Wagging Their Fingers

For all the hoopla over Barack Obama’s optimistic campaign slogan, most people find the idea of change troubling. The familiar is, well, comfortable, and few are willing to intrepidly cast off into the unknown. One of the best examples of this skittishness is the history of technology. From the moment we humans decided to leave the trees, we’ve been tinkering and scheming like a bunch of mad monkey scientists, discovering new avenues through which to improve our lives.

These avenues, however, have met resistance from many, to say the least. I’m quite sure an embarrassing number of our ancestors remained in those trees, wagging their fingers disapprovingly and pontificating on the disastrous results that were sure to follow from living on the ground. Thankfully, nobody listened to them, and one suspects that even the most strident naysayers took their chances once it became clear  that one could fall asleep on the ground and not worry about falling off in the dead of night.

Unfortunately, naysayers are a persistent bunch, and one can easily find them, so many tens of thousands of years later, still raising a conniption over all sorts of beneficial technologies. Take, as a salient example, the controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). I will, of course, grant that the idea of fiddling with our food’s genetics sounds somewhat worrisome, but it’s really much ado about nothing; the evidence—the actual, peer-reviewed evidence—solidly suggests that the fuss over GMOs is quite without warrant. We’re afraid of this new technology because it’s new, different, and outside of our comfort zone.

Science writer Matt Ridley perceptively points out that

Generally, technologies are judged on their net benefits, not on the claim that they are harmless: The good effects of, say, the automobile and aspirin outweigh their dangers.

However, as he goes on to say, new technologies tend to get overwhelmingly bad press; the benefits are tossed overboard, while the downsides (true or not) are hoisted to the top of the mast. This, of course, only reaffirms the initial qualms people experience from the unknown. It’s a rather vicious cycle.

I bring all this up because I just came across an insightful post on the bad science behind the anti-GMO movement. It’s rather long and science-y, but well worth your time. The author’s frustration is palpable in the last few lines, which I will leave you with in a attempt to get you to read the whole article.

This is what is so annoying about anti-GMO paranoia. It makes environmentalists look like idiots, as it distracts from actual threats to the environment with invented threats and irrational fears of biotech.



Not a Quotidian Exercise

Unsurprising to me, and probably everybody else who has given thought to this matter, I have failed in my goal of blogging in a dedicated manner. Spring break is nearly over and I have nothing, as far as this blog goes, to show for it. What a dismal legacy I leave behind!

And yet, I do have this blog; I am rather fond of not just the title, but the theme as well. I might as well keep it going, for those rare moments of inspiration and clarity.

Welcome, then, to the next phase of this blog, in which, similar to the last phase, I intend to make blogging a quotidian exercise, only to succumb to laziness and distraction. I promise I will post again—but for health’s sake, don’t hold your breath.

An Introduction By Way of an Explanation

There are many reasons why people start blogs. I think we should be honest and admit that narcissism is probably very high on that list. Nobody is immune from that affliction, and anyone who says otherwise is probably looking to sell you something.

I am not, I can assure you, in the market to sell anything to anyone (least of all on a free blogging website), and I’m happy to confess to a certain amount of vanity on my part in starting this blog.

That said, I am also happy to report that this blog’s inception was motivated by more than my ego. Seeing as I am now, finally, on Spring Break, I am going to consider this my Spring Break project. I have a long, tired, and thoroughly depressing history of starting blogs, doing next to nothing with them, and then abandoning them with, well, reckless abandon. It turns out that blogs don’t write themselves, and tend toward disorder without an intervening hand from time to time. Entropy, you know?

My goal, then, will be to diligently and studiously maintain this blog for at least a week, until school kicks into high gear once again. Now, you may be a  bit underwhelmed by the rather modest nature of my commitment. This is a fair point. Just know that I am aiming for quality and quantity here, and that means posting multiple times a day, with decent material each time. The biggest problem with my other blogs was probably not the quality of my posts, but, rather, the frequency with which I posted—in other words, sporadic and sparse.

Will I achieve my goal of consistent output? I cannot say, but I am inclined toward pessimism. At the very least, I will have written one post by the end, and that will have been enough to satisfy my narcissism, if nothing else.