Friday, April 21, 2017

Musings: Cowed by Anti-Science Bullies

I suppose it was inevitable that controversy should intrude into Saturday's March for Science-Hawaii.

Though the international event is intended to be a non-partisan celebration of the scientific method and scientific innovation, it seems that some folks just can't handle the presentation of viewpoints that oppose their own, especially when the facts aren't on their side. 

Yes, the anti-TMT (Tirty-Meter Telescope) and anti-GMO activists are all huhu that the Hawaii March organizers dared to invite speakers who represent the science side of these two issues. And in their typical “my way or the highway” approach to things, some of them are calling for a boycott –oh, boo hoo; your absence won't even be noticed — and/or actively trying to discredit and smear the participants they don't like.

Not surprisingly, their ranks include the Sierra Club's Nate Yuen and failed politician Gary Hooser, who huffed:
Uh, for starters, Joni Kamiya is hardly an “industry hack” — she's a health professional and the daughter of an Oahu papaya farmer — and it's kind of hard to see how the Alliance for Science can be a “Monsanto front group” when we don't get any money or other support from Monsanto. But then, when you have nothing real to criticize, you just make stuff up.

And truly, what could be less progressive than Hooser and his faux progressive group HAPA trying to stifle freedom of speech, open discussion, science and the presentation of various points of view? But as I've noted ad nauseum, the antis are afflicted with psychological projection, which is defined as:

Projection is a psychological defense mechanism in which individuals attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to another person. For example, a husband who has a hostile nature might attribute this hostility to his wife and say she has an anger management problem.

Of course, Hawaii Center for Food Safety had to chime in:
Sure, Ashley Lukens, come on down. Science deniers are always welcome at a science march. Sort of like the KKK crashing a civil rights rally.

Of course, this is nothing new. But what's really sad is how the University of Hawaii, which is hosting the March event, is cowering in the face of this controversy, rather than standing up to these bullies. Per usual, the antis started attacking Joni on the Hawaii March for Science Facebook page, which had posted an announcement about her planned speech, just as it acknowledged the other speakers in tomorrow's line up at UH.

Joni responded to correct the lies and other science-defenders joined in, pointing out the misinformation and lack of science that drives the anti-GMO stance.

The organizers —neophtyes to the ugliness that characterizes the anti-GMO movmement — were appalled and began deleting some of the nastier comments. This was followed by them asking Joni not to talk about GMOs or pesticides during her 5-minute talk.

Or as a friend quipped:

Dear Galileo -
We are looking forward to your speech at the Vatican. We all agree on the value of science. Just please don’t mention your idea about the earth going around the sun.
Love, the Catholic Church

Now, Joni hadn't actually planned on talking about GMOs or pesticides, but nobody likes to be gagged, especially at an event that is supposed to be about defending science.

But here's the really troubling part: the UH organizers said they didn't want any hot topics. Huh? Uh, guys, that's what the March for Science is all about. Defending scientific integrity and the increasingly critical need for evidence-based decision-making at a time when ignorant, anti-science demagogues and their sheep are making like beliefs and opinions are more important that facts.

Sadly, UH has been intimidated by the anti-GMO activists for quite a while, ever since Walter Ritte ranted and raged about GM taro in yet another one of his ill-informed self-promoting tirades. Never mind that the research involved Chinese taro, and was being conducted by a Chinese woman. It wasn't Haloa (the taro plant from which Hawaiians believe they are descended) at all. But UH was so cowed that it not only stopped the research, but destroyed all the lab work so that it couldn't be continued or replicated elsewhere.

That's a pretty sad stance for a publicly-funded university to take. And it's even sadder when you consider how far UH has fallen since the College of Tropical Ag (CTAHR) dean asked Dennis Gonsalves to come up with a solution to the ringspot virus that was destroying Hawaii's papaya industry. 

In response, Dennis developed the ringspot-resistant papaya — the world's first public sector GMO food crop. Now UH has very little biotech research going on, and it keeps it down low to avoid the wrath of the antis.

I'm certain UH would not tolerate bullying in its classrooms, or among its faculty. So why does it allow the activists to bully its professors, its deans, its March for Science organizers, the people it has invited to speak at events it is hosting?

Unless the people in Hawaii stand up to this bullying, it's only going to get worse. And if the highly educated professionals at UH are too afraid to stand up to the bullies, then it really doesn't bode well for the future of science-based research and policy-making in the Aloha State.

Still, at the end of the day, Joni will be speaking at the March for Science and the antis will not. So let them stew at home in their own toxic juices as those who support science, not fear-mongering, stand up for what's right.

Events are planned on every island. Join the March nearest you, and stand up for science, agriculture and the values of the Enlightenment.

For a little extra inspiration, I'll leave with you this video from Neil deGrasse Tyson: "When you have people who don't know much about science standing in denial of it and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy. "


  1. Awesome post Joan. So sad that UH cowers in the face of push back. This is what standing up for science is all about.

    Great line about Galileo!


  2. You know what is goading the boat of the Anti's - that Joni gets the public stage more often than any of them do. They also field losing candidates for office and cant even get a bill moved out of committee for a floor vote on any of their home cooked ideas.

    They are jealous....and as jealous people they should be ignored.

  3. As a UH Manoa graduate I am ashamed that my alma mater seems to have forgotten "Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ʻĀina i ka Pono."

  4. Joan, you are the Queen of bloggers; a fearless journalist separating truth from fiction, providing interesting and amusing commentary in the most beguiling way.


  5. I'm a UH Manoa grad too, long time ago.

    Not happy about what the university has come to. I don't make contributions anymore because I cannot support the pathetic pandering to bullying illiterates, the fear of controversy, the lack of will to stand up for science, and the retention of staff like Hector Valenzuela.

