Jul 13 2015

Supporting the Narrative in an Echochamber

Dunning, commenting on the implications of the Dunning-Kruger effect, wrote:

An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge.

This seems accurate, but I think the situation is actually worse. Dunning is describing a passive process – people become filled with misinformation and faulty conclusions simply by the flawed nature in which we absorb information from our environment. There is also, however, a much more active process in which people expose themselves selectively and seek out specific misinformation all pointing in the same direction.

This more active process has been called the “echochamber effect.” While this has likely always been a problem, the internet and social media has greatly magnified this phenomenon. It is now easier than ever to surround yourself with the comforting reassurance that all your beliefs are simply and unassailably true.

Communities with specific philosophies and beliefs now have their own experts, their own evidence, and their own outlets to disseminate and discuss their chosen facts, to build and reinforce their narrative while attempting to suck in more people to their black hole of conspiracy theories.

I receive sadly frequent reminders of the echochamber effect while browsing online. Here is one I came across today: Genetically Modified Corn contains practically no nutrients but is loaded with Chemical Poisons. The article is not dated, and refers to previous articles dating from 2013 to the present. Following the links back to their source reveals the echochamber web.

One link is to GMWatch and an article by Don Huber. Huber is a plant pathologist who apparently had a legitimate if modest career, but now in his retirement has gone completely off the rails. He lectures on the evils of glyphosate and genetic modification, mixing in some legitimate science that he then overstates, does not present in context, and uses as a basis for while speculation. He also includes some rank pseudoscience and fearmongering. It seems that Huber has decided to spend his twilight years as a crank (a phenomenon that we see occasionally, even in Nobel Laureates such as Linus Pauling).

There is another link to an article on Natural News, which readers here already know is a crank-conspiracy “health” website chock full of utter nonsense. Natural News is a good example of an outlet that is not providing information, but is providing a narrative – information carefully selected, altered, and spun to support a particular view of reality. Let’s just say that Fox News could learn a great deal from Natural News.

That article in turn links to a post from “Moms Across America” – a populist crank anti-GMO site. The article, Stunning Corn Comparison: GMO versus NON GMO, claims:

“Yesterday while on a playdate at the lake, Vince from De Dell Seed Company, Canada’s only NON GMO corn seed company called me to support the march and Americans finding out about GMOs. He emailed me this stunning report, clearly showing the nutritional value difference between GMO corn and NON GMO corn.”

De Dell seed company markets itself as a seller of non-GMO seed. That obvious conflict of interest aside, in a follow up article MAA admits:

“Keep in mind this is a report, NOT a scientific peer reviewed study and I do not have any other information other than what is in this blog.”

In other words, the information is nothing but hearsay from a biased source. As scientific evidence it is completely worthless. However, it supports the narrative, and so it is presented uncritically and breathlessly.

The claims being made in the “report” are also so extreme they are hard to believe. For example, the report claims that the ERGS (the energy given off per gram per second – food is literally burned and the energy measured) of GMO corn is 100 while non-GMO corn is 340,000. This is literally impossible. They are essentially saying that non-GMO corn contains 3,400 times as many calories as GMO corn.

They also claim the non-GMO corn (specific cultivars are not mentioned) has twice the “organic material” as the GMO corn. It’s as if they think that GMO corn is not real corn, or even a real plant.

The comments following the MAA article reveal what anyone who has waded into the comments on such articles reveals – not people genuinely engaged in helpful discussion, but people with different world views promoting their world view. There seems to be no hope of bridging the gap.

This does not mean there is equivalency to different world view. The scientific process has real validity because it follows a process that questions assumptions, questions the underlying world view, tests ideas against reality, is open to refutation and independent replication.

In this case we have a “report” provided by some guy at a seed company with a conflict of interest, never scientifically reviewed or published, with highly implausible claims. On the other side, we have hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, many of them independent.

