Episode 64: Angry Atheists and Equality with Greta Christina

Episode 64: Angry Atheists and Equality with Greta Christina

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem Newman discusses atheist activism and the skeptical community’s problems with equality with Greta Christina. Also on this episode, a new instalment of Where’s My Jetpack? This week Old Man Newman asks, “Where’s my lab-grown meat?”

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Greta Christina’s Blog | Greta’s Books (Why Are You Atheists So Angry?, Bending) | Julia Galef: The Straw Vulcan | Harassment, Rape, and the Difference Between Skepticism and Denialism | Sexual Harassment Accusations in the Skeptical and Secular Communities: a Timeline of Major Events

Where’s My Jetpack? Links: Environmental Impact (Worldwatch Institute, United Nations FCCC) | Cultured Meat in the News (The Telegraph, CBC, Scientific American, The Australian) | PETA’s Cultured Chicken Meat Contest | To Fight Global Warming, Eat Bugs

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Episode 60: “Frankenfoods”

Episode 60: “Frankenfoods”

In the second part of Life, the Universe & Everything Else‘s two-part series examining organic farming and genetically engineered foods, Mark Forkheim, Leslie Saunders, Gem Newman, and Laura Creek Newman discuss the science of genetic engineering and some of the very real problems with Monsanto.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Background Information: Genetically Modified Organism | Genetically Modified Food | Genetically Modified Food Controversies | Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser | WHO: 20 Questions on Genetically Modified Foods

Scientific Papers: Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review | Zambia and Genetically Modified Food Aid | A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health | Impact of GM Crops on Biodiversity

News Articles: Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce | Corporate Control Main Problem with GMOs | Monsanto Wins U.S. Supreme Court Fight Over Genetically Engineered Soybeans

Health Effects of GE Food: Huffington Post: Monsanto’s GMO Corn Linked to Organ Failure | Forbes: Scientists Savage Study Purportedly Showing Health Dangers of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Corn | New Scientist: Study Linking GM Crops and Cancer Questioned | Dot Earth: Single-Study Syndrome and the GMO Food Fight | Discovery News: GM Corn-Tumor Link Based on Poor Science | Respectful Insolence: Bad Science About GMOs: It Reminds Me of the Antivaccine Movement

Insects and Colony Collapse Disorder: Forbes: Science Collapse Disorder: The Real Story Behind Neonics and Mass Bee Deaths | Dr. Doug Yanega: Honey Bees, CCD, and the Elephant in the Room | Bug Girl: Bees, Pesticides, and CCD: What’s the Evidence? | Bug Girl: Bees and Pesticides (Again) | Genetic Literacy Project: Monsanto v. Monarch Butterflies

Other Links: Mark Lynas: Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference | Mark Lynas: Time to Call Out the Anti-GMO Conspiracy Theory | Skeptoid: Organic Food Myths | Skeptoid: Organic vs. Conventional Agriculture | Pharyngula: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad GMO? | Neurologica: Organic Food, Pesticides, and Cancer | Kevin Folta: More Frankenfood Paradox | Michael Eisen: The Anti-GMO Campaign’s Dangerous War on Science | Growing Resistance: Canadian Farmers and the Politics of Genetically Modified Wheat, by Emily Eaton | Seeds of Death | “Monsanto Protection Act” is Bullshit | Oxfam: There is Enough Food to Feed the World | Nature: Case Studies: A Hard Look at GM Crops | GreenBiz: Organic Food is Not the Answer | NPR’s The Salt: Top Five Myths of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted | Skepchick: Babies and Bathwater: Monsanto

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Update (3 December 2013): Séralini et al.’s controversial study claiming to demonstrate that GE corn causes cancer in rats has been retracted. We discussed a few of the (many) problems with the study on this episode, but if you need a refresher, Steven Novella has more at Neurologica.

Episode 59: Organic Agriculture

Episode 59: Organic Agriculture

In the first part of Life, the Universe & Everything Else‘s two-part series examining organic farming and genetically engineered foods, Mark Forkheim, Leslie Saunders, Gem Newman, and Laura Creek Newman discuss the science, politics, and ideology of organic agriculture.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Background Information: Organic | Organic Compound | Organic Model | Organic Farming | Organic Food | Green Revolution | Groundwater | Aquifer | Topsoil | Haber-Bosch Process

Scientific Papers: Glenlea Long-Term Crop Rotation: Historical Research Results | Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review

News Articles: Pesticides Found in Canadian Organic Produce | Battling Foreign Farm Subsidies | Canada’s Organic Food Certification ‘Little More Than an Extortion Racket’ | Less Fertile Crescent: The Waters of Babylon Are Running Dry | Land Rush Leaves Liberia’s Farmers in the Dust | Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce

Other Links: Mark Lynas: Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference | Mark Lynas: Time to Call Out the Anti-GMO Conspiracy Theory | Skeptoid: Organic Food Myths | Skeptoid: Organic vs. Conventional Agriculture | Worldwatch: Can Organic Farming Feed Us All? | Health Canada: Pesticides and Food | We Love Chemicals | 2013 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics | Neurologica: Organic Food, Pesticides, and Cancer | Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond | Growing Resistance: Canadian Farmers and the Politics of Genetically Modified Wheat, by Emily Eaton | Food, Inc.

