“Research caper” (DIY research)

When a scientist speaks of research, he or she is referring to a years-long systematic process of collecting data, testing hypotheses, and going where the evidence leads. This is done objectively via methods that are explained to fellow scientists, who then attempt to replicate or contradict the findings. When submitting for peer review, those conducting the research will outline their findings, data sets, and statistical analyses, then submit it all for peer review.

By contrast, the guy who exhorted us to “Wake Up Sheeple” in a message I saw plastered to his vehicle has a different take on the matter. When he claims to have done his research, he means he has utilized a search engine, then clicked on the first link which confirmed his bias. For him, peer review is having his likeminded friends take a look at the YouTube link he messaged them.

This difference was starkly illustrated by Flux writer Melanie Trecek-King, who explained, “Real research is about trying to prove yourself wrong, not right.”

Hellaciously complex topics such as vaccines, climate science, and evolution require years of specialized learning and gaining an understanding broad terminology. There is also corroboration and debate with those in the field, while conducting genuine research as outlined above.

Because of this complexity, high-quality studies conducted by experts can arrive at different conclusions. Critics of science, such as the one with the rolling sheeple billboard, highlight these contradictions to insist that the field is unreliable.

This is to misunderstand what science is, that is to say a messy, self-criticizing, self-examining process aimed at finding the truth. While science has arrived at conclusions later shown to be wrong, it was further and better science that uncovered the error.

Similarly, when there are accusations that scientists are involved in a massive cover-up, this ignores that healthy conflict exists among scientists, and also glosses over the fact that the most revered scientists are those who upended conventional thinking.

The Scientific Method is crucial to all this, but perhaps no step in the process is as paramount as peer review. It would be one thing to convince two dozen sympathetic lay people that polio vaccines cause kidney failure. It would be quite another to successfully make such a case to hundreds of experts who will peruse your methods and findings.

Further, no single study will be the end-all. Conclusions must be repeatedly replicated before becoming a consensus.

As to this consensus, it does not refer to an agreeing of opinion based on confirmation bias or groupthink. As Trecek-King explained, scientific consensus is “the result of highly specialized experts independently evaluating the body of evidence and arriving at a similar conclusion.”

Any consensus remains open to challenge but a complete novice will not upend it by spending the afternoon on Google. Major changes to scientific thinking are announced by the Noble Prize Committee, they are not posted to a right-wing conspiracy theory site. Such sites insist that 10,000 scientists are eschewing fame, fortune, and career satisfaction in order to further enrich a shadowy cabal by staying silent.

Almost universally, experts are trusted. If persons are not trained in the field, they do not attempt to fix a malfunctioning intake manifold, they do not replace their home’s faulty wiring, and they do not perform their own gall bladder surgery. That some folks make an exception for vaccines, masking, and distancing would be comical were it not for the deadly results.

China, where the coronavirus originated and with four times the U.S. population, has yet to record its 5,000th COVID death. The U.S., meanwhile, just passed the grim 700,000 milestone. Put another way, the pandemic has shown Americans to be incapable of dealing with a national emergency requiring mild inconvenience.

“Right is wrong” (Pandemic partisanship)

The most perplexing aspect of the pandemic is its partisan nature. The shutdown should have been a time when we bonded over our collective misery and came together for the common good. That was, in fact, the case for about six weeks before some right-wingers became enraged at their inability to go to Arby’s and began plotting gubernatorial assassinations and the storming of capitols as a result.

Again, this left me baffled. Since a virus has no concern with its host’s political leanings, the pandemic should have been the ultimate nonpartisan issue. Instead, a nation already divided by a petulant child masquerading as a head of state become even more fractured. It has gotten so wacky lately that talk show host Dennis Prager insisted that anyone who wears a mask outdoors would have been a willing Nazi accomplice. Vaccination clinics today, Auschwitz tomorrow. Logical leap.

