Conventional UnwisdomBy Clarice Feldman
In an essay "Freedom of the Press" George Orwell wrote presciently about the dangers of a press too bound to prevailing orthodoxy to print anything else:
Substitute the American mass media and entertainment industry today for the British equivalents in the 1940 about which Orwell was writing and you will accurately describe the situation we find ourselves in, where from the purely political to the notions of proper nutrition, energy policy, transportation -- you name it -- there is a conventional orthodoxy, often unsound and lacking in factual foundation, which has an iron grip on the average mind of those who do not actively seek out alternative sources of information or whose work and life experiences have not shown them the prevailing conventional wisdom is bunk.
My friend James Lewis offers up the notion that the mass media are "pathogenic" and are "turning our national discourse into pathology". He explains, "If you have free and open debate, crazy ideas tend to get exposed. If you don't (the way we don't in the MSM), you [amplify] pathogenic 'memes.'"
That notion, first remarked upon by the genius Orwell decades ago, was best illustrated in an article by Kyle Becker this week.
If a presumably well-educated and well-read person like a Yale law school professor was so easily duped about a major American political movement by the media, imagine how easy other idiotic notions have been peddled to ordinary voters.
It is the increasingly singular view of the "correct position" that precludes honest debate of so many important issues. As the poster Jimmy K responding to a fellow poster's question observed of the Orwellian stew we are presently in, observed:
Add to this the widespread scientific ignorance and the money to be had -- often from the taxpayers' pockets -- by exploiting this lack of knowledge, the pathology is creating a tragic waste of lives and of resources that could be far better put to use.
Science is never "settled," contrary to men like Al Gore, made fabulously rich by doomsday lies about climate change. It is a process, one which requires constant testing and often the revision of previously held theories. This week we got to see this anew. The discovery of new fossils in Eurasian Georgia, for example, has led scientists to question whether there really were different species of hominids who preceded modern man. There's reason to believe that the what we once considered diverse species were simply variations of a "single, evolving lineage" As one commentator suggested, if we examined the fossil remains of Danny DeVito and Michael Jordan we might easily have assumed they were diverse species, not evidence of the huge variety of modern man.
Today's pathogenic memes include the need to bankrupt the West in order to control for climate change which, in any event, would not necessarily be the bad thing the changers argue it is. The yipping about it to the effect of billions of dollars being transferred to useless projects created by large democratic donors (Profits of Doom?) reminds me of the foolish predictions of another doomster of note, Dr. Paul Ehrlich, much loved by the media in his heyday and still setting toxic memes. Among his predictions of imminent catastrophe are these:
None of these things came to pass, but his views still inform much of the public's notions of the world we live in. The most obvious example to my mind is the Environmental Protection Act, which displaces countless people, reduces the development of land and resources because like Dr. Seuss' Horton Congress believes a "creature's a creature no matter how small," ignoring, of course, that new organisms develop to fit into niches created by the passage of older species (See Charles Darwin). (The same lovers of snail darters, however, believe as did Ehrlich that the reverence for life does not extend to small creatures in human wombs, even those only half way out of them.)
What largely made nonsense of Ehrlich's predictions was human ingenuity which managed to vastly increase global food production, and what threatens to bring a halt to that progress are two ideas as dumb as were Ehrlich's predictions, and both of these dumb ideas are promoted day in and day out by the forces Orwell warned about. I'm talking, of course, about the prejudice against genetically-modified food and the preposterous claims for organically grown foods, two efforts by scientific illiterates to deny us the benefits of human creativity and a higher standard of living for all.
1. The myth that organically grown foods are better for you and the environment
Repeated, sound testing has shown that there is no substantial difference between organically grown food and conventionally grown food. While it is always more expensive, organically grown food is not safer or healthier. It is more expensive -- often twice as expensive as conventionally grown food. To those who see something moral in this earlier form of agriculture, it is worth noting that it requires more land -- that is, is takes it away from other uses like housing and forest land for wildlife -- it uses more labor and it takes more conventional energy if grown on smaller plots of land than does conventionally grown food grown on large plots.
There are, moreover, hidden health dangers in organically grown food:
That report is from 1998 and once again human ingenuity has managed to reduce the food-borne illnesses of organically grown food but there is still a statistically greater likelihood that you will contract microbial disease from it than from conventionally grown products.
Avery also warns of that and about toxicity problems with organic food:
Click on almost every healthy food guide on Yahoo or in your newspaper, and they still repeat without warning the benefits of organically grown food, repeating like mirrors in mirrors in mirrors the benefits of it without noting the costs and the dangers and the FDA which knows better is cowed into silence. From a moral point of view deliberately reducing the food supply and driving up its prices especially in view of the lack of discernable benefits seems immoral. We simply have to up substantially land yields for food. (Avery said in 1998 we needed to triple them.)
If ever challenged about their notions of organically produced food, its supporters argue that they are pesticide free and so somehow safer, But all tests show the insecticides used on domestic crops provide no real danger -- Captan, the most widely used. "is one ten-millionth as carcinogenic as ordinary drinking water." Should you still have some concerns rinse your produce in water and vinegar to remove all traces of it.
2. The second major agricultural development which made the Ehrlich predictions risible was the development of genetically-modified foods, a life-affirming development which the eco-fanatics and a credulous press join hands to scotch.
Genetically modified food can greatly increase yields and feed a hungry world. They are safe, say doctors, food scientists, and plant biologists.
They are prevailing upon more and more in Third World countries ,whose farmers need these products, to ban them, and when they do, crop yields will remain small, and farmers will be forced to use insecticides without proper safety equipment.
Cornell plant geneticist Walter De Jong was shocked to watch the romantic urbanites' efforts to prevent GM food:
Orwell, in his great essay on the press kowtowing to conventional unwisdom ends
It is to draw attention to this lemming-like behavior, this assault on liberty of thought and debate that I write this.
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