Michael Specter to Defend Science
by Mary Ellen Kuhn
His book is titled Denialism, but there’s no denying that when New Yorker writer Michael Specter takes the stage during the Annual Meeting Keynote Session on Sunday morning, June 12, his presentation promises to be provocative.
A former New York Times correspondent, Specter writes frequently about science, technology, and public health. In his book, he argues that too many consumers are adopting anti-science attitudes, rejecting childhood vaccines and genetically modified foods, for example, while rushing to embrace organic foods, dietary supplements, and natural cures. Repudiating scientific inquiry—or embracing “denialism”—takes us down a dangerous path, Specter contends, and it gets in the way of global priorities like eliminating famine and preventing the spread of dangerous diseases.
The book’s subtitle—“How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives”—further clarifies Specter’s position. Americans’ mounting suspicion of science stems from a variety of causes, Specter theorizes. These include our poor grasp of history and the difficulty of accepting a reality that used to be taken for granted: that some risk is an inevitable accompaniment to progress.
In addition to his keynote address, Specter will participate in a panel discussion with leading food industry experts on the topic, “Delivering Food Science: Changing the Image of Food Science in the Marketplace.” Martin Cole, Chief of CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences, and Mary K. Wagner, Senior Vice President, Global Research & Development, Starbucks Coffee Co., will also take part in that discussion. Linda Eatherton, Partner, Director Global Food & Nutrition, Ketchum, will moderate the conversation.
The Keynote Session, which will take place Sunday from 8:30–10:15 a.m. in the La Nouvelle Ballroom of the Morial Convention Center, will also feature remarks by Executive Vice President Barbara Byrd Keenan, IFT President Bob Gravani, and Martha Rhodes Roberts, Chair, Feeding Tomorrow. A year-in-review video and presentation of the IFT Food Expo Awards are also on the agenda for Sunday morning. The session is sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association.