Friday, 31 July 2009

The death of reason

This is hardly a new topic, but a story in today's Press today has got my rationalist muscles inflamed.
UK study says no nutritional advantage in organic food.

What's got me cross are the reasoning processes of the organics crowd. Marian Chick, of Christchurch's Piko Wholefoods thinks it can be solved through faith; "I do truly believe that organic food has a higher nutritional value than non-organic".

Then there's what Sir James Frazer (of "Golden Bough" fame) called "Sympathetic Magic", like eating the brain of a vanquished foe to get his bravery; "If you're growing food in land where you're returning nutrients to the soil, then that soil is going to grow food with more nutrients." That's the argument for glucosamine in arthritis treatment too; if you've lost cartilage from joints, eat some cartilage - it will magically flow back to your hip or knee. Yeah, right.

To clinch the argument, there's always Marian Chick's appeal to a higher power; "It's not how our planet is supposed to live". I wonder who told her?

Then came the organic version of impartial scientific debate;
Canterbury Organic spokeswoman Gilda Otway also questioned the British findings."There's been a lot of studies and research done contrary to that," she said. "It depends on who has prepared the data." She doesn't actually identify this research, though.

And a chef gets the last word with this gem; "There may not be much nutritional difference, but I can tell you right now there'll be a whole lot of additives and preservatives in non-organic food that will eventually kill you or turn you obese".

What are these additives that can "turn you obese" - without much nutritional difference?

So we have a useful scientific study given two paragraphs, and a lot of unscientific, emotive, verbiage occupying the other 15 or so. I suspect that a lot of this rubbish can be blamed on the backgrounds of today's reporters; they've dropped sciences after the 4th form in most cases and done Arts degrees, so they don't even understand percentages, let alone peer reviewed scientific research.

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