Conclusion

The echochamber effect, facilitated by social media and the blurring of lines between genuine science, experts, journals, and consensus with “the cheap imitation,” has created a situation in which the average person (without a high degree of understanding of science and critical thinking) has little defense against an organized campaign to promote and maintain a specific narrative.

I don’t think there is any simple solution. Persistent education, especially if you get to people before they fall all the way down the rabbit hole, is helpful but lacking.

 

39 responses so far

39 thoughts on “Supporting the Narrative in an Echochamber”

  1. BetaclampDan says:

    Great article.

    I fully agree with the ‘echochamber’ idea, I find it odd how those who without fail demonise science are in a mad rush to latch on to any supposed ‘scientific’ evidence which agrees with their world view.

    I have recently seen on Facebook a personality test given by four colours. The statements are unmistakebly akin to Barnum statements, and I have decided that any ego stroking gets past the mental filters without much if any critical thinking.

    So I would add this to the list of Heristics, this personality test (if you can call it that) by the way was apparently the brainchild of a Carol Ritburger, I found she has been on the Dr Oz show and almost instantly the skeptical shield went up.

    But being informed about Barnum statements would help people in a varitey of situations such as these.

    But as always I remain skeptical whether people can be saved form the rabbithole they so willingly want to leap down.

    Thanks for the time in writing these articles which always makes one think.

  2. banyan says:

    Wouldn’t a report by a non-GMO seed producer which includes false claims about the benefits of non-GMO seed constitute fraud?

  3. Certainly some older scientists get some wrong fixations, and I’ve seen some mild examples in _great_ but older scientists (obviously not to be named). That said, Dr. Novella’s aside is more than a little unfair to Pauling. It’s certainly true that his vitamin-C-prevents-cancer drum-banging was irrational and flew in the face of the scientific evidence (although it wasn’t _too_ harmful to the general public either by the same scientific evidence; you just get rid of all the excess C in your urine). But it wasn’t the vicious attack on his colleagues that Huber is playing, and by most accounts he remained a decent enough colleague and general instructor, and an active member of the scientific community. You could talk to him about other subjects in science and he was knowledgeable and insightful as ever, which is to say, much more than most scientists — and indeed most Nobelists.

  4. Kid – I think you are unaware of the full extent of Pauling’s later “dark side.” Here is a good overview:
    http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/pauling.html

    Also, Pauling helped spawn and entire pseudoscience that he named, orthomolecular medicine: http://www.orthomed.org/

    He did much more than just advocate for vitamin C. He was, at least in this area, a full-blown crank at the end.

  5. FosterBoondoggle says:

    Kevin Folta of Florida State has looked at this “study” and concluded that someone actually posted a soil composition measurement as the “GMO corn” column. See here, including an amusingly D-K-ish reply from Zen Honeycutt in the comments.
    http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2013/04/fake-anti-gmo-data-stokes-alarm.html

  6. RNAworld says:

    At least sites like Wikipedia are pretty good at only allowing content that is well referenced. They will remove content that is not well excepted or is obviously pseudoscientific in nature.
    As far as these other sites that promote false information – that’s where the skeptics have their work cut out for them debunking these myths. I’ve seen some good facebook pages lately, like mommy phd, biology babe, the credible hulk, science enthusiast, and others that are doing a great job.

  7. I think Kevin is probably correct. The bigger point is – the data is completely bogus. How they made the bogus data is interesting, but does not affect the bottom line. It is made up BS.

    The bogus “report” is still making the rounds. It simply gets added to the list of “evidence” that the anti-GMO crowd uses to validate their world view.

  8. bend says:

    “He did much more than just advocate for vitamin C. He was, at least in this area, a full-blown crank at the end.
    As long as we’re piling on pauling, let’s not forget his shameful dismissal of the evidence for quasi-crystals and his inexplicably mean-spirited attacks on then-future nubel laureate Dan Shechtman, saying, “there is no such thing as quasi-crystals, only quasi-scientists.”
    Chemists are indebted to Pauling for his work on the nature of covalent bonds and the advances he made in crystallography. But, perhaps blinded by his own estimation of himself, Pauling was, at least at the end of his career, not just a crank, but a jerk.

