Bill Nye revises his anti-GMO views

March 4, 2015 • 11:15 am

Since I’ve criticized Bill Nye for his scientifically unjustified warnings about GMOs (genetically modified organisms; see here and here for my earlier posts), I thought it only fair to add that he now seems to have modified those views. According to Dan Arel, Nye’s walked back his unwarranted fears, which of course could have been influential given his status as The Science Guy. Nye was challenged to debate GMOs by at least one pro-GMO horticultural scientist, but hasn’t agreed to participate.

Here’s a clip provided by Arel, showing Nye discussing his new book about evolution, Undeniable, backstage after his appearance on Bill Maher’s “Real Time.”

The relevant part starts at 3:38, where Nye notes that he’s going to revise the GMO chapter of his book to reflect new information he got (after visiting Monsanto!).  I dearly hope that revision will dial back the fearfulness about GMOs. Arel implies that this will be the case, but all you can tell from Nye’s words is that a revision is in the works.

If Nye does reverse his views, and presents the scientific consensus that GMOs do not pose any dangers, then I applaud his willingness to change his mind. But of course the data were always there for him to see, so this just reflects his not doing his homework in the first place.

I consider Nye’s discussion of human “races,” beginning at 1:30, as grossly uniformed, for he confuses “race” (genetically differentiated populations of humans) with “species” (groups of populations that are reproductively isolated from each other, i.e., unable to produce viable and fertile offspring). The issue of whether there are human races is of course controversial (I think the concept is still useful), but it doesn’t do any good to misrepresent the controversy in the first place, as Nye does. Nye argues that races don’t exist because a Caucasian and a Chinese could mate and produce a human! Seriously? That’s the concept of species, not races! And then he drags in “tribes,” which simply muddies the waters. Maybe Nye should talk to some evolutionary geneticists before he starts spouting off on this kind of stuff. Again, homework is neglected (maybe the dog ate it).

Of course I applaud Nye’s desire to “change the world” (as he says) by educating people about science, but I don’t think that right now he’s exactly a primo science communicator—not if he continually gets stuff wrong or has to correct himself. And, on a personal note, I don’t find him inspiring—not in the way I regard Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carolyn Porco, or Richard Dawkins when they talk about science. In contrast, Nye gives me the creeps. You may say that I shouldn’t feel that way, but that’s my lived experience.

105 thoughts on “Bill Nye revises his anti-GMO views

    1. We all are. When eukaryotes acquired bacteria, now mitochondria, a lot of the bacterial DNA migrated to the nucleus, and it is still there. Mitochondria still have a small amount of DNA as well.
      We are all Frankenfood!

  1. Nye notes that he’s going to revise the GMO chapter of his book to reflect new information he got (after visiting Monsanto!).

    Yikes. I’m not anti-GMO but if you’re looking for a source of info on GMO that the public is going to accept as credible, that probably isn’t it. IIRC both the FDA and CDC have covered this subject reasonably well; for a book I have to think you’d sway far more people citing their studies rather than Monsanto’s.

    1. Exactly. It is difficult to take seriously claims that something is safe from the company that is ready to make huge amounts of money off it. Do we know of independant tests of GMOs?

      1. It’s my understanding that the government,at least in the US requires the testing be done by gmo producers. It’s reviewed by the FDA and available free of charge at their website. After all why should we pay for the tests that make corporations money?

        1. That’s possible. But hey, the corps could be taxed a bit more and the money used to pay for testing. Besides, that is what governments are for, to set up and pay for collective projects that individuals (and so-called “moral” individuals, tho many are not) would or could not.

    2. That was my thought too. Everyone is just going to think he’s been sucked in. Also, all those people who’ve bought his bestselling book are going to be a bit annoyed it’s having a major revision.

      I’m like Jerry – I’ve never seen what others like about him. However, we didn’t have his show in NZ, so I don’t like to judge. I don’t know enough about him for that. The getting to know your neighbours comment was pretty ignorant though.