In a parallel development, the anti-vax movement that was once part of the burned-out hippie fringe has now completed a bewildering transformation to mainstream conservative thought. While the great majority of Republican federal lawmakers, governors, and Fox News blathering heads have received the COVID vaccine, they caution their followers against doing the same.

To be sure, describing the anti-vax movement as having shifted from Jenny McCarthy’s terrain to Tucker Carlson’s is a bit simplistic. There here have always been anti-vaxxers of varying political stripes. This included libertarians whose belief in limited government was so extreme they felt it should take no action to prevent the spread of disease, no matter how deadly. And there were Republicans who, having bought into the rugged individual American myth, preferred to go it on their own, or at least thought that’s what they were doing. A motorcycling free rider who eschews helmet usage boasts he’s doing it all on his own, without thinking about how the highway got there or how his bike got manufactured. Similarly, some feel they are going their own way on vaccines without realizing that others getting immunized brought anti-vaxxers the herd immunity they are enjoying. Now let’s look at how much worse it has gotten.

A huge factor was a 2015 California law passed in the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak. This eliminated nonmedical school vaccination requirements. During the bill’s debate, right-wing lawmakers, while having gotten jabbed themselves, learned the political gain of employing buzzwords like freedom, choice, religious liberty, and parental rights.

From that groundswell, we now have objection from nearly all elected Republicans to any COVID control measures. For these politicians, mounting deaths and the overwhelming of the medical system pale in importance to getting reelected. China, where the virus originated and with four times the U.S. population, has yet to hit 5,000 coronavirus-related deaths. Meanwhile, the “pro-life” party leads resistance to vaccines, masks, testing, tracing, and distancing, as the number of U.S. COVID deaths approaches 700,000.

This wasn’t always the case. Mississippi has long required schoolchildren to be vaccinated against nine diseases and allowed no religious exceptions.

Today, that mindset has been brushed aside in favor of gaining political capital and getting one over on those silly pro-science liberals and skeptics. Many elected Republicans such as Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, Marjorie Taylor Green, Mo Brookes, and Josh Hawley have dispensed with the pro-freedom façade and now openly embrace opposition to vaccine science.

Still, there are still some who may frame their opposition as one of choice. Two years ago, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey fought an attempt to broaden school vaccination exemptions. But this year he forbid local governments from requiring COVID vaccines for employees, calling the type of initiative he had championed in 2019 to now be “dictatorial.”

It’s reminiscent of Gov. Orval Faubus fighting to keep Little Rock Central segregated. His motivations were based more on political expediency than a personal bigotry. But history rightly reviles Faubus for his stance, regardless of why he took it. The same fate awaits those who today are embracing the more repugnant options available during the pandemic.

“Disease, please” (Germ Theory denial)

Why did people get all worked up over 9/11? Americans had a 99.99999 percent survival rate that day. And some of those killed were obese, diabetic, or had high blood pressure, and so were on limited time anyway.

While this take would be rightly reviled if a speaker seriously suggested it, there is little difference between this position and those of the anti-vax, pro-COVID crowd. Arguing that terrorism victims deserved their fate would be an incredibly offensive position, but so too is the notion that COVID-related deaths are meaningless since such patients represent a small minority or they had a medical condition.

This stance also dismisses the science behind vaccines and masks, and overlooks that the unvaccinated are 29 times more likely than the vaccinated to be hospitalized for the coronavirus.

Among this group, there is an even more extreme subset which holds that the COVID and other viruses don’t exist, and therefore cannot be transmitted, cause disease or be fatal. In this alternate reality, illnesses are the result of lifestyle choices and environmental factors. These Germ Theory deniers are more dangerous than their flat Earth brethren, who are merely wrong and impossibly stubborn. Those who deny Germ Theory harm not only themselves, but others as well by not taking preventive measures like hand-washing, vaccination, and anti-biotic treatments.

Germ Theory came from the brilliant mind of Louis Pasteur, though there were competing hypothesis at the time from his contemporaries, Claude Bernard and Antoine Béchamp.

