New York Times: A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops
... Like some others on the nine-member Council, Greggor Ilagan was not even sure at the outset of the debate exactly what genetically modified organisms were: living things whose DNA has been altered, often with the addition of a gene from a distant species, to produce a desired trait. But he could see why almost all of his colleagues had been persuaded of the virtue of turning the island into what the bill’s proponents called a “G.M.O.-free oasis.”
“You just type ‘G.M.O.’ and everything you see is negative,” he told his staff. Opposing the ban also seemed likely to ruin anyone’s re-election prospects. ...
...At stake is how to grow healthful food most efficiently, at a time when a warming world and a growing population make that goal all the more urgent.
Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue. Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones.
“These are my people, they’re lefties, I’m with them on almost everything,” said Michael Shintaku, a plant pathologist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, who testified several times against the bill. “It hurts.” ...
This is a very interesting article with implications for how we wrestle with a host of complex issues. The scientific perspective on stem-cell research, climate change, and evolution dovetails well with the meta-narrative liberals have of the world. G.M.O.'s (and I'll add nuclear power) do not. What this tells us is that despite progressive pretentions of having a superior commitment to science, they don’t. Emotion enters into decision-making (“You a discrediting my narrative!”). They operate not irrationally but within bounded rationality, reason based in a limited understanding that is consistent with the way they generally understand the world to operate. They rely on heuristics to make sense of complex issues. They are not driven by science to their positions, but rather the science conveniently corresponds with a previously held narrative on some issues (and they are quite happy to appropriate that science in furtherance of their narrative.) But when the science runs counter to the narrative, it is the narrative, not science, which is determinative. It short liberals are just like the rest of us: human.
I’ve become increasingly aware over the years of hard it is to move past my initial emotional reactions when my metanarratives are challenges and press deeper to get at the truth. The personal disorientation is often stressful. But I also came to a realization early in life that the search for truth is often socially disruptive. The truth of these complex issues is frequently unfriendly to all metanarratives in one way or another, and as soon as you step on someone’s metanarrative you risk relationships. While I’m not intimidated by dealing with conflict, I certainly get no joy from perpetual battles. And that is precisely where pursuit of truth often leads.
I have a lot of admiration for Greggor Ilagan in this story. I’m sure I’m more right of center than he is and we would likely disagree on any number of policy matters. Still, I have a strong identification with Ilagan and the personal costs he experienced for being authentic in his discernment. He is an inspiration to me. May God grant that each of us would learn better to discern with warm hearts and cool heads.