Having been “under the cosh” recently I’ve missed writing about a number of science items which have caught my eye. This is by way of a quick update on some of them.
Food Production & Agriculture
I’ve blogged a number of times about the need for a major restructuring of world-wide agriculture (see here, here and here). New Scientist on 14 June carried an article and an editorial on this subject. Sadly, being part of the "mainstream science establishment” (my term)they don’t get the need for restructuring. They see the solution only in terms of improved varieties, increased production and a decrease in food prices, with all the sterility that implies. They’re unable to see the problem in terms of overproduction of animal protein and a reduction in useful farmland due to poor methods and bio-fuel production. All very sad.
Don’t Blame it all on the Gods
The same issue of New Scientist – it was an especially interesting issue – carried a short article with the above title. I’ll let the introduction speak for itself …
Once phenomena that inspired fear and foreboding, lunar and solar eclipses can now be predicted down to the second, forecast centuries into the future, and "hindcast" centuries into the past. The person who started us down the path from superstition to understanding has been called the "Einstein of the 5th century BC", and was known to his contemporaries as "The Mind". He went on trial for his impious notions, was banished from his adopted home, but nevertheless influenced generations of later scholars. He was Anaxagoras, a native of Ionia in what is now Turkey, and the first great philosopher to live in Athens. Now this little-known scholar is being seen by some as the earliest known practitioner of the scientific method.
Worth searching out if you’re interested in the history of science or the Ancient Greeks.
America’s Abortion Scandal
This is the title of the third article I’ve picked from 14 June New Scientist. In the article Pratima Gupta, a (female) practicing obstetrician-gynaecologist, argues against the prevailing belief amongst US medics that abortion is always psychologically damaging for the woman. Gupta sees no evidence for this and rails against “personal moral beliefs trumping scientific evidence [and even] individuals’ personal beliefs”. What’s worse is that there appears to be covert censorship making abortion something which cannot be researched or discussed. All very interesting when put up against the case of Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin whose unmarried 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, being made (as I read it) to have the child and marry the father (see here, for example).
Finally, this time from New Scientist of 19 July, which contains an article on male circumcision; again something I’ve blogged about before (see here and here). Quite predictably there is a rumpus brewing about the medical profession’s desire for all males to be circumcised – at least in Africa and by implication world-wide – egged on by the WHO. The studies which showed such huge benefits from circumcision are being criticised for their design, for being stopped early and for their assumptions. Surveys which question people’s experience of circumcision are also highly criticised. And of course being a mainstream science journal, New Scientist totally ignore any question of human rights, abuse and mutilation. It’s about time the medical and scientific professions woke up and smelt the coffee.