Archive for science

organic or not

In the past few months I have done a lot of thinking (prompted by podcasts, news, blogs, etc.) regarding farming, specifically whether organic farming is good or bad. Though I grew up on a farm, I am definitely no expert, but I’d like to share my thoughts and would love to hear your comments.

Initially, being the godless liberal that I am, I was all about organic farming, buying local (as much as is reasonable), and “eating slow” as I believe it is called. I understood that meat takes a lot more resources (water, grain, etc.) to raise than vegetables. Livestock also leaves a much larger carbon footprint, and produces other greenhouse gases, namely methane (produced by cows). I also thought that organic farming needed less pesticides and insecticides, and was generally better for the earth. I figured that local foods were more efficient, used less resources, and improve the local economy. My thinking was that GMO seeds and crops led to seed-company monopolies and possibly  seed crises, not to mention the problems if the modified genes found their way into other plants.

All of this seemed reasonable to me, but I hadn’t really scrutinized these ideas or subjected them to much critical thinking. As I began to do so, I found some of the ideas to be wrong, some to be true, while others I haven’t really been able to prove either way. The main resources that really challenged me were the Skeptoid podcast (specifically episodes #5, #19, #112, & #166) and the Genetic Maize blog (also on Twitter).

Now, though still godless, but perhaps less liberal, I find myself not too worried about whether the food I eat is organic-or-not, GMO-or-not,  local-or-not, or meat-or-not. I generally eat what is available in the house. My housemates seem to prefer organic, so I eat it. We have enough money to buy it, so I don’t complain or worry about the extra cost. If something is available locally, I find it reasonable to support local farmers, restaurants, and therefore the local economy. If something turns up on the table that is GMO, or non-GMO I eat it because it all tastes the same. I generally eat a lot less meat that I did growing up, and initially made this a conscious decision. Now, though, it is just that there is less meat around, partly because of the preferences of my housemates, and partly because of habit.

I said all of that to say this: take some time to think critically about why you do things. Listen to the arguments for and against your position (and not just the arguments against your position articulated by those who agree with you). See if your ideas stand up to scientific scrutiny. You may find that they do, that they don’t, or that there are good arguments for both sides. Be open to changing your mind. Even feel free to change the reason why you believe something. I have found that when I have balanced information I can be more relaxed, laid back, and less worried!

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dolphin rights

Dolphins Should Be Treated as “Non-Human Persons”

This article goes well with an article I tweeted a while ago: (http://bit.ly/1bmFPK). I’m not really sure what to make of this idea, or how this really differs from the normal protections provided for endangered animals.

What are your thoughts?

it is resolved

Instead of making a resolution that is to last all year, which I will have forgotten by March anyway, I decided to merely try and do something for two or three months. I am going to try and be more dedicated to riding my bicycle on the rollers to be better prepared for this year’s cycling season. I only rode them a few times last winter, and I was in much better shape than the year before, so I know that it will help me. (I have only ridden them one time so far his winter.)

The problem with the rollers is that the ride is very boring. One of the things that I enjoy the most about cycling is getting somewhere and seeing things. The other thing is that it is hard to really get in a tough climbing workout on rollers. Even though I modified my rollers to make them easier to stay on, hard efforts tend to send me and the bike off the front or back .To remedy this I’m going to make my own fork stand so that I can do some sprinting and climbing workouts. (You may be thinking, “Why don’t I just get a rear-wheel trainer?” Problem is, my feet are so big that they would hit the trainer where it attaches to the rear axle!) I’m excited about this little project, and this resolution. I’m off to get a ride in right now!

One last thing…check out this video of how Lance Armstrong is beginning to prepare for next season:

natural selection is universal

Some interesting science news for the new year: http://j.mp/5Digdm. It has been found that lifeless proteins evolve. This would seem to suggest a mechanism for abiogenesis; how organic molecules could assemble themselves, evolve, and eventually become alive.