Friday, November 14, 2014

Science Center : Opinion and Activism are the New Science?

I am not happy. 

Opinion is the new science. 

Activism is the new science.

Undocumented claims are the new science.

Arguments from ignorance are the new science. 

That is, if you are a speaker at an event held by the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium.  You can watch the video here.  I'll wait. 

Or I can save you 1:21 of your life you'll never get back. 

First of all I can say that I totally predicted this.  I predicted exactly what this would be, that it would start out with some neutral and credible (well, undeniable) science and then degenerate into a scientific abortion ending in a rallying cry for food labeling and a "right to know". 

I'm like a damn psychic. It is pretty amazing.  Not really.  These things are incredibly predictable, and while I warned them, they suggested that 'teaching all sides' is a good move.  Ugh. 

Hey dude, science is whatever you think it is, your opinion is as good as evidence! 
After all, science is about hearing all viewpoints. 

The part that just makes me so mad is that a "Science Center" supported this.  It is an appeal to fear, ignorance and the typical trash.  Some of the quotes are priceless, and make me wonder what kind of half-cocked science you have to poop out on a test to be an RD in Florida.  

Really?  ""If some of the bigger chunks of protein are still left over chances are they could be an allergen."



Science Center, don't we turn off a microphone at this point?

Read Anna's comments... You guys are doing great work.  Keep fueling misinformation!

From 29 min to 39 min of her 25 min allotted time she goes off on labeling.  No evidence, no science, just her political, activist rant.  

When she finally provides references, not one is peer reviewed, and GMO Myths and Truths is her major source, and activist rag that has been completely discredited by mainstream science. 

Another major reference for evidence was, well, JURASSIC PARK!  The movie.  Yes, everything we know about science can be discounted by a campy horror flick. 

Then if you watch the question and answer section you'll see an activist grab the microphone and spew on without moderation about Monsanto, Monsanto, Monsanto.  Nobody stops her. She goes on about the well discounted claims about Indian suicides and other myths. 

I'm blown away.  Can we please remove "Science" from your name?  

There is a fine line between a Science Center and Junk Science Center.  You just crossed it.

If it seems like I'm being too harsh it is only because I see how these solutions have helped farmers and the environment, and see what we can do going forward.  When a Science Center promotes an event where a non-scientist is allowed to make false statements and force a political agenda (as predicted), it destroys their credibility.  We need Science Centers.  Unfortunately this one has a lax idea about what science actually is. 


Mike said...

The references to Jurassic Park and Interstellar were pretty unbelievable. Also, saccharine and aspartame are safe as used in foods and are in common use. It's an embarrassment that the moderator agreed with the crank from the audience who brought up saccharine and aspartame as being reasons to be suspicious of GMOs.

Kevin M. Folta said...

No kidding. I'm just blown away. I had some good conversations with them, but someone sent me screencaps where they were promoting this event on anti-GMO websites. It is clear they have activist leanings and we should do everything we can to expose them.

Greg Noe said...

How embarrassing. Michelle Parenti has absolutely no business giving presentations like this. Just a few gems from her and the audience.

@2m:45s - "Recumbent DNA methods", is that the gene gun with the little wheel in the front and you lie back on?

@13m:00s - "Soy lecithin" If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't lecture on it.

@1h:08m - Saccharin, aspartame, Indian farmer suicides, EU GM bans. Sigh. I'm sure she would have brought up chemtrails if she had a chance.

@1h:13m - The medical physicist worries about the lack of human and long term health studies, has a pack of smokes on the table in front of her.

Chris did a good job, but man, I wish you could have been there Kevin.

Charles Symth said...

Kevin M. Folta said...


I could not believe it. She did borrow from Michael Hansen's playbook very closely. Start out with talking about some positive effects, then cherry pick every quotation that can develop fear. Take them out of context, misrepresent them, etc... over and over again.

Chris gave it a great shot and I can't wait to shake his hand on this. Glad someone was there to stand up for science.

TheOldTechnician said...

Well, thanks for waiting :) Didn't watch the whole thing. That Saccharin audience speaker couldn't even get her facts straight. It was invented in 1878.

And, further testing exonerated saccharin, and aspartame is safe. No one was actually hurt by saccharin any more than any other ingredient in food.

