Rounding up the numbers

Glyphosate, sold under the brand name Roundup, has been attacked since 2015 when the International Association for Research on Cancer concluded that the weed killer was likely carcinogenic for agricultural workers who used it regularly for years on end.

University of Florida horticulture sciences professor Kevin Folta noted that when it comes to cancer risk, glyphosate resides in the same category as eating processed meat, getting too much sun, and toiling as a barber. The same conclusion that IARC reached mentioned that glyphosate shows no signs of being dangerous in trace amounts in food.

The latest concern over the product centers on a report showing that it shows up in the urine samples of 80 percent of the population. Folta writes that this sounds alarming but a longer look reveals there’s little to worry about.

That’s because four decades of research have shown no epidemiological or/molecular evidence that glyphosate causes cancer. Also, the latest report uses terms such as “tied to cancer” and “linked to cancer,” but those are not scientific designations but rather attempts to tie together disparate items and suggest causality. In truth, they are nothing more than correlation, tenuous connections, and statistical anomalies.

As to the traces in our piss, the CDC assessment never measured how much was there, it merely noted if it was present. There is no reason to think there is any danger here. Researchers are not finding dangerous levels in urine or blood. The reason that any can be detected is that chemists have devised products efficient enough to detect 0.2 nanograms per milliliter of glyphosate in aqueous solutions like urine. That’s 200 parts per trillion. This poses no risk, since as always, toxicity is determined by amount, not substance. Further, glyphosate easily passes through the body, making it a carcinogen even less likely.

“Numb-bers” (COVID vaccine harms)

My children and I like to make an annual trek to the apple orchard each fall. Then there are those who prefer cherry picking. These types misuse numbers by design or by misinterpretation, leading to erroneous conclusions.

Let’s take the case of Dr. Peter Doshi, whom three doctors with Science Based Medicine accuse of beginning with an assumption that vaccines ineffective and harmful. He then crams in any data that seems to support this while dismissing any evidence, no matter how voluminous or persuasive, to the contrary.

His latest effort, “Serious Adverse Events of Special Interest Following mRNA Vaccination in Randomized Trials,” concluded that, “The excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest surpassed the risk reduction for COVID-19 hospitalization relative to the placebo group in both Pfizer and Moderna trials.”

The numbers he used were accurate but egregiously misused. It is similar the possibly Apocryphal story about Pravda reporting that the US and USSR had a two-car auto race won by the Americans – by printing that the Soviets had come in second and the USA next to last.

Doshi’s tactics included double- or triple-counting any harm suffered by those who received a vaccine, while not doing that for the unvaccinated. For example, a vaccinated patient who had gastroenteritis and abdominal pain counted as two adverse reactions, whereas any unvaxxed person hospitalized for COVID counted as one, regardless of how many symptoms they displayed, or how serious the impact was.

An even bigger deficiency was Doshi failing to account for long-term results. How quickly a virus spreads can impact how long it takes a vaccine’s benefits to be seen. By contrast, nearly all vaccine harms occur right after receiving the shot. This means almost all adverse reactions will be seen in a few days, whereas immunity through vaccination cannot be determined for months.

So to accurately ascertain the benefits, a research trial would need to run the course of an entire pandemic. As more were exposed to the virus, the vaccine’s benefits relative to placebo would increase. Had the trials lasted two years, there would be many more cases of severe COVID, especially among the unvaccinated. But these trials were ended well short of a year for ethical reasons.

And there are still more flaws in Doshi’s conclusions. In the two trials he cited, there were 74,000 participants, with 36,930 of them receiving a vaccine and only 366 having COVID. Therefore, the vaccine had many more opportunities than the virus to cause adverse reactions.

Also noteworthy, nearly all of those harmed by the virus received a placebo. Like all subsequent studies, the trials revealed that COVID was dangerous and the vaccine effective at mitigating that. There were 40 cases of severe COVID, all but one in the placebo group. This is substantial because many of those 74,000 participants have since contracted COVID. Once this protection was known, it would have been unethical to continue the trials and allow people to remain unvaccinated.

So when Doshi claims that “results show an excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest greater than the reduction in COVID-19 hospitalizations in both Pfizer and Moderna trials”, he doesn’t acknowledge these studies were terminated because the hospitalizations were rising. The trials were designed to stop once a small number of people got COVID, but Doshi deceptively uses numbers to deduce that COVID was no big deal. But the trials didn’t prove COVID wasn’t a threat. Rather they ended so rapidly precisely because COVID was a threat.

