Green Parties aren’t so Green

By @TakeThatGMOs

Image result for jill steinIn this publishing, I will focus on Green parties and environmentalism, and how green parties get environmental protection wrong.

What are Green parties?

Wikipedia defines Green parties as a”Formally organized political party based on the principles of green politics, such as social justice, environmentalism and nonviolence.”

Green parties are found all over the world. Here’s a list of green parties from around the world. The world’s first Green parties began appearing in the early 70s in Germany and Australia. The German Green party was the first Green party to achieve national prominence in their respective country. One of their key pillars was their opposition to nuclear energy.

Green parties and environmental protection

Green parties are primarily concerned in theory with protecting the environment and environmental conservation. That in its own regard is a good cause. The issue lies with how Green parties go about trying to protect the environment.

Green parties are anti-science on nuclear energy

The UK Green Party wants to phase out fossil-fuel based energy generation and nuclear power. Jill stein, the US Green Party’s candidate for president wants to phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies. Moreover, Stein has compared nuclear power plants with weapons of mass destruction on more than one occasion.

In this instance, the UK & US Green Parties are wrong on nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is safereliable and clean.

The evidence over six decades shows that nuclear power is a safe means of generating electricity. The risk of accidents in nuclear power plants is low and declining. The consequences of an accident or terrorist attack are minimal compared with other commonly accepted risks. Radiological effects on people of any radioactive releases can be avoided.

Not only that, but nuclear power is the most reliable source of energy in use today and produces the least carbon emissions, even less than solar power.

Capacity Factor by Generating Source
Source: Nuclear Energy Institute

Life Cycle Carbon Emissions
Source: Nuclear Energy Institute
Arguably, the only legitimate concern with nuclear energy is the radioactive waste. Even then, the amounts of nuclear waste produced is negligible, safe to store and can even be used as a resource.

65% of scientists support building more nuclear power plants as opposed to 35% who aren’t sure or don’t support the building of more nuclear power plants.

Green Parties go against the established scientific evidence, and oppose nuclear energy, which is the most reliable way forward for green energy.

Green Parties and GMOs 

GMOs have been established as a safe and very promising technology. Fears about GMOs are completely unwarranted, and go against the established scientific consensus. GMOs may provide the solution to nutrient deficiencies as well as food supply problems in poorer countries. They can be engineered to grow in unfavorable climates as well as be engineered to contain more nutrients, such as beta carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A in golden rice. Moreover, GMOs can be engineered to produce biofuels, which can be a great way to combat carbon emissions produced by cars, the second largest producer of carbon emissions.

The UK Green Party opposes GMOs, and supports placing a moratorium on them, as well as restrict research on GMOs. Here’s Jill Stein’s take:

Not only is her information on GMOs completely wrong, but she also uses biased sources such as Organic Consumers Union and Union of Concerned Scientists as sources, both of which are incredibly dishonest and have their own agendas to push. The Organic Consumers Union for instance wants to spread the sale of organic food, and so have an obvious benefit in scaring people from buying GMOs.

The Canadian Green Party wants to ban GMOs and stop ANY research done on them. This is the very first paragraph from the CGP’s page on GE organisms:

Genetically engineered (GE) organisms may pose a potentially serious threat to human health and the health of natural ecosystems. Many Canadians want to follow the example of the European Union and ban GE crops. At a minimum, GE products must be labeled, giving consumers the right to know and to say no to GE foods.

Paranoia and fear of GMOs and opposition to them won’t be of any use. GMOs are tested very thoroughly and have huge potential in reducing carbon emissions. Yet again, the stances held by Green parties are not so green.

Alternative Medicine

The GPUS supports alternative medicine:

Greens support a wide range of health care services, not just traditional medicine, which too often emphasizes “a medical arms race” that relies upon high-tech intervention, surgical techniques and costly pharmaceuticals. Chronic conditions are often best cured by alternative medicine. We support the teaching, funding and practice of holistic health approaches and, as appropriate, the use of complementary and alternative therapies such as herbal medicines, homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and other healing approaches.

Other Woo:

Stein’s infamous rambling about how WiFi can damage children’s minds as well as people having “questions about vaccines” and her claims that the agencies that work on insuring vaccines are safe and reliable are “influenced by pharmaceutical companies”  is the final straw in her scientific credibility.

To conclude:

Green parties and green politics support very noble causes in trying to counteract climate change and work towards protection and conservation. However, Green parties simply don’t follow the science when doing this.

Green parties are just simply not so green.

 

 

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How To Disprove The Flat Earth

turtle

By @ScienceWasWrong

eratosthenes experimentAround 240 B.C, the Greek astronomer Eratosthenes devised a way to measure the circumference of the earth. He knew that each year on the summer solstice the sun would pass directly overhead and illuminate the bottom of a well in the city of Syene, about 500 miles south of Alexandria. On that day, when the sun was at its highest in the south, he found that a stick in Alexandria cast a shadow at a 7.2 degree angle. This angle corresponds to the solar zenith angle – the angle between the sun and the point in the sky directly overhead. He reasoned that the distance between the two cities must therefore constitute 7.2 degrees of a circle, which indicates a circumference of about 25,000 miles.

Eratosthenes made two assumptions here: that the earth is a globe and that the sun is distant enough that its rays are essentially parallel.  Eratosthenes’ experiment does not prove that the earth is a globe in and of itself because his assumptions must be true in order for his results to be valid. Flat earthers reject these assumptions and posit that the sun is much smaller and closer to the earth so that its rays are not parallel. This can produce a 7.2 degree shadow just as well. In order to find out which is the case, we must work backwards from these assumptions and see what each would entail if true. Only then can we find a way to test them.

angles

After arriving at the circumference of the Earth, Eratosthenes is said to have invented a system of latitude and longitude and made an ambitious attempt to map it. His experiment would have provided most of the information he would have needed to do so. All that was left would be to wait until the winter solstice and repeat the experiment, in which case he would have measured a shadow angle of 56.2 degrees. Subtracting the 7.2 degrees between Alexandria and the Tropic of Cancer, this gives 48 degrees as the angle between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Dividing by 2, this places the Tropic of Cancer at 24 degrees north of the equator (the latitude of the Tropics have fluctuated throughout history and continue to do so today) and Alexandria at 31.2 degrees north.