Both sides were erroneously claiming serious problems with the above !

And we are all still waiting for the same safety testing from organic methods. Sure, we've been using them for 10,000 years but maybe we only got used to their death and illness causing rates.

Anonymous said...

If GMO is So Great than Label it! Who gave you the right to decide what I eat? I have the right to know what I am eating. If People want to pay double for non gmo then let them. It is not up to you to decide what is labeled or not labeled on the food I want to purchase.

Anonymous said...

Chris was great at reading Kevin " Fool"ta's presentation. It is documented that Kevin is Monsanto's bulldog and on the payroll. Kevin you must be scared about the real truth surfacing about this topic. Kevin is internet typing tough guy who did not have the courage to show up to a small local debate. I did not see any snake oil being pedaled Kevin. The references are valid. Chris could barely even read your slide show. Chris mentioned corn when the slide was cotton. Basic words a scientist can not even read. Why do we need anti browning apples? Really so people can buy pre cut foot and have a longer shelf? This all comes down to money for Monsanto and farmers. No one can prove long term effects on GMO. Having independent studies Would give the people the information on the truth. Monsanto and their little pet puppy Kevin are afraid of the truth.

Kevin M. Folta said...

I typically don't reply to "anonymous" comments. This one is a good one, and it is the same nameless Sock Puppet that follows me around, trying to discredit what I do.

On the Monsanto payroll? You have to do better than that.

The apples are not Monsanto, they are a company of four people. When misinformation destroys their deregulation hopes, guess what? Monsanto et al will buy them, then they will use their endless dollars and legal coffers to get it out there.

It is not about "courage". They planned this at the last minute, I have a full research career, and can't be four hours away on short notice to debate a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

Kevin we should meet And you see the sock puppet in person. I think the research you are doing is great. If it is so great label the food and let independent companies perform studies on GMO products. That is all I want. It was planned for months. A poor excuse that's all. You remind of a little bitch that went Buffalo Grove HIgh School. Lets meet.

Jersey Buddha said...

^ When you don't agree with the science and can't argue against it, the only absolutely sane thing to do is curse people out and threaten them. That's how science works!

Anonymous said...

for a non issue ? Wow you spend all this time typing and ranting like a little bitch for a non issue you are a joke! Dr. Sock Puppet

Skeptico said...

Thank you so much Anonymous for your reasoned and thoughtful responses. I used to think that Kevin Folta was an expert in this subject, but since you spelled his name Fool"ta I now realize I have been wrong all these years. Thank you for opening my eyes Anonymous.

Sam B. said...

I did a report explaining the safety of artificial sweeteners last year for my Technical Writing class, and I found out that saccharine and the company that produced it ended up becoming Monsanto. I mean, in my pro-GMO mindset, this could be a positive, but I can just see the woo talking points now: "Monsanto creates cancer-causing artificial sweetener that only causes cancer in specific male rats and not humans."

Kevin M. Folta said...

Anonymous, I'll meet you anytime. In fact I'll buy lunch, coffee, beers, you name it. I travel around a lot and may be in your area soon. Of course, you'll have to break the anonymity and send me an email

Not sure how my research relates to labels....

The bitch from Buffalo Grove High School? You got me on that one too...

My guess is that you're doing a little google stalking and getting the information half right.

Jersey Buddah, nobody will intimidate me and threats are useless. I've heard it all. The Internet Balls go away fast in real life. In every opportunity I've had to talk to someone in person, even vicious critics, it ended very nice.

Ari Allyn-Feuer said...

Wow, the factually incorrect claims started early and didn't let up. She literally couldn't even define GMO.

She claimed that in order to be a GMO, the insert must come from another species, and must be a gene that makes a protein. So I guess Cisgenics aren't GMOs, and that anything made with RNAi isn't a GMO. So, wow, the Innate Potato and Arctic Apple aren't GMOs, and the Aquadvantage Salmon, they are all of them not GMOs. Yay!

She also claims that in order to be a GMO, the insert must be passed to progeny. So I suppose that any future GMO that uses either Gene-Deletor or (much less likely) GURT, wouldn't be a GMO, right? Yay!

Since this person literally can't define the thing she's talking about, she probably doesn't belong on a stage at a science center talking about it.

Randomosaur said...

This would be a better post if you didn't call Jurassic Park "campy".

