Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Anti-GMO Statistician Nassim N. Taleb ‏Responds to Criticism (Sort of)

A while back, statistician Nassim N. Taleb co-wrote an ignorant screed against genetically modified crops, which was refuted in detail here on Debunking Denialism. It was essentially based on elementary misunderstanding of the biology behind it when he simply asserted that genetic modification was “categorically and statistically different” from traditional plant breeding without any evidence despite the fact that it is just a logical extension. In addition, he presented a deeply flawed risk analysis, where he compared the prevention of famine with having poor people play Russian roulette.

Now, Taleb has posted a response on Twitter. Was it thoughtful? Was it based on scientific evidence? Did it interact with the arguments that were provided in the refutation? Not exactly.

Taleb responds..not

The refutation was “not intelligent”, “full of flaws”, and “downright stupid”, yet Taleb could not produce a single argument against it? Also note the time stamps: the link was posted on 12:05 AM on 6 Aug and his response came 12:08 AM on the same day. That means that Taleb spent at most three minutes evaluating the refutation in question. So this is the intellectual summit of the most prominent opponents of genetically modified crops acts when someone criticizes him?

In the end, it does not matter how much statistical sophistry Taleb uses to dress up his erroneous assertions about GM crops since it is based on false premises about the biology. Garbage in, garbage out.

5 responses to “Anti-GMO Statistician Nassim N. Taleb ‏Responds to Criticism (Sort of)

  1. mgm75 August 8, 2014 at 20:53

    “categorically and statistically different” from traditional plant breeding without any evidence

    This is a stock answer from the anti crowd. I think it’s the first commandment of their religion.

    I thought the name looked familiar and was curious about something… and I was right. I tried to read his book Black Swan a couple of years ago and made it through about one and a half chapters before giving up on the self-congratulatory drivel.

  2. knigel August 8, 2014 at 22:34

    Thanks! Skepti-Forum has added your two articles to our critical evaluations of Taleb and his work. If you have more, please let us know! http://wiki.skeptiforum.org/wiki/Scientific_Literature_on_GMOs#Nassim_Taleb

  3. Criticaldragon1177 August 9, 2014 at 17:23

    Word of advice to Nassim N. Taleb, can’t back up your claims, don’t get into an argument and don’t say that something is flawed or stupid.

  4. Fred Garvin February 6, 2015 at 05:23

    Small point for the sake of accuracy. You say “Also note the time stamps: the link was posted on 12:05 AM on 6 Aug and his response came 12:08 AM on the same day. That means that Taleb spent at most three minutes evaluating the refutation in question.”

    How can you assume he had not already seen and digested the rebuttal before, since it was posted back on May 4th?

    • Emil Karlsson February 6, 2015 at 12:05

      Because he did not interact with any of the arguments my post contained, I drew the conclusion that he had not “already seen and digested” it before. Surely, if he had, Taleb (being a serious public intellectual) would have been able to do so without much effort.

      Granted, I am making the “assumption” that my original post was, in fact, not “downright stupid”, but I think that is a fair assumption to make.

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