Modern science places the earth’s radius at 3,959 miles, which gives a pole to pole circumference of about 24,875 miles. Dividing by 360, we find that one degree of arc should be about 69.1 miles on the earth’s surface. That is why lines of latitude are about 69.1 apart. So on a globe for every 69.1 miles or one degree of latitude you move north or south of the point the sun is directly overhead, the angle of the shadow in that location would increase by one degree. If Eratosthenes was correct, the angle of his shadow must have been equal to Alexandria’s latitude north of Syene, because that would be the angle that Alexandria is leaning away from Syene due to the curvature of the earth. If three more astronomers were doing the experiment on the same day at 20 degrees, 40 degrees, and 60 degrees north or south of the Tropic of Cancer, they would each respectively measure a shadow angle of 20 degrees, 40 degrees, and 60 degrees, and all would arrive at a circumference of 24,875 miles. The beauty of Eratosthenes’ experiment is that you can repeat it anywhere on earth, on any day of the year, and arrive at the same circumference. This is where the flat earth model runs into problems.

sun angles

In the flat earth model, as a consequence of geometry, as your distance from the point the sun is directly overhead increases, the distance between each degree of shadow will also increase exponentially. For example, assume the sun giving off a 45 degree shadow at 45 degrees north, as depicted in this lovely meme. If the earth were flat, that would mean the sun is 3,110 miles high. In that case, it would be 1,132 miles to the 20 degree shadow, 1,478 miles between the 20 and 40 degree shadows, and a whopping 2,777 miles between the 40 and 60 degree shadows. Someone performing Eratosthenes’ experiment at 20 degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer would arrive at a circumference of 20,376 miles, someone at 40 degrees north would get 23,486 miles, and someone at 60 degrees north would get 32,320 miles.

Flat earthers use the Azimuthal Equidistant Projection map, which shows all points at an undistorted distance and direction from the center. Lines of latitude on the flat earth map have flat earth mapthe same spacing as those on the globe: 69.1 miles per degree. It is for this reason that the angle of the shadow can only be equal to the degrees of latitude between you and the point the sun is directly overhead in one location. Everywhere south of that point the shadow angle would be greater than the latitude and everywhere north of that point the shadow angle would be less than the latitude. If the sun were 3,110 miles above the flat earth, the 20 degree shadow would be 16.4 degrees north, the 40 degree shadow 37.8 degrees north, and the 60 degree shadow 78 degrees north. Only at 45 degrees north would the latitude and the angle of the shadow actually be the same as they would everywhere on the globe and only there would someone arrive at a circumference of 24,875 miles. You can change the height of the sun all you like, the latitude and angle will only be the same in one location. Even then, it is only a coincidence due to the random height of the sun, not a direct function of latitude as it is on the globe.

To be sure, if each of our astronomers were to measure a shadow angle corresponding to their latitude, as is to be expected on the globe, and you were still assuming a flat earth model, that would require that from 20 degrees north the sun be 3,797 miles high above the flat earth, at 40 degrees north 3,294 miles high, and at 60 degrees north 2,393 miles high. An impossibility. The only possible solution would be to distort the flat earth map beyond recognition by staggering the lines of latitude, but even then it would only be correct for a single day, as the sun moves to a different latitude each day and the model would again become increasingly wrong.

So to recap, if the earth is a globe, the angle between the sun and 90 degrees overhead must be equal to the degrees of latitude between you and the point the sun is 90 degrees overhead in every location. If the earth is flat, this can only be true in one location. Testing this discrepancy between these two models has the potential to end to this debate once and for all.

You can do this test yourself. You can’t be in two places at once to take multiple measurements on the same day but, lucky for us, the position of the sun in the sky varies by about 47 degrees every 6 months as the sun moves between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Since the sun is moving a fraction of a degree north or south each day, you can stay right where you are and test a new angle every day.

  1. Go to this website, enter your location, and look at the sun transit time to find out when the sun will cross over your line of longitude, when it is directly south of you.rolling pin
  2. When this time comes, go outside, find something that casts a shadow, measure it, and carefully measure the length of the shadow. Only measure to the edge of the solid dark part of the shadow, not the lighter penumbra at the end.
  3. Divide the length of the shadow by the height of the object and hit inverse tangent on your calculator to get the angle of the shadow. For precision’s sake, the sun has an angular diameter of about 0.5 degrees. The end of the dark part of the shadow is defined by light from the top of the sun passing over the top of the object, while light from the bottom of the sun crosses over the top of the object to mark the end of the penumbra, giving it the same angular width as the sun. To get the zenith angle of the center of the sun, add 0.25 degrees to your shadow angle.penumbra
  4. Go to this website and see which latitude the sun was overhead at the time you measured the shadow.
  5. If the sun is in your hemisphere and at a lower latitude, add the sun’s latitude to the angle you measured. If it is in the same hemisphere and at a higher latitude, subtract the angle from the sun’s latitude. If it is in the opposite hemisphere, subtract the sun’s latitude from the angle you measured. First convert the latitudes’ arc minutes to decimals by dividing by 60. (Example: 46° 34′ = 46 + 34/60 = 46.567°)
  6. If the earth is a globe, the result, depending on the precision of your measurements, should be equal to your latitude.
  7. To find the circumference of the earth as Eratosthenes did, multiply the shadow angle by 69.1 miles to get the distance. Divide 360 by the angle of the shadow, and multiply that by the distance. If the earth is round, the result should be about 24,875 miles.

