Ben & Jerry’s drops “All Natural” from labels

I literally just watched Super Size Me when I came across this article about Ben & Jerry’s dropping the label “All Natural” from its labels.

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s is dropping the phrase “all natural” from all labels after a request from a health advocacy group.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the company confirmed the move Monday.

The CSPI told the company last month it should not use “all natural” if products contain alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, hydrogenated oil or other ingredients that are not natural.

Ben & Jerry’s, a unit of consumer products giant Unilever, said it’s not changing any recipes. It’s just removing the label from all products, whether they are among the majority that contain at least one of the ingredients CSPI listed or not.

The CSPI also played a role in “Super Size Me”.

I’m glad to see this move not out of health advocacy (though I’m also happy from that point of view) but because the term “All Natural” is almost entirely without meaning. It’s just some tricky buzzword that helps sell products, but it doesn’t add any information content to any packaging. I hope the next step will be for the FDA to define it, a position strongly supported by the CSPI.

U.S. science and math education ranked 48th

A lot of Americans are hostile towards science. With political parties like the Republicans and Teabaggers, it isn’t any surprise. (Of course, the Republicans are a contributor to the hostility; the Teabaggers are a result.) But at the root of these ugly movements is, naturally, religion. It’s fair to place a lot of the blame on religion because, for starters, it teaches that faith is a virtue. Of course, faith most certainly isn’t a virtue and it has only been made into one by the religious out of necessity, but the idea that it’s good to believe without evidence is ingrained into many American minds via religious rhetoric.

We’ve always been a religious nation, but there were times when we managed to lead in science and math. We can attribute a lot of that to economic superiority or importing scientists from elsewhere or, especially during the Cold War, nationalism. But I think we can also attribute a lot of it to the fact that historically it hasn’t been obvious to a great many people that there is a deep conflict between science and religion. Without people being widely aware that God is not only not evident but also not needed for the Universe and for life, there’s little reason to view science with any great hostility. Unfortunately, while science has been the tool man has used to make the greatest achievements ever seen on Earth, it has also revealed that a lot of people are just plain stubborn. People will favor their long-held beliefs over accepting a conflicting fact from science. (In fact, it’s 64% that will do that in America.) That’s why we have religion to blame for results like these.

Stagnant scientific education imperils U.S. economic leadership, says a report by leading business and science figures.

Released Thursday at a congressional briefing attended by senators and congressmen of both parties, the report updates a 2005 science education report that led to moves to double federal research funding.

Nevertheless, the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” review finds little improvement in U.S. elementary and secondary technical education since then.

“Our nation’s outlook has worsened,” concludes the report panel headed by former Lockheed Martin chief Norman Augustine. The report “paints a daunting outlook for America if it were to continue on the perilous path it has been following”:

•U.S. mathematics and science K-12 education ranks 48th worldwide.

•49% of U.S. adults don’t know how long it takes for the Earth to circle the sun.

•China has replaced the United States as the world’s top high-technology exporter.

One of the most interesting facts in the research, though a bit of an outdated one, is that in 1999, 69% of 5-8th graders received instruction in the physical sciences from teachers lacking a major or certification in any physical science. It makes me wonder how many high school students are also receiving their education from un- or low-qualified teachers. We know they’re out there (which is one reason D.C. fired a bunch of them recently), but I’m not sure on the stats. I think there would be interesting implications for Paul LePage’s plan to give away degrees.

Science has nothing to do with conservation or technology

At least that’s according to another Teabagger at AsMaineGoes who was responding to my posts about Libby Mitchell being great for education.

Notice the circular and vacuous arguments. He gratuitously pronounces the falsehoods that “LePage and the Republican party is [sic] hostile towards science” and that LePage has “precisely suggested” “to just give away degrees”, misrepresents “science” and its purpose to be “areas of conservation and new technology (especially for clean energy)”, and claims that “LePage and Republicans aren’t hostile towards science because they disagree with Libby Mitchell” but because “they’re hostile towards science”.

I think this is a case of a blindly angry Teabagger (apologies for the redundancy) hearing the word “conservation” and making a lot of assumptions from ignorance. Take, for example, this part of his post.

Not only does this a) have nothing whatsoever to do with “science”, b) misrepresent science as ideological environmentalism…

He goes on, but (b) is the important point. He heard “conservation” and assumed evil, anti-business environmentalism. I was actually referring to a wide array of concerns all Mainers share regardless of their party or ideological affiliation. For example, like every other state to my knowledge, Maine has a wide range of hunting restrictions that are important to maintaining the health of whatever the given population is. An insane conservative with insane ideology might object on immature libertarian grounds that this is mere “ideological environmentalism”, but it remains a fact that in order to be sure hunting is a worthwhile endeavor in Maine, we need to deploy the tools of science.

Take the common place event of someone killing two deer when a limit of one has been imposed (or however many constitutes more than the given limit). There’s no way to know something illegal has happened after the fact by looking into someone’s freezer filled with cut-up meat – unless we have the right people with the right background in science. Qualified biologists need to compare DNA sequences in order to determine if there are two individuals in a given freezer (or whatever the location may be).

Or take the issue of microsatellites and Atlantic cod. Research was conducted that was important in determining the spatial and temporal population structure over a range of several banks (or, if you’re anal retentive, two banks and one shoal). This matters because it isn’t in anyone’s interest to manage any stock in a way that doesn’t reflect the way genetic information is being passed around.

Call me crazy, but I think this is pretty important conservation – no matter the reason one wants to maintain a given animal population. But maybe I should avoid buzzwords like “conservation” so I don’t get the conservatives twitching. (On second thought, nah.)

But let’s go back to that first paragraph I quoted.

…and claims that “LePage and Republicans aren’t hostile towards science because they disagree with Libby Mitchell” but because “they’re hostile towards science”.

I want to give this guy credit for pointing out a typo on my part (where I said “is” instead of “are” – I originally had written the sentence with just LePage), but then he goes and displays some rather sloppy reading comprehension. I didn’t say anyone is hostile towards science because they’re hostile towards science. I actually said this:

They just disagree with Libby Mitchell because they’re hostile towards science.

I’m not even making a claim as to why LePage or the Republicans are hostile towards science. I’m claiming – rightly – that they are hostile and as a result they disagree with Mitchell.

This isn’t that hard.

Thought of the day

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