  9. Thanks, Dr. Novella.

    Of course the Vitamin C lunacy I’m aware of (and mentioned), but that link isn’t very impressive. Basically all they add to that is that he campaigned to weaken the FDA (personally I’ve worked with FDA and think they do an essential job albeit, in some ways, badly or too slowly, but, I know a mess o’ libertarians who want the whole thing abolished, and loosening FDA regs is hardly a tremendously unpopular idea in the US even among the well-informed), and that he testified on behalf of a nut. That latter is troubling but there isn’t really any information about the case. Some years back we tried to get licensure revoked for a surgeon — a dear relative who was once remarkably brilliant but is badly paranoid schizophrenic, thinks God talks to him about treatment options, has miracle cures based on B6 creams, has the government out to get him, can control the weather — and had spoken to patients, who were getting disturbed, about this stuff. At the hearing every guy who’d been to med school with him decades before, few of whom had spoken to him much at all since and some of whom had become quite distinguished, came out and testified passionately to his brilliance. It’s well over a decade later and he’s still practicing (although the drying up of skittish patients is paupering him, so, the problem may ultimately solve itself). Those hearings are hard to interpret, is what I learned from that. The writer tries to tie him to antifluoridation, but, Pauling’s response is actually pretty good! And blaming Pauling for what the eponymous institute chose to do after his death is — it doesn’t speak well of the writer. So what I get from that is one new piece of information about a testimony, from what seems to be a source with an agenda. Are you seeing something else there?

    Against that — I started my PhD at Berkeley at the end of his time — his colleagues seemed to think he was gracious and professional, and to the end he instructed well and brilliantly (as opposed to say Pete Duesberg, from whom teaching responsibilities were gradually lifted). And nobody in his generation — few people in any generation — contributed as much to p-chem. So I’m just saying, the comparison to Huber is unfair.

  10. idoubtit says:

    I get accused of being in the echochamber of science, that closed-minded orthodoxy. Is promotion of science-based reasoning “an organized campaign to promote and maintain a specific narrative”? (If so, it’s a worthwhile one, in my opinion.) What’s a good response to those people who think I’m just a shill (which I technically am, S.Hill)?

  11. The thing that’s still grating on me is,

    “His impact on the health marketplace, however, was anything but laudable.”

    Dude made some mistakes, he pushed a terrible idea people wanted to hear. But to write _that_ about a guy who did _so much_ fundamental chemistry, is just ignorant, if you believe science is relevant to the health market: on _balance_ Pauling’s “impact on the health marketplace” and on science in general is incredibly laudable.

  12. I think you are getting hung up on the idea that we are criticizing Pauling overall. The point is – he was a brilliant chemist. No doubt about that. His contributions were immense and he deserves all the credit.

    If, however, you look at just his health career at the end of his life, he was a crank, by any reasonable definition. I never made any comments about the net effect of these two things, or compared his contributions to Huber’s.

    The only point I made is that perfectly legitimate scientists can get fixated on an idea, especially at the end of their career, and become a crank about that idea – even someone with massive scientific stature. Pauling is the most dramatic example of this, precisely because of the extreme contrast between his career and his later crankery.

    You don’t need to minimize the crankery in order to respect his overall contributions.

  13. ieselguhr Kid:

    “Dude made some mistakes, he pushed a terrible idea people wanted to hear. But to write _that_ about a guy who did _so much_ fundamental chemistry, is just ignorant, if you believe science is relevant to the health market: on _balance_ Pauling’s “impact on the health marketplace” and on science in general is incredibly laudable.”

    |X| Disagree Strongly.

    One could say basically similar things about eminent cardiothoracic surgeon and medical researcher Dr. Oz, and I would again strongly disagree.