    3. I think a lot of resistance to GMO has got to be based, not on the details of the science, but the fact that the technology will likely be in the hands of and under the control of Big Agriculture. Monsanto, and others will not have the best interest of humanity in mind when devising strategies for using this new capability. When lots of money is at stake, safety is not going to loom large as a factor.

      1. I think it’s the other way around: resistance to GMOs has driven people to grossly and unfairly demonize Monsanto. It’s now taken as an axiom that doesn’t need any justification that Monsanto is evil and should be ignored.

        1. Well, Monsanto has been widely not liked long before GMOS. They are (or have) manufactured PCBs & Agent Orange, and have allowed quite a few environmental disasters with various industrial spills and highly fatal plant explosions over their long history.
          On the GMO side, the ‘terminator’ line of crops has not earned friends. There is more.

          1. “When lots of money is at stake, safety is not going to loom large as a factor.”

            On the contrary, if they want to keep all that money – rather than having to lose it in an endless series of expensive lawsuits – then the safety of their product should be a factor of prime importance to them.

          2. Should be. Product safety worked so well for Big Tobacco, didn’t it?

          3. Well, I’m very pro-GMO (if done for the right reasons and with sufficient evidence/research/safeguards in place). I think the association of GM *almost exclusively* with Monsanto is unfortunate, and no-doubt it’s very useful to the anti-GM lobby to press this association.

            That way GM can be linked to non-GM food scandals like that surrounding Monsanto’s bovine groth hormone Posilac (banned across Europe and Australasia, as well as Japan, Canada and many other parts of the world due to both livestock and human saftey concerns; however approved by the FDA in the US).

            Thus I’ve heard anti-GM people make arguments exactly of this type.

    1. He’s wrong, for there are genetic differences that, if you take them together, can give a strong idea of someone’s background and ancestry. In some cases genetics can, in fact, pinpoint where a given European’s ancestors came from within 50 km or so. If there are no correlations of genetics with geographic origin, why do places like 23 and me offer the ability to diagnose your ancestry from your DNA? Of course these differences are not fixed among ethnic groups, but, in sum, can identify them with great accuracy. Using the canard of “essentialism” obscures this important fact. There are clearly no fixed number of races, for genetics and geography are distributed hierarchically with no sharp boundaries, but the idea of “race” as “genetically differentiated populations”, which is how we use it in biology, is by no means outmoded. This refusal to recognize the correlation of genetics with geography is simply a political position, because people think that such an idea leads to racism. But science shouldn’t bend its conclusions to fit any ideology, and the facts about the use of genetics to diagnose ancestry are indisputable. But I’ve written about this many times before. It’s the word “race” rather than “genetically differentiated populations” that gets people’s hackles up.

      1. I beg to differ. There’s a big difference between correlation of genotype with geography and a genetic basis for race. You can tell ancestral locality (or you once could, at least) even if the data consisted of nothing but mutually uncorrelated geographic clines. Which, to a considerable degree, it does.

        Races, or subspecies, should generally be distinguished by some kind of discrete features; any clines should at least be sharp and coincident. Most subspecies are geographically isolated. And this we don’t see much in humans. You can tell a Chinese from a Frenchman, but a transect between them would show a broad distribution of intermediates.

        1. I generally agree and that is why “race” is mildly useful at best. All geographically widespread species show genetic differentiation, which is bound to arise from local selection or drift, but we certainly don’t assign “races” to them. Dr. Coyne correctly notes that race designations are arbitrary as far as the total number, and that they are certainly not discrete entities. The problem is that its use outside of biology – and occasionally within biology – is fraught with misconceptions and pernicious conclusions. I have challenged my students, for example, to draw the geographic boundaries that delineate the mythical “white” race, whatever characters they use to define it.
          Why not just emphasize spatial genetic differentiation?

        2. Since we can tell the difference between an average Frenchman and an average Chinese, is that not essentially admitting that there is such a thing as race? At least when one is comparing individuals whose phenotypes fit one set of racial criteria and not so much another racial criteria? We do the same for domesticated breeds even though they too exist in a continuum.