The former proposed the concept of milieu intérieur. In an online piece, journalist Beth Mole wrote this idea suggested that disturbances to the body’s internal equilibrium caused disease and pathogens were a nonfactor. Meanwhile, Béchamp proposed a similar idea, thinking the body manifested pathogens in response to an internal change.

Subsequent scientific findings by the likes of Robert Koch and Joseph Lister validated Pasteur’s idea that invading organisms led to disease. However, the postulations by Bernard and Béchamp still find favor in the conspiracy theory and alt-med crowds. While still on the fringe, Germ Theory deniers have experienced an uptick in their numbers during the COVID-19 era.

They believe that bacteria is a symptom of a disease, not a cause. They also assert that viruses are incapable of passing from person to person. They, just barely, believe in disease, but feel that a condition called toxemia is its lone manifestation. And this, the deniers say, is the fault of the afflicted for having made poor nutritional and lifestyle choices. In their universe, disease symptoms are merely a ravaged body’s attempt to detoxify itself.

Their solution is to overload on fruit and avoid just about anything else, to include meat, dairy, eggs, breads, pasta, soy, nuts, oils, potatoes, garlic, onions, cereals, salt, coffee, and drugs, be they recreational or medicinal. Vaccines, antibodies, and doctor visits are also verboten.

To a denier, the promotion of vaccines and medicine is part of a cover-up. This is another reminder that the defining point of most conspiracy theories is that any contrary evidence is part of the conspiracy. The SkepDoc, Harriett Hall, tells of a raw food enthusiast she encountered who declared that vaccines were unable to prevent disease and existed only to enrich pharmaceutical companies. Any statistics showing a decrease in disease when vaccines are administered were fabrications aimed to hide the truth.

Hall also related that she knew a chiropractor who felt disease was caused by spine misalignment. He refused immunizations and felt keeping his spine in check made him immune from all disease and sickness.

Many such theorists subscribe to a litany of alt-med practices that supposedly relieve the body of toxins. Which toxins are being removed and the method by which this happens are unexplained. They also commit a correlation-causation error by arguing that those who see the doctors the most often are the sickest. This is usually true, but only because people by and large go to the doctor when they are sick. They don’t go when healthy, only to be made ill by the appointment.

Meanwhile, it’s a matter of reasoned debate as to whether the deniers’ stupidity is the cause or a symptom of their condition.

“Stock footage” (COVID claims)

There is more information available today, and accessible in more formats, than ever before. While this proves desirable in some instances, it also creates an opportunity for a person to select which of these pieces of information he or she chooses to believe and use it to seemingly confirm preexisting opinions.

With regard to the pandemic, this can mean that medical expertise, professional advice, and years of high-quality research are brushed aside for an uncle’s anecdote, right-wing Twitter outrage, and YouTube rants. In an example of the latter, Dr. Dan Stock assails an Indiana school board about the putative danger and shortcomings of masks and COVID-19 vaccines.

Writing on the Deplatform Disease blog, Edward Nirenberg describes the Stock’s speech as a Gish Gallup. This refers to a proponent rattling off a bunch of points in quick succession. Most or all of the points may be wrong, but the content is so voluminous that few persons will commit the hours needed to research and refute each argument. For the speaker, a Gish Gallop confers the additional advantage of a listener thinking that if only 10 percent of the points raised are sound, that’s sufficient reason to doom the issue being attacked, be it evolution, GMOs, or pandemic control.

Stock claims COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses are small enough to go through your mask. Like many anti-vax arguments, this represents a grain of truth in a bushel of bunk. While a single particle is small enough to make it through a mask, that is not how viruses travel. They do so inside aerosols and droplets, which masks do stop.

Stock further states that all respiratory viruses wait for the “immune system to get sick in the winter,” an assertion which lacks even the aforementioned single grain. But the people who seek out this information, such as the half dozen who littered my Facebook feed with it, are never going to look into this. They are content to consider watching this video “their research,” which is a corruption of the concept of research.