  14. rezistnzisfutl says:

    One of the things I appreciate about this site, as well as SBM, is that those who administer it aren’t heavy on the moderation nor are they inclined to ban people except in the most extreme circumstances. I’ve seen comments go thousands deep regarding all manner of topics including creationism, social issues, pseudoscience, CAM, and politics, with all sorts of people who don’t exactly adhere to what we generally consider as “skepticism”. While the regular members are more inclined to be skeptics, non-skeptics and advocates in general aren’t banned as soon as their opposition flies. The same can’t be said about many sites, including the likes of Natural News and GMWatch that lay down the ban hammer as soon as there is a a whiff of opposition to the narrative. One of the ways we grow is by having people challenge us. The other is realizing that we’re all fallible and sometimes it takes people calling us on it to realize that we may be in error.

    The other side of that coin is that often scientists and skeptics are accused of being “close-minded”. The errors there are a few. For one, being open-minded isn’t equivalent to being credible about claims – it simply means that we’re open to new possibilities. Claims are still critically evaluated for their legitimacy. Which leads to another: often skeptics are presented with the same arguments many times, even innumerable times, to the point where we reject them out-of-hand. This gives the appearance of being close-minded, but the arguer fails to realize that the argument was considered long ago and rejected. To the arguer, though, often the claim seems new, fresh, and compelling, so they don’t understand why it’s being rejected like that. Finally, presenting evidence is only the first step, evidence must then be evaluated to see if it actually supports the claim being made.

    One issue that we’ve seen in recent years is the notion of post-modernism, which holds that any world view or philosophy is equally valid as any other. So, when there is some sort of consensus with science or science comes with with specific conclusions, it has the appearance of “echo chamber” (using the term since we’re on the subject) when in fact science is going with what is most probable in a serious of possible outcomes. We here know that science is provisional, but it’s also not relativistic. Dealing with probabilities, it’s closer to subjective, where some aspects of it may reach 100% but never do, while other possibilities are less certain, and science acknowledges that. Any scientist worth their intellectual honesty will openly admit that science is never 100% certain or absolute about anything. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sometimes come close, and that certain conclusions have such remarkable predictive characteristics that we can regard those aspects as facts.

    Mostly, the ones who think that science lives in an “echo chamber” has never witnessed a doctoral dissertation oral presentation or seen how articles are vetted in scientific journals. One of the jobs of scientists is to go about disproving hypotheses, even theories, not padding their confirmation biases. Again, it comes down to scientific illiteracy and ignorance about what really goes on in scientific circles.

  15. BBBlue says:

    Yes, complete and utter bullshit, and while the “study” may not justify one’s time to refute, I did find these to be entertaining:

    The Physics Police, Don’t Eat Soil

    You Asked for Independent Replication… Stunning Corn, Again

    Very often, or maybe always, as in this case, Ms. Honeycutt does not even care that her evidence is complete and utter bullshit, it just provides her with another opportunity to say things like this:

    If you contest it, ask Monsanto to publish their own findings. WHY do you think they had the EPA raise the level of glyphosate from 6.6 to 13 ppm (exactly what is in this report) just months before this was posted? Why do you thin kthey [sic] got the “Monsanto Protection Act” pushed through so they couldn’t be sued from harm? I get you want facts…but tell people that a test some farmes [sic] did is a lie only hurts people’s stand for their health. Mom always says ” It’s better to be safe than sorry!’ We choose safe. Go ahead and eat toxic corn if you want be we kindly ask you not to say other people who post things that disagree with your opinion as liars or fools. I don’t think your mother would approve of that!

    That’s how an echo chamber works; truth is secondary, only the tribe matters.

  16. Willy says:

    I stumbled on to the “stunning corn comparison” about a year ago. What utter BS. The more you read the list, the more you laugh. Check out “percent organic matter” ROFLMFAO!!! What a condemnation of our education system.

