Time for #DegreeMadness – where we rank people’s statements by what degrees they have not by science

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

12 thoughts on “Time for #DegreeMadness – where we rank people’s statements by what degrees they have not by science”

  1. Wonderful. Years ago I wrote a social sciences introductory thing on the differences between medical and scientific knowledge, but this illustrates it delightfully. It's far more about status than we'd like to admit.


  2. Ena is so stuck on the idea that glyphosate negatively affects Oxalobacter populations in dogs that she can't see straight. She is convinced that she is seeing a higher number of dogs with kidney stones (just by observation) and that gm crops are to blame. She told me I wasn't allowed to comment on her facebook page because I wasn't qualified to talk about oxalate with my Ph.D. in chemistry.


  3. I had never encountered her before. What I find so ironic is – I am actually interested in how glyphosate might affect microbiomes. I think it is incredibly unlikely that ingestion of glyphosate in food has any significant effect on microbiomes in animals. But I do think it is possible that glyphosate affects soil and plant microbiomes and that in turn could affect what microbes come into animals (via eating the plants). So I think this is interesting and worth pursuing. This notion is not about glyphosate good or bad. Just about testing the possibility that it indirectly affects animals microbiomes (and if so, this could be a beneficial effect).


  4. I was called a troll on a blog because I disagreed with the premise that all cancer is caused by inflammation, almost always due to gluten. My degrees made me “an establishment shill”.


  5. I'm coming to this late, but I'm familiar with Ena. She's not an MD but a veterinarian, so it's hilarious that she said only MD's could discuss things with her. Kevin Folta has had quite a few run ins with her on Twitter.


  6. Is anyone currently doing research to find out? And what is your reasoning as to why you think 'it is incredibly unlikely that ingestion of glyphosate in food has any significant effect on microbiomes in animals'?


  7. There seems to be very little research on this. Certainly very little is published. As for my quote there – the key part of it is “significant”. Everything we ingest has potential to affect our microbiomes. But most of those changes are probably not very significant (if you measure significance in terms of health effect, for example).

    What I was trying to say in that line was not that glyphosate has no potential to affect microbiomes directly. It very well may. And this likely would depend on dosage and exactly how one got exposed to it. The doses that people / animals get from food seem likely to be too low to have big effects on the animal's microbiomes, but I do not know if that has been examined directly. There are a few papers looking at this indirectly (e.g., examining the impact of glyphosate on individual microbes growing in the lab) but most of these are very very indirect.

    Anyway, what I was trying to say was that indirect effects on animal microbiomes are worth thinking about, regardless of what one thinks about direct effects. If glyphosate impacts the microbiome of plants or on various plant parts, then when animals (e.g., us) ingest those plants, the animal will get exposed to different microbes. And this could in turn affect the microbiomes of the organism ingesting those plants / plant parts. I do not know if such changes happen or if they would be significant either. But it seems worth examining. There is some literature on the first part of this topic in that many have examined whether glyphosate impacts the soil microbiota or the microbiota on plants. The results are inconsistent in the literature (some studies suggest some impact, other studies suggest no impact) but people are looking at this. And I have been pondering trying to do experiments on this myself but have not yet obtained any funding for it.


  8. Thank you for clarifying. Given the prevalence of glyphosate in the food supply and environment it seems important that we get these questions answered in a meaningful way regarding direct and indirect effects on both animal and human microbiomes. We certainly are not at a point where we can just brush off any potential effects if we don't know what they are or may be. I hope that you do find funding for this research, though it doesn't surprise me that it hasn't been easy.

    I tried posting the link to Ena Valikov's response to degree madness earlier, but my comments didn't go through. Perhaps you have a filter on your comments? Have you read her post? It brings up a few interesting points and explains her reasoning behind questioning whether Kavin Senapathy is a credible source and why that coversation went the way it did. Did you know that Ena is also a UC Davis alumni? I share her disappointment in a professor promoting someone like Senapathy whose actions do not align with what I would consider to be trustworthy and independent. She has a clear bias toward industry interests and has worked closely with AstroTurf groups which I have documented. I really do wish that you would take this under serious consideration, Ena's colorful and passionate personality aside. 🙂 Focus should be on the issue.


  9. Google filters messages posted to this blog. When blogs are a bit old (e.g., like this one) they get automatically put into moderation and need to be approved. And some comments get placed into SPAM by google filters. I generally do not even look at the SPAM and I only occasionally even look at the ones that go into moderation. Your comments went into the moderation queue and I approved them as soon as I could. I welcome any and all comments that are not offensive. It is possible other comments went into SPAM. I get 100s of SPAM comments per day to this blog and generally do not go through them.


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