Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Keith Kloor highlights his own strawman; can't see it

I haven't decided yet what I think of Keith Kloor - maybe one of those people who resists acknowledging where reality is headed, but occasionally nods his head in its direction.  His latest stuff isn't very good though, with a Discover article labeling environmentalists as anti-technology and anti-city, while contrasting them with a few "green modernist" exceptions.

The anti-city claim is just vastly outdated and requires no further discussion.  Anti-technology is a little more interesting.  Kloor later clarified what he meant:
Environmentalism is anti-technology. By this I mean anti-nuclear power and anti-genetically engineered crops.
He says this in the context of explaining that he was being attacked as creating strawman arguments and responds with the above statement, and later adds, "Where’s the strawman here?" How about right where you highlighted it in those two sentences. His statement is not a strawman if you think that nuclear power and GMOs roughly encompass the majority of all human technologies. Actually, even that's not totally correct. By Kloor's reckoning, you can't, like me, be even mildly skeptical of nuclear power, or note that not all opposition to GMOs is unscientific, without being anti-technology. I do think some environmental opposition to nukes and GMOs is overblown, but that doesn't make them anti-technology.

This "above the fray" type of journalism gets old, and the strawmen are rickety.

One last note: writing this involves figuring out who I'm writing for, and the thought crossed my mind that Kloor might read it. I considered trying to persuade him rather than criticize him, and ended up with a mushy compromise style that doesn't try and cajole him but certainly pulls a few punches back. Oh well.

UPDATE:  Tim Burden has more, and there's a good discussion thread at Stoat.