Doshi neglected to reference a single trial showing the vaccine’s benefits in his paper even though evidence is overwhelming that COVID vaccines are safe and effective. Only someone who starts with the conclusion that vaccines are ineffective and picks the cherries he likes would arrive at such a conclusion.

“Doctor and the Clerics” (Trans treatment hysteria)

There are some who see 1984 as less a cautionary tale and more an instruction manual. Witness Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this year siccing states on the parents of transgender minors. Meanwhile, a glut of bills, some of which have passed, banned gender-affirming care for trans boys and girls, with 10 years in prison the punishment for prescribing medication.

Proponents of such laws claim that this care is experimental, which they by extension imply harmful. Yet Science Based Medicine cited a systematic literature review of 52 studies, which show improvement in patients following gender-affirming medical intervention. By contrast, those who had not socially transitioned normally experienced depression and anxiety.

As to the notion that this is new, trans individual have taken cross-sex hormones since for more than a century and GnRHa first treated gender dysphoria in 1988. These are safe treatments, for as the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guidelines states, “Pubertal suppression is fully reversible, enabling full pubertal development in the natal gender, after cessation of treatment, if appropriate.”

Experimental treatments are those that serve as an intervention or regimen and have shown curative promise but which are still being evaluated for efficiency and safety. This does not apply to trans care, such as puberty blockers. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has endorsed gender assignment surgery and medical therapy as being effective and even life-saving. These drugs inhibit puberty in order to enable the brain time to mature and to allow for exploration of gender identity. They are not prescribed for prepubescent children and are only given at the onset of secondary sex changes.

There is a wide gulf between medical treatments following careful consultation and foisting it upon the masses, which detractors claim is happening in schools. Also of note, the treatments are reversible and genital surgery for gender reassignment is rarely.

Nearly 30 major professional health organizations have recognized the medical necessity of treatments for gender dysphoria and endorse such treatments. As such, doctors should make these decisions after consultation with families; politicians on a fundamental religious bent should not be the ones dictating medical care.

“Creative math” (Anti-evolution mathematics)

Creationists sometimes try to incorporate math into their arguments. The use of Greek letters, complex formulas, and arithmetic jargon might seem to make an impressive argument, or at least a confusing one, depending on one’s mathematical abilities.

In an article for Skeptical Inquirer, Jason Rosenhouse identifies three ways creationists use a numbers-based approach: Through the fields of probability theory, information theory, and combinatorial search.

With regard to the first of these, find yourself a quarter. Or a Walking Liberty Half Dollar if preferring more of a scavenger hunt. Flip it and there is a 50/50 chance of if landing heads and 50/50 that it hits on tails. Although in a backyard football game once, I called for the coin to land on its side, and it did by getting stuck vertically in the muddy ground. Let a mathematician somewhere calculate the odds on that one.

At any rate, one anti-evolutionist assertion goes thusly: Genes are a sequence of DNA bases represented by the letters A, C, G, and T. The genes can further be seen as a series of letters, comparable to repeated tossings of the Walking Liberty. Therefore, if a specific gene results in 100 straight bases, that occurrence is too remote to be chance, and therefore intelligent design is responsible.

First, this is the god of the gaps fallacy. More importantly, this argument is based on the mistaken notion that genes and proteins evolve through a process similar to flipping coins. But as Rosenhouse noted, natural selection is a non-random process and this impacts the probability of specific genes evolving.

Using analogous coins again, Rosenhouse asks us to envision tossing 100 of them simultaneously. Getting all of them to hit on heads at once would require exponentially more attempts than one could manage in a million lifetimes. But if we are allowed to put aside the 50 or so that landed on heads, then re-toss the rest, then do the same with the roughly 25 that are left, then the 12.5 and so on, we would have 100 heads within a few minutes. Under this procedure, we would have all heads after an average of seven coin-flipping iterations. “The creationist argument assumes that evolution must proceed in a manner comparable to the first approach, when really it has far more in common with the second,” Rosenhouse explained.