          1. Because the use of race in your sense is a reification – making concrete something that has no external referent. The fact that we can distinguish a Frenchman and a Chinese person does not mean that we should start assigning racial designations to this phenotypic variation. Such designations necessarily make the population differences seem more discrete than they are. You can see the arbitrariness when you consider that anthropologists have “defined” anywhere from 3(!) to 30 “races”.

          2. Your point about domesticated breeds is exactly right. As far as I’m aware, no-one disputes the existence of dog breeds despite the fact that many dogs don’t fit neatly into any of them. Like poodles, Dobermans and dachshunds, indigenous Nigerians, Norwegians and Koreans show consistent phenotypic differences, breed true amongst themselves, but will also happily interbreed when given the opportunity. If it’s legitimate to talk about “breeds” of other mammal species, then why can’t the same be true of humans? in this case, we just happen to call them “races” instead.

          3. Dog breeds have an extra push to discrete differences because of the way humans have conducted artificial selection (specifically WANTING purebreds with distinct exaggerated characteristics, and few “mixed” breeds). The distribution of genetic and phenotypic variation in humans has never had a similar process underlying it.

          4. What Frank said. Dog breeds are separate populations isolated from each other by human intervention. The fact that they frequently form mutts just shows how artificial the maintenance of those populations is. But it’s roughly equivalent to the sort of thing that happens in nature by the geographic isolation of populations of the same species — they get a bit different. Humans don’t do that.

            Humans form a nearly continuous population over the land surface of the earth, despite the existence of partial geographic barriers here and there (oceans, high mountains, deserts, i.e. regions of sparse population). But the diversity you see is just the effect of distance, plus a little bit of selection. The fact that you can pick out members of distant populations is made less interesting by the fact that you can also run a transect between these populations and sample all intermediate states. You could say that Norwegians and Chinese belong to different races, but where’s the boundary between them? What race are they in Tashkent?

          5. Question.

            I recently watched an episode of David Suzuki’s tv show “The Nature of Things” in which the history of human migration across the globe was explained. In it, a very very dark African man was shown swimming in a stream in what appeared to be Northern Europe.

            My question is, is that plausible? Would migration have really happened *that* fast? Or would it have taken thousands of years for Africans to slowly migrate northward, their skin slowly lightening the entire time, that by the time they got to Sweden, say, they were light skinned?

          6. Who knows about the accuracy of the graphics on the show but light skin is supposed to be a relatively recent adaptation.

        3. Remember that those groups reflect genetic differences that DID evolve in isolation. We can’t name discrete races, but the genetic difference shows that the process of differentiation began, even if it’s being effaced now.

          And you can tell a Chinese person from a European by genetics. If you can diagnose ethnicity in that manner, and in a way that is almost 100% with people’s own self-identification as to ethnicity, then what does that tell you?

          1. I’m not sure it’s true that these differences did evolve in isolation. If there was, it must have ended several thousand years ago.

            Of course you can tell Chinese from Europeans by genetics. That has never been at issue. What that tells me is that China is very far away from Europe. But a transect across the Silk Road would show fairly smooth intergrades. Not much of a subspecies there.

          2. and the diseases that affect those races – which is why I was interested in my dad’s ethnicity (he was adopted). I’m that cold hearted. I don’t want to get to know people; I just want to know what diseases they might have.

      2. I’m so glad to hear this topic of race as it relates to genetics laid out so clearly. I have been going into a confused state, questioning my own grasp on things (is there something wrong with me, that I think the two are obviously connected?) whenever I’ve heard this claim, that, actually, there’s no such thing as race, genetically.

      3. That’s how I was taught in school but we had to call them “demes” because the word “race” had bad connotations.

          1. A deme is just a local population. It may or may not be genetically different from a neighboring deme, and a subspecies or race may consist of a whole lot of demes.

