Fill in the XXXs below as you see fit.
How the anti-XXX lobby misled us all with dodgy claims
George Monbiot, The Age, Melbourne
April 6, 2011
When the facts don’t suit, the movement resorts to the folly of cover-up allegations.
OVER the past fortnight I’ve made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-XXX movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of XXX on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged, and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice.
I began to see the extent of the problem after a debate last week with XXX XXXX, the world’s foremost anti-XXX campaigner. She has received 21 honorary degrees and scores of awards.
In the debate she made some striking statements about the dangers of XXX. I asked for the sources. XXXs response has profoundly shaken me.
First she sent me nine documents: newspaper articles, press releases and an advertisement. None were scientific publications; none contained sources for the claims she had made. But one of the press releases referred to a report by the US National Academy of Sciences, which she urged me to read. I have now done so. It supports none of the statements I questioned; in fact, it strongly contradicts her claims about the health effects of XXX.
I pressed her further and she gave me a series of answers that made my heart sink – in most cases they referred to publications that had little or no scientific standing, which did not support her claims or which contradicted them. (Excerpt from the start of the full article provided at the link)
GMO Pundit’s thoughts:
Interestingly, an editorial in the same newspaper issue calls for open-minded treatment of GM technology on a case by case basis. Clearly blinkers are starting to fall from many journalist’s eyes when it comes to appreciating potential benefits from controversial science and technology.
But the most revealing thing about this item is that famous journalist Monbiot had strong views about a topic for years, while never checking the primary evidence for himself. Hopefully we are seeing a road to Damascus moment for Monbiot, and he will actually check the primary evidence himself on other issues he writes so enthusiastically about. I’d really like to see that!
Update (6 May 2010):
George Monbiot discovers numerous other issues which his mental blinkers had previously prevented him from thinking about.
More on Monbiot (7 May 2011)
ROD LIDDLE, TUESDAY, 3RD MAY 2011, at The Spectator
And there’s the problem; you can’t call yourself part of a movement and then start whining when it becomes proscriptive of your beliefs: that’s what “movements” do. I ought to point out that the anti-Green lobby has become equally doctrinaire of late, so the entire debate has long since left its scientific basis and become simply a forum for the exchange of allegations and insults.
I have been following discussions about nuclear power since the Fukushima incident began, and one of the things I have been trying to point out on my radio show is that on just the contributions of radioactive and toxic elements put into the environment, nuclear is still way better than coal. Once you factor in the greenhouse gases it improves much more.
That George Monbiot has come out and said this is pretty significant, and I wonder how far this will go to convince others. I too also wonder if this change in perspective might modify his opinion of other issues.
That ‘XXXX’ can be replaced by any number of things and be perfectly faithful to the narratives of any number of scare-merchants strongly suggests that there is an underlying rationale for lying and misleading.
It would at least offer an explanation for a situation recently described in Forbes, titled, ‘Should We Feed Hungry People, Even If It’s Bad For The Environment?' There are obviously many situations in which people forgive the most loathsome departures from the most obvious moral obligations.
Hannah Arendt’s notion of the ‘banality of evil’  likely explains a good part of it.
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