The uncertainty of farming GMOs: Why Bill Nye changing his mind is great

Recently, Bill Nye came out with a great illustration of open-minded scientific thinking. He changed his opinion towards GMO food, and the internet went nuts.

If you missed the story, the gist is that Nye previously held a slightly sceptical stance against the farming of genetically modified foods. In essence he was unconvinced because “we just can’t know what will happen to other species in that modified species’ ecosystem.” Seems like a fair call, actually.

However, he recently revised his view to be pro-GMO, following a trip to Monsanto (one of the leading American producers of genetically modified seed). In a pretty obvious bid to increase sales of his latest book, Undeniable, Nye refuses to elaborate on the reasons behind this turnaround, but maintains that we’ll all get the details soon in a revised version of the GMO section within. As a side note, let’s not accuse the poor guy of Monsanto-centred conspiracy theories until we get a chance to hear his side of the story.

The point is, Nye changed his mind, and that’s pretty cool. Maybe he’ll change it back later based on even newer evidence, and that’d be cool too.

Perhaps this about-face is so buzzworthy because we’re often taught as kids to learn and regurgitate, to always have the right answer, instead of critically analysing individual situations. We all have the tendency to cling to our belief systems, and even to push away from clear evidence, because re-evaluating our worldviews can be really confronting. Not to mention pretty hard work.

Nye has given us an awesome example of critical thinking. Changing your stance on a particular topic in the face of new data is a good indicator of intelligence and flexibility.

Our brains love to defend previously established belief systems. So it makes sense that we’d tend towards dragging our feet when presented with information that contradicts the beliefs we’ve previously formed. But sticking our heads in a dark box of comforting stories is useless. The effort to incorporate new data is always worth it – seeking evidence, seeking the unbiased truth, these are the actions that pave the path towards fruitful scientific progress.TIME GMO

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Lauren Wright

Globetrotting Aussie postdoc on the hunt for science, logic, and humanity. I research metabolism, mitochondria, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other weighty stuff.

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