Debunking Food Evolution 2: Goal Evolution

What follows Tyson’s wildly mistaken opening are several calmly presented claims regarding population statistics, growth, and the impacts of climate change on the food debate.

An agitated female voice then shouts: “This is all about companies controlling our future!” The use of "all about" is a red flag scientifically. However, the shout doesn't sound like an assertion intended for a scientific context, and it could address a valid point, even if overstated.

Tyson then asks: “Amongst all this conflict and confusion... How do we make the most informed decisions about how we feed ourselves?”

What is especially good about Tyson's question here is that it states a relatively specific, plausibly valuable goal of “most informed decisions”. It also links our decisions on this topic to a pragmatic concern to "feed ourselves". The question is a good start and offers opportunities for improvement.

In asking how to accomplish a goal, we usually expect some process: first do this, then do that... a set of simple, step-by-step instructions would be ideal. We want to ensure our process produces good decisions.

While it is a good start, "the most informed decisions" needs tweaking.

The brilliant Willard van Orman Quine pointed out there is almost an unlimited amount of information that applies to any concept. Such information includes disreputable pseudosciences, propaganda, etc. we'd probably like to avoid, even if we had unlimited resources.

"Best informed" seems closer to the mark. This enables us to make the best decisions in terms of delivering the actual results we want:

 societal benefits that minimize harm

This film devotes a vast proportion of its time to anti-GMO information which is related to the GE debate, but unhelpful to the point of being confusing at best, probably misleading.

It is not the first time a production seeking to do good science missed the mark by failing to focus on the right goal. This same defect was notoriously preceded by Penn & Teller in their infamous "Bullshit" episode on Climate Change. Next, we will look at how bias impacted that episode, and some lessons we can draw.


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