July 22, 2005

Sincerity

In a letter to the editor of Nature Douglas Parr of Greenpeace UK responds to an earlier criticism of inconsistent use of scientific evidence by Greenpeace (accepting the scientific "consensus" on climate change but rejecting the "mainstream" scientific support of genetically modified crops). After arguing that human-caused climate change is more or less proven while the safety of GM crops is not, Parr confesses:
[A]s an environmental-protection organization, it should come as no surprise that we interpret scientific uncertainty in favour of environmental protection. Anyone who interprets a given level of uncertainty to propose a policy action must be imposing their values, even if that means advocating "do nothing now except more research".
In a report, also in Nature, on the meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology Emma Marris writes:
One of the challenges in assessing impacts [on biodiversity], however, is that the experts always overestimate the effect of changes on species. "There is a general tendency in conservation biology to paint things very black," says Robert Scholes of CSIR Environmentek in Pretoria South Africa. Sure. If they want anybody to pay any attention or, say, give them some money, they have to portray the situation as dire. Marketing, marketing.
Biases are nothing to be ashamed of. We all have biases. Talking openly about them is a very healthy thing to do.

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