Now we move on to how creationists end up wrongly thinking that complex functions like flagellum (which some bacteria use to propel themselves) points to design. By way of note, the flagellum comprises numerous individual proteins working in concert. Creationists insist that this function being arrived at by chance is too remote to be reasonable. But evolution does not have an end-point in mind and the flagellum, while irreducibly complex, could have served another function in a less-advanced stage.

So creationists sometimes try another approach, employing information theory. They argue that genes encode meaningful information, and insist that such information is indicative of design. This is another instance of the god of the gaps fallacy, besides being an affirming of the consequent. Beyond that, this posits that natural processes can only lead to erosion and eventual collapse. Therefore, creationists continue, complex genetic information cannot be natural.

However, known mechanisms are adequate to explain genetic information growth via evolutionary processes. For example, Rosenhouse wrote, “When a gene duplicates itself, it leaves the organism with two copies of a gene that had occurred only once. The second copy is capable of acquiring mutations without harming the organism since the first gene still maintains the initial function.”

That leaves creationists with trying to embrace what is known as a combinatorial search. According to Rosenhouse, during the evolutionary process, the potential number of possible gene sequences is staggeringly high. But, he continues, this is irrelevant since natural selection “shifts the probability distribution dramatically toward the functional sequences and away from the nonfunctional sequences.”

So while claiming to embrace mathematics, creationists are instead accepting only select parts they find convenient, and even then, are misapplying it.

“The nth powerless” (N-Rays)

Frenchman René Blondlot worked as a physicist in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He is most known for a claimed discovery of a radiation type that he dubbed N-Rays.

Dozens of other scientists seemingly confirmed the N-rays existence but it was eventually determined that they don’t exist. Several subject matter experts had come to same erroneous conclusion. Anti-science individuals and conspiracy theorists are fond of this tale, thinking it gives them ammunition in their insistence that the field is corrupt or at least incompetent. But as is always the case, it is the scientific process that uncovers and corrects the error. We only know that N-Rays are nonexistent because of scientists.

Bondlot had deduced that purported N-rays were exhibiting seemingly impossible properties, yet were still being emitted by all substances except green wood and a few treated metals. He claimed to have generated the rays using a hot wire inside an iron tube. The N-rays were thought to be invisible except when viewed as they hit the treated thread.

While French scientists whom Blondlot knew and worked with had had the same results, German and English scientists were unable to replicate his findings. Troubled by this inconsistency, editors at Nature magazine decided to look deeper into the claims. This highlights the importance of peer review and submitting one’s findings to subject matter experts.

The magazine sent American physicist Robert Wood to look delve into the mystery. Without telling Blondlot, Wood removed the prism from the N-ray detection device. Without the prism, the machine failed to produce the rays. But when a Blondlot assistant conducted the same experiment, he claimed to see the N-rays. Wood had implemented the type of control that Blondlot and his associates should have. Additionally, they should have assigned a neutral party to oversee the experiment. These measures would have enabled a proper double blind study to be conducted. Simply put, Blondlot’s sketchy science had been supplanted by Wood’s better science.

The field learns from its mistakes, as evidenced by the fact that Blondlot and the N-Ray concept are little remembered today. Scientists, being human, will make mistakes and miscalculations, but when proper science is repeatedly done, the truth will come out.

“The quick and the undead” (Quicksand)

A regular, if not hackneyed, feature of adventure and action movies, TV shows, and comic books is quicksand. It is unusually found by some foolhardy or overzealous traveler deep in a jungle, swamp, desert, or other forlorn location. Once the sinking begins, it is irreversible and trying to get out only aggravates the predicament. The unfortunate victim slowly succumbs to death by suffocation. Sometimes a hand or hat remains for dramatic effect once the soon-to-be-deceased goes under.

These portrayals represent a mythological version of quicksand, but the phenomenon is real and in certain instances and situations, can be hazardous.

Geologically speaking, quicksand comprises sand, clay, and saltwater, and it appears and acts as a solid. But when weight is applied, the mixture begins to collapse. It most frequently is present where there is upward-flowing water, often near rivers or beaches where liquid is right under the surface. When disturbed, the mixture transforms from a loose packing of sand on top of water into a more dense liquid. Its high viscosity creates resistance and suction, and the more stress that is applied, the more liquid it becomes. So thrashing about will indeed cause a trapped person to further sink and become more engulfed. But this will only make the situation temporarily worse. On an average-sized person, quicksand will be, at the most, about waist-deep.

