Are cows more trustworthy than chemists?

Mar 8th, 2011

Kelly Foss

Dr. Joe Schwarcz
Are cows more trustworthy than chemists?

Are cows more trustworthy than chemists? That’s the intriguing question answered by Dr. Joe Schwarcz, the 2011 Elizabeth R. Laird guest lecturer.

A recent story in Time magazine about the relative merits of conventional and organic produce featured a curious quote from a professor of nutrition education at Columbia University.  When asked if she preferred butter or margarine, she replied “I would rather trust a cow than a chemist.”

“Unfortunately such negative comments about chemistry are not unusual these days as the lay press often focuses on ‘toxic chemicals’ in our air, water, food and even in our blood,” explains Dr. Schwarcz. “It is incumbent on educators to put chemical risks into perspective for the public and to try and allay unreasonable fears.”

Dr. Schwarcz is director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, a unique enterprise with a mandate of demystifying science for the public, the media and students.  Dr Schwarcz also teaches a variety of courses in McGill’s Chemistry Department and in the Faculty of Medicine with emphasis on health issues, including aspects of alternative medicine.

He is well known for his informative and entertaining public lectures on topics ranging from the chemistry of love to the science of aging.  Using stage magic to make scientific points is one of his specialties.

Professor Schwarcz has received numerous awards for teaching chemistry and for interpreting science for the public. “Dr. Joe” has appeared hundreds of times on television and various radio stations and writes a weekly newspaper column in the Montreal Gazette. His books, all been best sellers, have been translated into seven languages and are sold around the world.

His public lecture took place Wednesday, March 23.

Elizabeth R. Laird

Dr. Elizabeth R. Laird was a prominent Canadian physicist in the first half of the 20th Century. Upon her death in London, Ontario in 1969, Memorial University was among a number of high ranking Canadian universities to be named a beneficiary of her will. The bequest was to be held and used as a lecture fund for the purpose of providing occasional public lectures in the field of science or social studies to be given by Canadian lecturers. The first lecture was held in 1980.


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