          2. I learned it in anthropology. Damn anthropologists. It was in the textbook too. I think they over simplified things.

      4. Hi, I agree and disagree with Jerry in equal measure. Last things first, he is right about the word ‘race’ being the fundamental problem. As it is a word that primarily has vernacular use, and an ill-defined and historically problematic scientific use, I stand by abandoning it.

        I don’t buy the 23&Me argument. Commercial genetic genalogy is of great but trivial interest. It can give very broad or very recent geographical clustering markers, but I don’t think these can be defined as races. As you say, there can be no fixed number of races; none of these clusters are exclusive to one region or one self defined group. The genetic differentiation we see occurs across different groups depending on what markers are being identified, though most broadly, they correspond with physical barriers to migration.
        Nevertheless, I don’t see how the word race can be useful scientifically.

        I don’t think in principle this is a political point, though fully recognise the weight of politics that it carries.

        I think that there is an interesting Linean taxonomic v Darwinian phylogenetic conflict here. Possibly. That might sounds a bit pseudey, bordering on sociology. But the attempt to categorise by frozen type without looking at the temporal change underlies this debate.

        And I may get swallowed up my own arse.

        1. Well, one paper (I can’t recall its name) showed that there seemed to be five distinct human clusters of genotypes, corresponding to major groups that are geographically differentiated (Oceania, Africa, New World, etc.), and those, at least at one time, represented genetically different populations that were geographically isolated (biological “races”). The clusters still exist, although due to migration they’re blurring. If you don’t want to call them “races,” I’ll be happy with ecotypes.

          Let me ask you this: when doctors use tests that may be limited to certain ethnic groups because of different frequencies of diseases (e.g. Tay-Sachs), or give different drugs to different groups because of evidence of differential response, how do you characterize that? “Ethnic-group-based” medicine? Is the concept of genetically different populations of no value there? I’d love to see some people (not you) try to float the idea of “social-construct based medicine”!

          1. That’s probably Rosenberg 2002, and yes they are broadly isolated by broad geneflow barriers, like oceans.

            It most certainly is the most value in the application of haplotype specificty, agreed. And there is value, But again, while there may be broad, on average clustering, I think I’m right in saying that these are not exclusive. From memory (I’m due on the radio in 14 minutes, Tay Sachs is as prevalent in several populations that are Jewish (for example). Similarly, B-thalesemia and Sickle cell have a range which extends far beyond any ethnic/’race’ categories. How about ‘haplotype medicine’? ‘Cluster Medicine’?

        2. Mr. Rutherford, your Guardian article is a propaganda piece liberally mixing fact and fiction. You write, “There is no genetic basis that corresponds with any particular group of people”. This is, of course, false, and is contradicted a couple sentences later by, “There are genetic characteristics that associate with certain populations”. The use of a few, but well-placed, deliberately false claims, is very common among “creation scientists” “proving” that scientific evidence doesn’t support evolution.

          It gets better. You write, “[Darwin] did not … think human “races” might be separate … subspecies.” This is also straight up false. In Descent of Man, Charles Darwin clearly and explicitly states that humans form different subspecies, writing, “… man has been raised to his present state. But since he attained to the rank of manhood, he has diverged into distinct races, or as they may be more fitly called, sub-species.” (pg 608, 2nd ed).

          Many anthropologists at the time thought humans formed different species. Darwin disagreed, but did not challenge the notion that humans formed different taxonomic groups. The claim that race did not exist only arose in the 20th century. Even though there were competing claims on the number of “races or species” (as Darwin put it) of humans, this did not deter him from claiming that the taxonomic groups were real. He wrote, “This diversity of judgment does not prove that the races ought not to be ranked as species, but it shews that they graduate into each other, and that it is hardly possible to discover clear distinctive characters between them.” (pg 174-175)

          The truth is, people categorize things. The fact that something doesn’t neatly fit into a category does not inherently stop categorization. Some people attempt to categories the human species, based on a parsimonious analysis of morphology, evolutionary history, and other relevant biological factors. Darwin felt that the term “subspecies” was more scientific for this than “race” but wrote that, “from long habit the term “race” will perhaps always be employed.” (pg 175)

    2. I read that. There was a horrible person in the comments who kept going on about how sub Saharan Africans have lower IQs than whites, therefore, racial difference is real and non whites are inferior.

