Why it’s OK to change your mind, from a former anti-GMO activist

| | June 22, 2018

Once upon a time, shortly after the age of bloodletting, people thought that facts could change minds. It may seem laughable now, but many used to believe they could simply provide evidence that fire is hot, that the Earth is round, or that humans are causing climate change, and others would respond, “Right, I understand now! Thanks for setting me straight.”

It doesn’t work that way, a fact you can see clearly demonstrated in Seeds of Science: Why We Got it So Wrong on GMOs, by Mark Lynas, an environmental activist and science writer. The book, out June 26, seeks to understand why greens, including Lynas himself, saw genetic engineering as an enemy from the very beginning.

In his youth, Lynas snuck out with other anti-GMO activists to destroy fields of biotech corn. In 2013, he formally apologized for his actions 15 years earlier. What changed? Sure, Lynas learned some new facts. But these facts only sunk in after he had earned plaudits as a science writer and begun to think of himself as a member of the scientific tribe. It was only after he started caring about his reputation among scientists that he began to feel threatened by the critique that his ideas about GMOs were “perilously unscientific.” He had to change clans before he could change his mind.

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