Critical Thinking and the Rush to Organics

From the Forbes.com article by Steven Savage, “Why I Don’t Buy Organic, And Why You Might Not Want To Either”

In the spirit of an interview I will be conducting tomorrow on Critical Thinking, I invite you to check your confirmation bias before reading the link below. Now, more than ever, this is becoming an essential skill, especially in the age of social media and 10,000 clicks per second “information” sharing.

Also essential is the ability to differentiate legitimate viewpoints from pure nonsense. (“Nonsense” would be any argument for the existence of chemtrails, for example.) A “legitimate” viewpoint always requires two things: clear logic and reliable sources. This is an incredibly low bar, but people, it seems, are often inclined to stoop much lower.

As a disclaimer, I buy a lot of organic food. But not because I think it is safer or healthier. I am much more inclined to buy LOCAL, which has a greater positive impact than organic and often tastes better, too, though I am fortunate enough to live in an area where much of the local is organic, if that is what I am looking for. But I have also talked with people who source organic for their products about why sometimes they specifically choose non-organic, not the least reason being that it is often ethically superior and more environmentally friendly NOT to be organic. Organizations like the EWG (Environmental Working Group) tend to only tell a distorted part of the story, and they certainly present data from a heavily skewed perspective (we expect this from corporate mouthpieces for Big Agriculture, and the EWG is no different — it is just a corporate propaganda arm for the organic foods industry).

But, like I said, if you can, let go of your confirmation bias. Assume that what you “feel” isn’t necessarily true. Assume that you are wrong, or at least only partially right, and that maybe you will find something to fill in the blanks and help you arrive at a reasonable conclusion. It’s good practice. We all need it. Only an exercised skill stays sharp and critical thinking is no different.

Read this article by Steven Savage and feel free to come back here and comment.

Then go get something fresh to eat.

3 thoughts on “Critical Thinking and the Rush to Organics

  1. certainly food for thought…organic always sounds good, is more expensive as we are led to believe it is worth it to have it grown in a safer, healthier manner…this article makes for second thoughts…thanks for the “critical thinking” lesson number one

  2. I agree in general with Steven Savage’s points. The belief that “all natural”=”safe” is a major fallacy. I’m a little surprised he didn’t address free-range or grass fed meats, which require more acreage as well. Organic meats have a somewhat higher risk of parasites:

    https://www.livescience.com/20856-organic-meat-toxoplasmosis-parasite-risk.html
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25771511

    I would add the for immunocompromised people, such as those on chemotherapy, certain kinds of leukemia, HIV/AIDS, transplant patients who must take immuno-suppressants, people born with immuno-deficiencies such as SCID, etc., should avoid unpasteurized milk products and unwashed foods fertilized with manure. The latter is hard, because there is no labeling for it. For such people, it’s best to wash it thoroughly, and then cook it.

    https://patienteducation.osumc.edu/Documents/immunocompromised-diet.pdf
    https://uihc.org/health-library/food-safety-people-who-are-immunosuppressed

    CDC has a number of pages for immunocompromised people regarding specific pathogens that are more prevalent in organic foods, without mentioning that fact.

    I think that of the the “all natural” movement’s panaceas are based on either poor science, or good science that has been distorted. I think this is due to science fatigue in some segments of the population. The organic marketing associations then take advantage of that fatigue, in the same way that big pharma and big agra take advantage of similar fatigue in their markets.

    One can’t mindlessly trust any of the industry associations, because profit is at stake. That’s why best practice in scientific journals is to disclose funding sources. Even that is not enough, though.

    1. Seymour,

      Great links and interesting insight! Thank you.

      I do think you are correct about “science fatigue,” though in some segments of our society that appears to happen well before real science is even examined. The whole culture of anti-intellectualism that has taken hold, especially over the past few years, has been shockingly normalized. But replies like yours give me hope! There are still people out there who care about science and reason and, dare I say, even truth.

      Thank you for adding to the discussion.

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