Take it down a notch

Hi everyone, Frank N. Foode™ speaking. I am delighted to see that discussions are really sprouting forth here at Biofortified. For the first time ever, one of our posts has gathered more than 100 comments, as both those in favor and against genetic engineering are engaging in healthy repartee. I am glad to see Duncan and Jasmine offering their perspectives on labeling issues. Reading the comments, it is almost as if everyone is surprised to be enjoying talking to each other!
In the tweetverse, I think I have made a new friend in Gavin (@morethanorganic), and although we both strongly disagree on both genetically engineered golden rice and cross-pollination issues, we both learned that we agree that sovereign nations should have the right to decide for themselves whether to allow their people to grow it. If I had thought that he was just another hard-line anti-GE person I might have thought that he believed that wealthy nations could tell the Philippines ‘no’ to keep orange grains from showing up in their imports. Imagine how horrible that would be if it happened! I think most people can recognize that fact, and are not lacking in moral grounding. He also learned that genetic engineers aren’t haphazardly throwing genes out in the wild without analyzing the potential consequences. This is what everyone can gain from civil and indeed, friendly dialogue.
On the other hand, someone else who I have talked to through twitter has on many occasions lashed out with abusive language, and holds some very strong opinions about genetic engineering, myself, and the companies involved as well. Talking of #GMO-tards, apparently a reference to some sort of medieval weapon? Others usually add the hashtag of #evil to almost every tweet that has #gmo in it. Recently, even a few comments here on Biofortified have pushed the boundaries of civil dialogue with words such as “drama queen warrior hybrid”, ethical narcissism, and a few other things. While things are far more civil here than elsewhere in the world of this debate, how can we make it better? Jon Stewart on the Daily Show I believe has the answer! Have a looksie:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

It can seem easy sometimes to ascribe the worst possible characteristics to our opponents and call them immoral, stupid, evil, selfish, and more. But in a discussion described by all those involved as being incredibly important, we need to break down the hyperbolic barriers of communication that exist between us. Maybe this October 30th we could join Stewart (in a virtual sense) in calling for everyone in this debate to Rally to Restore Sanity? Maybe people can “Take it Down a Notch” for me? I don’t want to find out what a “pimp hand” is. Speak your minds, celebrate your disagreements, but remember everyone is human!
(except for me of course, I’m a plant.)
If you are new here or haven’t commented before, please take a moment in the comments below to say hi! Today’s a great day for De-lurking!


  1. Amen to your post, Frank.
    In addition to the John Stewart video, I will once again recommend the Amos Oz book, How to cure a fanatic: very short, very much to the point.

  2. It is a huge problem that all the important conversations are controlled by the loudest, most extreme 15-20%. I think we need to ignore those who yell, those who are rude, those who refuse to acknowledge that their opponents are worth listening to – and get on with trying to have constructive civil conversations with the 75-80%. I pledge to always keep this in mind during discussions: “I may disagree with you on this subject, but I’m pretty sure you’re an ok person and that we probably agree on more than we disagree.” Who’s with me?

  3. This is the problem with the anonymity of the internet. People can become loud and angry, sometimes mean. If we’re going to influence opinions, develop trust, and speak from authority it must be done with precision and care.
    Logic and evidence will prevail. Science always wins. No sense in clouding the conversation with direct attacks. No matter how much I wanted to give Matt a cyber-wedgie a cooler head prevailed.

  4. The nice thing about anonymity on the web is that it’s a lot harder to make ad hominem arguments — and to make them without appearing ridiculous.
    So, for instance, if you’re posting back and forth with Hugh Grant, one ad hominem line would be, ‘You’re just saying that because you’re Monsanto’s CEO’. In an argument with Frank N. Foode™, on the other hand, saying ‘You must be Monsanto’s CEO’ is fairly preposterous.
    It’s true that logic, evidence and science will always prevail, but not necessarily in your lifetime. As Kuhn pointed out in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, new scientific paradigms tend to become accepted only after the proponents of old paradigms die off. [1]
    1. http://www.scottlondon.com/reviews/kuhn.html

  5. Kevin, I go commando, so you would have grabbed a handful of something other than cyber undies.

  6. Say it ain’t so! Well there’s only so much that an ear of corn can do. I don’t have super-powers like Cassava is going to have.
    Then again, I did get Kevin and Matthew talking about their hands in each other’s pants. 🙂 I remain optimistic!

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