Next week, genetic modification will be discussed in an innovative event: the Rational Parliament, an experimental debating society in London. Its first sitting considers the motion ‘This house agrees that GM is a rational approach to meeting food demand’.
I love the idea of a ‘rational, sensible and realistic approach’, using evidence and respecting everyone’s moral and social views. But I was also interested in a discussion about this on a mailing list, suggesting that we mis-understand the way that people make up their minds about evidence. It stemmed from a blog post with insights into human behaviour and decision making.
When information is complex, people are more likely to make decisions based on their values and beliefs, rather than on facts and logic (eg aligning anti-GM sentiment with the value of ‘naturalness’).
People who are shown information proving their beliefs to be wrong often become more entrenched in their original beliefs, and this is truer of highly-intelligent people.
So I will be taking part with an interest in GM and in how people are making their decisions. When I ran discussions about GM with sixth form students it was interesting that the whole class tended to agree (this matched the argument against trial by jury – put people together and their views are not independent).
I will also be interested to see how I make decisions. Will I shy away from evidence which I wish was untrue? More blogs to follow, and I have started my investivations with a poll – please take it!
Anyone interested in non-GM ways to feed more people may be interested in an event I’m helping to organise which is discussing who is responsible for reducing food waste.