Michael Specter: “Denialism” | Talks at Google

0
54

>> This piece was on Google in the New Yorker and I worked with him — I talked with him extensively about that piece and we’ve become good friends ever after. And that was ten years ago, I think, that piece. It’s kind of incredible how time flies. Anyhow, I’m excited to welcome him back to Google. He’s obviously visited many times. But now, he’s visiting us as the person we get to interview. So the roles are a little bit reversed. And I’m excited to welcome him to talk about his new book about ‘Denialism’. And then we get to grill him and, just like ten years ago, you got to torture me. Now, I get my revenge. So welcome, Michael. Please come on up and talk. >> [Clapping] Michael Specter: First time I came here, there were less than a hundred employees. So it’s kind of — every time I come here now, I get lost in more and more creative ways, including today. I just want to talk about my book and the themes in it for a little bit.

And then there will be questions, I’m sure, and I’ll be happy to answer them. The name of the book is Denialism, and immediately people wonder what I mean by that. I think we’ve all been in denial at one point in our lives. Something bad happens; we can’t deal with it. It’s kind of normal. It might even be good for a little while on an individual level. It’s extremely harmful when it lasts. And it’s very deleterious to society when we do this in an institutional way. And I think that’s what’s happening in a whole number of areas of life these days. And I’ll talk about that. I should also first say what I didn’t write about, because that seems to interest people too. I didn’t write about climate change and I didn’t write about creationism — both of which are truly denialist issues. And why didn’t I? I went down to the Creation Museum in Kentucky — which I urge you all to do — and I kind of ended up feeling that, if somebody wants to believe that their ancestors rode around on dinosaurs, there’s nothing I can do to have a conversation with them that will be of value to either one of us.

With climate change, I just felt that the preponderance of evidence is so powerful that — so many people have written so convincingly. There’s so much documentation — that for me to add a chapter about it would be kind of like putting a feather on a mountaintop. So, while I do address those issues in the book, they’re not the things I focus on. I try to focus on things that are possibly more daily-life activities, and lately in the news, and that wasn’t on purpose, but one of them is vaccines. And this is an area of life that I can never stop being mystified by, because vaccines are the most effective public health measure in the history of the world except for clean water — no debate, no argument. 41 percent of Americans say they won’t take the H1N1 flu shot or give it to their kids. To me, this is mind blowing. So far, 11 million doses of this vaccine have been administered. And I think there have been reports of two or three serious side effects — and that will happen. If 11 million people drink water, there will be a side effect.

I mean, this is the thing that people don’t ever — you never look at the other side. Five thousand people have died so far from this flu — five hundred kids. Thousands more will die. So when you do the math — and people almost never do — it’s not really a difficult equation. But part of denialism is that people don’t do the math. They feel comfortable in their own intuition, in what they think is evidence, in their own anecdotal experience — and it almost never works. I was at a party a week ago, and a pregnant woman came up to me, and said — I had written a story in the New Yorker, just a little thing about the flu — and she said, “Oh, you’re the flu guy.” Which, believe me, I’ve been called worse. I said, “Yes?” She said, “Well, I’m not going to get that vaccine.

” And I said, “Well, that’s good. Because you’re exactly the person who should be getting it. So that makes perfect sense.” I said, “Why aren’t you getting it?” She said, “Well, I feel fine.” [laughter] And you know, you don’t feel pregnant until you get pregnant either. I mean, these things can’t be stopped. And I tried to talk to her and tell her that viruses don’t care if you feel fine now, but it wasn’t going to happen. Then, I got an e-mail the next day which was more disturbing to me. It was from a college classmate of mine who had heard me on a radio station or something. And she said that some of what I wrote about she agreed with, but she certainly wasn’t vaccinating her child against polio, because ‘we don’t have polio’. Cool. You know, the longest flight in the world is shorter than the shortest incubation time for an infectious disease. And polio exists in the world. So, what does that mean? If somebody in Nigeria gets on a plane — doesn’t know he has polio, but certainly could, because it’s there — flies to say here, goes to Google for an interview, you can get infected.

