Thursday, June 24, 2010

Saying "genetically modified foods are bad for health" does show epistemic closure

I'll disagree with John Quiggin on this one.  He seems to think the statement, GMO foods are unhealthy, is too broad to be refutable, and therefore people who believe the statement aren't showing epistemic closure.  The problem is that AFAIK there's no evidence to support the statement, so people who are convinced of it in the absence of evidence are showing a certain close-mindedness that's evidence of epistemic closure.  I guess I should hasten to add that I'm no close follower of the field, and I do vaguely recall concerns that gene transfer from allergenic species to non-allergenic species could be dangerous to some people, but there's almost nothing to back up the statement.

There are more valid reasons to be concerned about GMO foods, especially contamination of wild varietals, but the health issue isn't a good one.  Nothing like the level of closure that we see on the right, but it's still there.

UPDATE:  See the comments - John says we may not be in disagreement on the broader allegation over whether GMO foods are unhealthy.


  1. Anonymous2:30 AM

    I think it all depends on how you define "health" and "evidence". GMO foods don't exist by itself, it has been created - so it has a purpose. The purpose is to make a profit (by ripping off farmers, make them dependent on your facility, ...) or to sustain a non-sustainable way of living and farming. Both are unhealthy purposes.

    While I think you are right in a narrow sense - me eating GMO food will not make me ill, or at least will not affect me more than what I am already eating now, the mindset that allows to create GMO food is the unhealthy element in the process.

  2. I agree that it's an ill-founded belief, and an appropriate subject for agnotological inquiry. But in the post, I was asking for an example of a false belief about an easily checkable fact, comparable to "31 000 scientists reject global warming".


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