Alternatively:

  1. Find the angle of a shadow at ANY time of day when the sun is out.
  2. Find out where the sun was at overhead at that time.
  3. Type those coordinates into Google Earth and measure the distance from there to your location with the ruler set to degrees.
  4. Compare this to the angle you measured.

This method is especially damning because of the degree at which longitude lines diverge south of the equator on the flat earth map.

Still unconvinced by the astronomical coincidence that at a random time on a random day the sun was at the correct height and distance to be at the same angle in the sky as your random latitude north or south of it? Well it’s the moment of truth, because the angle should get progressively wronger with each passing day. Try it again the next day, or the next day, or the day after that. You can also do this:

  1. Multiply the angle by 69.1 to get your distance from the point the sun was directly overhead.
  2. Divide this by the tangent of the angle to get what should be the height of the sun if the earth is flat.
  3. Now see what latitude the sun will be overhead two weeks from now. Convert it to decimals. If it’s in the opposite hemisphere, add it to your latitude, if not, subtract the lower from the higher. This is the angle of the shadow you should get if the earth is round.
  4. Multiply this angle by 69.1 to get the distance.
  5. Divide the distance by the height of the sun from step 2 and hit inverse tangent to get the angle of the shadow you would expect on a flat earth.
  6. Wait two weeks and find the angle of a shadow again as you did in the first test.

If you get the angle you found in step 3, the earth is round. If you get the angle you found in step 5, the earth is flat. Still not convinced? Try it on the winter solstice, the spring equinox, and the summer solstice. Be amazed as you get the same angle you would expect to get on a globe each time.

Is there any way for a flat earther to ad hoc their way out of this? They could say that the sun is constantly changing height to give you the correct angle. Presumably it would be doing this for your sake as it would only work for someone at your exact latitude, giving everyone else in the world wildly inaccurate results. They could say the sun position website is wrong and the sun is moving away at increments that give you the correct angle each day, even though again, this would only be working for you. If you’re in England, the sun would have to be past the ice wall on the winter solstice to get an angle like 75°. They could come up with some kind of woo about the position of the sun being an illusion, but while you’re over there in David Copperfield land with your buoyancy gravity, we’ll be here in reality getting things done.

 

 An Interview with TheoryFail

By @TakeThatGMOs & @TheoryFail

A while ago we published an interview with @TakeThatDarwin which provided some interesting insight into the origins of the TakeThat™ Crowd and more details and information on @TakeThatDarwin and the whole TakeThat Family in general. 

This time, I’ll be asking @TheoryFail, a “handsome Brit” and the Prince of the TakeThat throne. 

Oh, and technically he is a TakeThat account even though he doesn’t have ‘TakeThat’ in his name as he runs the account with the same backbone of the other accounts. Here goes’

1) To start off I have to ask you about how you began with the account. When was it created and did it have anything to do with TTDarwin at first or did you discover him later? How did you know about TTD and what did you think of what he was doing? How did the relationship between you two grow and reach what it is today? 

I was one of TTDs very early followers. I think one of his tweets was RTd into my timeline by @anarchicteapot (who is wonderful, by the way. You should all go and follow,) and I started interacting with TTD at a very minor level, throwing him the odd specimen here and there. I followed as much for the comedy as the creationists. 

I had a bit of an idea to do a similar sort of thing pretty much as soon as I saw what TTD was doing, but it took me quite some time to figure out exactly what my spin would be. I finally had a eureka moment in January 2014 and the rest is history. 

2) What would you say is the ‘ultimate’ purpose of your account? How do you plan on achieving that? Why did you choose TheoryFail and did you have a different name at first? 

I’m not sure that I have an ultimate goal with regards to where I want to take @TheoryFail. It started of as a lighthearted way to shine some light on the dark world of creationism and science denialism, but now I like to think of it more as a way to highlight the need for good critical thinking skills. 

I’d like to expand into podcasting, and of course the TakeThats are doing that in general. Other than that, I’m open to suggestions. Some kind of large TakeThat gathering has been suggested, but that’s a while off!

I’ve always been @TheoryFail. The name came after a 2 minute brainstorming session, and eliminating other options because the Twitter usernames were either already taken, or too long. 

Having TakeThatSomething didn’t even cross my mind. This was before the upsurge of TakeThat accounts, and I think what TTD and I do is, albeit superficially similar, very different. TTD has regularly spoken about his unwillingness to engage, whereas I like to try and unpick the thinking behind the creationists accounts. 

3) How did you grow and become known. Did you TTD provide help to your account?

I think I sent an early tweet to TTD saying something along the lines of “Hey, I’m doing what you do, but for ‘only a theory'” Then I got a few mentions by TTD and a LOT of support from people like @tattoosandbones and I picked up 1000 followers in a short period of time. 

4) Why did you choose the specific fields of pseudoscience you chose? And generally, why did you stick with evolution instead of branching out? 

We all know that ‘The Question’ is ‘if we evolved from monkeys and apes, why are there still monkeys and apes?’ Well, I spent a bit of time looking at what other tropes creationists trotted out to try and hide away from scary evolutionists. The ‘evolution is ONLY a theory’ statement stuck out, partially because it’s so easy to discredit, but also because it was SO widespread. 

I tend to stick with evolution for a number of reasons. Firstly, because it’s important. Creationism is damaging to our advancement in many differing  ways, and we really should have moved on from it by now. Secondly, it’s really easy to research. There are great internet resources that anyone can use. I’m not special. I don’t have specific education in evolution, nor do I pretend to, but I do have a firm grip on the basics, which is all you really need to flummox most creationists. 

5) How do you interact with your specimens? How do you find them? Is there a group of people you generally always RT? 

As I’ve mentioned before, I really try not to be a dick. This doesn’t always work, but I figure that people are more likely to respond if you’re relatively nice to them. 

I don’t have a huge deal of time to manage what I’m going, believe it or not, so I don’t tend to be able to exercise my witty repartee in the same way TTD does. I think this leads me to have a different set of followers to some of the other TakeThats, who are often more willing to jump in and interact. 