That hasn’t happened. Maybe it won’t happen. It would be great if it didn’t, but it’s insane to believe that it couldn’t happen. And to walk away from what is really a miraculous scientific advance, but people do it all the time. And it really — it never ceases to amaze me. But I’m beginning to think it’s fear, and fear is just as infectious as any other virus. And people are afraid of what they hear. They’re afraid of autism with vaccines. And it doesn’t matter that there have been 3 million kids studied to see whether autism is related to measles vaccines. And that’s kind of a study you can do pretty well, because there’s a lot of kids that have been vaccinated and a lot of kids who haven’t.

And if you look at the rate at which autism develops, you’ll see it’s the same progression in either case. So how that could happen, I don’t know. Is that? What are we looking at? [laughter] Is that competition or what? Anyway. Cool. I love — I like technology. Okay. [laughter] >> Sorry about that. Michael Specter: Sergey, you’re gone, right? Okay, cool. I look at these issues and I just wonder what people are thinking. And I know some of what people are thinking makes sense. We don’t have measles in this country. People don’t know what measles is. They don’t know what polio is. They don’t know what smallpox is. Smallpox is gone from the world, but it killed billions of people not that long ago. I mean, these diseases were in this country not two generations ago but one generation ago. And the idea that they could never come back — I’m hoping that smallpox won’t come back, because if it does, someone’s making it in a laboratory.

We can get that later — people are just anxious about what they don’t know, and they don’t do any sort of rational thinking about things that affect them personally. And I find this very clearly in another area that I write about that I think may be dear to many people’s heart in this area, which is food. The fight over organic food and genetically engineered food is the stupidest, most ridiculous, culture war that exists in this country. It is of absolutely no — there’s no reason to have it. All food we eat is genetically modified food. They didn’t have cantaloupes or tangerines in the Garden of Eden. Over time, we have bred both animals and plants to do the things that we want them to do. Now, genetic engineering isn’t more powerful technology, and the idea that it’s just the same as anything else is kind of silly and wrong. And there are lots of problems with genetically-engineered food, and you’re probably aware with some of them, but what are they? One is monoculture, just like one crop taking over a huge area.

Another is heavy use of pesticide. Synthetic chemicals. Those things are very serious and severe, and they have kind of nothing to do with genetically-engineered crops. They have a lot to do with the way those crops are treated. All this stuff happened with conventional crops before these crops came along. When people start yelling at me about organic food, what they often seem to be yelling about in the end is multinational corporations, deadlocks on patents on seeds, things that you don’t think are fair, like owning parts of nature. And I think all that is completely legitimate, and we should have conversations about it. And there are amazingly effective ways to prevent that from happening in the future.

But it isn’t the science. Science isn’t a company. Science isn’t Monsanto. Science is science. And it has worked really well since the Enlightenment at least. It has brought us so far. A kid born in Bangladesh today lives longer than a rich man who was born in Park Avenue a hundred years ago. That, to me, is an amazing fact. And it isn’t a coincidence. It’s because of the tools we have. And when people say, “Genetically-engineered food shouldn’t be used at all.” You know, a billion people go to bed hungry every night in this world? A billion. And in 40 years, we’re going to need 70 percent more food than we have right now. So, you guys are mathematically more gifted than me, but it seems to me there’s two ways to get more food.

You can grow more on the land that you have, or you can use more land. If we use much more land, we’re basically cutting down even more rain forest than we’ve already destroyed, and I don’t really think that’s an approach. Getting more, as they say, ‘crop per drop’ is an approach, and it is a solution. It is not the magic solution. But, you know, you can eat vine-ripened tomatoes. I just had a fantastic meal here. It’s great, but we’re not in sub-Saharan Africa. Hundreds of millions of people in the world subsist on cassava. I don’t know if you guys know — it’s just a bunch of carbohydrates. It has no protein. It has no micronutrients. It’s not something you can live on. So genetic engineers have decided to engineer all the stuff you need to live on into cassava — vitamin A, micronutrients, protein — and it’s working. It’s happening. And it’s not planted yet.

