GMO’s Again

There was an article on alternet last summer, which stated that the five most awful atheists are Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Penn Jillette, S.E. Cupp, and Bill Maher.

I think the biggest mistake the article makes ipls that it conflates atheism with scientific skepticism. It’s certainly true that there’s certainly no shortage of overlap between the two worldviews; something like 95% of all scientists are atheists. Of course, not all atheists are scientists (that includes me; I had a very bad experience with my physics teacher in high school that kind of soured me on science as a discipline…)

Bill Maher is fairly unrepentant in his animus towards organized religion and has only recently referred to himself formally as an atheist. (He had previously called himself agnostic). And he’s a great example of the lack of overlap between the two worldviews. I have written before about how I perceive Bill Maher’s take on medicine. He hasn’t said much about medicine in recent years and has taken on a new cause: the opposition to Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO’s, specifically as pertains to our food supply.

And I couldn’t disagree with him more about this. Through some form of selection or another — be in natural selection, selective breeding, artificial selection, or agriculture, by definition everything we eat, has been genetically modified. Whether it’s in a lab or in the ground, genetic modification happens all the time.

As I said above, I’m not a scientist and don’t pretend to be one, but I understand it well enough to know that genetic modification is the key to feeding a world where populations of plants and animals are dying out, the planet is getting warmer, and human population is increasing.

Simply put: we should not be opposed to GMO’s, no matter what we choose to call them. (I kind of like the term “frankenfood” even though it’s intended to be a fearmongering term…)

Some might argue that growing organic crops is preferable to GMO’s. On a small scale, sure. But you’re never going to be able to grow enough crops organically and feed seven billion people.

I’ve written before about GMO’s and how denial of science is neither a conservative nor a liberal phenomenon, as the following clip from last weekend’s Real Time with Bill Maher will attest. I have to forewarn you if you watch it: it’s painful to watch or even listen to. It’s kind of aggravating how close he comes to getting “it” but then swerves away on an anti-GMO kick.

Of all of Bill Maher’s “New Rules” I think this is the most painful one to listen to.

Now, I can acknowledge that Monsanto has done some shady things in the realm of patenting its processes, and for that they do deserve criticism. But that is an argument for patent reform. To use its patent-trolling penchant as an argument against GMO’s is essentially an ad hominem attack. Except, of course, Monsanto isn’t a human being. (But they are a person in the eyes of the law…)

Bill Maher has the right to his views and opinions. And it’s stuff like this that put him on the list of the five most awful atheists. But his position on this has nothing to do with whether or not god exists. It just shows that he’s not a scientist.

Then again, neither am I. Is the only thing keeping me off of that list, the fact that I’m not famous?


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