  6. The antis will have their turn on stage soon enough; March Against Monsanto is just around the corner. It'll be interesting to see how much smaller their turnout is this year.

  7. EVERYTHING seems to be politicized these days. Gee, a group of folks at the U of H (a highly political environment) can't even decide how to promote science!!!!! So sad and it makes me ashamed of the University that bears our State name!

  8. Bradley Choquette....The fruit loops will be to busy trying to figure out what to name the march when Bayer takes over.

  9. @ 3:33 They have already begun with this gem...

    The problem is, antis aren't going to make inroads on changing how farmers tend the land by bashing them, and spreading false propaganda. They're just gunna tick us off and entrench us in a battle to the contrary.

  10. Tyson never mentioned "corporations" and how they control inquiry thereby debasing "free inquiry" the fundmental building block of all science.

  11. 4/21 @ 6:12 PM perhaps you can provide proof of corporations doing what you allege? Because there's plenty of proof of the anti-crowd controlling inquiry and stifling open debate.

  12. Today's science is owned and controlled by the person footing the bill. Whether you agree with "the science" or disagree with it usually stems from if you have something financial to gain from it. Neither side is telling the truth.

  13. I can't even fathom the remarks made by Mr Hooser and others regarding our companies position on the event tomorrow! He knows full well the GREAT, work our organizations do every chance we can to promote STEM. The schools reach out to our qualified people to be JUDGES for the students. YES, our companies leadership who continually give up their time to guide the students on their projects! We support the Science Olympiads for high school and elementary students throughout Kauai and Hawaii. We recently supported students from Molokai and Maui to attend a National Robotics competition with scholarships! Brilliant young minds who are competing with the best in the United States!
    Know this...I would rather be part of a movement that makes a difference for Science...then taking cheap shots and doing NOTHING but complain. Think about it...Easy to talk and bash...while others donate their time and efforts in making a difference to the future of our youth. He has NEVER taken a tour of any of the companies on any island. I have never seen him support one Science activity I have attended or orchestrated for the last ten plus years on Kauai. WHY? Because he knows in educating himself he will find the essence of TRUTH..not bubbles he fabricates!

  14. Thanks 6:12 PM. The Center for Food Safety is a corporation and an excellent example of a corporation debasing free inquiry and science.

  15. 4/21 @ 8:17 PM nice talking point. Don't actually know any scientists, do you?

  16. Love Neil!!!!!!!!

  17. In the end, science prevails. Most of the commercial taro grown in Hawaii today was bred by John Hu a UH plant breeder now retired. It was developed using traditional plant breeding, crossing south pacific varieties with Hawaiian ones.Lots of resistance from farmers early on but now widely accepted.

  18. The papaya section of Hawaii markets are filled with the product of University of Hawaii at Manoa, Cornell University and Monsanto's contributions to farming and our diet- the Rainbow Papaya. The aggregate contributions for the dubiously named "Center for Food Safety", and its buttlicking pals HAPA, Hawaii Seed and all manner of obstructionist and challenged mouthpieces for Big Organics and anti-science sucking for handouts couldn't fill the space set aside for mint in the markets.

  19. Good! The Anti-GMO lobby never added anything intelligent or useful to the discussion and their non-participation is a blessing. If they had something intelligent to say based on science and not superstition, it would be a great to hear from them, but they don't. They should go back to where they came -- the Mainland! Why are they here anyway?

  20. It will never be accepted by anti-GMO lobby nor will the vastly improved papaya.

  21. I need to correct a statement made by Anonymous, April 22, 8:04. The plant breeder who developed new varieties of taro was Eduardo Trujillo. Dr. Trujillo, now retired, developed three varieties of taro developed to resist taro leaf blight. Trujillo filed invention disclosures on the three plant varieties, which ultimately lead to CTAHR and UH patenting these three varieties. This was the concern that brought Walter Ritte to CTAHR's door. He mobilized the Hawaiians against CTAHR not because of GMO work in taro but because CTAHR had patented haloa. However, at the same time, Dr. Susan Miyasaka at the Komohana Experiment Station in Hilo, was working on genetically modifed Chinese Bun Long taro to try to eliminate taro leaf blight. The GMO taro was successful in eliminating the leaf blight. The other taro breeder was John Cho (not John Hu). Dr. Cho, located on Maui, was successful in developing a large number of commercially successful ornamental taros. For a good reference on CTAHR and Taro, read the CTAHR publication which can be found here:

  22. Here on Kauai, the turnout for the March for Science on Saturday could not have been more diverse and was greater, per capita of population, than large cities on the mainland. A small number of people advocating opposition to GMO seed company activities was present, with signs reflecting those views, and they were welcomed and encouraged to participate. The Kauai march organizers included a small number of seed company employees, participating on their own time, and they clearly are employed by companies engaged in scientific activities. However, the organizers, like the participants, reflected the broad population of the island and were not the tools of, or beholden to, any corporate interest.

    The fact that a few seed company employees were involved in organizing the Kauai event speaks more to the failure of any large organization to step up than anything. There were also a few people like me, who have no relationship with any seed company but feel strongly about the public policy issues in question. The organizers, like the participants, were individuals with extremely varied backgrounds and perspectives. They included working scientists and concerned community members. I'm incredibly proud of what we accomplished on Kauai and for people like Mr. Hooser (who, by the way, did not show up) to try to belittle the accomplishments of several hundred Kauai people speaks more to the moral bankruptcy of much of the anti-GMO/pesticide fringe.

  23. It is also worth noting that a short video appeared on YouTube today of the Kauai march. Pictures don't lie. Watch it for yourself and see if you agree it was hundreds of regular people from Kauai, speaking their minds.


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