And when they get done, there will be field trials. But the idea that we can do this in parts of the world that have nothing else. You know, that might not be the tastiest food in the world, but it’s going to keep them alive and it’s going to make them better. And for us to say, “This is bad” — especially for reasons that kind of don’t exist — it makes me, as you might sense, kind of crazy and mad. I just don’t like to see this become an ideological war, and I think it really has. Now, there are some legitimate reasons for that. I think genetically engineered food kind of got unleashed on the world without anyone ever talking about it. And people tend to say the thing I just said. It can do miraculous things, but what does it really do these days? You know, so we can factory-feed animals, shoot them with hormones, and make them sick and make ourselves sick. It’s not a pretty picture. It doesn’t have to be that way just because it is that way. You know the car industry in the United States sucks.

It’s terrible. Should we not have cars? Or should we make them better? Should we use fuel that’s clean? I kind of think we can do that. We’re already doing it. We need to do it more and better and we can. But to walk away from science and agriculture when so many people really cling to it, is something that — it worries me as it worries me when we walk into a vitamin store and we buy tons of vitamins. We swallow 20 vitamins a day. We drink antioxidant formulas and elixirs and potions and pills. And almost none of this is of any value whatsoever. It’s, if you want dark, you’re in. It’s great. And there are vitamins that are important — vitamin D, vitamin B sometimes, folic acid for pregnant women — but most of the stuff that you see in your vitamin store could be put in a giant bag and thrown into the ocean and the only bad thing about that would be that it would pollute the ocean, because it’s of no value. So why do we do that? Well, I don’t think it’s actually totally for stupid reasons, though I think the effect is really damaging. Our health care system is a disaster; it costs too much.

Even those of us who are insured don’t really get what we ought to get. People don’t like pharmaceutical corporations sometimes for good reason. They charge too much; they’re predatory. Our doctors seem to be distant, remote, and cold. Things are bad. So you go into a vitamin store and everything seems natural. And they say it’s natural and all the support your cardiovascular health and your eyes. They sell a lot of vitamins that have vitamin A and it’ll support your good vision. You need vitamin A; it’s really important. There is no person in the United States that has a vitamin A deficiency. We don’t have that problem here. We have the “too much calories, eat fat, and hormones” problem. So yes, in the developing world, we need to deal with that, but we don’t need to buy it in, you know, the vitamin advisor across the street. But you see it over and over again. And I understand — it’s a reaction to something that is genuinely troubling. But what are we getting when we get those vitamins? We think they’re natural? I mean, do you know who makes those vitamins? How they’re regulated? What’s in them? No you don’t.

Do you think those people — we spent $28 billion on it last year. You think those corporations didn’t want to make money? They’re doing it just because they want you to feel good, whereas Merck wants you to die? I mean, when I talk about this on the radio, that seems to be the supposition. And I did write — the first chapter of my book is on Vioxx, which was a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory — and I wrote it for two reasons. One is, I want people to realize that I’m quite aware that there are legitimate reasons for mistrusting authority in this country. And the other is a more complicated reason, which I’ll discuss. Vioxx was a drug that people took for arthritis. And it was — at the time of its introduction — seen as miraculous. Aspirin works, up to a point, but causes tremendous gastrointestinal distress. Advil, the same. People have even died from it. It’s difficult to live a life where you’re taking 40 aspirin a day.

