I love this mini-interview, but when I got to read the “I don’t know enough about agri-business to comment on the impact of this deal.” I got extremely frustrated!
Scientists and people with knowledge shying away from the discussion are the main reason why we are in this mess where woos talk louder than ever, spreading fear, panic and misinformation!
Sir Richard Roberts was not asked for a specialist opinion on the future of agriculture. He was asked for his opinion as an educated person, who lives on this planet and has his ideas and views! Until we stop measuring every single word we put out to the public with the rigorous measures we use when we publish our scientific articles, we will never stand a chance to be heard against the constant verbal/media vomit coming from pseudo-science sources! I am not saying we should not support our statements with facts, but if one knows that a 3rd of the Ugandan food supply relies on bananas, and that they are being destroyed by diseases, but we chose not to use the solutions we already have for sentimental reasons, then one knows enough about agri-busines to express opinion. At least making an educated guess is much better than leaving the floor open for the immediate response of conspiracy theorists, which didn’t wait for 10 minutes after the publication of this interview to comment at it
When a learned man of such distinction who is asked for his opinion suddenly, when given the opportunity to comment upon a corporate move that is going to have far reaching consequences across the whole arena, decides to keep quiet, one has to ask ‘why?’.
And of course everyone will draw attention to this, instead of to what is the actual message in his words.
The general public does not expect from us – the scientists, to know everything. People expect us to know enough to keep them safe! And that much we know, and we have known for a while! Being brave to express opinions and educated guesses, is very different from talking for the sake of keeping up the noise levels going, and scientists should not be afraid to do the first two. And until we start being brave enough – the science and progress will always suffer from low popularity and pseudo-scientists will thrive!