As for finding them; I used to use a whole raft of search terms to try and weed all of them out, but now I tend to use just one. I RT enough mind bending ideas into my followers timelines that if I did much more, I think there’d be a revolt. 

I have a list of particularly odd accounts that I’ve RT’d in the past and I occasionally dip into that, if it’s a quiet day, but unfortunately, it barely gets touched at the moment. 

6) How do you think your account is generally helping towards stopping people from getting scientific theories confused with mainstream theories? How is your account contributing to stamping out pseudoscience in general?

I’m not sure that it does, or that it can. Again, from my point of view, it’s more about pointing out bad *thinking* rather than factual inaccuracies. Most of the people I RT have no interest in what evolution is, for example. But if I can help point out errors in that way of thinking, the onlookers can learn. Hopefully. 

I’m under no pretence that the ‘specimens,’ as TTD likes to call them, will suddenly open their eyes to good science, but I think the best we can hope is to both show why they’re wrong, and get people interested in science and critical thinking. 

7) Is there anything specific you want to say to your followers?

Surely they hear enough from me already‽ 

More seriously, I really appreciate the interaction with my followers. I *try* to engage with as many of them as possible. Do say hello.  

8) What do you have in mind for the future? Do you have things in preparation? What do you treat your account as, ie a hobby or a task, etc.? 

As I said, I’d like to branch out – possibly into podcasting, maybe a double act with TTD. Nothing is being planned right yet, but I’m open to suggestions – maybe getting some of my flowers involved in a project. I tend to attract some really interesting people. 

My account falls somewhere in between a hobby and a task. I tend to think of it as ‘outreach.’ Something with a vague-ish definition that can’t really be pinned down. A bit like ‘kind.’

9) Finally, what is the best type of gin? 

Hendricks. With a decent tonic and a decent slice of cucumber. 

Failing that, Bombay Sapphire, tonic and a decent squeeze of lime. The lime’s important. It’s for taste, not a garnish. 

Does Donald Trump believe in evolution?

By @TakeThatScience






Note: This is satirical and is not meant to be taken seriously.
Donald Trump has declared his presidential candidacy. He has given many interviews but the topic of evolution hasn’t come up yet. A Google search doesn’t reveal any insights into Trump’s opinions about evolutionary biology either. So I went straight to the man himself and asked him: Do you believe in evolution? Here is his response:
Trump: “You know, I don’t really believe in that stuff. Man coming from monkeys and apes? I don’t think so. We are much more advanced than animals. We are smarter by far. Could a monkey write ‘The Art of the Deal’? Could a monkey oversee the development of the most luxurious golf courses in the world? Could an animal produce ‘The Apprentice’, one of the most successful television shows in history? Hell no!”

“Show me a monkey navigating the New York real estate scene. Show me a gorilla that is a self-made multi-billionaire. I don’t think you can. So you liberals can believe in evolution. You can trust the scientists. The same scientists, by the way, that push global warming even as New York gets colder and colder every winter. It’s absurd.”

“I’m sure the media will take these quotes and run with them as they always do. It really is pathetic. But the American people agree with me about evolution and many other issues including immigration, jobs, ISIS, and so on. The poll numbers show that. The people love Trump. Make America great again!”

What’s the Next Battle Against Pseudoscience on GMOs? 

By @TakeThatGMOs

  The ‘War on Science’ as it is called, is an endless ‘war’ that will last with us humans however ling we live. The main objectives, should they exist, can never be fully fulfilled. As Steven Novella puts it – and as some wars go – when it comes to the War on Science, the only focus should be on the next battle, and not the whole war, as this is one of the most unpredictable and unstable wars. When it comes to GMOs, what should that next battle be?

First up: politics

The current political battleground hangs mostly on labelling GMOs in the USA and the current delays in the EU. Things in either side are going very slowly. The anti-GMO movement certainly  hasn’t persuaded everyone to join in and label, and it appears that quite the opposite is happening, with celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and many others using their fame, in a way, to help push for the pro-GMO side. The public is getting to hear more of the pro-GMO side and the pro-GMO side is louder than ever, as it showed during the March Against Myths (counter protesters against the March Against Monsanto) campaign. 

Another side here is the Republicans, who tend to be more pro-corporate and so may support GMOs more. This however may be shaken up with Bernie Sanders, who gets the case about labelling wrong. As I’ve discussed in a previous article, labelling GMOs is the wrong side to take here, and won’t be the most helpful choice. It is also important to remember that labelling is only the first step, and making labelling a federal mandate will only open up the doors for more action against GMOs. If GMOs do get down that very unlikely path, the end for biotech would be near. 

Which gets me to my point. Many, many scientific organisations, biotech companies (including drug manufacturers) and millions of people would stand against such a law. Monsanto would probably take it to the SCOTUS and scientific organisations would stand against such a thing in either way. Since GMOs are under no real threat right now, considering Obama’s very scientific agenda, we can try avoiding all of this by furthering science to the public. 

Most common myths

GMOs are practically enshrined in myths. So much information and, therefore, misinformation exists about GMOs. It is arguably the biggest pseudoscience topic, as I’ve argued before.

The existence of so many fronts to battle on and the lack of a public consensus as well as the education system being littered with such misinformation and the general image of ‘natural is better’ makes this a very tough battle. To summarise previous statements from this article, the consensus on vaccines and evolution is far, far bigger in the scientific community, and those denying evolution are the minority of the US population. Likewise, a big scientific consensus exists on vaccines and most of the population is vaccinated or is pro-vaccines. It is true that GMOs have a big scientific consensus, beating climate change and standing at 88%, however this is no good as the public has the worst scientific record on GMOs, with the pro-science side only being a major minority. 

  I always use this picture to demonstrate my points. I’m tired of doing that. 

