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Confirmation Bias and Guilt by Association

We all have a problem with confirmation bias. We look at the sources that support our point of view and ignore those that don't and sometimes we attack sources rather than the arguments they make. We employ guilt by association and it's a mistake. I try to find good sources of information, but even information from sources with a vested interest shouldn't be discarded without addressing the arguments they make. I recently posted an article by Janet Carpenter who has links to industry sources and rather than those commenting addressing her arguments they attacked her associations. Dr. David Tribe wasn't quoted in the article, but since I've cited him in the past one commentor decided to play the guilt by association card and said:

Among the scientists who have promoted GM crops from IPA platforms are CS Prakash, Klaus Ammann and Steve Hughes. Amongst its published materials are items by CS Prakash and David Tribe
and linked to Lobby Watch

He even put Dr. Tribe's name in bold print, I suppose that was to emphasize that he couldn't be trusted. He was guilty by association.

The connection seemed tenuous to me and even if there was some connection the statement was nothing more than one of guilt by association so I decided to contact Dr. Tribe and ask him what if any connection there was, and he responded.

I have not "promoted GM crops from IPA platforms". I have voluntarily corrected errors of fact and given scientific comments on public issues about technology choices and policies, which they have quoted. In America this is called Freedom of Speech. Please ask Lobby Watch why that is a problem. I know Prakash and Klaus personally, and think they are wonderful people, and I am glad to know the IPA quote them too-- they are very knowledgeable.

Lobby Watch have never contacted me to check any details of the statements they have made about me.

Since Lobby Watch use claims of guilt by association, they should also show they get no income from EU government channels, or from EU funded organisations such as Friends of the Earth, as they are indirectly favouring EU trade barriers.

I am employed by a public University full time, I am not employed by the IPA nor do I have any relevant corporate income. I have deliberately avoided having conflicts of interest that are relevant as I have correctly anticipated that they would be used to avoid accountability by activists who routinely use this device to avoid dealing with real issues.

I have spoken and been involved with a wide range of organisations, such as the Governments of Vietnam, UNESCO, The Greens Political Party, Rotary International , IPA, High Schools, B'nai B'rith, The Anglican Church, VFF and you. That does not mean I am paid by any of them, nor does it mean that they or you influence my statements.

What factual issue or process of logic sourced to me these readers criticise. If there are none, then why cite Lobby Watch about me. Isn't that dodging the point?

My main driving force in speaking is deep disgust at the widespread use of misinformation and ignorance to delay benefits of better technology to farmers and poor people in the developing world. The deliberate avoidance by activists of the major issues such as the cancers caused by mycotoxins and the benefits of golden rice, while at the same time fabricating conspiracy theories such as Monsanto-IPA-funded websites is a moral disgrace. Some activists even using threats of legal action to stifle debate. That's the real PR-fraud they should address."

Dr. Tribe is in my opinion an excellent source of information on GMO you can read his fine blog here



I put David Tribe's name in bold because it came last in the list and might therefore be missed. I came across Tribe's name at Lobby Watch while clicking through some of their links AFTER you thanked me for reaquainting you with the site.

And if, as Tribe asserts, "Some activists (are) even using threats of legal action to stifle debate," how is this any different than discrediting scientists and authors to stifle debate? I think a fairer way of putting it would be to say the activists are using threats of legal action to keep the debate alive.

And speaking of stifling debate, next time you write to David Tribe, ask him what he thinks of the Bivings Group's stealth campaign to discredit Ignacio Chapela, who also is (or was) employed by a public university, and whose research has been corroborated by other scientists. Also ask him if his university department receives millions in research grants from Syngenta or Bayer or Monsanto, the way Chapela's department received money from Novartis. His repeating of the golden rice hokum makes me think so.

Furthermore, it isn't necessarily GUILT by association that Lobbywatch is alledging; it could merely be myopia by association, AKA, groupthink. David Tribe and Janet Carpenter et al. might THINK they are doing the right thing, just as Greenpeace or the Union of Concerned Scientists think THEY are doing the right thing. But Carpenter's failure to disclose her affilliations makes me suspect the worst.

Finally, look how sensitive Tribe is at the mere suggestion of impropriety. What if, say, Greenpeace had hired a PR firm to wage a stealth operation designed to deny Tribe his tenure and pressure scientific journals to retract his articles?

I see your cognitive dissonance is kicking in big time. You're apparently so invested in your position that you'll adopt any tactic to defend it.

This paragraph for example:

And if, as Tribe asserts, "Some activists (are) even using threats of legal action to stifle debate," how is this any different than discrediting scientists and authors to stifle debate? I think a fairer way of putting it would be to say the activists are using threats of legal action to keep the debate alive.

Not only are activists making legal threats but they are destroying scientific experiments that are attempting to do plant research but that is irrelevant since the argument you're making is that two wrongs make a right, but its even worse than that you then excuse the activists tactics.

You then continue your attack on Dr. Tribe by claiming that he is still tainted because even if he doesn't take corporate money his university must and that is the reason for his views. You seem unable to accept that someone simply disagrees with you without making personal attacks.

In my opinion you owe him an apology not a continuation of your character assassination, but I don't expect that, what I do expect is more of the same.

Furthermore, it isn't necessarily GUILT by association that Lobbywatch is alledging; it could merely be myopia by association

It could be I suppose, but I'm not buying it.

If you want to ask Dr. Tribe a question you are certainly capable of emailing him, but the point of your little diatribe about ask him this and ask him that is a rhetorical device and not a real desire for his opinion, at least that's the way it looks to me.

If your interested go to his site read some of his posts leave comments with your questions, I'm sure he'll respond. I doubt you'll do it because you aren't trying to educate yourself you're trying in my opinion to justify a view you hold regardless of the evidence offered.

Since Lobby Watch use claims of guilt by association

Accusing people of bias based on funding and guilt by association are two pretty different challenges to a persons views.

I am not sure without reading lobby watch who made that leap, but its not a valid comparison.

Certainly the industry officials that Bush put in charge of his administration had terrible biases and saying oil lobbyists should not be running the epa if they stand to return to their old jobs and make loads more money is very fair.

To Tribe's Science, I read as much of his site that I had time to and was hard pressed to find any science that I didn't agree with. I do feel that as I said in the other post I think some of this science fails to address the actual questions, some of which really aren't science questions at all.


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