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Mark Lynas Examines Junk GMO Anti-science

Cross-posted from Startled Disbelief.

While you wait with breath bated for this weekend’s Life, the Universe & Everything Else episode on Organic Agriculture, I’d recommend giving this article a read.

Here, Mark Lynas (who has rapidly become my favourite environmentalist) takes aim at a junk science paper out of Australia claiming that a diet consisting of only “genetically modified” grain vastly increases the risk of severe stomach inflammation in pigs. Really, it shows nothing of the kind.

15% of non-GM fed pigs had heart abnormalities, while only 6% of GM-fed pigs did so. Similarly, twice as many non-GM pigs as GM ones had liver problems. Why no headlines here? “Pigs fed non-GMO feed 100% more likely to develop heart and liver problems, study finds” – I can just see it in the Daily Mail. But of course negative results were not what Carman et al were looking for.

Table 3 actually shows that many more pigs fed non-GMO feed had stomach inflammations than those with GMO feed. So 31 non-GM pigs had “mild” inflammation, while only 23 GM pigs had it. For “moderate” inflammation, a GMO diet again seemed to be beneficial: 29 non-GM pigs had moderate inflammation of the stomach, while 18 had it. So that’s 40% vs 25%. Do Carman et al perform a test for statistical significance to see if GMO feed has a protective effect on pigs stomachs? Of course not – that’s not the result they are after. These findings are ignored.

Instead, it is the next line of data that they play up: for “severe” inflammation 9 non-GM pigs were determined to have it, while 23 GM-fed pigs had it. Shock, horror. You can immediately see how the data is all over the place from the previous results, which also rule out any causal mechanism with GMO feed – if GMO feed is causing the severe inflammation, why is the non-GMO feed causing far more mild to moderate inflammation? It’s clearly just chance, and all the pigs are not doing well and suffering stomach problems: about 60% of both sets had stomach erosion.

Previously: Mark Lynas apologises for his past anti-GE activism and calls out the conspiracy-driven thinking that plagues the environmental movement.

Episode 51: Climate Change, Part 2

Episode 51: Climate Change, Part 2

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Greg Christensen, Richelle McCullough, and Donna Harris discuss the science (and politics) of global climate change.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Greenland Ice Sheet May Melt Completely | Hurricane Formation (Principle Layers of the Atmosphere, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation) | The Year Without a Summer | Solar (Sunspot) Cycle | Global Warming & Climage Change Myths from Skeptical Science

Correction: Greg mentioned that the Year Without a Summer (1816) was precipitated by the eruption of Krakatoa; this “volcanic winter” is actually attributed to a succession of volcanic events culminating in the eruption of Mount Tambora, which began in 1815.

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Episode 50: Climate Change, Part 1

Episode 50: Climate Change, Part 1

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Greg Christensen, Richelle McCullough, and Donna Harris discuss the science (and politics) of global climate change.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism presented by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Correlation and Causation (Wikipedia, Internet Explorer Market Share Linked to Murder Rates, Ridiculous Infographics) | Milankovitch Cycles (Wikipedia, Khan Academy) | Bob Carter (Wikipedia, Skeptical Science, Telegraph Article) | Greenland Ice Sheet May Melt Completely | Hurricane Formation (Principle Layers of the Atmosphere, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, North Atlantic Oscillation) | Global Warming & Climage Change Myths from Skeptical Science

Correction: In this episode, Donna mentioned that Tracie Harris would be speaking at February’s HAAM meeting. Tracie will in fact be speaking on 12 March 2013.

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Bad Science Watch Completes Investigation of Anti-WiFi Activism

Bad Science WatchBad Science Watch is an independent non-profit activist organization dedicated to improving the lives of Canadians by countering bad science. The group is driven by a vision of a safer, healthier, and more prosperous Canada where critical thinking and sound science are paramount in the making of important societal decisions.

December saw the completion a project investigating anti-WiFi activism in Canada. The project committee (which I chaired) presented its findings to BSW, and the full report is now available on Bad Science Watch’s project page.

I’ll quote here from the conclusion of the paper:

We have been unable to identify any high quality reproducible evidence that any symptom of idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) is caused by exposure to nonionizing electromagnetic radiation. Systematic reviews of both provocation studies and purported treatments for IEI-EMF support the conclusion that EMF is not the cause of the syndrome.

Despite the claims made by the authors of one review paper and the aforementioned anti-WiFi groups, Bad Science Watch was unable to locate any compelling evidence of legitimate scientific debate about WiFi induced illness, or the safety of low-level EMF exposure in general. While fringe groups continue to present flawed arguments and promote poorly designed experiments, the preponderance of research on the matter robustly dispels the connection between WiFi and IEI-EMF. For those tasked with making decisions about the inclusion of WiFi technology in their organization, school, or home, we can find no reason to ignore the advice of health organizations worldwide. The benefits of WiFi are numerous and varied, and there is no compelling evidence that any health effects arise as a result of this technology.

You can read the full report here.

If you’re interested in supporting future projects undertaken by Bad Science Watch, I encourage you to to donate or volunteer.