January 6, 2018

A Dispute of Detail Amid a Clear Panorama


I’ve been hearing for several months about a gathering dispute. Stephanie Seneff and Anthony Samsel are two scientists who have written a series of papers theorizing about how glyphosate may be the cause of “pathways to modern diseases”, as the title of the first in the series had it.
Some fellow scientists also involved in analyzing the health harms of glyphosate, in particular Robin Mesnage and Michael Antoniou, have questioned what they see as some of Seneff’s less evidenced claims.
Seneff is more of a theorist than someone who sticks with what’s immediately provable, but everything she’s written is plausible and fits the evidence we do have. Mesnage and Antoniou are good scientists and do what good scientists should do. If Seneff overstates the evidence for her theses then she should be held to scientific standards. But obviously the struggle to abolish poison-based agriculture is overwhelmingly a political and cultural struggle, with science being only a small part of it.
Far too often, anti-poison people endorse scientism’s lie that science is the most important tool, even the only tool. This is even though the deployment of pesticides and GMOs has zero to do with science, while genetic engineering itself has very little scientific theory. It depends almost completely on genetic determinist junk science and brute force empiricism. Today’s scientific establishment and mass media have only one system and depiction of science, and this is the corporate science paradigm. Any scientific fact or knowledge which contradicts this paradigm is ruled out by the system as unscience.
So for a movement with very limited resources to focus narrowly on science not only accepts the enemy’s fraudulent choice of battleground but it demonstrates a confusion about what the mainstream is willing to accept as being part of science in the first place. It’s not just bringing a knife to a gunfight, it’s bringing a chicken to a chess game.
Meanwhile, since governments and corporations systematically have refused to devote a modest amount of their vastly more than ample resources to test all this and produce the evidence (and starve independent researchers of funds and deny them access to materials), but instead systematically lie about having performed tests, invent anti-scientific religious dogmas like “substantial equivalence”, and refer to “evidence” they allegedly do possess but somehow cannot publicize (but “secret science” is a contradiction in terms; if it’s secret, it doesn’t exist as part of the scientific record, by definition), this all proves that they know or suspect the worst, and gives skeptics and critics the right to assume the worst. And I say we should do so, as a matter of methodological principle. That’s what I call Strict Proof. I don’t see any other principle being sufficient for this crisis, this war.
Therefore, the strictly scientific critique of the work of Seneff and Samsel is naturally only a quite narrow part of our entire range of evidence and counter-attack. It doesn’t invalidate their theories on the whole, it only reminds people to be cautious about assuming what they say is proven scientific truth. This critique must always be placed in the perspective of the complete refusal of corporations and governments to perform legitimate science, a campaign of refusal which strictly proves that they know or believe the worst of their product. This conduct on their part gives us far more scope, as a matter of rational method, to speculate far further about how bad the effects must be, than if the supporters of the product had been more upfront.
It’s a simple principle: If someone demands you do something (in this case, eat GMOs and food containing glyphosate residues, and accept the wholesale infiltration of glyphosate into the soil and the rest of the ecology) and yet refuses to publicly test the effects of all this or to tell you whatever the results of their secret tests were, you can and should assume the worst. I call this Strict Proof, and I regard it as the right principle and method for humanity’s situation up against poison-based agriculture (and a lot of other things).
Therefore I’d say that to make a primary effort (and with such limited resources) out of testing Seneff’s theses is barking up the wrong tree in the first place. For anti-poison campaigners in general to regard this as somehow affecting our overall struggle would definitely miss the forest. This is merely one data point which goes partially against one detail of what remains the logical theory. Remember what Galileo and Einstein warned about, as Einstein put it (p.4), being “too restricted, in constructing one’s conceptual world, by adherence to an epistomological system” whose framework at first might seem adverse to what remains rationally the best theory.
By the way, to the best of my knowledge the pro-poison activist scientists haven’t done any work to scientifically test Seneff and Samsel. Why not? I’d say it’s primarily because they recognize it’s beside the point (though also because they may fear the results if they really did perform such tests). I say if there really is anything fundamentally unsound about Seneff’s theories, let Monsanto prove it. Monsanto forced this whole situation on us and therefore assumes the great bulk of moral and philosophical responsibility for it. Let’s stay within the bounds of our responsibility.
Propagate the necessary new ideas.