Today, I still keep, on my phone, a document I typed up from my old science class about the pros and cons of GMOs. I’m not sure how factually accurate it is but I’ll attach it here anyway:

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 4.24.15 AM

While I don’t think that the document particularly favors one side or the other, throughout high school, I’ve always had the impression that my science professors seem to be more for GMOs rather than against. I always remember how fun it was to debunk common misconceptions about vaccinations, cancer, HIV medicine (we discussed Truvada a lot), etc.

I still keep the GMO document with me all the time so I can refer to it incase the discussion of GMOs come up in my everyday conversations. I think this goes back to our most recent discussion of the pressure of being socially and politically conscious (thus, perhaps, the emergence of slacktivism).

I once read a New Yorker article that did a research and concluded that people’s false beliefs cannot be easily corrected through facts, science, emotions, or stories (the article also mentions “anti-GMO activism”), if at all. The author notes: “When there’s no immediate threat to our understanding of the world, we change our beliefs. It’s when that change contradicts something we’ve long held as important that problems occur.”


In other words, people who are in denial about evolution and/or global warming aren’t necessarily ignorant of the facts (or the “science”). But at the end of the day, strongly held, established belief (whether it’s due to religion or politics) will continue to influence judgment despite the conscious awareness of the things that are happening.

I do think that when politicians take over the conversation (about global warming, for example), the discussion become, for lack of a better word, less and less about the science and more about the politics. There’s also a New York Times article that supports the idea that people “just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views” despite their awareness of the facts.

With that said, how do we stay truly informed? Before we can decide what we can do about something, or what action we will take (something that’s not slacktivism), what is the most efficient way we can stay informed with minimal political bias?

Every news media seems to be leaning one way or the other, which, of course, is nothing new or surprising. But I don’t think anyone wants to spend hours reading hundreds of different biased news sources of both sides to try and find the middle ground. Moreover, due to the change in consumer behavior, the news is becoming much more simplified and easy to digest, so we’ve become accustomed to just skimming through articles or just reading the headlines.


How many ways are there to tell the same story? There’s bias by omission, bias by selection of sources, bias by story selection, and all other ways you can be consciously or even subconsciously biased (that’s caused by a “groupthink” mentality).

You can watch Food, Inc. and feel illuminated about the system of food production. You can watch environmental films like Gasland with a critical mindset but still question where you stand due to the critical responses it has received.

Before we can make a difference or take action steps, we have to be aware of what’s going on. My head still hurts thinking about GMOs. I suppose, at the end of day, we have to make our own minds and not let anybody tell us what to think. You can read about the issues to be aware but it is important to pay attention to cognitive bias. It’s not easy to find the “truth” in the mass media based on investigative methods like scientific skepticism. But what else can you do?


~ by Teerin on March 21, 2016.

3 Responses to “Skepticism”

  1. Overall- I really think this post is the best overall because of its varied consideration of situations where action is called for. We are never sure we are 100% right. I too can say that I was pretty okay with GMOs at least from chemical and production output aspect, but as with everything, do the benefits outweigh the costs? On top of that, what are our biases in our beliefs and opinions? It’s a thing that is for ourselves hard to see sometimes, as it’s not like one side has all the answers. And most of the time there is more than just 2 sides to a story, it’s just meditated that way, and complexity really muddles the picture we see. But I think your right, especially with that one “besides making the world better” picture, where sometimes our opinions focus us so much that we forget sometimes our other beliefs, or convictions. Very interesting!

  2. overall: I really liked how you tied in your notes that you took from awhile ago on GMOs… it ties in an old perspective of just factual knowledge with a new, subjective one, which I thought was very effective!

  3. Overall – I guess this would be a biased choice because of the topic you chose to write about… It really made me remember the obsessive phase I had over food/nutrition related articles, documentaries, etc. The way you used your background in working with journalism (I believe?) and how you connected the different viewpoints that can be created. I can say that I am one of those readers that gets swayed by the things I read, almost life fads. Your post really made me think about how I respond to different media.

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