Vioxx seemed to circumvent that problem. And it was, you know — you couldn’t turn on a television set without seeing an ad. You couldn’t open a magazine. It was the most heavily-marketed drug in the history of the United States until the little blue pill came along. And you know Viagra dwarfs it in all ways. But it turned out that the miracle wasn’t so fabulous, because people started dropping dead of heart attacks. And, in the end, 55,000 Americans — that’s an FDA estimate. It could be more or less — died as a result of taking Vioxx. And the drug was withdrawn, as you would expect that it would be. And Merck knew this; they knew there were cardiovascular risks. They didn’t go out and warn people, and it’s shameful. It’s horrible what happened. There’s no excuse for it. But having said that, I’ll say another thing. Why is Vioxx off the market? I mean, should it be off the market? Because millions of people had a tremendous benefit from that drug. And its flaws were very easy for a doctor to notice. You’re obese, you have diabetes, you have cholesterol problems, you have a history of heart disease — these are things that you can know — you yourself, your physician.

There’s no reason that a drug like that can’t be prescribed in the right way. Actually, there is a reason, because in this country, once a drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, you can do whatever you want with it. You can call it a chair and sell it as furniture. I mean, it’s ridiculous. And so, that’s a problem. And given that situation, the thing to do is get rid of drugs like that. But I do believe that we shouldn’t be in a country where you can’t use things effectively and intelligently. And that’s what the move to genomics is about. But it’s a slow transition. And people don’t think about the other side. You know, if we regulated cars the way we regulated drugs, then no one in this country would be allowed to enter a car. Absolutely no one. Not only that, we kill tens of thousands of people in cars every year. We know that we do that. If we even lowered the speed limit by ten miles, we would save five to eight thousand lives a year.

Totally known fact. But we want to get to the mall. And that’s more important. So the idea that, “Yeah, we can kill them in cars. That’s fine. Because we want to go somewhere. But we won’t take any risk with the drug. If a drug kills four people, it ought to be yanked off the market.” It’s kind of a crazy way to think. If every American took two aspirin right now — I don’t know — three, five hundred of us would be dead by dinner. Does that mean — I think 19 billion aspirin were swallowed last year. Should we not have aspirin? I think it’s a great drug. I think it’s helped billions of people. We should have it, but there are risks. And there are risks to every single thing you do in the world. And people don’t want to think that way. And that’s one of the vaccine issues. You don’t see measles. You just see a needle coming in, and so you think, “Oh, my baby.

And I’ve heard this stuff.” And it is a little daunting. But I don’t — you know, I talk to someone who said, “It’s just that I don’t want to put a foreign substance in my body.” I mean, what do you think she does at dinner every night? Those are foreign substances. It’s no different. But people don’t think that way. And they also are suspicious of authority. And I understand that, but we need to get beyond that. And I think we kind of need to get beyond that in a hurry. And the way that we can do that, I think, is to look ahead. And if we look at personal genomics, if we look at synthetic biology — and I’ve wrote about those in the book. Synthetic biology, in particular, seems to me to be an area where we can do something we didn’t do with genetically engineered food, which is, have a conversation. I think one of the big problems with genetically engineered food and organic food is there are these screaming sides and nobody actually thinks about what they’re saying. Synthetic biology can do a lot of things.

It already has. We’ve made fake versions of Artemisinin, which is the most important malaria drug. And we’ll be able to make all the malaria medication we need in the world in one vat in one factory and it’ll be cheap and it’ll be off-patent and accessible. It’s developed by Jay Keasling in Berkeley, and it is going to be an amazing thing. Because right now, they grow it in Africa. They grow it in Asia. It’s a question of whether farming, the health of the farmers, you know, you’re dependent on the sun and the rain and the wells. This is terrific, but there are also risks. And we’re doing this with other things. We’re doing it with energy sources. We’re going to be able to make diesel and other fuel that can theoretically — and actually, in real life now — power cars without emissions that are the things that we try so hard to avoid and yet never do. I think this is a really exciting way to deal with climate change. And I think we’re going to have to employ it.

