The more an ideology pretends to give answers to all questions, the more attractive it is; here may lie the reason why irrational or even plainly insane thought systems can so easily attract the minds of men. Erich Fromm
Agnotology (formerly agnatology) is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. The neologism was coined by Robert N. Proctor, a Stanford University professor specializing in the history of science and technology. Its name derives from the Neoclassical Greek word ἄγνωσις, agnōsis, "not knowing" (confer Attic Greek ἄγνωτος "unknown"), and -λογία, -logia. More generally, the term also highlights the increasingly common condition where more knowledge of a subject leaves one more uncertain than before.
A prime example of the deliberate production of ignorance cited by Proctor is the tobacco industry's conspiracy to manufacture doubt about the cancer risks of tobacco use. Under the banner of science, the industry produced research about everything except tobacco hazards to exploit public uncertainty. Some causes of culturally induced ignorance are media neglect, corporate or governmental secrecy and suppression, document destruction, and myriad forms of inherent or avoidable culturopolitical selectivity, inattention, and forgetfulness.
Behavior is traditionally attributed to animals only. Recently, evidence for plant behavior is accumulating, mostly from plant physiological studies. Here, we provide ecological evidence for complex plant behavior in the form of seed abortion decisions conditional on internal and external cues. We analyzed seed abortion patterns of barberry plants exposed to seed parasitism and different environmental conditions. Without abortion, parasite infestation of seeds can lead to loss of all seeds in a fruit. We statistically tested a series of null models with Monte Carlo simulations to establish selectivity and adaptiveness of the observed seed abortion patterns. Seed abortion was more frequent in parasitized fruits and fruits from dry habitats. Surprisingly, seed abortion occurred with significantly greater probability if there was a second intact seed in the fruit. This strategy provides a fitness benefit if abortion can prevent a sibling seed from coinfestation and if nonabortion of an infested but surviving single seed saves resources invested in the fruit coat. Ecological evidence for complex decision making in plants thus includes a structural memory (the second seed), simple reasoning (integration of inner and outer conditions), conditional behavior (abortion), and anticipation of future risks (seed predation).
For nature, the “ruin” is ecocide: an irreversible termination of life at some scale, which could be the planet.
Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs fall squarely under [the precautionary principle, i.e. the rule that we should err on the side of caution if something is really dangerous] not because of the harm to the consumer because of their systemic risk on the system.
Top-down modifications to the system (through GMOs) are categorically and statistically different from bottom up ones (regular farming, progressive tinkering with crops, etc.) There is no comparison between the tinkering of selective breeding and the top-down engineering of arbitrarily taking a gene from an organism and putting it into another. Saying that such a product is natural misses the statistical process by which things become ”natural”. [i.e. evolving over thousands of years in a natural ecosystem, or at least breeding over several generations.]
What people miss is that the modification of crops impacts everyone and exports the error from the local to the global. I do not wish to pay—or have my descendants pay—for errors by executives of Monsanto. We should exert the precautionary principle there—our non-naive version—simply because we would only discover errors after considerable and irreversible environmental damage.
In addition, the United Nations actually says that small organic farms are the only way to feed the world.
This comment, in my opinion, is worth a re-posting. The commenter, "Grebulocities", indirectly addresses one of the mysteries of our time: "Why do so many smart individuals back dumb ideas, concepts, and products?"
To expand on my point a bit, I didn't think you thought that paid shills were behind apocalypse believers and conspiracy theorists. What I mean to say is that a substantial portion, probably most, of the posts you have to deal with that look like comments by corporate or political shills are likely to actually be real, unpaid opinions by people who have been convinced by propaganda of one sort or another. I'm going to use an example from something I know well (I studied molecular biology as a grad student for a couple of years), but this sort of process is going on in a number of political and economic arguments.
Take, for instance, a molecular biologist who has never read your blog before and whose views are scientifically mainstream. Suppose the post s/he comments on somehow involves genetic engineering of crops. His or her response is likely to be indistinguishable from that of a comment by a paid shill for a large biotech company - it will be articulate, it will come from a new user, and it will likely start by dispelling common misconceptions it thinks "anti-GM" activists have and conclude by saying that a biotech-driven Second Green Revolution is the key to feeding humanity.
Of course, the reality is more complicated - genetic engineering has shown quite limited promise at engineering better food crops, and it is mostly used as a way for a few corporations to gain intellectual property rights over large parts of the world's food supply. The actual innovations, such as inserting glyphosate resistance or production of Bt toxin, are being easily defeated by evolution. Numerous glyphosate-resistant weeds and Bt-resistant corn borers have appeared all over the Midwest and are defeating efforts to combat them with biochemical tools.
Now of course molecular biologists should know what's really going on - anyone who understands evolution would know that the techniques that have been used are guaranteed to fail as resistance evolves. In reality, though, they often side wholeheartedly with biotech firms and would make a post like this, assuming anti-GM activists are scientifically illiterate.
Some of them receive corporate grants and are biased for obvious reasons. But - this is the important point - most such people are not receiving corporate grants. Their sense of purpose and meaning in life is built around improving humanity scientifically, and they imagine that further scientific progress in agriculture can solve future world food supply problems. This happens to be exactly the view biotech firms are pushing - so you'll never know if such a post is originated by a truly (financially) disinterested scientist or a paid spokesperson of Monsanto et al.
This same process occurs in political issues as well, or anywhere else where educated people have personally identified with exactly the beliefs that certain interests are pushing. The situation from last week where someone falsely appeared to be a paid shill of the Democratic Party or its allies is a classic example - I know many highly educated types who would have made exactly the same sorts of arguments. A person who believes in Progress, and who believes that the Democratic Party is advancing Progress, would make arguments that sound like (and are in some cases taken from) the Democratic platform or Obama's slogans. Successful propaganda propagates itself.