I recently received the invoice for my annual Foodlog membership. Reference was made to a section of the Foodlog website entitled Why Foodlog Members?. There you will find this text: “Foodlog exposes the different layers of reality. Foodlog searches for facts and then judges them from all political colors and ideologies. The factual basis for the conversation on Foodlog is crucial… Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but no one to their own facts. Perhaps we can come to an agreement when we have the actual facts on the table. It could take many polarized discussions in the Netherlands well beyond the paralyzing yes/nothing and cowardly decisions that are made for lack of better than but about the future of our food and society”.
No ‘objective’ facts
The emphasis on ‘the factual basis for conversations on Foodlog’ is, in my view, both commendable and problematic. Commendable because opinions are often presented as ‘facts’ and problematic because ‘objective’ facts do not exist, even when presented as such on the Foodlog website. It is said: “Foodlog looks for facts and then judges them from all political colors and ideologies” (my italics). Is that a logical order? This sentence can at least give the impression that Foodlog presents ‘facts’ as if they have not always been influenced by (political and other) ideologies as well. In my opinion, every ‘fact’ is based on an underlying world view, which unfortunately is usually not made explicit. In discussions about agriculture, for example, underlying ‘ground attitudes towards nature’ (such as stewardship, professed by the CDA with the mouth, are part of What is missing in the agricultural debate? Basic attitudes to nature. “> such worldviews. But ontological (nature of reality), epistemological (nature of knowledge) and methodological non-scientific presuppositions are also part of worldviews. I reported on this in an earlier article on Foodlog entitled The blind spot of Wageningen University. .
Maybe we can agree best if we have the underlying worldviews or table
Also no ‘actual’ facts
It is said, “Perhaps we can come to an agreement if we have the real facts on the table.” This sentence can also give the impression that Foodlog can get ‘the real facts’ on the table. There are indeed many ‘polarized discussions’, also on the Foodlog website, but this should not be because we always want to talk about ‘the real facts’, while the philosophy of science teaches us that ‘the real facts’ do not exist.
The often lengthy discussions or Foodlog about, for example, the figures that should (should) underlie the nitrogen problem, indicate that it is unlikely that we will agree on figures (or facts). How did that happen? In my opinion, because figures and facts are always colored by underlying world views (of an ecological, technological, economic, political, socio-structural, cultural and psychological nature). Perhaps the following sentence is more logical: “Maybe we can come to an agreement if we have the underlying worldviews or table”, in other words, first start by making those worldviews explicit. In the case of the future of agriculture, for example, the underlying ‘ground attitudes towards nature’.
At least understand each other better
It is unlikely that all stakeholders will agree on the most desirable basic attitude to nature (such as almighty ruler of nature, enlightened ruler, steward of nature, partner of nature, participant in nature, oneness with nature) , but then we will at least understand each other better and less quickly end up in polarized and endless yes/no discussions about numbers. It is of course true that professing a basic attitude is one thing and actually practicing it, expressed in behavior, another. Ecologically and socially responsible behavior requires in-depth personality development, education, consciousness development or spiritual development. In my recent book I will go into detail about the climate crisis here. See also my response to Mathieu Wagemans, What comes after the constructivist paradigm?.
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Actual facts – Digging for truth through research into other people’s basic attitudes – Foodlog