Let’s just start from this point — Fuck Monsanto.
Okay, good. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…Fellow liberals, you really need to stop conflating “science” and “capitalism.” I am a huge proponent of all things scientific. I am in that boat because in my estimation, as you look back over our history, it’s the scientists that have always driven mankind forward into the future. It’s the inquisitive minds of those who are not satisfied with supernatural answers about our natural world that give us new and better understanding of our origins, our present age, and the future. Science is a good thing; it’s not a liberal conspiracy as the conservatives love to paint it. Oddly enough though, it’s not just the mouth-breathing tea partiers denying climate change that have a strangely anti-science bent — a lot of self-professed liberals do too.
I see it all the time. I’ll write something or create a graphic for our Facebook page that’s unabashedly pro-science and I’ll get one or two “smartest person in the room” types chiming in telling me that I shouldn’t have “blind faith” in anything — much less science. Nothing drives me more fucking insane than seeing an otherwise enormously intelligent person say something as boneheaded as “you shouldn’t have blind faith in science.” Let me make something crystal fucking clear — science has no agenda. Science, pure, real science has no ulterior motives, and science doesn’t require “faith.”
Here’s one of the definitions of “faith” — belief that is not based on proof.
Now, let’s look at the definition of “science” –a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.
It’s pretty obvious what the differences between “faith” and “science” are, with or without a dictionary, but it helps sometimes to go back and actually look at what words mean instead of what we think they mean. Sure, I have faith in the scientific method and scientists to do their jobs well and with the highest ethical standards. That doesn’t mean that as soon as a scientist tells me something I accept it as wrote fact. In fact, the nice thing is that scientists themselves have their own set of checks and balances, called peer review. There’s no need to have “faith” in science because science is the antithesis of belief not based on proof.
I bring this up because some liberals have a hard time differentiating between capitalism and science, especially when big corporations — like Monsanto — get involved. It’s completely understandable, especially in the post-Citizens United world we live in, to be extremely upset and distrusting of corporations. The eighties ushered in a new era of oligarchy that our country still hasn’t fully recovered from, and corporations seem run the world, let alone our country’s governance. But it’s not science at the heart of Monsanto’s abuses, even though it looks that way, it’s capitalism.
Capitalism drove the slavery ship in this country. Sure, there was a healthy dose of “black people aren’t worth anything” going on in the slave states. Of course there was. That’s how you justify enslaving people from a moral standpoint — God’s will for the races to be unequal. However, the impetus for slavery was one of pure economics. The cheapest labor possible is the kind you don’t have to pay for, and that’s a big reason why the agrarian economy of the South pushed our country forward for so long. It was capitalism — the pursuit of unfettered and unlimited wealth — that made slavery so easily defensible for plantation owners. Greed is to blame for slavery, and greed is to blame for Monsanto besmirching science in the name of the almighty dollar.
Liberals cannot take their righteous and healthy indignation at Monsanto out on science in general though. It doesn’t make you enlightened to point out we shouldn’t be blindly faithful to scientists, it just makes you ill-informed as to what science actually is. Science gave us the space race, which in turn gave us thousands of technological advances that we rely on to this day. Science has given us advances in medicine that have extended our lifetimes well beyond what someone who lived in our colonial days could ever hope for.
Science has given us the ability to connect our lives with one another over the Internet, closing the gaps between us all even more, proving we are living in a small world indeed. Science too has given us treatments for diseases like HIV, AIDS and cancer, and while we don’t have cures for any of them yet, we have drugs available that in the case of HIV/AIDS make it almost impossible to detect the virus in the first place. Yes, you can then argue that evil pharmaceutical companies are abusing their patents on these drugs and profiting tremendously in the process and you’d be right. Again though, you’re looking at the capitalist poisoning of the noble endeavor of medicinal science, not the evils of science writ large.
Instead of being skeptical of the science and scientists — because that’s what Tea Baggers and other Luddites do — liberals should be drawing attention to the real issue, abusive capitalism. Laws should be written that shorten the window of time a company can hold an exclusive patent on drugs and treatments for terminal and/or life-threatening illnesses. The bottom line is a simple one — if you resolve issues with companies like Monsanto by addressing their abuses of capitalism and our free market, you won’t have to worry about the science behind their products. No one is perfect, and if the genetically modified crops that Monsanto is giving us are harmful, they should be held accountable.
This is what your issue is, oh liberal science skeptic. What we all don’t want is an unaccountable Monsanto, or an unaccountable Pfizer. We know they profit from our health and what we eat, but they need to also be held to societal standards of ethical behavior. So stop castigating the process of genetic mutation unless you’re willing to cast doubt on the entire scientific process itself. Corporate America is who you want to blame for the abuse of science for profit, not the scientists actually trying to make life better for everyone.
That being said, there has to be caution in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The simple fact is that we are seven billion people and growing worldwide. If we have any hope of feeding us all, some scientific intervention is going to be necessary. Let’s not forget that Gregor Mendel was a monk and a scientist. His breakthrough work was the building blocks of modern genetics. He was genetically modifying plants before it was cool (or even a known possibility). Harnessing the universe’s natural ability for evolution and genetic mutation to give us stronger, more resilient crops should never be discouraged. It’s when companies try to monopolize scientific breakthroughs for commercial gain that we should step in. Until then, stop conflating science and capitalism.
No, Monsanto might not be your friend, but Albert Einstein, Gregor Mendel, Charles Darwin, Carl Sagan and Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson sure are.