario, most people gave to the person with less money, since they would not have gained or lost money either way.

The behavior was different, however, lower in the distribution. The second-to-last person gave his $2 to the richer person “almost half the time,” she says. If he gave his $2 to the one person in the room with less money, he would also become the poorest person in the group — in last place.

The researchers believe this happened “because it’s so painful to have that one person below you jump over you.”

[...]

Kuziemko has seen the paper interpreted in different ways, including on what she called “right-leaning blogs,” which say it shows a lack of support for redistribution of wealth.

“[But] I think that another way of looking at it might be recognizing that there is a lot of status anxiety, specifically for people who are sort of lower in the distribution and to be sensitive to that,” she says, “and maybe not being so sensitive to that undercuts support for redistribution among people who rationally, we think, should be supporting it.”

I find this fascinating. Status anxiety seems to describe most conservatives I know really, really well. They’re always calling out liberals for being “elitists” and “limousine liberals” who are “out of touch with real America” and all that. Seems like status anxiety is what’s behind conservative ressentiment, the desperate conservative need for cultural relevance and, as Julian Sanchez wrote,

…this obsession with the idea that somewhere, someone who went to Harvard might be snickering at them.

This explains why class warfare and identity politics are such compelling arguments, especially as income disparity increases.

Or, you know, maybe the folks on the next-to-last rung of the economic ladder are just really opposed to redistribution of wealth on principle — even at their own expense.

[/eyeroll]

An example of how last-place aversion worked its way into our social fabric was the Jim Crow South:

Kuziemko found last-place aversion throughout U.S. history, including during the era of Jim Crow laws. One study she found argues that Jim Crow was more important to poorer Southern whites than it was to the wealthier plantation class.

“The way I thought about it was, [these institutions] were really important for relatively poor whites so they could have permanently — and sort of officially — a group they could always look down on,” Kuziemko says.

Fascinating, especially when one remembers that minorities, Muslim and immigrants remain important punching bags for the conservative base today. It seems the Republican Party wants nothing more than to create a permanent underclass.

It seems that at its core, the debate is between those who place a premium on the community versus those who value the individual. Back when I studied evolutionary biology, so long ago that we dissected a Stegosaurus in class, we learned that contrary to popular belief, humans are not the only species to exhibit altruistic behavior. The example used was adopting orphans: humans do it all the time, but from an evolutionary perspective, it doesn’t make sense. Evolution is the competition to pass on an individual’s genetic material; by using your own energy and resources to raise to sexual maturity someone else’s offspring, you’re ensuring the survival of genes that are not yours. From an evolutionary perspective, that orphan should be put out on an ice floe.

Of course, we don’t do that, but neither do many species of animals. It’s not unusual for females to care for orphaned or abandoned offspring they’re not related to. Evolutionary behaviorists theorize this ensures the survival of the species as a whole, not just the individual.

Altruism strengthens the entire species, but of course so does individualism — a successful species needs both. The challenge is to find that balance between the two, which I guess is what our politics is supposed to be about. Doesn’t seem to be working right now though, does it?

Last-place aversion is an interesting idea, though, and it certainly explains why so many Teanuts are happy to give tax cuts to millionaires and corporations but don’t want to extend unemployment benefits to their neighbors.

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Filed under conservatives, evolution, politics, science