The key is to stay calm and eventually float to safety. Experts advice stretching out on your back to increase your surface area and waiting until your legs break free. It is also suggested to move one’s legs around at this point, to stir in water, which will help you float.

While that works for people, quicksand can pose a threat to horses, who upon encountering it, may panic and exhaust themselves while trying to break free. It requires specialized equipment and sedation to rescue them. And it can still be hazardous for humans, especially if one is hiking alone and being unaware of these extraction techniques.

So if starting to go under a la an Indiana Jones flick, get rid of anything you are carrying. Next, distribute your weight by lying backward since staying motionless may increase the material’s viscosity. Trying to extract a leg by pulling it means working against a vacuum left behind. A better tact is to rock back and forth, thereby creating a space for water to move into. This will loosen the material around your limbs. Instead of being sucked all the way in, quicksand victims will float once they get about waist deep. That’s how it works, though it would make for a boring movie scene.

“Face the truth” (Lie detection)

Polygraphs are able to detect physiological changes in someone but they cannot determine if that person is lying. The notion that they can is based on junk science and selective memory, which are among the reasons the results are inadmissible in court.

A more disturbing use of aggressive policing based on bad data is the tiny number of law enforcement agencies that have adopted a Minority Report approach to fighting crime. They take a person’s criminal history and a secretive profiling method, then combine this with constant surveillance and harassment in the form of trumped-up charges like “grass too high,” until the supposed criminal, who is really the victim, moves to another jurisdiction.

Today we will look at a third dubious notion when it comes to crime fighting: That there exists a way to tell if someone is lying through their facial cues. BBC reported that Israeli researchers claim to have discovered a way to use electromyography to measure facial muscles to determine prevarication.

The technique employs electrodes that measure contraction in certain facial muscles of the subject. Researchers ran two trials with subjects, who heard one of two phrases, at which point the subject then told another person which phrase he or she had heard, either telling the truth or lying.

Researchers then took their data and used it to develop an Artificial Intelligence algorithm that clustered facial movements that they deduced correlated with lying. Next, they used that to develop a predictive model to detect lies based on cheek and eyebrow movements. Human receivers managed to do no better than chance, while the algorithm did 7.5 percent better than that. That’s a decent performance but insufficient to show demonstrable superiority, and certainly of no value to law enforcement, as it still results in a more than 40 percent error rate.

The problem with the entire approach is that there are no universal indicators to determine if someone is fibbing. The algorithm can determine facial movements but not necessarily deception. Another issue is that a research subject could act and feel much different than a suspect being grilled for a double murder. The concept of a genuine lie detector is attractive. Imagine being able to hook up O.J. Simpson or Donald Trump to one. Alas, it remains firmly in the realm of science fiction.

“Misplaced trust” (OOPArts)

Out of place artifacts (OOPArts) are seeming anachronisms that can seem intriguing to some, a validation of alternative history to others, and hoaxes or misinterpreted evidence to skeptics. In a delightful recap of some of these, skeptic leader Brian Dunning examined the evidence or lack thereof for what claimants make of them.

We’ll start with the Acámbaro Figures, a collection of tens of thousands of small ceramic figurines that are a mix of dinosaurs, humanoids, sleestaks, and the like. Some of them vaguely resemble the dinosaur set I had as a kid. That set, incidentally, included cavemen, which would have made any Young Earth Creationist proud. As such, the Acámbaro Figures are beloved among YECs, who think the critters lend credence to the notion of humans and terrible lizards co-existing. Attempts to carbon-date the items has proven inconclusive.

However, Dunning wrote that the figures suggest “large-scale production by small artisan communities for the tourist trade,” and are thus not worthy of serious archeological study. Indeed, archaeologist Charles DiPeso saw some of the figures being retrieved from their shallow Earthly grave and deduced they had been recently planted just below the surface in a failed attempt to trick him. Dunning notes that the figurines’ surfaces were conspicuously free of scratches, blemishes, or other aging signs. Any last chance of these being genuine evaporated when thermoluminescence dating showed the figures to have been made around 1940 as opposed to 1940 BCE.