To obviously win the battle on the public front (a very strategic front as it affects legislation as well) we need to go in one bit by another. We don’t have the huge majority of scientists that quickly come through and debunk creationism. We have a lot of scientists worrying about the GMOs, yet it’s just as much of a pseudoscience as creationism. To be fair the most concerns aren’t about safety but wrong information is wrong information. This is bad (obviously). To make problems worse, the GMOs campaign also (similarly to the vaccines and climate change campaigns) opens up to economics and ethics. Those things don’t make the issue here any easier. Evolution v creationism only focuses on science. That’s it. But the extent of the aspects affecting GMOs here is one of the reasons the pseudoscience on GMOs hasn’t been stopped. The above things mentioned makes this THE worst issue to deal with. 

To slowly and gradually win over public support, what’s the next battle that should be fought over GMOs? The scientific bit. That may, unhelpfully, sound a bit vague. Currently the debated health impacts and environmental impacts are what inspire people to join. These are the false ideas that make people passionate and want to spread their messege. Thankfully as well, more and more of the public knows not to fall for this and instead picks on Monsanto, ethics and economics (upcoming article). Getting people in the ‘pro-GMO; anti-Monsanto’ area is a great success on our part and can get us to be able to drive home the labelling question and solve the larger problem on the small, meaningless details. 

Here’s the thing, the issue over safety is not only the backbone of the anti-GMO movement but also it’s heart. Taking out that heart will kill the rest of the body. 

It is also the most useful battle as we’re already winning it. I see many people, for example in SciShow’s recent video about GMOs, accepting the facts over safety but jumping on the patents and contamination issues. In this way, the issue starts to move over from public VS GMOs and labelling to the public VS Monsanto, which has less to do with legislation and laws and science and GMOs and more to do with corporations and ethics. GMOs that are helpful would be widely accepted.

Maybe the end is in sight for the anti-GMO movement. 

Wait, what’s that ringing sound. Oh, Dr Mercola just published his latest article and people are already retweeting. Crap. 

On the Origin of Take Thats: An Interview with Take That Darwin

by @TakeThatGMOs and @TakeThatDarwin

What inspired you to start, what gave you the idea of making a Twitter account and RTing creationists?

I’d been posting on creation/evolution discussion boards like CARM and Christian Forums since I was twelve years old, but, when I first discovered Twitter, I had no intention of creating an account that revolved around that topic. I’ve had a few accounts, in fact, including one about synopses of Sliders episodes that never existed (don’t ask) and a “fake facts”-style account that basically ripped off John Hodgman’s shtick.

While running that latter account, I happened to do a search for “why are there still monkeys.” As a joke, you see. And I was positively floored by how many people were asking that very question — “The Question,” as it were — in the apparent belief that it was a pretty good argument against evolution. So I started a new Twitter account to chronicle my terrible findings.

Can you talk about how you started and what you did to get noticed?

When I first started the account it was done purely to amuse myself; I had no real desire to get noticed. I’d just retweet some people who wanted to know why monkeys still exist, and maybe post a few image macros and pictures of church signs I’d discovered saying the same thing. I didn’t do any commentary, didn’t crack any jokes, didn’t post any image macros or comments of my own devising. It was just my personal dumping grounds for people who wanted to know why we’ve still got monkeys.

However, the comedic potential soon became apparent. I started poking a little fun at The Question and the sorts of people who ask it. Turns out that a couple of decades arguing with creationists about evolution have left me with a surplus of capital-O Opinions on the topic, and when I started to voice those opinions and have exchanges with other people who were, like me, flabbergasted that The Question was so popular, folks began to follow my account out of morbid curiosity.

I’ve also gotten the occasional popularity boost out of celebrities, like Robin Ince, Dominic Monaghan, and Joe Rogan, who like me share a fascination with the flaming thirty-car pileup that is creationism.

How do you find these people that you find and what kind of interactions do you have with them other than RTing?

It’s amazing, really, how predictable creationists can be in some ways and how spectacularly unpredictable they can be in others. One way in which they’re predictable is the phrasing of The Question. With a few keyword combinations — “evolved monkeys,” “evolution apes,” and so on — I can reliably discover one or two dozen people per day who are pretty sure evolution means monkeys shouldn’t exist. I also do some other searches to discover related but unique forms of stupidity, like kids who’re complaining that they’re being forced to learn about evolution in their science classes.

For the sake of my own sanity I don’t generally mix it up with the creationists I retweet, although if I think they’ve got a simple misconception that can be corrected quickly, or if they ask me a direct question, I’ll respond. If they ask me a question that isn’t in good faith, I will respond with withering sarcasm such as can flay their very souls.

Why Twitter specifically, did you consider other platforms too?

Oh, I’ll occasionally scour Facebook, YouTube, and the comments sections of news sites to find more creationist stuff, but it’s always to show off on Twitter, where I find the bulk of the creationist silliness. There’s just something very immediate about Twitter that causes people to cheerfully reveal their innermost feelings about things they probably shouldn’t have innermost feelings about.

That said, I was recently invited by Black Mudpuppy of the webcomic of the same name to contribute to a YouTube project called “Darwin’s Finches,” so we’ll see where that goes.

How did the idea spread to other fields of pseudoscience?

Because — and this is something I’ve commented on before — people are rarely just one sort of crazy. If you’ve already accepted that the entire scientific community is engaged a conspiracy of unprecedented proportions to promote evolution, then what else are those sneaky bastards up to? Perhaps, while they’re hiding the Nephilim skeletons and carving feathers into dinosaur fossils, they might dabble in inventing chemtrails, filling vaccines with autism, or faking the Moon landing.

While my interest mainly lies in creationism, I find it fun to point out some of the other wacky things creationists often find themselves believing. And folks like you, seeing the rich veins of crazy I’ve tapped and having discovered their own sets of searches that turn up other sorts of crazy, have created accounts similar to mine that speak to your own interests. Turns out there’s plenty of crazy out there to share.

How did you come up with the name ‘TakeThatDarwin’? Did you consider it could be confusing for some?