Nirenberg conducted genuine research on the matter and he explains that, “The seasonality of respiratory viruses is a complex matter dependent on many factors, many of which have nothing to do directly with immunity. For instance, when it’s cold, people gather indoors for prolonged periods close together in poorly ventilated spaces. Humidity is lower which also affects virus transmission, as it allows aerosols to remain suspended for longer and mucociliary clearance may be impaired.”

Stock throws out another mistaken notion, alleging that vaccines serve to derange the immune system. He offers no proof to support this extreme claim, and fails to even explain what would constitute deranged immunity.

The Gish Gallop kicks into top speed as Stock rattles of a laundry list of viruses that have no vaccine. While this is true, his non sequitur conclusion is that virologists will therefore be unable to control COVID. What is hampering the arrest of COVID are the likes of Stock, who put of public disinformation, and the minions who swallow it all without question, while ironically labeling those with the opposite opinion to be the sheep.

Stock then declares that breakthrough infections prove the vaccine is ineffective. But Nirenberg notes that many respiratory viruses are enjoying a seasonal resurgence, likely because or relaxed mitigation measures. Further, CDC data shows the vaccine has been nearly 90 percent effective against symptomatic outbreaks and there have been virtually no hospitalizations or deaths from COVID among the vaccinated population.

Stock discusses antibody-dependent enhancement, which he mislabels “antibody-mediated viral enhancement.” Nirenberg counters that Stock defines ADE incorrectly by suggesting it is exclusive to vaccines. Moreover, he mixes up ADE and VAERD, which are distinct entities and ADE does not have to be caused by a respiratory infection. It is also unrelated to how pathogenic a virus is. If ADE were happening, reinfections would be both common and more severe with COVID-19.

On a related note, Stock references the Barnstable County outbreak and, in a post hoc reasoning error, says this proves the vaccine to be ineffective. But Nirenberg wrote that if 100 vaccinated persons are in a room where an aerosolized virus is introduced, a few may get sick, but however many people fall ill, 100 percent the stricken will have been vaccinated. The way to gauge the vaccine’s efficiency is by comparing the percentage of vaccinated persons who get seriously ill from the virus with those who are sickened while being unvaccinated. Right now half of the country is vaccinated against COVID and hospitalized coronavirus patients are more than 95 percent unvaccinated.

Stock further claims no vaccine ever stops infection, which is untrue, and besides, a vaccine need not prevent infection for it to halt transmission and provide robust public health benefits.

Stock then references a mumps outbreak and claims the outbreak was caused by vaccinated persons shedding the virus onto the unvaccinated. Besides being mistaken, this crosses into dangerous territory since an unhinged believer may act on this falsehood and attack medical workers and mask-wearers.

In yet another erroneous claim, Stock states that the combination of vitamin D, ivermectin, and zinc has successfully treated 15 COIVD patients. This is unbacked by any data, and as Nirenberg points out, with a sample size this minuscule, a proponent could find any activity and falsely label it a cure. For example, those 15 could watch Mr. Beast three hours a day, with none of the group developing serious coronavirus complications, and we could then conclude that bingeing on quirky philanthropist videos will end the pandemic.

“Broken bat” (COVID origins)

For several years, political partisans have played armchair historian and asserted that whomever is currently occupying the White House is either the best or worst president of all-time. Which of these two it is depends solely on the person’s political leanings and is not based on policy, accomplishments, ability to build consensus, or to craft compromise.

But genuine historians, as opposed to the armchair variety, will tell us that it can take upwards of 50 years to determine a president’s performance. That much time is required to judge the impact of his policies and decisions. For example, the Marshall Plan is the brightest feather in Truman’s cap, but this would not have been obvious in 1946.

Similarly, the idea that we can ascertain right now the origins of COVID-19 is a mistaken notion based on a misunderstanding of virology. Skeptic and medical writer David Gorski explained that when a virus migrates from animals to humans, it can take years to determine the origin. Epidemiologists are still uncertain which animal Ebola came from and it has been around since the U.S. bicentennial.

