What changed my opinion? Awareness of the 2-3 billion people currently on the planet who would starve to death without GMOs and how genetically modifying plants is necessary due to climate change.
“The first principle [of science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize for physics, 1965.
When Bill Nye (“The Science Guy”) publicly changed his mind recently about genetically modified organisms − he now says they “are an important, and perhaps, essential component of modern farming” − many were quick to pounce.
Besides attacking his reasoning and his credentials, some of his critics even alleged – with absolutely no evidence or justification – that Bill’s change of position must have involved a payoff by my company, Monsanto.
The simple, innocent truth, however, is laid out plainly in the recently published revised edition of Bill’s book “Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation.” In a new chapter, Bill explains that after publishing the first edition of the book, in 2014, he “has spent a great deal of additional time investigating the issues surrounding GMFs (genetically modified foods).” His investigation, he explains, included a deeper exploration of the scientific literature, as well as a visit to our company.
“I was not there to be charmed,” he comments on that visit. “I was there to see if Monsanto scientists had hard data to address the issues about GMFs and the ecosystems in which they grow. I now believe they do.”
In other words, Bill dug deeper into the issue and then recognized he’d been mistaken. And then he had the courage to admit it.
Who else has trod this path? Well, lots of people. After all, to err is human, and scientists and those who, like Bill, study and write about science, are human. For science to move ahead, therefore, it’s critical that the people who pursue it be willing to recognize and correct their mistakes. Otherwise science – and humanity – get stuck.
I know I’ve made mistakes as a scientist – for example, in being slow to recognize the seriousness of climate change. When the data documenting this trend became overwhelming, however, I studied it – and shifted my position – because I knew that for a scientist, the real sin is not in making a mistake, but in refusing to acknowledge it. That’s all Bill has done in this case.