A young Charles Darwin has absolutely no idea what the hell high schoolers in 2015 will think about him. "I bet they'll like me," he says, optimistically.
A young Charles Darwin has absolutely no idea what the hell high schoolers in 2015 will think about him. “I bet they’ll like me,” he says, optimistically.

Deliberately so! When I started this account I was concerned that many creationists, seeing that I’d retweeted them, would instantly block me. I chose a more ambiguous username so they’d pause before hitting that block button, possibly thinking that I’m on their side. That’s why I can’t be upset at non-creationists who assume I’m a creationist. I invited it on myself. That said, I went through a few names for this account before settling on “Take That Darwin,” including “WhyStillMonkeys” and “Y R There Monkeys???” I think history will vindicate me for my ultimate decision here.

As far as why I named this account “Take That Darwin,” I find it fascinating how creationists have placed Darwin on a pedestal. A pedestal covered in goat skulls, spikes, and fire, sure, but they deify the man in much the same way that they deify the figure of Satan. When creationists argue against evolution, they’re arguing against a soft-spoken Victorian-era naturalist whom they view as a legitimate threat to the supremacy of an omnipotent being. And that is hilarious.

What is the specific purpose of the account?

Although I didn’t have a purpose beyond amusing myself when I started this account, I’ve developed a sort of three-pronged mission statement:

  • To reveal how embarrassingly stupid our species can be;
  • To inspire people, including myself, to try as hard as we can to avoid displaying the sort of stupidity I showcase; and
  • To provoke a few laughs along the way.

Some use my account as a sort of dispatcher service for people who want to correct creationists’ misconceptions about science, and that’s fine. But it’s not something I can actually condone, because it puts good people in contact with some really awful people. No, the main goal here is to examine how we’re all vulnerable to sloppy thinking shortcuts.

What are some of the most notable moments in your 3 years doing this? 

I have seen some things, let me tell you. I’ve seen things so surreal they make Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” look like a VCR repair manual from 1988. I’ve drunk-livetweeted the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate. I’ve discovered Animal Planet’s mermaid mockumentaries and the many, many folks who were unaware they’re fictional. I’ve met some great people — too many to mention — and also some really remarkably terrible people. I’ve discovered that people who dislike homosexuality can’t help but use the phrase “shoving it down our throats,” which is something you just can’t make up. I’ve appeared on a number of podcasts, including Herd Mentality, the Imaginary Friends Show, and Breaking Bio. I’ve had some fun.

I’ve also explored the frontiers of alcohol tolerance.

How do you recommend others help in educating the public?

You know the old saying about horses, and water, and drinking? The best we can do for creationists is to make sure that information is available. You can’t browbeat people into accepting science. Just gently guide them toward the sources, earnestly answer questions that were asked in earnest, and understand that, in most cases, creationism is something that happened to these people.

That said, it is absolutely not anyone’s responsibility to cure creationism. The only time, I feel, when we’re obligated to speak out against creationism is when creationists are trying to use their social and political clout to hurt others, which, okay, yes, happens pretty goddamned often.

What do you have set in mind for the future of your account and others and possible expansion to other areas?

To quote Heath Ledger’s Joker, do I look like a guy with a plan? Oh, I’ve got dreams — paleontologist Trevor Valle has suggested a meetup he calls Take That Vegas, and I’ve got a semiautobiographical novel in what might be generously called the early stages — but I’m basically at the mercy of my addiction here. To ask me where I see my account going is like asking a junkie where he sees his heroin habit going in a few years.

I’ve been delighted that what was formerly a goofball hobby of mine has gained so much traction. But I’m just as curious about where this train will stop as anyone else. The only thing I can be certain of is that we’ll all have headaches when we get there.

Labelling GMOs, Yay or Nay?

By @TakeThatGMOs

  

It’s our right to know, right? For years, the anti-GMOs crowd has always stated that it’s their right (let alone what a right ACTUALLY means) to know what’s IN their food and have requested mandatory federal labelling on GM products. It has become mainstream and has reached many people, even some people who are pro-GMOs may support labelling.

The labeling question is a wide and diverse topic, with many opinions involved. It is therefore a very difficult question to tackle objectively.

Before we start, we must remember what things are put in a label. The first thing that pops to mind here is allergens. Allergens can and do present a serious threat to allergic people, and they must know what’s in their food to avoid any potential fatal reactions.

Ingredients and nutritional information are also available on every food label. Nutritional information is there to provide a more guided approach to healthy eating and make sure everything is eaten in moderation. Ingredients are there so as not to cloud the food in a ‘mystery’ and make the operation more controlled.

Other things that are sometimes included in the label are country of origin and of course, expiration and production. Different things might be there, but that depends on the food and the producer as well as the country.

Yay Labelling?

Let’s start with the pro-labelling side. The most common claim here is that it is ‘our right to know’ what’s in our foods. After all, if we’re trying to avoid GMOs, shouldn’t we have a clear label? Another argument that fits in here is, “If GMOs are so good, why don’t we label them, like we do with natural and organic?’

The arguments pro-labelling practically follow similar paths and are relatively similar to the ones presented above.

Nay Labelling?

The anti-labelling side has more arguments in this regard. The first argument here is that labelling GMOs is useless and futile, as GMOs have been ‘proven safe’. This argument extends to arguments about safety so it’s a bit of a complex one. Another argument is that labelling GMOs would demonize them. This is something of a counter-argument to the ‘if they’re so good, why not label them?’ argument. This argument points out that only harmful things would be clearly and mandatorily labelled, like allergens. And there’s the argument about the cost and time it would take to label things considered GE and not. This also raises the question on what to even carry such label – do animals fed with GMOs require their meat or milk to be labeled too? What about different types of GM?  

Finally, many people have raised the fact that things that don’t have GMOs are almost always labelled. Either as “organic” or through the Non-GMO Project or other 3rd party labelling groups. This gives those avoiding GMOs a wide range of labelled food that doesn’t contain GMOs.