To deduce the origin, scientific sleuths must sample wild animals and sequence the viruses they carry to find a close genetic relative, a task Gorski likens to “haystacks within haystacks. So the fact that scientists don’t know where the relatively new coronavirus comes from is not evidence that it came from a laboratory. Still, there are some who excitedly claim it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, either engineered as a bioweapon or having leaked out.

Gorski wrote, “While it is possible to create genetic sequences without, for instance, typical restriction enzyme sites of the sort that were frequently used to insert sequences into genomes…it is more difficult than conspiracy theorists let on. To them these nefarious Chinese scientists were supposedly so clever that they not only did something that’s not at all trivial but did it without leaving behind any telltale signs in the sequence of genetic manipulation.”

Theorists also argue that a natural virus pandemic would gradually mutate and become more infectious but less deadly. Virologist Angela Rasmussen said this is wrong, that those in her field would not necessarily anticipate this. Further, the virus’ low fatality rate, combined with the fact that a significant number of those infected are asymptomatic, would mean there is little selective pressure for mutations that make it less deadly, particularly when it’s still widespread.

Moreover, several studies show the virus likely evolved from previously existing coronaviruses and is continuing to evolve as is spreads.

By contrast, the conspiracy theory assumes abilities beyond the capabilities of even the most advanced research teams. It further assumes that whoever created this would know what effects it would have on humans without having tested it.

Virologists can predict what impact mutations might have, but these are highly-educated guesses and not certainties.

Scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology previously determined that bats in the area carried coronavirus varieties. But that’s a very different thing from proof that the pandemic came from a leaked source as opposed to free bats.

“Full moon fever” (Hollow moon)

One idea way out there, as well as way up there, is that the moon is a hollow alien vehicle. This lunar lunacy was put forth by two members of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, Michael Vasin and Alexander Shcherbakov. They hypothesized that the moon “is an artificial satellite put into orbit around Earth by some intelligent beings unknown to ourselves.” They went on to call the moon “a very ancient spaceship, the interior of which was filled with fuel for the engines, materials and appliances for repair work, navigation, instruments, observation equipment and all manner of machinery.”

Modern empty-mooners allege that the satellite has unexpected elements that it shouldn’t have were it a heavenly body, that it lacks a solid core, is older than Earth, and has a perfectly circular orbit. All these claims are false.

Writing for Sketpoid, Brian Dunning reminds (or informs) us that our planet and its satellite owe its beginnings to Theia and Gaia becoming intimately acquainted. During this cosmic collision, the bulk of the combined mass of the two objects become Earth and most of the rest of it ejected and coalesced into the moon.

That these celestial bodies have similar compositions shows their common origin and means if aliens constructed a moon spacecraft, they would have had to come here first, then gone out and found another planet exactly like Earth to use as their raw materials.

As to proponents’ claim that the moon rang like a bell when struck, that stems from some colorful language from Wernher von Braun. After NASA intentionally crashed Apollo 12 into the moon during its lunar ascent, Von Braun, described the results thusly: “The moon rang like a bell for nearly an hour, indicating some strange and unearthly underground structure.”

Dr. Steven Novella has said that pseudo-medics use science the same way a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. The same principle applies here, as people who express distrust of government and disgust of science will use a embrace a statement from a government scientist if it supports their view. They will use the fact that he is exactly a rocket scientist to justify their position but otherwise reject such expertise, experience, and education.

And in truth, the seismology from those experiments is one of two main pieces of evidence that the moon is natural satellite, not an alien spaceship.

Dunning noted that 10 years ago, NASA reanalyzed its Apollo data and the results improved our knowledge of the moon’s internal structure. He wrote that it gives us “accurate constraints on the range of sizes of its small solid inner core and fluid outer core, a thin partial melt layer, and its thick mantle that constitutes the bulk of its mass.”

