Thursday 20 March 2014

A form of madness

I always enjoy The Life Scientific. I wasn’t even put off by the episode where the subject turned out to be a prominent anti-Israel campaigner as well as an eminent scientist.  Well, I was a bit, and I probably learned to be even more distrustful than I already was.

Anne Glover

Anyway, I listened to the delightful Anne Glover, professor of molecular and cell biology at Aberdeen University amongst other things, and one thing in particular resonated with me, and stayed in my mind. The strap line to her episode states: “Opposing GM crops is a form of madness”  

Her expertise is in the area of science for policy, rather than policy for science. “How do we gather evidence for making those policies that we all rely on?”
 “In an ideal world, all our policies should be based on evidence, because you would think, wouldn’t you, that it would be robust, long-lived, easy to defend. But of course, just to muddy the water there are a lot of other things that affect what policies we have.”

They could be social considerations, ethical, even electoral considerations - we don’t just use evidence, but we make sure that the best evidence is available. “After that it becomes political and that’s where I bow out.”

She says that all of our science tells us that the technology of genetically modified crops  is no more dangerous than any other of the technologies that we’ve used for centuries, and what opponents of GM crops are really opposing is industrial agriculture.

I hope you can see where I’m going with this. Anne Glover was such an eloquent speaker and communicator that I’d probably trust her if she concluded that the moon was made of cheese. 

So all our efforts to ‘forensically’ correct what we see as the malign influence of the BBC’s biases by omission and commission, are never going to be enough. People still think what they think, believe what they believe, suffer from forms of madness in the shape of prejudice or willful ignorance, despite any evidence that happens to be put before them.

However, if the evidence that was put before them by the BBC was in fact robust, long-lived and easy to defend, at least that would give people a fighting chance of making an objective judgment.
Detecting bias is not a scientific operation. But even if it were, the evidence alone, be it robust, long-lived or easy to defend, would probably not act as an instantaneous miracle cure for that particular form of madness.

All the evidence in the world - all the anomalies and all the cognitive dissonances that we’re confronted with day after day don’t appear to be enough, even to make a dent in  situations that exist, but that seem to make no sense whatsoever.
For example the freedom-loving left’s support for those who would curtail their freedom, homosexuals’ support for homophobes, war and strife in the Islamic world alongside the concept of the Religion Peace, and thisfrom Melanie Phillips: 
It is now clear that the West will allow absolutely no evidence, however devastating, to prevent a deal being signed with Iran over its nuclear programme.”
All the evidence tells us that what Israel is really up against is the fanatical Jew-hatred of the Arab/Islamic world, but opponents of Israel suffer from a form of madness and choose to ignore the lot of it. Instead, they turn the whole thing on its head. What they won’t and probably never will admit is that what opponents of Israel are really opposing, is ‘the Jews’.


  1. "All the evidence tells us that what Israel is really up against is the fanatical Jew-hatred of the Arab/Islamic world, but opponents of Israel suffer from a form of madness and choose to ignore the lot of it. Instead, they turn the whole thing on its head. What they won’t and probably never will admit is that what opponents of Israel are really opposing, is ‘the Jews’."

    I'd have thought that if it's so very clear that all opponents of the actions of the state of Israel are anti-semites then there'd be loads and loads to link to.

    Would you care to do so please?

    1. Are you really interested, AdrianD?

      “Opposing GM crops is a form of madness.”

      In other words despite conclusive scientific evidence to the contrary, opposition to genetic modification of crops persists, largely on erroneous, pseudo-scientific grounds.
      It’s illogical because all industrial agricultural practices are unnatural, so singling out just GM crops whilst overlooking all the others is, as Anne Glover says, a form of madness.

      Similarly, opponents of Israel ignore all the evidence of inherent Koranic antisemitism and incitement that is endemic throughout the Arab/Islamic world, choosing to accept the so-called ‘Arab/Palestinian narrative’ unquestioningly.

      Of course you have decided to phrase your opposition thusly: “Opponents of the actions of the state of Israel” as though your opposition was purely a question of logic.

      Since “The actions” of the state of Israel are clearly defensive, opposition to them per se is a form of madness. (baseless prejudice)

      In other words opposition to Israel’s attempts to defend itself from a) random attacks on civilians and b) outright rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, while having little to say about Muslim on Muslim violence or Islamic-fuelled terrorism worldwide, is based on antisemitism; either your own, or by association.

      If you can’t see that you must be “mad”. If you want links, try Mr. Google.

    2. Sue didn't say "all the opponents" Adrian.

      I read this particular section of her article as meaning that even when a leader from the Arab/Islamic world states in clear terms his hatred and intentions towards Israel, many critics of Israel will nevertheless find a way to excuse him.

      Why did a couple of hundred British MP's fall over themselves to sign an EDM seeking a debate about the Mavi Marmara issue less than 48hrs after it happened when they could not possibly have had the details needed for a debate? I doubt even Israel had the full picture at that moment in time. And yet, when an EDM was raised seeking to debate the torture to death of Palestinian men by the PA, six MP's signed. To my mind this supports the kind of "madness" Sue was describing.

  2. Crikey! It's hard to know where to start with your bewilderingly illogical reply. Is there no room for nuance in your preposterously bi-polar world view.

    To equate the GM debate with that over the Israel-Palestine situation is laughable – Glover as a scientist would understand this – her view is based on rigorous research, peer-reviewed, published and available for evaluation, replication or refutation. Your assertions about Israel simply are not - otherwise you might have easily been able to link some to me.

    Not everyone who has problems with GM has problems with all aspects of industrial agriculture, and neither do all critics of Israel necessarily support Hamas or Hezzbollah.

    To then go on to state conclusively that I’m an anti-Semite, and mad, for not realising it, is just plain insulting.

    Who are you to assume what I may or may not feel about the anti-Semitism of the arab world, Muslim on Muslim violence, or the actions of the likes of Hamas, Hezzbolah, etc etc.

    The irony of you quoting Melanie Phillips in such a context amused me tremendously – despite being a prime mover in whipping up the very damaging MMR hysteria, she has still to accept that it has no causal effect on autism – despite just the kind of strength of evidence that you accept that there is for the safety of GM.

    I occasionally come to this site as I very much believe that the BBC is biased, and agree with it’s contents in many respects, but your original post and subsequent reply, make me wonder what else here is to be trusted.

    1. Hello AdrianD,
      Okay, it was a bit cheeky to call you mad, but it was a reference to Anne Glover’s terminology. Apologies for that, and I’m sorry you found my reply bewildering and illogical. I did try not to be either.

      I think you are twisting my words because I don’t remember actually saying “all critics of Israel necessarily support Hamas or Hezbollah.”
      What I did say was that Israel’s critics turn a blind eye to the openly proclaimed objectives of Hamas/Hezbollah (and the rest of Israel’s hostile neighbours), and I’m assuming you’re aware of them.

      I did not state conclusively that you are an anti-semite. As you say, how could I, when I don’t know you? But I did imply that you are using a similar approach to those that are. That suggests to me that prejudice is involved on some level.

      I do not agree with Melanie Phillips on everything, and I take your point about her silence on the findings about the safety of MMR, but on Israel she is spot on.

      I’m glad you visit this site, and if you believe that a disagreement about one thing nullifies everything associated with it for ever and ever, then you won’t bother to answer this, but may I ask what you do feel about the antisemitism of the Arab world, Muslim on Muslim violence etc? Only you didn’t say.

  3. Please file this under "Know Your Enemy":
    Which was the episode featuring the prominent anti-Israel campaigner, please?

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      At the time of posting I racked my brains - searched my computer, looked through previous blog posts, and I couldn’t find his name. On the TLS website the previous episodes don’t go back very far, and the summaries aren’t very helpful.
      I think I remember that his Gaza-based activities were mentioned more prominently in the programme's trailers than in the episode itself. Since you asked I’ve tried again, still with no success, but I will update if I get lucky.


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