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In my perfect world major societal decisions would be based upon logic and evidence, not ideology. But humans are ideological creatures – we develop belief systems that we jealously defend, and are subject to confirmation bias so that we falsely believe the evidence supports our ideology.

For example, I have never been a fan of organic farming. I have nothing specific against it, however it seems to me that the increasing popularity of organic farming is based largely on ideology (a naturalistic fallacy) than on evidence. I have no dog in that hunt, as they say – no vested interest in organic vs conventional farming at all. I really cannot think of a reason why I would care one way or the other – I simply want what works. Whatever farming methods are the most efficient and sustainable, producing the highest quality and cost-effective food – that’s what I support.

Yonah Biers-Ariel refused to have a Bar Mitzvah. His parents insisted on an alternative rite of passage. In order to avoid leading a half-dozen prayers and dancing with his grandmother at his Bar Mitzvah party, Yonah pedaled a bicycle 3,804 miles—San Francisco to Washington DC—joined by his parents and little brother. Along the way, the family collected thousands of signatures on a global warming petition calling for the United States to undergo an energy rite of passage moving from our dependence on oil to a non-carbon energy future.

A Gallup report issued on Tuesday underscored just how out of line we are. Gallup surveyed people in more than 100 countries in 2009 and found that religiosity was highly correlated to poverty. Richer countries in general are less religious.

But that doesn’t hold true for the United States.



In my perfect world major societal decisions would be based upon logic and evidence, not ideology.

So this guy starts of with an ad hominem right from the get-go. People who are into organics are "ideological" (which, it is clear, we are supposed to understand is sub-par intellectually), not logical or evidence-based.

What a crock. Sure, there are plenty of idiots who buy organics. And there are maybe 10-100 times more idiots who happen to agree with the idea that some simplisticly reductionist evaluation of functional utility trumps all other concerns.

As a hard, logic driven system scientist, the sort of scientism (which is an ideology, not science proper) being used here makes me cringe.

Listen: ideology and heuristics are important not because we're not as clever as you all--it's because we always are functioning with inadequate and noisy information with models that are crude truncations of reality. If our information and models were perfect, then logic would suffice. But they aren't, and so it doesn't.

Look into autonomous robot research. Are they making the robots merely respond logically to "facts", as if such a concept was as clear as Novella seems to think it is? No, they are not. They are looking at mechanisms to give the robots "intuition", that is, approximate knowledge that is more "holistic" or "gestalt" in nature and can cope with uncertainty. The purely logical part of the cognition-action design functions in parallel with that, but it is always vulnerable to data limitations and the "garbage-in, garbage-out" problem.

So this guy starts of with an ad hominem right from the get-go. People who are into organics are "ideological" (which, it is clear, we are supposed to understand is sub-par intellectually), not logical or evidence-based.

The hell he is you are not stating his position accurately, he's making the argument that some are. It should be clear from his statement that in his perfect world that he is talking about an ideal not how things are. You are attacking a position he doesn't hold.

As to your deconstructionist crap give it a break. While it's true that there are so many variables in some cases that we have to rely on approximations it doesn't follow that the information is not valuable and in fact better than the alternatives.

Norm at the heart of what you are struggling with and that most of these authors completely miss is that Organic food is much bigger than Alternative medicine and doesn't really follow a similar belief structure.

The people buying it aren't crystal clutching ideologues with a set of beliefs about magical tomatoes. They are much more like Prius drivers.

I Prius doesn't really reduce carbon consumption by very much, especially when you consider how often many Prius drivers buy new cars so often and that is where a big piece of the Carbon is used.

Now you might think hearing that fact might convince people to drive their old cars and not buy the Prius, but it doesn't. The idea that their one car might make a significant impact on the environment isn't really what drives the purchase.

It's an expression of values. They want to publicly and privately express that they value new technology that reduces consumption of fossil fuels and moves us towards a better future.

Similarly Organic consumers are largely trying to express the value that they want their food to have less chemicals, be less a marketed junk food, and they are willing to pay extra to ensure it the healthiest food they can get and that more healthy food should be eaten by everyone.


Either I'm attacking a position he doesn't hold (possible, but I re-read it, and I stick by my reading), or the entire thing is vapid. I mean, if you want me to stick to the facts in the article (e.g. organic strawberries may or may not be better than conventional ones, and empirical science is awesome) (a) I don't dispute that (what's there to dispute?); and (b) it says nothing significant about the organic food "movement" (such as it is).

As to your deconstructionist crap give it a break

Huh?! What on earth is deconstructionist about what I wrote? The machine learning part? Goodness gracious me! Methinks you're an ideologue! (I'm kidding, I'm kidding.)

I mean, I can see you're very angry about what I wrote, but you really lost me there.

I think the issues you are raising (put briefly: that reason and science are good things and should be applied to everything, including the sacred cows of the left; that results matter; that mere belief is suspect, ... etc?) are very important. I just happen to disagree with many promoters of this view--much as you disagree with idiot green faddists, while yourself being green.

