a <backlash> from some scientists

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NewAmerica

Banned
Mandarin
In the passage below, "backlash" appears to be consistent with "strong pushback", for these scientists and Oxitec both diagree with the paper's suggestion that GM mosquitos are worse.

Here's the catch: The title of the article says Study on DNA spread by genetically modified mosquitoes prompts <backlash>. The backlash in the title seems to be exactly the opposite of the backlash in the passage. The former gives you the impression that the current GM mosquito studies get backfired, while the latter impresses you with that the criticism against the current GM mosquito studies gets backfired. I am not sure.

The question of this thread is whether you think the backlash in the title and the backlash in the passage below are the same thing.


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But the paper’s suggestion that this genetic mixing could have made the mosquito population “more robust”—more resistant to insecticides, for example, or more likely to transmit disease—has triggered anti-GM news reports, a backlash from some scientists, and strong pushback from Oxitec. The company, a subsidiary of U.S. biotech Intrexon, has a lot at stake; it recently submitted a new generation of its GM mosquitoes for U.S. regulatory review and hopes to conduct its first U.S. field test next year.

Source: Science By Kelly Servick Sep. 17, 2019
Study on DNA spread by genetically modified mosquitoes prompts backlash
 
  • Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Both the title and this sentence are referring to a backlash against the paper. You must be incorrectly parsing the paragraph.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Note that backlash and pushback are opposites here. The scientists create the backlash (in reaction because they didn't like the unintended consequence of the study: making the mosquitos more robust) and want such studies to stop or be more scrutinized, while the company is pushing back against such concerns saying everything is fine.
    Did you get the impression at the first sight of the title?
    Thank you :)
    No, the backlash is only in response to the (outcome of) study.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Did you get the impression at the first sight of the title?
    The title says "Study...prompts backlash."

    The quoted sentence says "suggestion...has triggered" 3 things: a news report, a backlash, and pushback.

    Yes, that was my first impression of both.

    The former gives you the impression that the current GM mosquito studies get backfired, while the latter impresses you with that the criticism against the current GM mosquito studies gets backfired. I am not sure.
    Where did you get the word "backfire"? That has a totally different meaning than "backlash". The two words are not related.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Nothing can "get backfired", because the verb "backfire" cannot have an object.

    If a project (which may be a study) produces a result opposite to that expected, "the project backfires".
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    It seems that JS's opinion is different to Glas's. I've thought it for a while and failed to get a crystal clear picture.

    Nothing can "get backfired", because the verb "backfire" cannot have an object.

    If a project (which may be a study) produces a result opposite to that expected, "the project backfires".
    I've used "backfire" this way: The authors of the new paper expected a positive reaction from scientists, yet what they got is a negative reaction (backlash). That is, their expectation got backfired.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It seems that JS's opinion is different to Glas's. I've thought it for a while and failed to get a crystal clear picture.
    Glas and I are in complete agreement that both uses of the word backlash refer to the backlash against the original work of deploying the modified mosquitoes by Oxitec The paper (by independent researchers) revealed what was wrong with the original project (because of the unintended consequences) and created the backlash against that work. It took the publication of the new study to show the problem in the original release project. Thus the "paper caused the backlash".

    We don't use "backfire" in the way you have, It is not a transitive verb, so it cannpt be used in a passive form (get backfired :cross:)

    You might say" The original Oxitec experiment, of deploying modified mosquitoes to weaken the population, backfired."
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Usually a plan backfires. An expectation doesn't backfire. A thing that backfires is a thing that includes work and a goal (a plan, a project, a study).

    If a plan backfires, the result is different from the expected result.
     

    NewAmerica

    Banned
    Mandarin
    Okay now. The use of backfire is clear. But the question of the OP is still a mess to me.

    A practical method is to find problems in understanding one by one.