It doesn’t mean that we’re going to solve our problems — with that or any single technology or solve our food problems with one technology. But we need it. We need science to help us. And I think the only way that people are going to accept this in this country is to talk about it now, because it’s scary. It is actually scary. When you start making fake organisms out of chemicals, then all that Dr. Frankenstein stuff is actually real — and it is. I wrote a piece for the New Yorker a year and a half ago about some scientists who were taking extinct retroviruses that had been extinct for, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of years, and sort of stitching them back together and bringing them back to life. And people responded to this not in a happy way. Why would you do that? Well, there’s a guy in New York, Eckard Wimmer, who bought polio. He made polio out of synthetic chemicals and was hated for it. And I trashed him in the story. And he called me up and said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.

You’re totally wrong.” Which does actually sometimes happen. So I went up and saw him. I spent a day with him. And he was completely right. Because what was he doing by making fake polio? He was putting the constituent parts together so you can make rapid vaccines against — we’re trying to learn how to make vaccines that you don’t — what we do now is we grow vaccines in eggs. That’s exactly the same thing we did after World War II. I mean we have wifi here, except for some of this technology works really well. We shouldn’t be growing vaccines in eggs in Pennsylvania and hoping that things turn out okay, but we are. And what Wimmer is doing and what a lot of people are doing is saying, “Let’s get the constituent parts. We know what the molecules are.

We know what the proteins are. Let’s put them together so we can take them apart. Let’s figure out ways to disable them.” And that’s really exciting, but it’s also genuinely scary, because once you start making things — to take a dead virus and make it infectious after two hundred years is not a minor thing. And I think scientists sometimes are guilty of saying, “Hey, this is science. Let’s just do it.” What, are you an idiot? And you know, people need to step back and talk about this. I say in my book — and people call me utopian for this — “We should have a national conversation about this in the president of the United States should lead it.” He has town meetings about the economic crisis and the economic crisis is real. But the future of our planet isn’t real? I mean, these are very serious issues, very serious theoretical solutions, and high risks.

And I think we should sit down and say, “Are the risks worth it? What are the benefits? How much does it cost? What do we need to do?” We never have those conversations in this country. We just sort of go ahead. And often that’s worked, that they just went ahead with trains and that Internet thing and it just showed up. But I think we’re at a point now where we really are doing something that makes people uneasy. And I don’t think the answer to that is not to do it. I think it’s to explain it. And I think, when things aren’t explained properly, what you have is denialism. You have people hiding in their own wishes, superstitions, what makes them feel comfortable. And usually what makes you feel comfortable isn’t actually the thing you want to do, down the road. So I just like people to be a little thoughtful about — not just themselves — but other people.

You know, when you get a vaccine and you don’t get it? It’s not just you. It’s not just your kid. It’s the people who go to school with your kid. And it’s understandable to be afraid, but you need to also look at the other side. And we just so rarely do in this country. We so rarely think that something is anything other than a plot that it’s really getting kind of scary. And I think we’re getting away from who we are. And Google is the representation of who we are. I mean, we can do amazing things. And we don’t want to walk away from our ability to do that, because we’re afraid of science. And that has happened I think. Anyway, that’s my thing. People can question me if they want. I’m sure that others might have different views and I’d love to hear them. So thank you.

>> [Clapping] Michael Specter: Everyone agrees to everything I said. This is first time in recorded history that that that’s happened. All right. Good. Bummer. Q If I could ask a question. Does this work? So you mentioned it would be great if Obama would lead a cover station on a more rational way to deal with this country. My concern is there’s a political system that would immediately spring to force to try to counter anything. How do we finesse the politics to get the conversation going? Michael Specter: I mean, you know, it’s a good question. And this is not a minor thing, but we do have a president now who — I don’t want to make him into more than he is, but he’s appointed some really good people and scientists to run the agencies. He actually believes in things like evolution.