      Of course, this commenter ignored all of the studies which have demonstrated that middle class black people have the same IQ, SAT scores as middle class whites.

      There are racial differences, as PCC just explained, but I hate the way racists abuse data to promote their own agenda.

      1. “…all of the studies which have demonstrated that middle class black people have the same IQ, SAT scores as middle class whites.”
        Good for them, but if there was a measured difference would that make sub Saharan Africans “inferior” people? That would be like saying San are inferior people because they are short. I’m worried with the focus on some specific trait or other as if that defines the level of humanness. We are all human as individuals or as groups. What’s the mystery?

    3. This piece in the Guardian reminds me of this European Union Council Directive:

      “The European Union rejects theories which attempt to determine the existence of separate human races.”

  2. Race is a very 19th C. topic. The colonial powers were very big on establishing a hierarchy of races. The Brits, if I recall correctly, identified dozens of “races” they could feel superior to.

    1. We managed to put all of the other ‘races’ into one category, for us to feel superior to – “Johnny Foreigner”.

      Then we spent the best part of 200 years, sailing round the world to “give them a damn good thrashing”

  3. Roundup ready seed corn has a decided negative effect on beneficial insects. Bees and butterflies especially Monarchs

    1. It’s the Roundup, not the seeds, although they are symbiotic.

      The debate is interesting, because Roundup allows planting crops without ploughing, and ploughing is terribly destructive to topsoil.

      1. you are correct up to the ploughing part. No-Til farming really has nothing to do with the herbicide and was in use before the chemicals came along. Not ploughing is also a weed control, believe it or not.

    2. It isn’t the selected corn, it is the pesticide. How could it be the corn, humans are 7 % viral GMO genes and that has largely been beneficial (promotes the close implantation that allow a long pregnancy and so a large brain; defends against viral attacks)? Communication is good in genes, as elsewhere, and harmful genes are rapidly weeded out.

      And even if it _was_ the corn, what would be the connection between substantiated problems of common side effects (if we confer pesticide effects on the crop) and unwarranted fears?

      1. I’m not sure why you use the term pesticide? Round up would be the subject and it is a herbicide.

        1. Pesticide is the general term, meaning kills pests, and if it’s a plant pest it’s a herbicide, an insect pest an insecticide.

          1. Pesticide is the general term for something that kills insects (an insecticide). Herbicide is a chemical that kills plants, yes – like round up.. If we can’t agree on this there will be a lot of confused farmers out there.

            I would like to see GMO work on the seeds that will stop the use of pesticides

    3. Yes, and I am really bummed about that. These are among the things about GMOs that really are bad.
      But even worse than this indirect effect of a GMO are the non-GMO use of neonicotinoid insecticides. These are incredibly poisonous, persistent systemic insecticides that are now everywhere in trace amounts. It is suspected that aside from killing insects, low, sub-lethal doses are now pervasive, and that they can change insect behavior (and behavior of other small invertebrates) in ways that lead to population decline.

  4. I admire Bill Nye for his passion for science and struggle to push it to a broader audience. But, I have to say I feel that sometimes he does not have the confidence and maybe the knowledge to voice his opinions. One example was his latest participation on Bill Maher’s show. I felt that whenever he wanted to join the discussion, he would end up saying very shallow and short phrases that were not followed up at all.

  5. Bill Nye is just a bit creepy. Why write books on what you vaguely know about except for money? If he is not careful he could be for science, what Bill O’Riley is for journalism and history.

    1. The advantage that Nye has, is that the general population will buy his books and hopefully read them (due to his popularity). I can give you a list of a few well-known, respected scientists who have written excellent books that either contain some misinformation or the author has weird ideas in other areas concerning science that they’ve expressed in other media. Gould for example…I liked several of his books but have stronger disagreements with him than with Nye (and Nye seems to be able to change his mind if the evidence weighs against his opinion).