    Glas and I are in complete agreement that both uses of the word backlash refer to the backlash against the original work of deploying the modified mosquitoes by Oxitec The paper (by independent researchers) revealed what was wrong with the original project (because of the unintended consequences) and created the backlash against that work. It took the publication of the new study to show the problem in the original release project. Thus the "paper caused the backlash".
    Now I understand what you said in # 4 "Note that backlash and pushback are opposites here. "

    (1) The statement above made by you clearly points out that the study in the title "Study on DNA spread by genetically modified mosquitoes prompts backlash" refers to the new study that criticizes or even rejects Oxitec's.

    It is important for me to go on right track. Because when posting the thread, I was not absolutely clear which study was in the title.

    (2) The definition for "backlash" here is: a strong negative reaction. Am I on the right track? (I think I am correct here)

    (3) Now the question has boiled down to "backlash against whom." Against Oxitec or against the new study itself.

    I originally thought it is backlash against the new study itself. With your opinion, it becomes both possible: backlash against Oxitec and backlash against the new study itself. (But your view appears to be very clear: It is against Oritec. Such as “Failed GM mosquito control experiment may have strengthened wild bugs”...). And I don't know which to follow - that is why I said the question in the OP is still a mess for me.

    The author quoted the backlash (strong negative reaction) of Jason Rasgon, an entomologist at Pennsylvania State University, against the new paper itself (rather than against Oxitec. And Rasgon has no financial ties to Oxitec) by saying “But I think there are a number of things that are really overhyped and kind of irresponsible about the paper.” Rasgon indicates that the authors of the new study should have emphasized that they didn’t find any mosquitoes carrying Oxitec’s transgenes. Thus Rasgon, like Oxitec, strongly diagrees with the paper’s assertion that the mixing of genomes “likely” made the population stronger by increasing its genetic variation. Thus Rasgon calls the backlash against Oxitec to be "unfounded suspicions."

    But the paper’s suggestion that this genetic mixing could have made the mosquito population “more robust”—more resistant to insecticides, for example, or more likely to transmit disease—has triggered anti-GM news reports, a backlash from some scientists, and strong pushback from Oxitec.
    It is not clear to me now whether this backlash ("a backlash from some scientists") is against Oxitect, or against the new study itself. Your point has created a balance in my mind that it can refer to either (of course your idea is unambiguous: It is the backlash against Oxitec!). Now it is very clear why I have thought the backlash was a "backfire" against the new paper itself. Because Rasgon appears to serve as the representive of these scientists and Rasgon's backlash (strong negative reaction) is unequivocally against the new study itself.

    How do you explain Rasgon's backlash (strong negative reaction) against the new study?
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    But the paper’s suggestion that this genetic mixing could have made the mosquito population “more robust”—more resistant to insecticides, for example, or more likely to transmit disease—has triggered anti-GM news reports, a backlash from some scientists,
    It is not clear to me now whether this backlash ("a backlash from some scientists") is against Oxitect, or against the new study itself.
    In this sentence, the backlash is against the new study. Grammar tells us that. It is not ambiguous at all. Read the red parts above. The other parts are not part of the red grammar.

    There may be backlash against Oxitec, but that does not matter. That is not mentioned in this sentence.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I did not read the whole paper, but a quick skim suggests to me that the comments of Rasgon are an example of the pushback against the conclusions in the new paper, with comments challenging the interpretation in the new paper discrediting Ocxitec..
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    In this sentence, the backlash is against the new study. Grammar tells us that. It is not ambiguous at all. Read the red parts above. The other parts are not part of the red grammar.

    There may be backlash against Oxitect, but that does not matter. That is not mentioned in this sentence.
    I disagree: the paper caused the backlash , yes. There has been some pushback, based on critical comments concerning the new paper (see above).

    Let's look at a parallel situation, A new report has shown that certain politicians used illegal means to disenfranchise minority voters in their district. This report will create backlash - against the reporter or the politicians? The backlash would be against the politicians, but they will push back, challenging the report as "fake news". That's what I was getting at when I said backlash and pushback are "opposites" = reactions from opposite sides.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "Lash" is the free play between two gears. When they are traveling in one direction and abruptly reverse directions the free lash results in a jolt. As a metaphor the backlash should refer to that jolt, not to the basic objection to the thought. I find the use of this metaphor inappropriate here.