So we’re moving forward in the presidential arena. And I think that there are people around him that I even know who can start having this conversation. And yes, people will yell back. They yell back about everything. But if we don’t have it, we’re just being drowned out. We’re being drowned out right now by people who actually think that creationism is this — 40 percent of the American people say that, you know, we descended in our current form 10,000 years ago. That scares the hell out of me — it really does. So, how do you do that? You educate people. And we don’t do that very well. We don’t do it very well in school. One of the things — I don’t say this in my book but — we should teach kids statistics. We don’t teach them statistics.

We teach them physics and chemistry, so for some people, that’s useful. I’d much rather have my 16-year-old daughter be able to go like this than to do experiments with chemistry, which is something that I have a feeling she won’t be doing down the road. But we don’t do it. And it’s really starting to take a toll on our country. You know, you can lose your edge. You don’t have to be the most advanced, technological society forever. There’s lots of historical examples of countries that have been advanced and have disappeared. And that can happen to us. And if you look at the education — especially math and science — and you look at America, say in ’96, we are where we were 13 years ago. China? India? Hong Kong? Singapore? I think Japan’s good, but maybe not as good as they were. You can’t stand still, and we are.

Q I share your concerns. Thank you. Michael Specter: Thanks. Q That segways really nicely into what I was going to ask about. So, it sounds like you think the one of the problems we’re facing is the decline in the attractiveness of math and science to young people. Do you think that’s a trend that we can reverse in, you know, five years, ten years, twenty years? Michael Specter: I don’t want to put a, “We can do this in three years if we work really hard” on it. I just know that if we make the case that our lives are dependent upon these things — and I actually think they are — people will respond. I mean, we’re not dumb in this country, and we’re really advanced and progress has defined us. And part of the problem is that we used to believe in progress so blindly and foolishly — and have been let down a lot — that now, we kind of don’t believe in it at all. And I think that’s sad.

But we can talk about that and get the word out there. I actually believe that or I wouldn’t have written this. Thank you. Q Yeah. This all moved into exactly what I was going to ask about education and stuff like that. I sometimes wonder whether we should give up on the current generation and just try to engage our efforts into changing the education of the next generation where we actually have a better chance. And along those lines or even if you think we should still pay attention to the current generation. I mean, you wrote a book and that’s great, but I think you’re preaching largely to the choir here. The question is, What are your practical — I mean, we agree I think a lot of us with what you’re saying, but do you have practical suggestions? How should we actually make a case for change? We’re not all going to go off and write another book and. Michael Specter: I hope not, because my sales will plummet if you do.

>> Exactly. So you know, practical suggestions? Michael Specter: It’s a really good question, but I think that there are practical ways to deal with each of these issues. When someone tells you that they swallow antioxidant formula D and vitamin E and vitamin C and it makes them feel better and they know it does, ask them why? Ask them what they know about it. Ask them did they see the study that says actually it makes you sicker? You know, echinacea is the second most used herb in this country. Everyone thinks if you take it, it will prevent you from getting a cold. Actually it doesn’t help, and with little kids, it just encourages respiratory infections. So, it’s going to seem silly, but I think we just need to talk about these things. I think we need to teach them.

And I think especially, you know, you say ‘preaching to the choir’, I’m surprised so much on the food issue that I think I’m preaching to the choir and I actually feel like I need to have cosmetic surgery and move to Honduras. Because you should see my e-mail. And again, I think if people had a conversation where they were told, “You know, your feelings about multinational corporations may or may not be serious and you might be right, but that’s not what this is about. This is about a technology. And we can use a technology in any number of ways just as we can use vaccines in the third world.” You know, in Africa, the rate of measles is plummeting. It still kills 300,000 people a year.

But the only place where it’s growing is in this country and Europe. I mean, how shameful is that? So I think these things have to be communicated and they are. And the media and the Internet are, I think, partially to blame at least, I have to say. We tend to scream at least as loudly as anyone. Q I had a friend in grad school, a doctor in computer science and then worked at NASA and then, last I talked to her, she’s become a doctor of homeopathy. Michael Specter: [Uh!] Q How do you respond to that? Michael Specter: I responded. [laughter] Q How should I respond to that? Michael Specter: I wrote about homeopathy in my book. So this is amazing. I mean ‘homeopathy’ is the principle that ‘like cures like’. You could take like a little billionth of a molecule of the thing that makes you sick and dilute it and distill it and swallow it and you’ll be fine. Now, any number of studies have shown this to be complete and utter bunkum, but it doesn’t matter to people.