      1. I’m sorry but I do have a hard time comparing Nye with Gould. I used O’Rilley because both he and Nye are in the entertainment business. Nye is not a Scientist or a professor of Biology that I am aware of. O’Rilley sure is no History professor. I would not read one of O’rilley’s history books and I don’t think Nye’s evolution book will worth a whole lot either. If they insist on embarrassing themselves, at least they do it for money.

        1. I think O’Reilly is a poor example of a non-historian writing history. I don’t know of anyone who is not a Fox viewer who would buy such a book. OTOH, there are writers of history who do a decent job without having a PhD in the field. For every Stephen Ambrose, there is a David McCullough. Historians may argue about the finer points of historical minutia in such a book, but the general population gets a good read and walk away knowing more about history.

          Same with Nye. Any science-illiterate reading his book will walk away knowing more science. Hopefully, they hear about the revision (and most likely will), which will only increase their interest in the topic. If Nye stuck to his original thinking on GMO’s and went to his grave defending his position, then that would be tragic. But if he admits he was wrong and changes it, good for him.

          1. You may not know any non Fox viewer who would buy his attempts but would that be everyone…don’t think so. Check out a few libraries and guess what…his books are there and in the history section.

  6. Arguments against GMOs are not that numerous. The main one, of course, is safety. It would be good to know the identities and conclusions of independent labs which have tested them and their conclusions. As I said above, it’s difficult to take seriously the claim that something is safe from the company that is ready to make huge amounts of money off it. Btw, Indian farmers claim that GMO cotton does not resist insects any better than non-GMO.

    Another problem is that they may infect neighboring fields, but there may be a fix for that by providing essentially an on-off switch so they would simply not work in non-switched fields.

    It seems to me that labelling (rather than forbidding labelling) is a good idea as not labelling makes people wonder what they are hiding. Besides, let people make up their own minds. (Hope that is not touching a nerve…)

    Remain the moral/societal/economic problems: patent of living organisms and ridiculous profits which COULD lead to a few companies’ taking over seed production.

  7. “The issue of whether there are human races is of course controversial (I think the concept is still useful).” In what sense? Is 200,000 years long enough for deep, meaningful traits to emerge that concord with external traits like skin color, eye shape, etc.? Most of the scientists that have weighed in on the matter don’t think so: geneticists, microbiologists, etc. Either does the American Anthropological Association: On what basis is the concept of “race” still biologically useful? Joe Lapsley

    1. When I was a child and first learned about evolution the thing I thought was so wonderful about it was that it meant there would be no more racism. We just had to explain that we’re all related, and once people understood we’re all one big family racism would just go away.

      I think that’s what those who deny there are different races really want – no more racism. There clearly are general differences. They don’t make any race any better or worse than any other, but, of course, bigots will always try to find a justification for their opinions just like religious people or any other group that has insupportable views.

      Imo we need to stick to the explanation with the best support. Using evidence that can’t stand up to scrutiny just gives those with wrong ideas weapons to attack.

      1. And there are uses. Some medical conditions are more prevalent in different populations than others, for example. It enables diagnosis and treatment of those conditions to be targeted where the need is greatest.

        1. No, Joe would tell you to ignore that superficial trait of pigmentation, even if it’s correlated with a different probability of different diseases, and with the differential efficacy of different medicines. I wonder what all these people who decry the use of “race” would say about the fact that when you apply for jobs, at least in academia, you have to tick a box giving your race. Is that just “race as a social construct”? If that’s the case, then how come those social constructs can be identified so accurately with genetic markers?

          1. Race isn’t just a social construct, just mostly one. That should be obvious if you just note that the children of a black man and a white woman (or vice versa) are considered black. In fact if you have any black ancestors (and if that’s public knowledge) you are considered black.