    I saw something along these lines a few days ago: I don’t accept astrology–I’m a Libra and Librans don’t believe in astrology.

    Sad.

  17. Lukas Xavier says:

    For example, the report claims that the ERGS (the energy given off per gram per second – food is literally burned and the energy measured) of GMO corn is 100 while non-GMO corn is 340,000. This is literally impossible. They are essentially saying that non-GMO corn contains 3,400 times as many calories as GMO corn.

    If this was really true, wouldn’t test rats in studies of GMO simply die of starvation?

    Never mind supposed health concerns about GMO; if GMO foods had that little nutrition, nobody would bother growing them.

  18. MaryM says:

    Kevin Folta offered to re-do the experiment with the main regurgitators of it. He offered to pay for it himself, no industry money, everyone would agree on the design, send to different labs…. Guess what happened? They scurried away.

    But this is something that I keep getting truly frustrated with. I keep hearing from “scicomm” pros that scientists are just doin’ it ‘rong. That we are just not reaching out with our pleasing anecdotes enough, and that if we could just get it right this would all be sorted.

    That completely discounts the mountain of BS we have to shovel out before we can get in with our charming anecdotes of blind children in south Asia. It completely discounts the wall of hostility that’s already in place. It’s not as if we are coming to these discussions on some kind of flat playing field. It’s already been mined with explosives.

  19. kevinfolta says:

    Thanks to Mary M for beating me to that one. The “stunning” corn comparison came out and even one of the Mom’s Across America told me, “We know the data are not real, but we’re not taking them down.”

    It was very funny that I offered to pay for the replicate, and all were in agreement. It made me think that maybe they just got some bad data and did truly believe it. But when I asked everyone to be authors on the paper and that they needed to share seeds and that we’d used separate sites, labs, etc– they backed out.

    http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2013/05/you-asked-for-independent-replication.html?q=stunning

    If you read the entries on either side you see how this all came together.

    The best part is, as Steve mentions, these folks still cling to these data like they are real. They are out there scaring people and continuing to do harm, as the echoes continue.

  20. BBBlue says:

    Here’s an excerpt from recent interview with Kevin’s penpal, Mae-Wan Ho:

    Monica: Given that science is the unbiased study of the Universe in its diverse facets, why is there such substantial disagreement among scientists when evaluating the consequences of GMOs implantation, the effectiveness of homeopathy or sustainable agricultural systems, or the crystalline properties of liquid water, to name a few examples of controversies existing at the moment?

    Mae-Wan: This is a very deep question and a good place to begin. In line with indigenous cultures all over the world, I take it for granted that we are deeply embedded in nature, which is the source of our sustenance and inspiration. To us, science is reliable knowledge of nature that is true to nature, and enables us to live sustainably with her. Authentic knowledge requires a passionate total involvement with nature, a love of nature that engages body and soul,mind and spirit. To really understand nature, a scientist needs to have the sensibility of the romantic poet and the artist’s feeling for wholeness and coherence.

    Modernist Western science, in contrast, is predicated on separating the knowing being from nature, which can only be known from the outside, via ‘objective knowledge’ of the rational mind divorced from feeling or passion. From this sterile modernist perspective, knowledge is easily manipulated and shaped by prejudices and self-serving interests. It is also singularly unable to deal with the science of the organism that encompasses water homeopathy, and sustainable agriculture, because it sees everything in terms of machines with decomposable parts.

    http://bit.ly/1I0FCFW

  21. Willy says:

    Dr. Folta–Thanks for doing the hard work you do. I hope your FOIA request issue is getting resolved favorably!

  22. Willy says:

    Zen Honeycutt and the Food Babe–peas in a pod.

  23. MaryM says:

    The other thing that’s pernicious about this is the zombie nature of these things. Scientists publish something, and move forward.