They still want it. And I think sometimes they want it because it seems real and comfortable. And drugs don’t seem real. And they make you sick. And by the way, we’ve been told that, you know, we’re going to have cancer cured and this pill will take care of that. And so often medicine isn’t like that. It’s more an art than a science. It doesn’t banish things. Sure, if you have strep throat, there’s a drug. But often it’s much more complicated and I think we don’t sell it that way. And people get annoyed and then they go running to something that seems comfortable. Like homeopathy. But woe, NASA to homeopathy. That’s a bad route. >> [pause] Q So one thing you haven’t talked about very much in your talk so far is religion.

Michael Specter: Yeah. Q Do you think the fact that a lot of people are indoctrinated from early age to believe things that aren’t proved or provable affects their take on things later in life? Michael Specter: Yeah. I try to duck the religion thing as much as possible. But I will say this. I don’t think that religion has to be in conflict with science. And there’s lots of examples, including Albert Einstein, to prove me right. Yeah, there are fundamentalists — Christians, Jews, Muslims — tons of people who are never going to accept reality. But most people are not like that. And I don’t see why a religion — if people feel good about religion and it gives them some peace, I don’t see why that has to interfere with the scientific method and talking about repeating studies, showing how they work, showing what they do, and showing what happens when you don’t do them. I may be utopian, but I don’t think that is the fundamental problem.

But it is something to think about. Q So my knowledge of history is not that great, but my impression is So Europe sort of went through a transition a couple of hundred years of sort of superstition to having a method. Since then, a lot of other countries have made that transition or are in the process of transition. Have you researched at all, How does that transition happen? You know, what’s — we have different cases, because it happens in different kinds of places, like different here than there? Michael Specter: Well, it’s a good question. I think some of it is just level of education and the number of people and the percentage of people who are educated at a certain level. But I would say this about Europe. Yeah, they went through a transition a couple hundred years ago. I think they might be going through another transition right now. Because you say the word ‘genetically modified food’ in that part of the world and you better have a suit of armor. And again, there are reasons for that because, you know, they don’t need genetically modified corn or tasteless tomatoes, but their opposition is so profound.

And the thing that kills me about that is, So you’re an environmentist and what do you want? Less water use? Less insecticide on the land? Less energy used to get to crops? These things can do that. And actually the World Wildlife Fund has, thank God, come out and said, “Gee, maybe this biotechnology stuff is okay.” But I see it going in reverse in Europe actually more rapidly than it’s going in reverse here. I don’t know why they are okay with evolution and we’re not. That’s over my head — above my pay rate. But on the other stuff I don’t think — I do see them moving backwards. I see a lot of moving backwards. Well, there may be a pendulum and that may seem natural, but all I know is that, you know, we used to die at the age of 40. That was when we died. It wasn’t thousands of years ago. It was 125 years ago, or 150 years ago. And now, we die at the age of 80. My grandfather died when he was 62, and that was about 40 years ago.

And it was sad, but nobody said, “Oh, my God. He was only 62,” because you were supposed to die when you’re 62. Well now, you’re supposed to die when you’re 82. And people say when someone dies at 62, “Gee, he got robbed of, you know, a bunch of life.” That’s just in one generation. That isn’t 500 years. So the advances we’ve made are just incredible. And yet, we seem to be sliding backward in the way we approach them, and, I think, part of it is we take for granted what we have. But for what it’s worth. Anything else? Okay. Go forth, plant genetically engineered food, swear off organics, and thank you very much. >> [Clapping].

NO COMMENTS