    "Backlash" seems to be a current trend word; "disapproval" seems like the correct word to me.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    To summarise the situation, Oxitec has genetically modified mosquitoes to make them sterile and potentially unable to transmit diseases. The new paper has found that in fact not all of the GM mosquitoes are sterile as evidenced by the fact that their DNA has been found in the “wild” mosquitoes, proving that they successfully bred. In this respect the paper is accepted by everyone, even though this result was a surprise. However the paper goes on to hypothesise that if this is the case then this could result in the development of “super-mosquitoes”. It is this hypothesis which has attracted a scientific backlash (of which Rasgon’s comments is indeed an example). The scientists reacting against the paper believe that the researchers are drawing an unjustified conclusion. Of course people who are in general opposed to genetic engineering are using the paper to campaign against Oxitec, but the word backlash does not refer to this, either in the headline or on the article.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    "Lash" is the free play between two gears. When they are traveling in one direction and abruptly reverse directions the free lash results in a jolt. As a metaphor the backlash should refer to that jolt, not to the basic objection to the thought. I find the use of this metaphor inappropriate here.
    Never heard that theory before -- where did you find it?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Never heard that theory before -- where did you find it?
    The part about the "lash" is established language in the machining business. "Gear lash", and "Back lash" are a standard terms. My finding the metaphor inappropriate is my opinion and may or may not have merit.

    The engineering issue is that you cannot design a system with zero backlash or you will have far too much friction and the gears will wear prematurely. Too much back lash and there is a major jolt each time you start to go forward or backward.

    I just don't see where the "jolt" comes into play in the way this metaphor is used.

    Backlash (engineering) - Wikipedia
    In mechanical engineering, backlash, sometimes called lash or play, is a clearance or lost motion in a mechanism caused by gaps between the parts. It can be defined as "the maximum distance or angle through which any part of a mechanical system may be moved in one direction without applying appreciable force or motion to the next part in mechanical sequence".[1



    Some more illustrations: gear lash - Google Search
     
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    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    The word "backlash" always always makes me think of the backslash symbol.
    I just think "disapproval" is a better word; it just lacks the cache that "backlash" seems to be enjoying lately. I see it in internet articles all the time.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    "Lash" is the free play between two gears. When they are traveling in one direction and abruptly reverse directions the free lash results in a jolt. As a metaphor the backlash should refer to that jolt, not to the basic objection to the thought. I find the use of this metaphor inappropriate here.

    "Backlash" seems to be a current trend word; "disapproval" seems like the correct word to me.
    I like your explanation of backlash.
    It seems that 'backlash,' though, has been around as a word for a kind of disapproval since at least 1929, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. I expect people don't think of it as a metaphor now; it's plain speech, like the word 'mirror.' If a newspaper article mirrors my own opinion, and 'mirror' is really a metaphor, then the article should state my opinion in reverse, the way a mirror reverses writing.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I like your explanation of backlash.
    It seems that 'backlash,' though, has been around as a word for a kind of disapproval since at least 1929, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. I expect people don't think of it as a metaphor now; it's plain speech, like the word 'mirror.' If a newspaper article mirrors my own opinion, and 'mirror' is really a metaphor, then the article should state my opinion in reverse, the way a mirror reverses writing.
    I understand what you are saying. It still seems like disapproval is a better word.
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Reading your answer, I just realized that I think of backlash as a noun formed from the verb 'to lash back', similar to 'lash out' but used when one is striking in retaliation.
    So 'backlash' is aggressive disapproval.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Reading your answer, I just realized that I think of backlash as a noun formed from the verb 'to lash back', similar to 'lash out' but used when one is striking in retaliation.
    So 'backlash' is aggressive disapproval.
    That is also what went through my mind when seeing the word in this sort of context. It could equally apply to people's feelings about the original experiment (when they learnt of it from the new report) or to the feelings of people who felt the report itself contained poor interpretation/speculation.

    Edited to add a sentence from an article in the papers today

    Donald Trump lashed back at his critics on Saturday, as questions swirled in the latest scandal to hit his extraordinarily embattled White House a
     
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