    These types of zombie claims come back to life on a fairly regular basis. They are re-amplified though the echo chamber and the outlets that republish the same wrong things over and over. It’s a mechanism that normal people couldn’t bring themselves to do–repeat wrong crap over and over.

    It’s the domain of cranks and marketers. Some of which are the same.

  24. BBBlue says:

    Sorry, but I couldn’t help adding this too (from same interview noted above):

    Mae-Wan: It is entirely possible for a farmer’s intention to influence the plants and animals she cares for. Animals and plants are very sensitive and responsive to good intentions. There is already a lot of evidence that our state of mind influences the expression of our genes, and it would be surprising if happy plants and animals do not also alter the expression of their genes.

  25. RAnt says:

    Found an error, hope you don’t mind;

    “while speculation.” should be “wild speculation.”

  26. rezistnzisfutl says:

    Hope you don’t mind this shameless spamming of a GMO (or rather, anti-GMO) article, but it appears that our House Agriculture Committee just agreed to push a motion to require labeling of GMOs at the federal level, stating:

    “This… legislation will ensure that Americans have accurate, consistent information about their food rather than a 50 state patchwork of labeling laws that will only prove costly and confusing for consumers, farmers and food manufacturers,” said Pamela Bailey, CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), said in a statement.

    Labeling would actually serve the opposite effect by misinforming and further obfuscating the issue, not to mention the inherent costs on multiple levels, from enforcement and certification, to requiring separate facilities for GMO and non-GMO varieties at every step from field to store.

    http://news.yahoo.com/u-house-committee-approves-anti-gmo-labeling-law-205721759–finance.html

  27. ccbowers says:

    This is a digression, but some echochambers are more ridiculous than others, and the naturalistic fallacy leaning ones are among the more ridiculous ones. I have a hard time understanding how anyone could read some of these articles and not only refrain from laughing, but feel compelled to share their “warnings” with others. I just came across one on Facebook that warned about drinking certain beers (this one has been around for a while), and one of the beers to avoid was Michelob Ultra because it contains GMO dextrose. GMO dextrose? Really?

    Immediately after laughing, I felt disappointed in our collective ability to make sense of the world. If the obvious nonsense fools people, what happens when the nonsense is not-so-obvious? Then I remembered that we are often often dealing with a “blind spot.” A person ideologically motivated to accept nonsense that corresponds to their ideology will not be easily fooled in other areas (hopefully). At a population level, some of these variations in ideology cancel each other out. It is far from perfect though, and what results is the world we find ourselves in.

  28. Pete A says:

    GMO dextrose in beer? Oh, the lack of imagination. They should be warning against all food and drink that comes into contact with stainless steel, which is of course, ‘genetically modified’ iron.

  29. BBBlue says:

    Rez,

    H.R. 1599 does not require labeling unless there is a “material difference” between a GMO and non-GMO food as defined under § 424(g)(4). Under the circumstances, most ag interests support this bill as it prevents the free-for-all we have now; better to trust in the FDA to make science-based decisions than to leave it to the political whims of each state. Initially, I was skeptical of this legislation because I thought it would be similar in effect to the USDA Organic label, which despite USDA’s claims to the contrary, implies an actual difference in food value and safety between organic and conventionally-grown food, but I have to say, if FDA sticks to science-based standards for determining material differences, I think this can be a good law. It also tightens criteria for the labeling of “natural” foods, which no doubt has pissed off more than a few anti-GMO folks.

    “(e) Labeling.—If the Secretary determines that there is a material difference between a food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organism and its comparable marketed food and that disclosure of such difference is necessary to protect health and safety or to prevent the label or labeling of such food from being false or misleading, the Secretary may, in a response under subsection (d)(2)(A), specify labeling that would adequately inform consumers of such material difference. The use of bioengineering does not, by itself, constitute a material difference.

