Thursday, April 25, 2019

CANCELLED - Science Silenced

I volunteered to teach this Sunday, on my time, pretty much all day.  I was going to be speaking at the 3rd Southern Seed School here in Gainesville FL.  Because of complaints to the organizers, I have been removed from the program. It is McCarthy-style removal of someone deemed "controversial" when there is no controversy.

I was originally slated to speak in three sessions. 

1. The History of the University of Florida Fruit and Vegetable Breeding Programs. I had neat old photos, cool history. 

2.  Plant Breeding and Genetic Improvement -- a topic with a lot of confusion among local seed-saving enthusiasts.  We were going to cover genetics and the need to understand pedigree and if seeds were saved from hybrids. We were going to touch on breeding and genetic improvement techniques from mutation breeding to the future of gene editing. 

3. Future Crops for Florida, a topic I have researched extensively and even designed and taught a course on this topic. We were going to cover pre-breeding, domestication, and adaptation of other plants to Florida cropping systems. 


I have been removed from teaching at the Southern Seed School. Thanks haters, you removed a teacher from a classroom. 

I reserved the rooms, organized other speakers for some of the other sessions, and prepared all of my presentations.  I made a really cool card game to demonstrate hybridization and genetic segregation, an important topic that seed savers should understand. 

Last night I learned that I have been cancelled from the event.  One of the organizers, someone I truly respected, says it is because of my "baggage" and that I need to get beyond my "ego" and just let it go.  My blood is boiling.  

My baggage. My full time job is research, teaching and extension. I volunteer in schools (taught 84 kids on Wednesday, each took home plants that I prepared), volunteer in retirement homes, public groups like Rotary, you name it.  I never turn away an undergraduate looking for lab experience and open my lab to scholars from every corner of the globe.  I volunteer to teach classes when I have no teaching appointment.  That is my baggage.

And it was a few evil reporters, "science friendly" bloggers (you know who they are), GM Watch, US-RTK, several others, and legions of Twitter trolls -- they created a very different narrative that now stops science from being taught.  Baggage Installed.  Mission Accomplished. 

And of course, I blame myself too.  I blame myself for making human errors and having lapses in judgement at times that left me vulnerable to the anti-science interests.  Now I don't make those mistakes.  In a hateful world surrounded by character assassins, I'm not going to pass out the ammunition. 

Also I thank Twitter for giving fake accounts that target scientists a forum for their dirty work.  Even when reported, the new anonymous accounts that target me are within "community standards".  They started a flurry of false information that started the momentum towards my removal. I wish everyday that your support of targeted harassment causes an exodus of users, and that you revise your policies.




A Twitter account dedicated to my harassment was instrumental in shaping the decision to remove me from teaching a class on a Sunday, volunteering my time. 



Over the last few years I have worked hard to extend science education to non-traditional audiences and speaking to a seed school of local gardeners about breeding, genetics and crop improvement would appear to be something consistent with that mission. But in a world where scientists are barred for saying "climate change", where doctors that teach principles of immunology are threatened with violence, and where pseudoscience runs rampant, I suppose this is only to be expected.