It's the Portions, Stupid!

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IN ESSENCE

way. They note that human perceptions of taste are far more open to the power of suggestion than we generally realize. Give test subjects an ordinary energy bar, for example, with a label falsely stating that it contains "10 grams of soy protein," and they’ll rate it as less tasty than other folks will who know the truth. (Most people assume that soy tastes bad, according to the authors.) The lesson: Tasty words make tastier foods.

But there are some words food producers should avoid. Consumers who are told that a product is "new" and "good for them" will assume that it doesn’t taste very good—as McDonald’s learned when its McLean sandwich flopped. It’s better to reduce the harmful contents of foods quietly—by making slight alterations, such as replacing fat with water, fiber filler, or air, while doing one’s best to maintain their perceived taste.

What about product labeling? Wansink and Huckabee are skeptical that people pay close attention. A study of customers at Subway, which touts the dietetic sandwiches it includes on its menu and provides oodles of information about its offerings, found that those who order subs dripping with mayonnaise and cheese tend to be influenced by the advertising rather than the information; they vastly underestimate how many calories they’re consuming.

It wouldn’t take much to make America slimmer—a 10 percent reduction in daily calorie consumption would do the trick for most people. If the food industry doesn’t get behind the cause, the authors warn, a rising tide of lawsuits and regulations will ensure that corporate profits, at least, get thinner.


SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY




A Husbandman’s Place

THE SOURCE: "Renewing Husbandry" by
Wendell Berry, in Orion, Sept.–Oct. 2005.

when gas-powered tractors

appeared on the landscape a century ago, farmers began to lose their connection with the farm. To mourn that loss isn’t merely to wax nostalgic, but to recognize the damage that mechanization and modern agricultural "science" have done to our world, says Wendell Berry, the noted writer and Kentucky farmer. "Husbandry"—the word itself sounds quaint from disuse—has become nearly obsolete.

"Husbandry is the name of all

the practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us," writes Berry. "Most and perhaps all of industrial agriculture’s manifest failures appear to be the result of an attempt to make the land produce without husbandry."

As farming became more industrialized, after World War II, farm families stopped producing the food for their own tables; economic imperatives withered the organic relationship between farmer and farm.

In reducing the art of farming to "animal science" and "soil science," says Berry, agriculturalists oversimplified it. "The husband, unlike the




One of modern agriculture’s dehumanizing effects, say critics such as Wendell Berry, is a loss of human sympathy for animals, as evidenced by conditions on huge poultry farms such as this.



Winter 2006 ¦ Wilson Quarterly 81


IN ESSENCE

‘manager’ or the would-be objective scientist, belongs inherently to the complexity and the mystery that is to be husbanded, and so the husbanding mind is both careful and humble. Husbandry originates precautionary sayings like ‘Don’t put all your eggs into one basket’.... It does not boast of technological feats that will ‘feed the world.’ "

Agricultural science ignores farming’s larger context. The sympathy for "creatures, animate and inanimate," has been lost. Other casualties are local adaptation to the particular farm and field and coherence of form. "The farm is limited by its topography, its clipolitical violence, by chemical pollution, by increasing energy costs, by depleted soils, aquifers, and streams, and by the spread of exotic weeds, pests, and diseases. We are going to have to return to the old questions about local nature, local carrying capacities, and local needs."


Husbandry can be learned anew in colleges of agriculture, Berry concludes, but only if many agricultural scientists become farmers themselves and learn to accept the practical limitations and the element of mystery that inhere in husbandry.

mate, its ecosystem, its EXCERPT human neighborhood and local economy, and of course by the larger



Satanic Design?

economies, and by the

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY



The War Against Error

THE SOURCE: "Scientific Error and the Ethos of Belief " by Lorraine Daston, in Social Research, Spring 2005.

Few boundaries are as fluid as the one between established knowledge and conjectural belief in the modern sciences, where new research can fundamentally revise, or even sweep away, the received wisdom of a particular discipline. "The price of scientific progress is the obsolescence


of scientific knowledge," writes Lorraine Daston, executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and an honorary professor at Humboldt University in Berlin.

The modern sciences














































preferences and abilities of Many who accept the fact of evolution cannot, were born in the 16th and
the farmer. The true hus however, on religious grounds, accept the operation 17th centuries, and the prob
bandman shapes the farm of blind chance and the absence of divine purpose lem of reaching an accom
within an assured sense of implicit in natural selection. They support the modation between knowl
what it cannot be and alternative explanation of intelligent design. The rea edge and belief was born
what it should not be." soning they offer is not based on evidence but on the right along with them. Dur-
The sense of limitless lack of it. The formulation of intelligent design is a ing those centuries, Coperni
ness—of fuel, water, and default argument advanced in support of a non can astronomy and other
soil—that gave rise to the sequitur. It is in essence the following: There are discoveries overturned "a
recent focus on some phenomena that have not yet been explained whole range of explanatory
productivity, genetic and and that (and most importantly) the critics systems and empirical
technological uniformity, personally cannot imagine being explained; therefore claims that had been
and global trade has there must be a supernatural designer at work. The accepted as eternal truths."
proven illusory, according designer is seldom specified, but in the canon of Thinkers responded to the
to Berry. Massive single intelligent design it is most certainly not Satan and stunning exposure of error
crop fields and factory his angels, nor any god or gods conspicuously differ by devising philosophical
farms are unsustainable, ent from those accepted in the believer’s faith. systems that insisted that
and the necessity of local beliefs have explicit,
adaptation "will be forced —EDWARD O. WILSON, emeritus professor at reasoned justification.
upon us again by terror- Harvard University, in Harvard Magazine (Nov.–Dec. 2005) The branch of philoso
ism and other kinds of phy that concerns itself

82 Wilson Quarterly ¦ Winter 2006



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