            Further, almost all African-Americans’ ancestors (at least the African ones) are from a fairly small region of West Africa, and they’re seen against a background of people whose ancestors are from a fairly small region of Eurasia. Once again, two widely separated regions; of course you can tell those apart genetically, and of course there is intergradation in the regions in between.

            And let’s not get started on “Hispanic”.

          2. I think you just highlighted “race as a social construct” and why it’s an issue. People identify with whichever race they decide to identify with, when they are mixed and there is no one designation for that.

            This does not trump or have anything to do with genetics. In other words, it’s nowhere near the same thing and would fail quickly if it was used as a way to treat someone medically.

          3. Actually, as you say, most African-Americans come from a small region of West Africa. You neglected to point out that the rest of us come from a large region of east and maybe central and south Africa.

  8. I cannot comment on race ,species or GMOs since I am not educated at all in those fields. Who am I to question Jerry Coyne? I do however take exception to Mr Coyne’s criticizing Bill Nye for correcting himself when he gets things wrong.
    That is a great quality that I wish more people could or would emulate
    Imagine politicians doing that!
    Bill Nye went to Monsanto to learn more about GMOs . According to Coyne that’s OK as long as Nye changes his mind. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?

    1. No, I ADMIRE his correcting himself, and I try to do that too (on the FEW occasions when I’m wrong 🙂 ). What I’m criticizing is his tendency to shoot from the hip, which makes him look bad and suggests he doesn’t research his topics very well before spouting off (remember, what he’s retracting is not a verbal statement, but a chapter in his book!).

      As for going to Monsanto to learn more about GMOs, I have no problem with that, though I suggest that he should have done more than that before revising his opinion.

      And I don’t like to be called “Coyne” here, okay?

    2. Well you can call me Jerry. Or you can call me Allen! Or you can call me Jerry Allen. Or you can call me Jerry Allen Coyne. Or you can call me Jay A . Or you can call me Jay A Cee. Or you can call me Jac Or you can call me Doctor Coyne. Or you can call me Professor Coyne Or you can call me Mr Coyne….
      But you don’t has tuh call me Coyne
      (Did I offend you?) Anye for anye
      I am going to apologize (which I rarely do) because I have a great deal of respect for you.(And you deserve it) I wouldn’t do it for Ham. Or Cush, Mizraim, Phut or Canaan

      BTW You can call me Robertshaw.

      Those boots are awesome . All my Boulets are black

  9. I have read a tiny bit on GMOs and it seems there are conflicting views even among the ‘experts’ so being cautious is not a bad thing.That’s all Nye says in his book. What’s wrong with that? If more caution is not needed no harm is done.
    I have also read conflicting information from ‘experts’ on the existence of race. What’s a boy to do! Nowt but read all he can and remain quiet because whatever he decided would only be an opinion?

    1. The consensus that GMOs are safe is stronger than the consensus that CO2 emissions are causing global warming. Only a scientic fringe beats the anti-GMO drum.

      1. That said, there are still plenty of reasons to control the ubiquity of GMOs, as mentioned by various people above. They are not linked to causing direct harm (like cause autism or cancer), but their widespread use is tied indirectly to declines in insects like honeybees, etc.

        1. Just so everyone is clear….it’s the chemicals, not the GMO seed. We talk as if it were the corn seed or the bean seed that was killing the bees.

          By the way, Monsanto and others make you plant their seed or nothing at all.

    2. Nye’s book has a chapter where he talks about allergies to transgenic papaya. He uses that as an example of how harmful transgenics are to human health. But he gives no citation to where this idea came from. He seems to have made up a story about allergies to transgenic papayas from whole cloth. This is the reason he needs to reverse his prior position. Some of it is based on pure fiction that harms the public understanding of this controversial subject. He had no excuse for making up lies like that to sell his book. At a time when Brian Williams and Bill O’Reilly are being taken to task for exaggerating or lying, it seems fair that Nye should eat some crow for the falsehoods he has intentionally spread on GMOs. If he really has reformed his position, then that is an improvement on previously questionable behavior. Cheers to that. I am glad he has come around to the evidence. But will he keep playing loose and fast with the facts in the future or is this a legitimate change for him? We will see I guess.