Chuck Lasker said...

Opinion is the new science. Activism is the new science. Undocumented claims are the new science. Arguments from ignorance are the new science.

Sorry, but that's not just this "science center," that how it is everywhere right now. The ignorant populace is now fully committed to the New Endarkenment. We land on a comet and the top posts are about Kim Kardashian's ass. We find new ways to cure ebola, and Americans freak out about ISIS coming in with ebola through Mexico. To be a Democrat today you're expected to be anti-science regarding GMOs. To be a Republican you're expected to be anti-science regarding climate change. Anti-science is not the crazy outlier position anymore, it's mainstream and expected. We're the crazy ones for "believing in science."

As quoted in the 1986 campy horror flick, Aliens - "Game over man! Game over!"

Kevin M. Folta said...

Chuck, you nail it. When do we just sit back and watch it all burn?

This Science Center thing was rough. It is heartbreaking to know how this will be used come elections next time, and all the time in between.

Rick Leonard said...

I thought you already could pay double if you wanted to. There is an app that lists thousands of non-gmo verified and other non-gmo and I am sure they would take your money. Hell, pay triple if you want to.

Rick Leonard said...

It is one of the missed opportunities. Usually,with a new technology like this, a lot of entrepreneurs get involved, some of which will be successful enough to compete head to head with established players. It is ironic that the in the zeal to regulate Monsanto out of business, we've actually condemned dominance in commercialization of this technology at least in the major grains to 4-5 major seed companies. Perhaps the most ironic isthat we've regulated a lot of public owned varieties out of existence.

If I am correct, Okinawan (sp?) Specialty Fruits has committed to market the Arctic Apple with a ge label disclosure.

Rick Leonard said...

And by the way, you are perfectly correct -- Mr Folta doesn't have the right to decide what is labeled or not labeled on the food you want to purchase. Mr. Folta does have a right to express his opinion on the matter of mandatory ge labeling, to be outspoken even. I appreciate his insights, and I am thankful that I don't have to rely on March Against Monsanto, GMO Free America, Moms Against Monsanto and the like. And I would trust his judgement on that topic far more than yours - you have not demonstrated that you have more than the most simplistic understandings and you strike me as a little creepy and neurotic. Before you jump to conclusions, I am not pro labeling, but I am not entirely opposed either if it was done right, although the revalations of how your mind works are making me more uncomfortable to giving in to that deception.

I think one of the ironic results of mandatory labeling would be to undermine the market distinction of non-gmo verified and organic certified, and thus reducing their premium. I probably wouldn't vote for it if it were on the ballot in my state, but I am somewhat resigned that it is a political inevitability.

Greg Noe said...

@Rick Leonard,

Close, Okanagan. :)

I live not too far south from that area. Apples, pears and cherries are the lifeblood of this region and I am really excited to see this technology start here.

The public comments for Okanagan Specialty Fruit's deregulation petition with the USDA were shameful, actually more shameful than this little shit show. Whoever had to wade through all the misinformed, paranoid and anti-science rants and threats deserves a medal, or a week's free lunches at Arby's (their choice).

Kanga Jen said...

I feel your pain. I am so sorry.
I am an atmospheric chemist - meaning, I am a scientist, but not very well versed in plant biology. But I know enough science to know that I have never seen enough evidence to convince me that GMOs are unsafe. This sets me apart from the majority of my liberal friends. Funny world, this... politics tells you what to believe, which may or may not line up with science. I'm 90% liberal but 100% science. I have loved reading your science-based blog. Keep up the work at spreading the truth.
Science works.
Doesn't matter if you're liberal or conservative or religious or alien. Science is
In your corner her

Chris said...

Heh, sorry Greg but I gotta take a swing even though I agree with you. You made fun of the kook for saying stuff wrong or using the wrong words then said the medical physician was a "medical physicist". Again I agree with you but find those kind of slips amusing.

Greg Noe said...

@Chris Hmmm. I listened to it a few more times and I'm pretty sure I heard her say "I'm a scientist. I'm a physicist, a medical physicist"

If I'm wrong, then all I have to say is oops. :)

Chris said...

Greg, ah no prob, I hadn't listened to it and just assumed. It seemed odd that someone would call themselves a medical physicist, but I guess she's just an odd duck...

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