    “(A) shall not require the labeling to declare the use of bioengineering solely because the food was developed with the use of bioengineering;

    http://1.usa.gov/1Hu6JYp

  30. BillyJoe7 says:

    BBBlue,

    You referenced the Chinese scientist who got me accused of racism. One of the credulous fools we sometimes see around here linked to some of her papers in order to support his view that evolution has intention and purpose. In a later post, I referred to her as “the Chinese scientist”, simply because I couldn’t remember her name. His response was to accuse me of racism! Cracked me right up. I told him I had a friend called Andrew Leung.

  31. tmac57 says:

    Did anyone else miss the fantastic marketing opportunity for?:

    “GMO corn! Now with 3,400 times fewer calories!!!. Bottomless bowl of corn chips with no addition to your bottom!!!”

    That, my friends is a sure fired hit.

  32. BBBlue says:

    BillyJoe7,

    Had I known, I would have called you out for calling her a “scientist”. At least the Chinese part is accurate.

  33. Bill Openthalt says:

    BBBlue —

    Mae-wan’s interview is truly frightening, both through the content and the obvious conviction behind it all.

  34. BillyJoe7 says:

    “Water comes in infinite structural forms because it is very flexible. It is also extremely responsive to its environment, to electromagnetic fields or light. It has all the hallmarks of sentience, and I have no doubt that water is the real seat of consciousness in living organisms and possibly the universe at large, as water is the most abundant compound in the universe, being created continuously since the universe was born”

    Mae-Wan Ho

  35. Willy says:

    “It has all the hallmarks of sentience”. Good grief, how terribly sad.

    Thanks so much for the chuckle.

  36. Willy says:

    OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I just read who Mae-Wan Ho is. Lordy, lordy, lordy, she has a PhD!!!! in biochem!?!?!?!? How can one do the rigorous work that must be required of a PhD chem degree and still advance such foolishness? Sadly, I’m sure she thinks her detractors are narrow-minded.

  37. BBBlue says:

    I hestiate because it is too easy to pile on, but one really hasn’t plumbed the depths of inane, pseudoscientific bullshit until they have read Is Spacetime Fractal and Quantum Coherent in the Golden Mean?

    I blame Folta for starting this.

  38. Bill Openthalt says:

    BBBlue —

    Is Spacetime Fractal and Quantum Coherent in the Golden Mean?

    To quote my daughter: OMG, OMG, OMG!!!
    It beggars belief.

  39. SageThinker says:

    When i read this, it’s ironic, but the group i think of the most is the Skeptoid community. It’s funny how often times what people see in the world can actually be a reflection of their own perception biases, sort of sneaking around the edges of consciousness.

    I’ve seen how the echo chamber effect creates the illusion of a real thing, in regard to Vani Hari, for instance, with Mark Alsip and Folta and Senapathy and SciBabe and this rather small and probably tight group making media waves, citing each other’s work (oh yeah, Steven Savage too)…. and how some of the connections are made in the Folta emails to CFSAF, and to Monsanto and Ketchum, conscious manipulations, conscious use of an echo chamber of sorts to distort public perception, to wage a PR war.

    Now, it may be justificable. People may not know how to think. People may need guidance. But through an orchestrated sort of PR campaign? Maybe that is going a little far.

    Anyway, i am the first to admit that anti-GMO activism is highly guilty of spreading bad memes and being scare mongering, and not really getting the science right 90% of the time, but there is also a basic gut feeling and many clues that form peoples’ opinions about the industry, as well as some very real breaches of public trust that are well known — or should be — by now.

    These give a history of deception for profit, and the obvious conclusion is that there is more of that going on that’s not discovered yet. The tip of the iceberg, so to speak, is a real phenom.

    When you see a worker in your store steal $10 from a cash register, you may wonder if that person has stolen money before, if you’ve had short drawers before.

    Anyway, just offering my 2 cents, from a sociological perspective.

    I wish that i could eat the fish and ducks from the Housatonic River. Unfortunately, they are poisoned with PCBs, aka “Aroclor” produced in Anniston, Alabama.

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