Are genetically modified foods safe? Science says yes but why do so many people still believe otherwise?

Currently, thousands of plants and animals grown and raised in the United States have been genetically modified in some way. Since the beginnings of agriculture and animal husbandry, humans have been manipulating the genetics of plants and animals but what’s different now is that we have the ability to successfully and effectively splice genes from one species into another. Sometimes DNA from a bacterium has a property that is effective when added to the genome of corn. Once this DNA is added, the corn is considered “genetically modified” or a genetically modified organism (GMO). (Click here for more information on what a GMO is)

Rigorous scientific studies have consistently shown that GM foods are as safe to consume as their non GM counterparts however fears about their safety persist. Why is that? To get to the heart of the issue we have to examine the role of language in our acquisition of knowledge, the relationship between emotion and reason when making decisions about our health, and standards of good science.

Designing babies or saving lives in Mexico?

“While specialists are calling it breakthrough technology, critics of assisted reproductive technology (ART) warn doctors about playing God.

“The US team at New Hope Fertility Clinic in New York, led by Dr John Zhang, had to travel to their Mexico clinic in Guadalajara to carry out the procedure, which is effectively banned in the United States.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-37505751

The Inquiry Podcast: Is the Knowledge Factory Broken?

This podcast examines the nature of scientific knowledge and how it is produced. What is “good science” and how is it undermined by incentives and the process itself?

“Academic research stands accused of turning a blind eye to dodgy data, failing to reconcile contradictory findings and valuing money over knowledge. We examine the criticisms, which go the very heart of our pursuit of knowledge.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csvsy8

The surprising pattern behind color names around the world

“In 1969, two Berkeley researchers, Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published a book on a pretty groundbreaking idea: that every culture in history, when they developed their languages, invented words for colors in the exact same order. They claimed to know this based off of a simple color identification test, where 20 respondents identified 330 colored chips by name. If a language had six words, they were always black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If it had four terms, they were always black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always black, white, and red , and so on. The theory was revolutionary — and it shaped our understanding of how color terminologies emerge.”

The First Woman to Translate the ‘Odyssey’ Into English: The classicist Emily Wilson has given Homer’s epic a radically contemporary voice.

“If you’re going to admit that stories matter,” Wilson told me, “then it matters how we tell them, and that exists on the level of microscopic word choice, as well as on the level of which story are you going to pick to start off with, and then, what exactly is that story? The whole question of ‘What is that story?’ is going to depend on the language, the words that you use.”

Should Art That Infuriates Be Removed?

“Is the censorship, much less the destruction of art, abhorrent? Yes. Should people offended or outraged by an artwork or an exhibition mount protests? Absolutely. And might a museum have the foresight to frame a possibly controversial work of art through labels or programming? Yes, that, too. “

White Artist’s Painting of Emmett Till at Whitney Biennial Draws Protests

White free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.” She added that “contemporary art is a fundamentally white supremacist institution despite all our nice friends.”

 

Infographic: How a Word Gets Into the Dictionary

Language is a fluid thing. There are no real “authorities” that create words but dictionaries can serve as reflections of the words people are using in every day life. To some degree words gain a certain legitimacy once they are included in the dictionary. How does a word get into the dictionary? This interesting infographic from Merriam-Webster maps out the process.

“We’ve been at it again: the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary has gotten bigger, this time by over 250 new words and definitions. These terms have shown themselves to be fully established members of the language, some after hanging about on the fringes for decades, and others after proving themselves too useful to ignore in relatively short order. All have demonstrated significant use in a variety of sources, making them words our readers expect to find in the dictionary. As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language, and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon.”

Click on the image to see the full graphic.

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