We now move to the Dorchester Port, a discovery made in Massachusetts in the mid-19th Century. The tale has it that workers dynamiting rock came across the remnants of an ornate silver pot embedded within that rock. Since the rock was 500 million years old, the Dorchester Pot is a favorite of the ancient advanced civilization enthusiasts. These folks are at the opposite end of the universe-age spectrum from YECs but are their brethren when it comes to selectively interpreting evidence to bolster their passions.

However, looking at photos of the object, it becomes clear that none of them are the same. They are from different hookah bases common in 19th Century India, are in good shape, and none look like they have been blown in two. The idea of an extremely ancient pot is merely a hoax and not a very thorough or thought-out one, either.

Next we consider the Upshur Bell, found in 1944 by youngster Newton Anderson while shoveling coal in his family’s basement. The bell seemingly appeared from a lump of this coal. Newton kept the object for 63 years and learned it was a Hindu ceremonial featuring the deity Garuda. Anderson sold the bell to a creationist website, where it is touted as the work of a blacksmith named in Genesis, Tubal-cain. Why he would have been making a Hindu god in a time that, per Genesis, was a religion not yet in existence, is unexplained. Moreover, Dunning noted that the bell resembles countless others in the world. To state the obvious, zero evidence supports the Tubal-cain narrative.

We have highlighted two objects fawned over by YECs, so for balance, we will close with a supposedly ancient tale, that of the Dashka Stone. This refers to an enormous slab discovered in Russia in 1999 that is said to be a 120 million-year-old writing tablet. Physicist Alexander Chuvyrov asserts the stone depicts a topographical map of the Ural Mountains, and he believes the pattern of inscriptions covering it are early Chinese characters.

According to Dunning, Chuvyrov considers two thin layers of different type of rock on the surface as proof the ancients manufactured it as a writing tablet. But Dunning consulted with a geologist, who informed him that the face of the Dashka Stone “was probably a bedding plane between two layers of sedimentary rock, along which some movement may have occurred during a period of deformation in which the other cracks perpendicular to the face also formed. These cracks are textbook compression shear fractures, and their three directions indicate at least three deformation events.”

When it comes to OOPArts, the only thing out of place is the trust their adherents have in them.

“Intentional confounding” (Galileo Gambit)

I watch copious amounts of professional football, regularly soaking in five games a week. The NFL is the only interest that has consistently been near the top of my list of passive hobbies from grade school through the upper reaches of middle age. And in those 46 years, I have never seen anyone who can consistently make an absurdly long, logic-defying, into-a-no-visible-window throw like Aaron Rodgers.

As such, it seems fitting that his biggest failing would come off the field. He declined a CDC-recommended vaccine, publicly lied about having received it, and failed to follow league COVID protocols. He then quadrupled down while appearing on Pat McAfee’s podcast.


There, Rodgers declared himself the victim and offered self-congratulation for his critical thinking skills while committing a logical fallacy trifecta of appealing to incredulity, tradition, and consequences. He also made a series of claims that might charitably be called dubious (utter balderdash lacking any scientific or medical grounding would be a more accurate descriptor).

For all this, he received high praise in right-wing circles. He was touted as brave, an adjective that once applied to those who “courageously face danger,” but when used by the likes of Clay Travis, Jason Whitlock, and Candace Owens, means “agrees with me.”

Rodgers was also lauded by some in the Twitterverse for rebelling against authorities, specifically the CDC. While government agents should be held accountable when they shirk their duties or use them for personal gain, it does not follow that all actions taken by every government worker or agency is nefarious. The CDC has a multi-billion dollar budget, which enables the world’s foremost epidemiologists to research and combat disease. To think that someone with no training in scientific disciplines will spend two hours on Google and YouTube and uncover the REAL truth is the height of folly and ego. It also leads frequently to the Galileo Gambit.

This logical fallacy holds that if most people, especially those in authority, dismiss or mock an idea, this means the idea is correct. The thinking goes, “Galileo was mocked, his ideas threatened established thinking, and he was proven right. Therefore, the mocking of my iconoclastic position means I am also correct.”

But having one thing in common does not mean two persons have everything in common, or even one more thing in common.

Galileo was vindicated when further science confirmed his heliocentric theory. But for Rodgers or any other alternative medicine proponent to be likewise vindicated, their favored treatments would need to be consistently shown to be effective in double blind studies. To be kind, that has yet to happen.

