Nassim Taleb had a hissy fit last night:
Where I block @JordanbPeterson for violation of intellectual integrity/virtue signaling.
This spat was over Jordan Peterson’s endorsement of golden rice. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, is a promoter of Golden Rice, vis this in the Globe and Mail a few years ago:
Two humanitarian scientists, Dr. Ingo Potrykus and Prof. Peter Beyer, used their knowledge of genetics to create Golden Rice, a variety of rice that contains beta carotene, the essential nutrient that we make into vitamin A. They were aware that two million people, mostly young children, die each year from vitamin A deficiency. Most of them live in urban slums in Asia and Africa and eat little more than a cup of rice each day. Conventional rice contains no beta carotene, resulting in 250 million preschool children who have chronic vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A is necessary for eyesight and the immune system. As many as 500,000 children go blind each year, half of whom die within a year of becoming blind, according to the World Health Organization.
Taleb calls this argument Pedophrasty. He defines this as follows (in Medium, in a piece called “Pedophrasty, Bigoteering, and Other Modern Scams“):
Definition: Argument involving children to prop up a rationalization and make the opponent look like an asshole, as people are defenseless and suspend all skepticism in front of suffering children: nobody has the heart to question the authenticity or source of the reporting. Often done with the aid of pictures.
Taleb continues his hysterics: Actually it is not just virtue signaling but Peterson’s DISGUSTING use of appeal to pity or some FAKE humanitarianism “because blindness” to justify selling speculative options in place of less lucrative more robust ones. Similar to pedophrasty.
Never mind that Greenpeace and every other environment crackpot organization use children ruthlessly in their advocacy, using their authority to insinuate themselves into every school, at just about every grade and filling the open minds of school children with flat-out terror.
Taleb continues in his twitter thread:
“And of course Patrick Moore whose dangerous, dishonest (& exploitative) arguments psychologist @jordanbPeterson was diffusing is a well identified shill for glyphosate.”
I have friends whose ability to reason I respect, who are completely unreasonable on the grounds of glyphosate and GMOs. I am moderately afraid of glyphosate myself and dislike it when Jamie spends a day spraying the dandelions in his five-acre, meticulously kept garden. I keep the pets indoors – as directed on the bottle – and am sullen for a day afterward. I have some kind of grain sensitivity which some health professionals believe is a glyphosate sensitivity. Hundreds of thousands of first world dwellers have developed glyphosate sensitivities and many naturopaths think it contributes to cancer, particularly in pets. The European Union has banned glyphosate and GMOs, on those grounds.
But damn, it is an effective poison and it makes the growing of food (and exquisite gardens) much much easier. Here is Patrick having his own hissy fit:
I believe that this argument can be solved by actuarial science. In the deep dark reaches of corporate and government labs, a grim calculation takes place. Its primary assumption is the following: Life Is Valuable. In the first world, our world, the value of a human life, last time I looked was estimated at about $3,000,000. That would be in the US and Canada. In Europe, given their refusal to use GMOs and Roundup, the value may in fact, be judged higher. In any case the boffins in the basement have judged that the cost of treating the one in 1,000,000 cancer caused by exposure to glyphosate is such that the value of a human life spread against 500 million people is $3 million or $5 million or $10 million, the value of life rising as the culture gets richer. Fine. The first world can argue this as if we are medieval monks arguing the number of angels on the head of a pin. We can afford it and we can afford organic, GMO-free, glyphosate-free food.
Not in the world where the value of a life is neglible, which is to say people die of starvation in the many many thousands every single day. If a chemical comes along that stops that, take it now. Right now. After titanic battles by Patrick and others, golden rice is about to be planted in Bangladesh.
Here are a few facts about starvation in Bangladesh.
Undernutrition costs Bangladesh $1BillionUS a year, and more in health care costs. 41% of children under five are undernourished. Even in the wealthiest households, 26% of children are stunted, and 12% are wasted. Sacrifices in food consumption in favour of children, particularly in times of scarcity, is highly gender biased. In most cases, it is an adult woman who must make a sacrifice.
You can read the rest of these grim statistics at the World Food Program. https://www.wfp.org/stories/10-facts-about-hunger-bangladesh
India has just closed two offices of Greenpeace and stated that the organization acts against the interests of its citizens. They’ve made the choice, not Mr. Fancy Pants on Twitter inveigling against feeding the world’s poor because he is jealous of Jordan Peterson’s fame.