I should refrain from poking at controversial ideas at this hour of the morning, in public, before I’m quite ready to be politic or polite. I should, I know. But oh, I am contrary as a cat, and do so enjoy swatting at the curtains.
So, here it is: I am dumbfounded, disturbed, distraught by the pervasiveness of scientific illiteracy. I’m reminded of it weekly at the farmers market by the dietary lectures I receive from customers and passers by. No, I say calmly, wheat is not toxic. Actually, I cut in, rye and barley also have gluten. Yes, I’m serious. So do the ancient wheats like emmer, spelt, and einkorn. Well, I reply, smiling with all my teeth, mutation drives evolution, as well as plant breeding, so no, I don’t think it’s "unnatural." And no, plant breeding that induces mutation with radiation does not produce “bad” food. (And dammit, stop trying to hide your fears behind pseudoscience! I refrain from adding, because I do have some small sense of self-preservation).
But while swallowing the snake oil of quacks like Dr. William Davis and Dr. David Perlmutter may cause harm to people’s pocketbooks, and, more troublingly, to their food traditions, it’s no skin off my nose. Eat whatever makes you feel healthy, or safe, or morally superior.
The problem is, scientific illiteracy doesn’t stop with the eager embrace of the latest dietary prophet cloaking their food religion in scientific terms. Respectable, mainstream media outlets consistently confuse hypothesis with theory, ignoring the complexity and contradiction of real science in favor of the easy story. Environmental and political activists (including those I respect and with whom I agree) often so abuse statistics as to undermine their credibility (and the maddening thing is, the science is there! There’s no need to cherry pick data on climate change or the public health consequences of economic inequality).
The reason all this matters, the reason I get worried when a customer proselytizes their Google-searched diet, or when I read yet another article twisting a single study into Scientific Truth, is that such a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific method and inability to distinguish science from pseudoscience leaves people vulnerable to truly dangerous anti-science campaigns like climate change denial and the anti-vax movement. The re-emergence of preventable diseases like rubella and diphtheria, and the lack of political will to reduce fossil fuel consumption even as we hurtle towards the apocalypse, are the inevitable consequence of such ignorance.
Approach the world with curiosity and a critical eye. Ask questions. Challenge the orthodoxy of common wisdom. But oh, do so as an informed skeptic, and not as a dupe!
All right. That’s enough damage done for one morning. If I’ve offended you, I hope you’ll challenge me rather than walking away. I don’t have time to debate with you at the farmers market, but send me an email, or invite me to coffee, and I’ll gladly engage!
Red & White, Mountain Rye, Vollkornbrot, Country Rye
Bittersweet Chocolate and Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies
Black Sesame and Fennel Palmier
Garden Pesto Twist
Hazelnut Cake with Strawberries & Cream
Brown Butter Shortbread
Rosemary Sea Salt
See you soon!
Owner | Baker