Dissecting The Arguments 

The first argument, regarding ‘our right to know’, is one that is echoed a lot. But claiming that it is our right know raises some questions. Is it, for example, my right to know the religion of the farmer? Such information would be useless, as GMOs have been proven safe. Avoiding GMOs for any other reason is just silly and naïve. GMOs are found in practically everything, should we label every food? What about the quantity? Should we label animals who have eaten GMOs? The questions raised due to the ambiguity are far too many and overwhelming to address here, but you get the point.

One must also remember that USDA organic allows 5% of the product to be GM, and that certainly affects the labelling question. 

The second argument here is one that is directly against, “If GMOs are good, why label them?”. The argument goes, that if GMOs are so good, why not voluntarily label them, like the sought-after organic or “natural” labels (however shady they may be). In this case, @guidoV4 (go follow him, he tweets about GMOs and biotech too. He also has a ton of hashtags in his bio) points out that “natural” or organic labels are voluntary, and any company can practically put the label “natural” on their food. Mandatory labelling, like the one that activists seek, is put there to warn of danger, as in allergens or nutritional content. It wouldn’t be mandatory otherwise. 

@TkThtEtymology suggests labelling them in a way presents them as good. Good idea, but does it stand?

The public also heavily misunderstands GMOs. In a Pew survey, the gap between scientists and the public was the highest when it came to GMOs.  

This clearly shows that labelling, wether intended to promote or to warn of GMOs, will have the same effect. It will demonize GMOs and scare the public. And that may kill a technology so youthful with so much potential.

The Cost of Labelling. 

The cost of labelling is a big chunk of the debate. The cost doesn’t just rest on printing and gluing, but also on segregating the foods, testing, certifying and many, many other things.

Jane Palmer has a good article on this. The well-researched article concludes that mandatory labelling can cost 100s of millions of dollars, severely increasing prices both on the customer, the company, the farmer, the State and the food producer. 

First of all, higher prices would decrease customer demand. Foods containing GMOs are found everywhere. About 60% of the market contains some form of GMOs. The price of labelling would also turn companies away from GE, further increasing the oligopoly. Food making companies would also turn away from GMOs due to increased costs, therefore labelling would signal the end for GMOs.

Why Just GMOs?                                                    

If labelling is about our ‘right’, why stop at GMOs, one of the safest and most controlled biotechnologies. Why not the arguably more dangerous mutagensis?  Or the tons of other breeding methods? How does knowing the breeding methods help you lead a healthy life, since all are very safe and very effective?

  
 Conclusion 

Labelling is, and will remain, one of the biggest issues when it comes to GMOs. Both sides are extremely passionate about their opinion and go long distances to support their point. 

This article here provided an analysis of and gave an extra voice to the labelling debate. 

At the end of the day, labelling GMOs in the US is a far fetched goal, one that may never happen. Research into labelling (some going to the government) has shown that it’s expensive and does nothing but put a huge burden on GMOs, where the burdens are already too heavy. Keep in mind also resolution HR1599, or hilariously dubbed the ‘DARK’ Act may just prevent that. 

Labelling might be far-fetched, but always remains a possibility. This time, however, the extra weight may just cut off the life monitor. Is labelling worth it? 

Lokiarchaeum: Another Thing Creationists Are Going to Ignore

by @TakeThatDarwin

Loki
“My brother, how I have always envied your kingly poise, your athletic build, and your soft, pouty lips.”

Two weeks ago, a Swedish team revealed that, while sifting through sediment near Loki’s Castle, a field of hydrothermal vents in the Arctic Ocean, they had discovered metagenomic evidence of a hitherto unknown phylum of the kingdom Archaea. This phylum straddles the line between prokaryotes, simple single-celled organisms which have no nuclei or organelles, and eukaryotes, the domain of more complex organisms that also contains all multicellular life. Some publications have gone so far as to describe this phylum — Lokiarchaeota, named after Tom Hiddleston’s character in “The Avengers” — as the “missing link” in eukaryote evolution, even though personally I wish they wouldn’t, because usually use of the term “missing link” causes creationists to put on their Denouncing Hats and start shrieking.

Curiously, creationists haven’t yet weighed in on this discovery. Perhaps they’re waiting for Answers in Genesis to write a blog post indicating the Official Creationist Position on Lokiarchaeum. Or maybe they just haven’t yet noticed; considering many creationists still maintain that rock can’t bend, a phenomenon which was described a century ago, it’s fair to conclude that it takes creationists a while to catch up with the scientific zeitgeist.

"Just as I have long envied your tousled raven-black locks, silky-smooth alabaster skin, and butt that just won't quit, my brother."
“Just as I have long envied your tousled raven-black locks, silky-smooth alabaster skin, and butt that just won’t quit, my brother.”

Whatever the reason for their delay, though, I can hazard a guess what creationists will say once they finally get around to saying something about Lokiarchaeum: “God made it that way.” Sure, evidence of single-celled life with primitive organelles appears to support evolution, and is exactly what evolutionary theory predicts and requires, but it’s also perfectly consistent with an omnipotent, whimsical being who just magically whips up life that appears to have transitional features because why not. Never mind that six-limbed mammals, bats that lay eggs, lactating invertebrates, and birds with compound eyes would also be perfectly consistent with a supernatural, omnipotent creator and yet completely devastating to evolutionary theory, and that, in His divine wisdom, God chose only to make organisms that fit flawlessly within the nested hierarchy that evolutionary theory demands.

Smooch
“Mmf. Glrmf. Slrp. Is this weird?”
“Nay, my brother. We’re not actually blood relatives.”
“Oh, yeah, cool.”

The strength of evolutionary theory is that it can’t explain all conceivable evidence. What it does is explain the evidence that actually exists and provide a framework for new predictions. We will never dig up a fossil of a six-limbed mammal. If evolution is true, there can be no such thing. Creationism can make no such predictions. And since the creator they worship restricts His creative vision to only those organisms which could have naturally evolved, perhaps in an effort to trick people, that makes God a bit sneaky, doesn’t it? Kind of mischievous.

