Need Safeguards for Gene-Tinkered Foods

Jim Owens jow at helix.nih.gov
Thu Jun 24 08:21:04 EST 1993


In article <C93z86.3vu at cunews.carleton.ca> OPIRG,
wcsbeau at superior.carleton.ca writes:
>I would just like to reiterate that we posted Prof. Cummins's article to
>generate such open-minded discussion. His article, although written in
>his usual 'colorful' style, was *not* meant to be flamebait.

A colorful style generally attracts attention to the itself.  As all can
see, the debate has been mostly about the style, not the substance, at
least on bionet.*.  This is how political debates proceed.  Recall that
20th century debates on evolution were dominated by what biology
textbooks should or should not say about evolution and special creation
and not what is generally accepted by biologists.

    >It was written for a lay audience - it was intended to bring 
    >the issue to the general public's attention. This had certain 
    >advantages (eg., it's short, non-scientists will easily understand 
    >it); it also has some disadvantages (eg., popular journals won't 
    >bother printing cites, it has to be highly rhetorical to get 
    >people's attention).

As Aristotle wrote, rhetoric is designed to persuade an audience to
accept a position and/or to take action based on that position.  But
rhetoric does not necessarily enlighten.  Appeal to reason is one
technique of rhetoric.  Appeal to the audience's passions is another. 
Thus it can be inflammatory.  That's good to those who accept the
position and bad to those who disagree with it.  Passion is the stronger
motivator, but it needs some facts to make it credible.  In rhetoric
facts are generally taken out of context.  It is up to the speaker not to
allow this to distort the interpretation.  That's quite a tall order for
a human being.

My newsreading program told me that the message I am responding to is
cross-posted to seven or eight groups, including some alt.* groups.  The
larger forum is good for those who are not interested in reasoned debate.
 That may be where the issue will be settled, but I hope the groundwork
of reasonable discussion takes place in a smaller setting first.

Good luck to you all,

Jim Owens



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