I'd like to try and engage in a conversation about this stuff, because as you said in a previous exchange, it really does effect peoples' lives. But so far I'm failing because it just pisses you off. I'll take part of blame: maybe I need a more temperate commenting style. I'll try to be more aware of that in the future.

But the most common justification I hear for the higher price of organic food is that they are more nutritious.

You know they only people I really hear this from is people criticizing organic.

I think plenty of people claim that a diet of organic foods is healthier. But that is as much about a diet with less salt and sugar and more fresh vegetables being healthier.

I also think people see organic as having less pesticides and no preservatives. Things people also see as unhealthy to eat.

All data I have ever seen supports claim 1 and I have never seen anything to despute claim 2.

Yet every one of these articles put an organic tomato and a non-organic tomato in a showdown. This guy actually shows that there are some slight advantages in some studies.

His "healthier" studies don't compare diet of organic buyers vs non-organic. instead they only take one item at a time. The abstract lists Organic dairy as the example. They switch seems to have a positive coorilation with childhood lung development.

Strikes me as an obvious strawman.

Strikes me as an obvious strawman.

It is an obvious strawman.

And, just for the hell of it, let us assume for a moment that there is absolutely NO health advantage to organics whatsoever (compared to factory farming).

So what? It still tastes better. I find it to be of higher quality, and I pay a premium for it. Should all wine be sold at 99 cents per bottle, just because it could be produced more efficiently?

As-is, factory farm products, and organic products, are both marketing to exclusive demographics anyway. Why does everyone insist on promoting this phony either-or fallacy?

I have zoned out for a while from this organic discussion, so bear with me if I'm stating something you guys have dealt with before. But if there were no health advantages, only taste, aren't there extra resources that get eaten up (pun!) by organic, only for the sake of tastiness?

You also need to weigh the additional use of land for organic farming to produce the same amount of crop. Land is a limited resource just like oil.

Perhaps, it's my bias, but I don't find organic tastier than conventional, how quickly the product reaches market is far more important than the organic/non-organic distinction. I recently purchased a bunch of organic bananas and one bunch of conventional at the local grocery and found no difference at all in taste. The difference in price though was considerable. The conventional were selling at .33 a pound while the organic sold at .99 a pound. Three times the price for a fruit that has its own protective cover seems absurd to me.

I have no problem with those who choose to purchase organic products and pay a premium price, but to insist that organic is the solution to Africa's ills is absurd.

but to insist that organic is the solution to Africa's ills is absurd

Can't we all agree on that?

Although if Somali Pirates became organic farmers, the seas would be safer.

Also, Banannas are all clones so I believe any two bannanas you eat should be identical twins so they are perhaps the one food least likely to show any difference.

In terms of bananas, the only difference I have between organic and non-organic is that organic bananas are still firm when brown. Not forever, but for at least 2-3 days of brown skin, they are still firm, whereas conventional bananas are mush.

Well I come from one of the countries where Americans buy their bananas from. Needless to say, fruit there is orders of magnitude better, and I'm not exaggerating. You really haven't tasted a mango, or a melon or watermelon, or any other fruit for that matter until you've tried those. I have no idea if they're organic or no, and I'm not sure there's a point here, but I think it's just the soil and the tropical weather. It's much cheaper too.

Fruit and food in general is pretty much the only thing I miss. I find "organic" stuff just as bland (ok, good enough maybe) as non-organic.

Meanwhile I'll just be enjoying my tastier organic milk.

Grass Fed Steak is nice too. Some of the best meat I have ever had.

I've tried grass fed as well, and don't find that it tastes better. It my be healthier, less fat, but as to taste it sucks in comparison.

There is a range in all steaks, but the best steaks I have ever had have been Grass fed, I have gotten a few at the local co-op that were just mind blowingly good.


Still tastes good.

Nope. Maybe it's the growers or the BUTCHER (the big playa), but my grass fed steaks will kick your corn fed steak's taste buds.

Ok, I have to comment on this here:

Whatever farming methods are the most efficient and sustainable, producing the highest quality and cost-effective food – that’s what I support.

The author wants his cake, and intends to eat it too.

"Factory" farming is far more efficient. In terms of pure production, our system is the envy of the world. However, "organic" is far more sustainable- just consider for a moment the amount of petroleum byproducts currently dumped into our soil and water tables via "factory" farming.

And again-

Highest quality? For my dollar, grass-fed organic beef is unbeatable. Cost effective? "Factory" farming, hands down.

It is akin to saying: "I want the best car money can buy, and I want to pay $5,000 for it". You can have a BMW, or you can have a KIA, but you can't have it both ways.

I wish Bill Maher would stop laughing at his own jokes.

Really, what's up with that? I find him funnier when he's reading New Rules. His jokes are good but his delivery sucks.


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