Jenny Splitter is a self-described "mom, writer, storyteller, science advocate, and feminist" but she wrote a widely read text asserting that
“For those of us who believe in science, you simply cannot ignore what the scientific community is saying almost unanimously.”and quickly tells you that he is actually anti-science because he is anti-nuclear, anti-GMO-foods, a supporter of alternative medicine, and a rural hippie in general.
She forgot to admit that Sanders is also staunchly anti-science because he is a hysterical climate change alarmist. Splitter compares Sanders with Trump who, among other things, believes that vaccination causes autism and that's worse for her than Sanders' sins.
Needless to say, the idea that "we the leftists are the beacons of science" isn't a new product of Sanders' supporters. The leftists have been spreading this lie for 150 years – since the moment when they elected Karl Marx as their new eternal guru – and the frequency with which they repeat this lie has only increased in recent years.
It must be applauded when a leftist feminist acknowledges that most of this mythology is just plain rubbish. The opposition to GMO foods and nuclear energy is a great example of anti-science attitudes. From a scientific viewpoint, it is utterly ludicrous to attack nuclear energy. And everyone who knows some biology realizes that genetically modified organisms are as likely to be beneficial or harmful as the unmodified ones – and to a large extent, as she points out, the separation to GMO and non-GMO foods depends on social conventions.
But that doesn't mean that I would subscribe to her blog post as a whole.
For example, her suggestion that Trump's worries about the negative impact of vaccination is equally bad or worse than Sanders' sins seems utterly unreasonable to me. Don't get me wrong. I do think that vaccination brings net benefits. But as I discussed two months ago, the toxic influence of some compounds in vaccines is qualitatively a pretty much sure thing. The question is not "whether" but "how much".
The vaccines typically contain thimerosal, a compound based on mercury, and you don't need a PhD to be aware of the fact that mercury is toxic and it has a particularly bad impact on the nerve system. I don't want to convince you about some perfectly balanced final answer because I am not sure what the answer is. But everyone who is honestly analyzing this question should at least go through the abstracts of at least five papers on the subject and compare the citations of both kinds of papers. This is clearly a controversial topic with researchers who have arrived to both kinds of conclusions and the papers on both sides have comparable numbers of followups.
Climate change as a problem is a meme that has lots of papers on Google Scholar and all TRF readers know that I consider this whole field to be a corrupt pseudoscience that was artificially created by twisted government money paid to defend predetermined basic conclusions. I don't want this blog post to be about the climate hysteria which I find ever more boring as its advocates are defending increasingly implausible assertions while everyone who lives in the real world sees the growing gap between the alarmist statements and the reality.
Like the influence of mercury on nerves, the greenhouse effect exists. In both cases, the question is "how much" – only the extent and detailed implications are open to serious research. Well, it just happens that I am convinced that everyone who has at least basic knowledge of science knows that mercury is more harmful to organisms than carbon dioxide or than a degree of temperature change (carbon dioxide is purely beneficial for life – essential for plants and harmless for animals) – by many, many orders of magnitude. You have been taught these things when you were a schoolkid, it's obviously true, nothing has changed about the scientific view of these matters since your childhood, and that's why it's utterly crazy when a large political movement tries to deny these basic facts about science.
But as I have mentioned, both the greenhouse effect and the mercury poisoning are "quantitative issues" and the precise numbers and our reactions to them are debatable. On the other hand, Sanders' anti-science attitudes reveal some kind of a qualitative misunderstanding of some basic tenets of science. I think that with these attitudes, you may see that this guy isn't really thinking about the issues scientifically. Ever.
Like many others, he is a classic Luddite and a hippie who says "I am pro science" and he means "I am supporting our hippie ideology". He only supports the actual science when the actual science supports the hippie ideology which is very rarely. Most of the time, he supports a caricature of science – something that is still labeled as scientific but it has nothing to do with credible science.
Concerning nuclear energy, Sanders promotes irrational fears of the radioactive waste. This is really a non-problem. Before I became able to analyze all these things quantitatively, I may have been influenced by various people – and TV programs and articles – that promoted fear of nuclear energy.
It's remarkable how small amount of radioactive waste is produced by the nuclear energy industry in the whole world: it is just 2,000-2,300 tons a year. It's a cube of diameter equal to several meters. You can always store it somewhere. The amount is so small because the nuclear energy is 1 million times more concentrated than the chemical energy (e.g. that of fossil fuels). Some separation from the environment is enough to eliminate virtually all the negative impact. There is no impact we are completely unaware of. And at least some countries, like France, reprocess most of the nuclear waste, anyway. It's stupid to dismiss nuclear energy because of the claimed problems with the nuclear waste.
Even more clearly, there just can't be any "mysterious" and creeping threats posed by the genetically modified organisms. Most of the time, the genetic modification changes some very localized aspect of the plant's (or animal's) behavior and nothing else. It changes them in a way that is beneficial from the human viewpoint. Even if there were some additional side effect of the genetic modification, they either end up producing an edible and healthy plant, or not so edible and healthy plant.
But exactly the same thing holds for the natural products. When people found out that some plants were edible, they just stopped being afraid of them. In Europe, we sometimes say that because we hadn't known the potatoes before the era of Columbus, we're not genetically ready for them, and so on. I think it's largely bullšit, especially because our separation from the pro-potato Native Americans isn't deep enough. At any rate, we do eat lots of potatoes these days and we survive. We're not hysterically afraid of some bad consequences every time we eat potatoes or potato chips or the freedom fries.
Now, the people who hate GMO foods are doing exactly that when they're offered a product with the "GMO" label (which Sanders wants to make mandatory). This is a totally anti-scientific attitude based on the myth that "God and Nature are great while the humans are trash". You know, all the organisms around us were created by the process of evolution – Nature's genetic modifications. They're basically the same changes to the DNA that people are employing when they apply genetic engineering (and some of the "genetic modifications" are much more trivial and low-tech than "genetic engineering").
The detailed steps by which the modifications are done and the detailed reasons why they take place are different than in the case of the natural mutations but these differences clearly can't create a qualitative gap that would imply that the results of the natural changes are healthy and edible while the results of the man-made genetic modifications are almost guaranteed to be harmful or treacherous poisons or time bombs. It's simply not possible.
It is a matter of a basic understanding of biology and chemistry to know that the natural selection and the man-made genetic modifications produce analogous changes to the organisms' genes; and that the chemical compounds coming from the chemical industry are analogous and often absolutely identical to the compounds one may extract from plants and animals. Some of them are edible or taste good, some of them are healthy, others are not, and it's often straightforward to find the right adjective. So the instinctive fear of the chemical industry and genetic modifications simply does prove that the fearful person is scientifically illiterate – and Bernie Sanders is an example of that.