Sunday, 7 February 2016

RIP Skeptics

It's all over between me and the skeptics: they've thrown me out of their closed FB group, ending about three months of interaction.

The end was typically weird. I started the final thread, linking to this update on Golden Rice and noting that it remains a "dream product" in the sense that it is not yet ready for commercial release. Researchers have access to two types of rice: stuff that grows well and the golden rice that contains vitamin A, but they are yet to make golden rice grow well out in the paddock. So while it technically exists, no-one would want to plant it because it doesn't grow well yet. Views differ on whether and when it might be ready to sell golden rice seed to farmers: the developers refuse to name an expected date.

It's quite an important point in the public debate on GMOs because Golden Rice is used to vilify people who are skeptical on GMOs. For example, GMO campaigner Patrick Moore maintains a website called "Allow Golden Rice Now" with the tagline: preventing it is a crime against humanity. My reaction is here.

Anyway the skeptics hated hearing about the still not quite there yet status of golden rice. The first guy was irritated because he saw "dream product" as an offensive term, which strikes me as odd. What's wrong with chasing your dreams? People have a realistic chance of acquiring their dream car, dream job etc, as do these researchers of nailing the whole Golden Rice project. They just aren't there yet. Good things take time.

Next up was dear old Grant Jacobs in solidly incomprehensible form, though a yard or two short of his best on this occasion. He avoided the inconvenient facts and weighed in heavily on my "dream product" expression which he considered "loaded".

This typifies my interactions with the skeptics. I have different priors to them on GMOs and alternative health remedies and was hoping that they'd be willing to engage on the science relevant to these topics. But they won't. They have a cult-like antagonism to evidence that weighs against their priors.

They had no real argument with the golden rice factual summary, so they tried to deflect onto other issues, but all they really had was the wafer-thin reed by which "dream" could be construed as pejorative.

Then along came Nicky Drake who claims to be a PhD candidate in philosophy at Victoria University of Wellington though they list him as an MA student. Nicky's an administrator of the skeptics closed FB group and a particularly angry man, at least towards me. He succeeded in picking a fight but then promptly painted himself into a terrible corner, where I left him to stew for a bit. It was Friday night and my alarm was set for 5am. After milking on Saturday I found my access to the FB group blocked. My guess is that Nicky pulled the plug to prevent me nailing his arse to the wall for all to see.

It's all very sad but I am forced to conclude that these particular skeptics are really antagonistic to people with different prior views and prefer to demonise such people than engage constructively and to seek common ground. It is a profoundly anti-science attitude, which is quite disturbing given the active involvement of two self-proclaimed "science communicators".

Onward though. They'll rest in peace without me making inconvenient comments and I'll get back to updating my priors as new information arrives.