Further, since the Moon is solid and has a heavy core, the satellite has a lower rotational inertia. Were it a hollow spaceship with a thick outer shell, it would have a higher inertia even with the same mass.

Also, when spacecraft orbit the moon and study how their orbits are affected, astronomers can detect the density of the layers below.

Finally, as the moon orbits Earth, only one side is ever visible to us, which would not be the case if the claim of a perfect orbit were true.

“The White Stuff” (Engineered snow)

No event is too routine to be exempt from conspiracy theorist thought. A minor Internet splash this winter has centered on the insinuation that snow, at least in some places, is actually something else.

Precisely what it is, who is responsible, and how malevolent it is, varies by claimant, but the key point is that “they” are up to something again. The excited proponents most frequently cite Bill Gates as the responsible villain. The software pioneer has achieved Rothschild/Bohemian Grove/Bilderberger status when it comes to being tabbed for every evil ever foisted upon Mankind.

In these videos, which are remarkably similar in terms of content and low production value, speakers ask three primary questions about this supposed snow. Asking questions is fine, if based on genuine curiosity. It’s another matter when questions are thinly-veiled accusations which serve as a precursor to considering those answering them to be in on the plot.

These plotters include the eminently delightful Emily Calandrelli, who explained what’s going on in these videos. In the one Calandrelli responded to, the narrator wields a butane lighter and wonders why this makes the snow char, why the snow smells like plastic, and why it melts so slowly.

It chars because of incomplete combustion from the butane lighter. Butane comprises carbon and hydrogen and the resultant black smudge represents leftover carbon from incomplete combustion.

Calandrelli used a glass to demonstrate that the same soot results when butane lighters are applied to other objects. So unless the video producer is prepared to launch a tirade against phony drinking receptacles, this answer suffices.

With regard to the plascity aroma, Calandrelli explains the funny smell is the consequence of the chemicals concentrating during the burning.

Finally, the white precipitation melts slower than expected for two reasons. First, most of the water is being absorbed into the snowball. Second, it sublimates, meaning it goes directly from solid to gas. Besides, it takes more heat than most people might think. You’d get the same surprisingly slow result from using fire to try and melt an ice cube.

These succinct, scientific explanations contract mightily to the open-ended nightmarish scenarios suggested by the other side.

Writing for Yahoo!, Caroline Delbert reminded readers that weather control has a long history in paranoid circles. Manifestations of this have included HAARP, chemtrails, and seeded rain clouds.

In this case, conspiracy theorists might believe increased snowfall indicates something about climate change, which they say is part of a global agenda to push government restrictions onto residents,” Delbert wrote.

Theorists paint Gates and the Chinese government beneficiaries of a world blanketed by pretend snow. What the white stuff actually is or how it benefits two already immensely powerful entities is unexplained. Sounds like a snow job to me.

“Terrible lizards” (Reptilians and Nashville bombing)

Among the multitudinous conspiracy theories, a candidate for most bizarre is that the government is run by malevolent, shape-shifting reptilian space creatures. While the idea is comical, someone so unhinged as to believe it may be capable of supporting such beliefs with deadly action.

In Skeptic Magazine, Tim Callahan posited that may have been the case on Christmas when Anthony Warner detonated explosives in Nashville. Warner died in the explosion, which may have taken innocent lives had police not evacuated the area. The officers did so after a strange foreboding emanated from Warner’s RV. His previous social media posts had suggested a sympathy for the reptilian conspiracy theory.

Callahan has researched and written about similar beings and has identified three primary types of alias-using aliens: Kind Nordic creatures usually hailing from the Pleiades star cluster; Gray-skinned interlopers of uncertain intent; and the Sleestak types, that is to say evil and reptilian, although with concealment abilities and intelligence as well unknown to their Land of the Lost brethren. As you can see from these three types, the darker the skin, the more deadly the threat, a notion which mirrors everyday bigotry.

