On GMOs & Changing Your Mind…

A few months ago I wrote a post titled What Would it Take? In it, I asked both proponents and opponents of GMOs what it would take to change their minds on their current position. Much to my disappointment only the PRO camp responded—which tells you something there.

Granted, I don’t have the biggest audience in the world, but I know I have Julee K, perhaps the only person whose mind I was instrumental in changing on the dicey issue of GMOs in a piece I did titled The Lowdown on GMOs with a Scientistthough, it is probably more fair to say it was Dr. Kevin Foltaand ask her a few questions on how it felt to change her mind on so visceral and emotional an issue, and you can find our back and forth below.


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Hi Julee, before you changed your mind, I’m sure that you had read other pro-GMO pieces from other scientists, yet it was me, a non-journalist, non-scientist conducting a Q&A with plant geneticist Kevin Folta that actually began the unwinding of your philosophy. What was it about this particular interview that instigated such a deep change in your outlook?

I’m going to have to set up my answer to this question with a little backstory so please bare with me.

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What Would It Take?

A few weeks ago Ken Ham ‘the creationist’ and Bill Nye ‘the science guy’ had a debate. The subject of the debate was ‘is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?’ During the Q&A session afterward, they were both asked a question asking them what it would take to change their mind. This made me think of people on opposing sides on the subject of GMOs; pro, con, or on the fence. It was a brilliant question, and one that should be asked in every debate.

Following the vein of the question, I’d like to ask to you, my readers, whichever side of the GMO fence you sit on: what would it take to change your mind that the opposing side is correct?

To be more specific:

If you are against GMO use: what would it take to convince you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the currently approved GMOs are safe?

If you are for GMO use: what would it take to convince you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the currently approved GMOs are dangerous?

Let me know in the comments below…

Differing Degrees of Evidence

There are two camps on the Internet when it comes to evaluating evidence. I’ll call them the uppers and downers. Both sides think they are on the side of science, reason, and logic. They both believe they base their decisions on data, scrutiny, and skepticism (especially the downers). Yet, for the most part, one side is right, and the other is wrong. (This does not mean that everything each side says is either wrong, or right—this will make a bit more sense later.)

Without knowing who or what the sides or what they stand for, what would the difference between the two sides be? Answer: accepting differing degrees of evidence.

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Science Said Y X Years Ago, Therefore…

Science said Y, X years ago, therefore, >>insert non-sequitur here<<. This is becoming an increasingly familiar, and tiring, argument. First, let me use it in a few examples.

GMO foods are bad despite what the science says because science said cigarettes were safe for use 60 years ago.

Organic produce is healthier than conventional produce despite what the preponderance of scientific studies today show because science gave us nazi eugenics 80 years ago.

Got it? Well, it’s a non-sequitur; that is, the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Here’s what it is, a red herring, a debate stopper; what it is not is a logical argument.

There are several points I wish to make against it.

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Not All Scientific Statements Have Equal Weight

The title of this post: “Not all scientific statements have equal weight” was written by Carl Sagan in his brilliant book Broca’s Brain. It is a statement you should write on a post-it to keep by your monitor as you browse, if that is your cup of tea, the online intellectual fight on such nerve touching issues as the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMO), evolution vs. creationism, climate change, and many other topics that are, at the end of the day, empirically verifiable. It should sound in your brain after each and every scientific claim you read on the Internet. (In Carl Sagan’s voice too.)

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