Why do liberals hate science?

Liberals criticize conservatives for being anti-science. But some liberals are just as anti-science… people just don’t call it that. And that has to change.

I would like you to take a look at a recent article called “Is it Food?” It’s cute, it’s meant to be funny, and it’s well-meaning. It presents a humorous little flowchart that is supposed to help you to decide what to eat. Well, technically it says it will tell you whether or not something is “food”, but this is just a cute way of saying “Is this something that I really should be putting in my body?”

Real Food Flowchart

Two of the key choice-points in this flowchart art the questions:

Are any ingredients in Latin or sciencese?
Are there more than 5 ingredients?

If you answer yes to either of these, you are directed to a box labeled “Not Food” and “Eat at own risk”.

This flowchart isn’t ground-breaking. For years we have heard slogans like “If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you shouldn’t eat it!” and “Don’t eat anything with more than 5 ingredients!” from trendy liberal nutritionists and organic food enthusiasts. The over-reaching theme is that if it is synthetic, artificial, or in any other way man-made, then watch out! It’s not good for you!

So….

Why do liberals hate science?

Why assume that just because it is man-made, it must be bad? Why assume that just because an ingredient is in scary scary Latin, it must be harmful for your body? This kind of blanket assumption is honestly just science-phobic. It’s exactly the same kind of ignorant anti-science fear-mongering that leads people to be suspicious of evolution and global warming.

Now, ok, in the greater scheme of things, it may not be as dangerous and backward as denying evolution or global warming. But it is still naive and ignorant.

Why? Let’s go through a short (and by no means complete) list of problems and flaws with this mindset.

  • All chemicals have long, alien-looking Latin names. Seaweed is also Chondrus crispus. Garlic is also allium sativum. If you have a cold, you might want to drink a tincture of polyphenols. Also known as tea. So don’t freak out over a name that looks “spooky.” It’s ignorant, and in some ways it’s downright xenophobic. Not everything in a foreign language is bad.
  • Just because it hurts you to take something in huge amounts, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it at all. A lot of the studies on mice and other animals that show that additives cause cancer are performed by exposing the animal to thousands and thousand of times the amounts found in human foods. So yes: if you drink a gallon of the orangy powder they use to flavor Cheetohs every day, I’m sure you will get cancer. That doesn’t mean that Cheetohs cause cancer. If you eat an entire box of cookies that contain Splenda and then get sick, it isn’t the fault of the Splenda.
  • Just because you shouldn’t ONLY eat synthetic food, doesn’t mean that you should NEVER eat synthetic food. This is where the “everything in moderation” idea comes in. In fact, the same fear-mongering that applies to burgers also applies to the healthy foods, as well. If all you eat all day is cheeseburgers, you will get sick and die. But if all you eat all day is apples, you will also get sick and die. No food—natural or artificial—is meant to be the only food you eat.
  • The biggest problem is YOUR ignorance, not science’s ignorance. I know you don’t want to hear this, but a vast majority of the medical problems that people get is by misunderstanding or mis-applying a small amount of incomplete knowledge that they THOUGHT was “scientific knowledge”. One perfect example is multivitamins: not everybody needs them. Some people do. If you take a multivitamin, and don’t need it, you could develop problems. That’s not the multivitamin’s fault! You need to learn what your body needs and what it doesn’t. Once you’ve learned what your body needs, it really doesn’t matter if you get it from a “natural” source or not.

 

So let’s not be reactionary xenophobic bigots, please, liberals.

And when you say, “artificial foods are bad for you!” then that is exactly what you are being.

Pills and additives are like any other technology. They can be used, and they can be mis-used, and they can be abused. Like a gun or a car or a television or an electric blanket: multivitamins and antibiotics and Easy-Spread Cheese Substitute can all be safely used when you understand their correct uses, and their limitations, and their dangers. And if you don’t understand their dangers and limitations, they can hurt you. They can ruin your life. (Yes, even the electric blanket.)

What we need to strive for is not to be scared of change, but to deepen our understanding and knowledge. Try to deepen your education about foods and additives. Try to educate yourself about what your body’s needs are, and what foods meet them and what don’t. Understand the difference between the (good) argument, “I would rather not eat something processed with a chemical that doesn’t have a long history of testing under its belt, because there are too many unknowns” and the (bad) argument, “Scientists created it so it’s NOT FOOD!!!!!” The knowledge that science has about food and nutrition is incomplete and imperfect. But so is our knowledge about everything. That’s not, by itself, a reason to eschew technology altogether.

 



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