Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The left not always keen on "scientific consensus"

From Reason:
Environmentalists constantly reference the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the global climate.

"You have the strongest consensus we have seen in the science community about global climate change since the conclusion that tobacco caused lung cancer," asserts Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) president Kevin Knobloch. Greenpeace also argues, "There is, in fact, a broad and overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, is caused in large part by human activities." And Friends of the Earth has gone after Exxon Mobil because it "has repeatedly attempted to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change and actively resisted attempts to limit carbon dioxide emissions through law."

Clearly when it comes to climate change, environmentalists righteously wrap themselves in the cloak of scientific "consensus." They excoriate scientists and others who doubt that man-made climate change will necessarily be disastrous, accusing some of being essentially paid liars for the fossil fuel industry. But for many environmentalist groups not all scientific consensuses are equal. Consider the case of genetically enhanced crops.

"GMOs [genetically modified organisms] should not be released into the environment as there is not adequate scientific understanding of their impact on the environment and human health," warns Greenpeace. "Genetic engineering is imprecise and unpredictable. But most testing is carried out by the very biotech companies that have the most to gain from results that say GM food is safe," says Friends of the Earth. The Union of Concerned Scientists acknowledges that "there have been no serious environmental impacts-certainly no catastrophes-associated with the use of engineered crops in the United States." In addition, the UCS admits, "No major human health problems have emerged in connection with genetically modified food crops, which have been consumed by significant numbers of U.S. consumers." In fact, no--not just "no major"--human health problems have emerged. Nevertheless, the UCS concludes "the scientific evidence available to date, while encouraging, does not support the conclusion that genetically modified crops are intrinsically safe for health or the environment." What does "intrinsically safe" mean? On what evidence can the UCS conclude that even conventional crops are "intrinsically safe"?

The scientific consensus about current varieties of genetically improved crops stands in stark contrast to these dire environmentalist assertions.
In any case, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that current varieties of genetically enhanced crops are safe to eat and don't pose unusual risks to the natural environment. But that isn't stopping Greenpeace from waging a global "Say no to genetic engineering" campaign or the Friends of the Earth from demanding a GM Freeze. Perhaps the idea of scientific consensus is not all that it's cracked up to be. After all, scientific consensus does not mean "certain truth." Whatever the current consensus of any scientific issue is can change in the light of new research. Nevertheless, environmentalist ideologues accuse those who question the climate change consensus of bad faith and worse. But aren't they exhibiting a similar bad faith when they reject the broad scientific consensus on genetically modified crops?

There you have it. The environutbars are telling us that scientific "consensus" exists as it relates to global "warming" (even though it doesn't), and as such, we should accept that and move accordingly. These same nutbars are the ones telling us that the scientific consensus as it relates to genetically enhanced food is to be ignored or, at the very least, mistrusted. Apparently, "scientific consensus" only matters when your worldview is being advanced.

By the way, need I remind you that "scientific consensus" once held that the Earth was (a) the center of the galaxy and (b) as flat as a John Kerry joke?

Labels: ,