Not unlike Loki.

The best of homeopathy on the web – at either end of the spectrum

Folks, Amedeo here. Now, being a ghost, I am not one for big words. I therefore present you here the best and the rest from my link collection – enjoy!

Top Ten

  1. How does Homeopathy work?– basically, you need look no further. But if you care to, here are the folks behind it:
  2. http://www.1023.org.uk/
  3. Should you feel a need to go deeper, why not head over to the recent, large scale evidence review done by the Aussies.
  4. Or revisit last month’s US FDA hearing on homeopathy – webcast recordings now available. Transcripts should be out some time in the future.
  5. Now this, folks, is how it should NOT be done.
  6. And certainly, this is some of the most important things that should NOT be done (similar folks are all over the place – Haiti and most recently, Nepal):
  7. Whatstheharm (they’re on twitter, too: @WhatsTheHarm) do a great job presenting exactly how fraudulent quacks are dangerous.
  8. Now to lighten things up a bit, I leave you with: “Towards a Quantum Mechanical Interpretation of Homeopathy
  9. A bit of poesy
  10. and… a game: Homeopathic Battleship! Yay!

 Bottom Ten

  1. Let’s start with the man himself, old Sam H, and his bible: The Organon of Medicine.
  2. Now how do our diluted friends go about evidence gathering? While they stubbornly keep at RCTs, here’s how they’re all wrong: why RCTs are not at tool for assessing efficacy (has maths!)
  3. But wait, beyond Evidence THAT it works, can they also figure out HOW it works? Well, this is what’s being taught to BHMS students in India – and they do one hell of a job absorbing the gospel.  I present to you – “Nanotech in Homoeopathy” – by Ms. Haripriya, 2nd Year BHMS student.
  4. And if you haven’t seen enough yet, the memory of water is certainly one of the most beloved ideas to woosters.
  5. So the gold standard for evidence gathering is not the RCT, but the “proving”, as laid out by Sam H.: here’s an exposé by Clever homeopathy – they now call it the homeopathic pathogenic trial. Very sciency.
  6. But can homeopathistas actually agree on how to go about it?
  7. There’s really an amazing breadth of remedies, and you can look into the respective provings here: an extensive database of the whackery (literally) being done.
  8. But my absolute HEROES are these guys.
  9. Now sadly, there are parallel universes on Twitter in which homeopathistas lock themselves into echo chambers – blocking left, right and preventatively. So, I won’t even name names but here’s one of the Twisted Sisters.
  10. and if that was not enough, here’s the absolute, rock bottom, last link I present to you – the Placebo song.

When it Comes to GMOs and Food, the Misconceptions are at Their Highest

By @TakeThatGMOs 

Many misconceptions exist about GMOs. Misinformation and even disinformation cloud the scene. Do a quick Google search of GMOs, and what do you get?

You get this:

The very fact that the Institute of Responsible Technology (which by the way sells non-GM food products, see any conflicts here?), NaturalNews, Dr Mercola, Non-GMO Project and Kids Right to Know are all on the front page of the search is seriously worrying. Not only does this clearly show how misinformed the public is (Google ranks most visited websites first), it should also be ringing bells about how far the truth is from the public.

The issue when it comes to GMOs is that there’s no clear line. There’s no “clear” pro-GMOs side other than the people claimed to be “shills” and the boogeyman that is Monsanto. When it comes to evolution, for example, that line is clear. The creationist movement’s arguments and evidence are so weak they can be easily dismissed as bunk and dubious anyway. Otherwise 98% of biologists wouldn’t have accepted evolution, would they? (Ken Ham makes up the last 2%, by the way). When it comes to being against vaccines, arguably the most threatening pseudoscience, there’s a clear line of doctors and health professionals and even the public who can easily counter the dubious claims. But no such group of people clearly exist. They’re all assumed to be under the guidance of Monsanto. People don’t understand how someone supports GMOs. It’s like supporting genocide, or believing in geocentrism. People can’t understand that not everybody shares their opinions and not everyone opposing them is on a payroll. 

One should know that the amount of people misguided about GMOs far, far outweighs antivaxxers (sorry, @TakeThatSalk), and can even outweigh and crush the amount of creationists seeing as how the issue with GMOs does not correlate in that regard. You can have a person arguing for evolution and vaccines and yet be against GMOs. The issue is that bad. And when it comes to consensus, the consensus for GMOs is BIGGER than that for climate change. Yup.

The mainstream public has been “brainwashed” by misinformation after misinformation, things like the naturalistic fallacy, one of the the stupidest ideas out there, seeing as practically nothing you eat is natural; the idea that some chemicals like aspartame are horrible for your body; the idea that organic is better for you (organic is practically the same in every way as conventional); the idea that organic uses no pesticides, and so on and so forth.

These ideas appear practically everywhere, from mainstream YouTube shows, to qualified doctors on TV (ahem, Dr Oz, ahem) to even your biology teacher. You could be walking with your friends when misinformation about how scary McDonald’s is pops up. It is therefore important to counter any misinformation and disinformation about our food.

This brings us back to the original issue. Google announced that they wanted to put more reliable sites first, like the WHO and the FDA over the “Health Ranger”. This would make a significant difference in science communication. This is very good news abd shows that Google cares about the problem.  I have also noticed that people more knowledgeable about GMOs and food are beginning to pop up in many places, in forums, on Facebook, and on those damn YouTube comments. Maybe we’re headed for improvement, after all.

The issue with GMOs has the worst mix of all. Misconceptions about food are far more dangerous than creationism, and the amount of people holding these misconceptions is severely high. GMOs can help poor farmers and poor people and can feed an ever-hundry world. This blend makes the issue here a huge and a crucial issue to deal with, so increasing understanding and preventing misinformation from passing to others is likewise crucial.

And for God’s sake Google, fix this: