Actress Jenny McCarthy is well-known for opposing vaccines, because they “cause autism.” Never mind the fact that there is an overwhelming body of research that shows that vaccines do not cause autism, Jenny McCarthy just knows. Because Jenny McCarthy is a celebrity, she commands much more attention than her knowledge of medicine would normally command.
Likewise with Bette Midler, who has taken to pontificating about genetically modified organisms in the tweet above (and probably elsewhere; I didn’t want to look…)
Really, is it be too much to ask from celebrities that they stick to what they know?
(ht: David Rieff, via Twitter.)
Using a unique data set collected among farmers in India’s semiarid tropics, we document the surprising prevalence of risk-taking behavior in the face of realistically framed high-stakes gambles. We hypothesize that this apparently anomalous behavior is due to a combination of credit constraints and nonconvexities in production. In particular, the high-stakes nature of the gambles creates the potential for a farmer to undertake a productive investment that would normally be unaffordable and thereby move to a permanently higher level of income. We show that the degree to which farmers are willing to accept risk in return for this opportunity appears to relate in an intuitive way to their current agricultural production technology as well as the demographic composition of their household.
A new paper by Annemie Maertens, A.V. Chari, and David Just.
“Do you want to go?”
“Who knows what I want to do? Who knows what anyone wants to do? How can you be sure about something like that? Isn’t it all a question of brain chemistry, signals going back and forth, electrical energy in the cortex? How do you know whether something is really what you want to do or just some kind of nerve impulse in the brain? Some minor little activity takes place somewhere in this unimportant place in one of the brain hemispheres and suddenly I want to go to Montana or I don’t want to go to Montana. How do I know I really want to go and it isn’t just neurons firing or something? Maybe it’s just an accidental flash in the medulla and suddenly there I am in Montana and I find out I really didn’t want to go there in the first place. I can’t control what happens in my brain, so how can I be sure what I want to do ten seconds from now, much less Montana next summer? It’s all this activity in the brain and you don’t know what’s you as a person and what’s some neuron that just happens to fire or just happens to misfire. Isn’t that why Tommy Roy killed those people?”
From Don DeLillo’s White Noise, which many view as the best American novel of the 1980s.
As per Wiki, the novel explores “rampant consumerism, media saturation, novelty academic intellectualism, underground conspiracies, the disintegration and reintegration of the family, human-made catastrophes, and the potentially regenerative nature of human violence,” all themes which sound as relevant today (if not more) than when the novel was published in 1985.
It seems as though every time someone posts something on GMOs, two kinds of people come out to comment: those who are for GMOs, and those who are against. Increasingly, it seems to me that both sides are talking past one another, and that little to no progress is being made because the inflamed rhetoric on both sides has so far failed to convince anyone that the other side might be onto something.
With this post, I’d like to make sense of the current debate surrounding GMOs. I don’t want to discuss intellectual property and corporate behavior here, as those are topics best left for future posts. Likewise for my belief that between consuming GMOs on the one hand and being malnourished, undernourished, or dying of hunger on the other hand, I’ll take consuming GMOs.
I’d just like to present what I see as good arguments on each side, in order to introduce a bit of reason in the whole debate. There are smart, rational people on both sides of the GMO divide. It’s just sometimes difficult to hear their voices amid the shrill debates in which the attention is focused on who screams the loudest. Continue reading