The Conversation: To change anti-science activists' minds, go beyond science
... The proponents of GM rice and its benefits clearly have positive intentions, and they are understandably upset. Some of the pieces decrying the acts of the crop vandals explicitly refer to these activists as being “anti-science”.
But to dismiss this, and similar, disagreements as ipso facto reflecting an anti-science mentality is not only simplistic, it’s actively misguided. ...
... Rejection of some science and the relevant supporting evidence is not, on its own, a rejection of all science. ...
...I do, however, work with the sciences. And for scientists I have four suggestions.
Change your language, change your mindset. When people oppose something you see as science-based, it does not necessarily mean they oppose science. To approach the world this way is unlikely to be productive (and is probably also just plain incorrect).
Science practice is not immune from bias and self-interest, nor is scientific research free from cultural influence (consider halal vaccines, for example) .
Some people have very good reasons to be suspicious of scientists and science. In the last week, for example, a researcher from Tufts University was barred from doing research with humans after feeding GM golden rice to Chinese study participants without informing them it had been genetically modified. I’d be peeved.
Explore, understand and accept that science doesn’t know everything. Take your time if this is difficult, but try to accept this broadly, and come to terms with it deeply. There are complexities inherent in human interactions that invoking “science” doesn’t magically nullify. This is not some vague, post-modernist, anti-science position: it’s just true. If it weren’t, then problems such as this golden rice brawl would not occur.
If scientists genuinely want to take the highest possible moral position (and I believe we should), a broad view of humanity is essential. If we want people to change a position, view or practice, scorching them with righteous fire is not the best way.
That’s being as naïve about human nature as your opponents appear to be about science.
Excellent! Climate action activists could learn from this as well.