The first type are the least frequent, and this is consistent with conspiratorial or secret thinking. There is some belief, for example, in benevolent inner Earth creatures who toil willingly in a paradise for our benefit. This enables the believers to idealize or romanticize the world. But far more common among those who think they have secret knowledge is that otherworldly or interdimensional beings are out to get us. This enables blame to be placed on a fixed point and, while the subconscious intent is that the person will feel better for exposing it, the reality is far different. Hardened conspiracy theorists lead miserable, fear-filled lives. Each “exposure” is touted as a victory, but in truth is only seen as the next link in a never-ending chain.

Callahan writes that the reptilian overlord idea stems from the mini-series V, in which evil reptiles hid their true nature under a synthetic human skin. Believers extrapolated this notion to the real world and think world leaders are actually lizard people who operate from dimensions inaccessible by the rest of us. They attribute alien abductions to the reptilians, rather than the usual Grays, but think it is only happening in the mind and that the lizard folks are using their shape-shifting abilities to look like the stereotypical gray alien with huge heads and tiny eyes. Rather than food and water, the reptilians are nourished and sustained by human fear, trauma, and acquiescence. If believer are correct about this, they are giving the Reptilians just what they need.

“Amazon bungle” (5G blocking)

Some Amazon consumers have purchased what are described as Faraday Cages, but which can more accurately be described as simple wire-mesh containers. A Faraday Cage is an enclosure intended to block electromagnetic signals, one example of which is WiFi.

The products are advertised as having the ability to deflect 5G signals, which the purchasers believe cause harm to humans. This is a misnomer, as 5G signals are too low on the EMF spectrum to do us damage.

The containers “work” in the sense that signals are deflected when routers are placed inside them. But those signals are necessary for WiFi to function. One would get the same self-defeating effect by unplugging the router or foregoing Internet use altogether.

According to Matthew Willie at Input, these clueless consumers are leaving negative reviews about the cages, or at least they are when not employing the cages since there’s no getting online when one does so. To be clear, consumers are placing routers in the cages, then getting steamed when the cage blocks the signal the customers are hoping to block! Despite all their rage, they should just take a bat to their cage.

“Seedy idea” (Seed patents)

Seed patents are the subject of a nontroversy, which maintains the patents are at the center of the malevolent control of food supplies and that they hamstring honest, hardworking farmers.

Yet these patents are as legitimate as ones on inventions and on copyrights that protect music, paintings, and software. Human molecular geneticist, Dr. Layla Katiraee, explained that to disallow seed patents would enable the competition “to reverse engineer a product at a fraction of the price.”

Officials grant seed patents if the plant variety can be shown to be new, distinct, genetically stable and uniform.

While associated primarily with genetic modification, patented seeds also exist in the plant world. For example, many varieties of orchids are the result of research and experiment.

Few would suggest that the team which achieved the long-sought blue rose should not reap the financial rewards for doing so. Yet, there are those which feel it is unethical to do the same with a seed that is made sturdier or more drought resistant.

Seed piracy is a serious issue. Besides it being ill-gotten gain, it can lead to seeds being sold and planted in regions where they have not been approved and this can cause contamination. Planting them in the wrong climate or soil could lead to devastating crop loss and land damage.

Internet legend holds that GMOs contain a self-destroying terminator gene to ensure farmers have to buy a full seed supply every year. This is false, as there have never been commercially-available terminator genes.

Since GMO Seeds are not sterile, companies prevent the replanting of seeds by having their customers sign a contract whereby they obtain an annual license. Farmers agree not to sell or distribute the product in regions where the product is not registered. None of this ties the farmer to a company for any duration beyond the length of the contract. Further, many farmers buy new seeds each season anyway, even if the seeds are not GMO or are not under a licensing agreement.

Katiraee wrote that this is because “seeds are often sold as hybrids, which have the best of the traits that breeders were looking for. However, once these plants grow and produce seeds of their own, it is unlikely that the latter will have all the beneficial traits present.”

So seed patents serve to protect food supply and distribution, not hamper them.