  10. If Bill Nye has changed his mind based on the evidence, then he really IS a scientist. Good for him. Discounting that evidence based on where it came from sounds a little like Sarah Palin slamming the “lamestream media.” For information that is not tainted by association you could check out what the National Academy of Sciences has to say on it.

  11. “Again, homework is neglected (maybe the dog ate it).” (!!)

    That was truly pure Russellian wit.

  12. The issue of whether there are human races is of course controversial (I think the concept is still useful)

    Having just spent some hours learning how to navigate the public transport system of Istanbul, observing the literally cosmopolitan crowds of humaity there, I agree that the concept reamins valid. Turks (loose sense), Azeris, Persians, various Semites, several different variants of Africans, a few varieties of Europeans (including Americans), and Chinese of several varieties I can’t really categorise. The groups are there. “Useful” is a slipperier concept : they still fall into the old categories of male-consider-potentially-dangerous, female-acceptable, female-pretty, female-very-pretty, female-stop-drooling-aidan. I recall the buses of Baku and that an ancient Greek had considered the Azeris (Eastern Turkik peoples, bordering on the northern Persians) as the most beautiful in the world. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with him (I’m sure it was a ‘him’, if only for it being ancient and Greek), but I could live with having to earn my living making that judgement.
    Beats looking at lumps of rock. (And it’s not often you’ll hear a geologist say that!)

  13. I think the chance that Bill will change anyone’s mind about GMOs is close to nil. What will happen is that people will decide Bill is a Monsanto shill, it was all a setup from the beginning, and they’ll point out that Bill is only an engineer, while David Suzuki is an actual geneticist, and if Davis Suzuki is opposed to GMOs, then obviously they have to be bad, because David Suzuki is a geneticist.

    It’s even possible that a few conservatives who already distrust Bill for his climate change stance will decide GMOs must be bad because Bill Nye doesn’t say they’re bad.

    Human cognition can be a very bizarre process.

    1. You might be right. Yet there are thousands of geneticists who do not share Suzuki’s opinion in the least. Many consider him a quack. Why are most geneticists ignored by people who listen to Suzuki? Confirmation bias possibly?

      Human cognition…as you said.

      1. How many scientists have been considered quacks by their peers only to be proven right in the long run. Einstein, Zwicky,Darwin, etc etc

        1. That’s bogus. Einstein wasn’t ever considered a quack and within ten years after the publication of the Origin, virtually every biologist in the English-speaking world, and most learned people, accepted his book as true.

        2. If anything these particular scientists make up exceptions and not a rule. How many scientists have been considered quacks by their peers and it turned out the peers were right, they were quacks? I think answer to this question is a much longer list than the one to your question.

  14. I’m not a geneticist and I don’t know the answer. BTI corn has a piece of genetic material from Bacillus thuringienis that produces a toxin that makes insects’ guts leak and kills them after eating BTI corn. Can that piece of genetic material in our intestines on digestion of BTI corn, ever get incorporated into our gut E.coli? If it does, is it possible that our gut E.coli could produce the toxin and cause our intestines to leak?

    1. That same toxin is a certified organic pesticide sprayed on most (not sure proportions, it’s one of the most common organic pesticides) crops you’d buy in the organic section of Whole Paycheck.

    2. BT crops seem safe. The endotoxin does not harm animals except for specific kinds of insects (caterpillars and beetle larvae). I do not know why its so specific. Even insects that eat poisoned insects (like preying mantises) are not harmed.

  15. I do like it when scientists, or people working within science, change their minds when given new or more data

    I don’t think it’s something, anyone should be afraid to do, in any walk of life

  16. Race as a concept has use as a social science concept. But I don’t understand how race is or could be a useful concept in biology.

    1. Mea Culpa. I think I should have read the comment thread before posting this remark. However, I think the term race carries so much baggage that its use may produce more confusion than clarity.

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