The Food Babe, lacking any science for her claims, frequently employs the Gambit and is fond of saying, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” There is nothing here that validates any of her assertions or points, and the same is true for Rodgers and others who endorse natural immunity, invermectin, or hydroxycholoroquine as superior to vaccination.

As a Reddit user retorted, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule yet, then they fight you, then it turns out you were wrong all along.” Being in a class with Galileo requires more than being dismissed. It requires being at the forefront of discovering evidence that proves your hypothesis. There is no automatic connection between being scorned and being right.

On a linguistic note, those employing the Gambit don’t even get the comparison right. It wasn’t the scientific establishment that went after Galileo, it was the anti-scientific establishment Catholic Church.

Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. David Johnson noted there are rare instances of a lone genius being proven correct after challenging the prevailing scientific notion. He cited the example of Einstein upending some Newtonian ideas. “Einstein built a new consensus among the experts by presenting arguments and evidence that was, ultimately, undeniable,” Johnson wrote. “When people resisted his ideas, he never once said, ‘Hey, they laughed at Galileo too.’ He kept trying to convince them with reason and evidence.”

And for every Einstein, Galileo, Wegner, or Wright Brother, there are untold masses who fought against “the system” and lost because they were wrong. As Carl Sagan said, some initially-vilified scientists were laughed at, but so too was Bozo the Clown.

As to Rodgers, his medical regimen is more in line with Bozo than Pasteur, and it forced him to sit out Green Bay’s game with Kansas City. As someone who champions scientific advances and critical thinking, I was sad to see it. As a Chiefs fan, my thoughts were more positive.

“Suicide by crop”’(Organic farming)

Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped nation in the Indian Ocean, and tears are what many of the country’s farmers shed once President Gotabaya Rajapaksa mandated organic farming in the country. After five disastrous months, the experiment was mercifully terminated.

The results had upended Sri Lanka’s crop production and had a calamitous effect on agricultural exports like tea, rubber, and spices. All this for food that is no healthier than traditional fare, marketing claims to the contrary.


Organic farming proponents fall for the appeal to nature fallacy, which holds that something which occurs naturally is preferable to anything synthetic. For example, Dennis Prager foolishly exposed himself to the coronavirus in the mistaken belief that he would be better off doing that than being vaccinated. Besides putting himself – an older man – at risk of death and long-lasting complications, he will suffer through weeks of misery rather than having two unpleasant hours the next day. Even if he pulls through, he will not enjoy the long-term benefits about which he gloats. For antibodies that the vaccine creates are no different than the ones he will acquire through exposure from another carrier.


Organic farming proponents commit a similar error when they consider their favored crop production to be superior since it eschews the use of synthetic chemicals. They are mistaken, and not just because there are dozens of exceptions to the so-called ban. In a second appeal to nature fallacy, organic farming proponents think the natural herbicides are safer than synthetic ones but the origin of a product is unrelated to its danger level. Moreover, organic farming is unsustainable on a large scale because of the calamitous combination of needing more land to yield fewer crops.

Additionally, it requires greater labor since more weeds are likely to grow since there are fewer herbicide options. Consequently, Sri Lanka farmers experienced nearly a quarter-decrease in productivity. Some crops suffered a 50 to 100 percent drop. These numbers are depressingly similar to other locales that have relied heavily on organic farming.

Besides gutting a farmer’s livelihood, there are resultant food shortages and price increases. Additionally, the drag on exports harms the gross national product.


Organic farming shortcomings are aggravated when trying to massively increase the scale. Organic farming accounts for about 1.5 percent of food production worldwide. Trying to ramp up those numbers (especially to 100 percent) will create obstacles, some predictable, some surprising.

Writing for the New England Skeptical Society, Dr. Steven Novella noted it is possible for about five percent of farming to be organic. Trying to go beyond that will encounter organic fertilizer availability. Novella explained that composting and cattle manure are the primary organic fertilizers and both ways recycle nitrogen, though at a compromised rate.

He wrote, “Some plants can fix nitrogen from the air through soil bacteria, and these can be used as crops to put nitrogen into the soil. All this works if the percentage of crops grown without external inputs of nitrogen is kept relatively small.”

But his system falters as one attempts to scale up, and will be an unmitigated failure if trying to go from five percent to 100.

Fortunately for Sri Lankan farmers, the forced experiment is over. Here’s hoping the rest of the world learns from their misfortune.