American Elephants


Food Fads and Misinformation by The Elephant's Child

dairy_cattle

In my trip to Safeway yesterday, I grabbed a small container of key lime flavored Greek yogurt. The brand was “Open Nature,” one of Safeway’s proprietary brands, I assume to reach those who are attracted by the word “natural.” I am not. It was just handy, and key lime sounded good. The line after the brand logo was “Real Food From Natural Ingredients” — well, yes, that’s what I expect from food. Nobody’s going to be attracted by a label that says “Phony Food From Unnatural Ingredients”—though I’d bet that most people wouldn’t notice anyway.

Michelle Obama, in pursuit of thinner kids, is betting millions on getting people to read food labels with larger print. Safeway has probably done more market research than Ms. Obama. regarding the extent to which people read food labels. The Open Nature carton continues to note that the 2% nonfat milk is Grade A. The product contains ‘No Artificial Flavors or Colors, No Artificial Ingredients, and Milk From Cows Not Treated with rBST*. The asterisk points to the footnote—no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows.

This was a big flap several years ago. Farmers were treating their cows with the forenamed hormone, which helped them to produce more milk. Dairy scientists explained that it was physically and scientifically impossible for the hormone to pass through a cow’s body to enter the milk in any way. Not good enough. Mild panic ensued. Dairy farmers quit using the hormone, cows went back to producing the normal amount of milk and certified that their milk came from cows that were not treated with rBST.

The media, always ready to reproduce anything with the word “study” gives them the chance, I guess to be first with something. Perhaps that is the excuse for failing to vet the “study” or even to be suspicious recognizing that the word “study” does not prove anything. It might all be a mess of pottage.

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The Scientific Method, or How the Scientific World is Supposed to Work! by The Elephant's Child

In the wake of the ClimateGate scandal, it’s worth reviewing the Scientific Method, with a graph borrowed shamelessly from Watts Up With That, Anthony Watts’ splendid website.  As the emails and documents are exposed, the cry from the University of East Anglia’s CRU is about villains stealing documents, taken out-of-context, misunderstood, criminal theft and so on and so on.

Those who have their careers, reputation, prestige and livelihood invested in the concept of dangerous global warming, quickly remind us that all scientists except worthless skeptics confirm that global warming is real and the world is warming, heating up, getting hotter while the rest of us turn the furnace up a little higher and wonder why it was snowing in October.  There is “Consensus” among scientists, you know, “peer-reviewed” scientists: and you must never listen to or read what a scientist who has not been “peer-reviewed” has to say.

Except that isn’t the way science works.  1,000 scientists can have a “consensus” and it doesn’t matter a whit.  What matters is the evidence, and the experiments that support the hypothesis, and the further experiments that also support the hypothesis and so on.

Just something to keep in mind.



The Way Things Work in the World of Environmental Activism. by The Elephant's Child
May 15, 2009, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Economy, Environment, Science/Technology | Tags: , ,

The Scientific Method

  1. Observe a phenomenon carefully.
  2. Develop a hypothesis that possibly explains the phenomenon.
  3. Perform a test in an attempt to disprove or invalidate the hypothesis.  If the hypothesis is disproven, return to steps 1. and 2.
  4. A hypothesis that stubbornly refuses to be invalidated may be correct.  Continue testing.

The Scientific Computer Modeling Method

  1. Observe a phenomenon carefully.
  2. Develop a computer model that mimics the behavior of the phenomenon.
  3. Select observations that conform to the model predictions and dismiss observations as of inadequate quality that conflict with the computer model.
  4. In instances where all of the observations conflict with the model, “refine” the model with fudge factors to give a better match with pesky facts.  Assert that these factors reveal fundamental processes previously unknown in association with the phenomenon.  Under no circumstances willingly reveal your complete data sets, methods, or computer codes.
  5. Upon achieving a model of incomprehensible complexity that still somewhat resembles the phenomenon, begin to issue to the popular media dire predictions of catastrophe that will occur as far in the future as possible, at least beyond your professional lifetime.
  6. Continue to “refine” the model in order to maximize funding and the awarding of Nobel Prizes.
  7. Dismiss as unqualified, ignorant, and conspiracy theorists all who offer criticisms of the model
  8. Repeat steps 3. through 7. indefinitely.

This succinct explanation of the way things work was written by Roy Tucker.




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