Changing One’s Mind

Keith Kloor posts today with some examples of people who were sailing along with one belief and then, despite the headwind created by motivated reasoning and confirmation bias, managed to tack and sail off in a completely different direction: The Conversion.

Among the examples:

  • Confessions of a Climate Change Convert – D.R. Tucker, a Republican who went from skeptical to alarmed about global warming after he read the latest IPCC report.
  • Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism – Leah Libresco, who went from having a loudly outspoken belief that there is no God at all to believing that in fact there is one, and Catholicism is the faith that brings her closest to Him.
  • Mutation Butts and Schooled! – Dan Piraro of the “Bizarro” comic, who posted a strongly worded warning on his blog about the dangers of genetically modified food last Saturday. Some commenters on his blog expressed disappointment and encouraged him to educate himself more about the GMO issue, and two days later (yesterday), Piraro posted an item in which he retracted his earlier comments.

From Piraro’s mea culpa (which I guess is the wrong phrase, since he didn’t actually apologize):

I’m not embarrassed that I was wrong and had to change my story. That’s the best thing about being an open-minded, reason-based person instead of, say, a politician; you don’t stick to erroneous beliefs in the face of new evidence for fear that people will think you are fallible. If everyone lived this way, the world would be much less ignorant, as I am today thanks to information given to me by some of my Jazz Pickles. Thanks!

“Jazz Pickles” is Piraro’s term for his regular blog commenters. Go Jazz Pickles! :-)

8 Responses to “Changing One’s Mind”

  1. enkidu Says:

    Like Dan Piraro I’ve gradually become more accepting of GMOs. The pivot point was probably some web page I read quite a while back that described how the genetic change from natural selection and mutation was many times greater than the changes made to GMO organisms. Now one could argue we are foolish to be rewriting the book of life without understanding the words, or grammar or meaning. And maybe putting shellfish genes, or ground nut genes into our corn may not be such a great idea, but that is for people who actually have the expertise to study the question.

    Sounds eerily familiar…

    I’m voting to put a label on GMO products (virtually everything in the supermarket these days). And I’d like some real clinical trials before the products are released to the market, but the cat is already well out of the bag and away.

    Again, sounds so, familiar…

  2. enkidu Says:

    Oh and the ‘organic foods don’t contain any better nutrition’ report that just came out… well, I’m not really surprised at that as conventional farming layers on plenty of oil based fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides, that to have organic come up even is actually pretty surprising.

    We aren’t 100% organic here, despite having a garden i pull from nearly every day. And the school garden we started is showering tomatoes and pumpkins (it has been a pretty hot summer). But our CSA box is absolutely qualitatively better tasting. The carrots are awesome. The kale is tender. The stuff is fresh and delicious. Some of that is the people who really care about picking it at the height of ripeness, care about the soil and water, care about their customers and their community. There I go again, talking about community and caring, such a commie socialist!

  3. shcb Says:

    If you get the chance read the book (this is from memory, I read it maybe ten years ago) “the contrary farmer” by Gene Logstrom I believe, that should get you close, thin book quick read.

    The one story that has stuck with me was a town he visited where everyone raised chickens because the local chicken factory found out they cut down on outbreaks of disease that would wipe out whole barns, the chickens grew antibodies since they were all subjected to different germs and such, the crop wasn’t smaller, it was just dispersted, and the communitee all got a little money, not much, they all kept their day jobs, but a little Christmas money.

    You do realize there are warmists that have changed to skeptics too, do they get the same kudos?

  4. shcb Says:

    When we wend to Alsace last week we stayed in a little town called Dambach la Ville. We went to a wine tasting at a cellar, the fellow giving us the tour was young, just an old dirt farmer like there are in every corner of the world, eking out a living, except he was fluent in French, English and German, maybe more. The cellar was in the basement of his house built in the 1700’s. he was really proud that he was one of the last left that worked the fields, harvested the grapes, formulated the wine, bottled it and then sold it. Even in this little town of 2000, there were several large warehouses where you could tell they bottled in production. He might be the last generation.

    When I go to Wisconsin I am taken aback to see the wonderful old farms and huge dairy barns until I get close and see that they are run down, presumably still inhabited by the last generation to live that lifestyle but the people in the house too old to actually do the work. At some time most of the stately barns will fall to the ravages of time and be replaced by sheet metal sheds to hold Audis. The cows are in the king size low prefab barns only slightly visible from the road where locals work three shifts, have health insurance, 3 weeks of vacation and don’t shed a tear when an old cow is sent to be turned into Big Macs. She is no longer known as Clara Belle, the cow the kids grew up with, she is whatever invisible number is imprinted in the rf tag in her ear.

    But I don’t know what to do about it. Now this isn’t genetic engineering, but it is a symptom.

  5. jbc Says:

    You do realize there are warmists that have changed to skeptics too, do they get the same kudos?

    Well, I wasn’t so much cheerleading for the individual transitions, as just finding it interesting that people change their views at all. And yeah, I’d be very interested in any examples you can give of warmists becoming skeptics on climate change. Not to try to shoot them down; I’m sure in the billions of people on the planet there have been some, and I think their stories would interest me at least as much as the ones listed here.

  6. enkidu Says:

    Forgive me for pointing this out again, but shcb is the guy who has stated he will *never* be convinced by the scientific evidence for ACC. No amount of fact will dissuade or convince. Temps could go up (up up) for a hundred years, a thousand! It’s all sunspots and tides and cycles beyond the comprehension of dumlibs.

    I’d rather help build a better, more sustainable, more conservative (of the environment) future for my grand kids (and theirs). That Climate Solutions for a Stronger America PDF had a pretty good summary on pages 15 and a bit on 16. But there is a large fraction of the populace who will simply need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

    There seems to be a distinct direction to the flow of people who have changed their mind: more are coming around to ACC being real than the other way round.

  7. shcb Says:

    That isn’t accurate, I said I would never be convinced because I feel the science has been too corrupted, and I simply won’t be alive long enough to be convinced even if the science started over in a more reliable fashion. If I was my grandchildren’s age it would be different. It seems most of these cycles are in the 30 to 50 year range, we’ve been through one or two, I simply don’t have the time for another. Especially if the skeptics are right and we are on the verge of a natural cooling trend.

    Your last paragraph, polls, if you believe them, don’t agree with that. there is also the point that AGW skepticism isn’t black and white, most skeptics, myself included believe we have an effect just not enough to go crazy with changes. so if you ask the question ” do you believe humans are effecting the climate” you will get a much higher response than if you ask “do you think people are effecting the climate to a point of crisis” and you have bad scientists (ethically) to blame for that

  8. enkidu Says:

    …people like me will probably never be convinced to agree with the scientific evidence supporting the theory that global warming is man made.

    True, down below you say you’ll die before there is enough evidence to even consider a reappraisal, but the sentence I’ve highlighted is pretty clear. Probably never.

    But just as a thought experiment, let’s say it IS our pearl harbor. And just for argument’s sake, let’s say it is 50% All Natural (through some as-yet-unexplained-mechanism[s]) and 50% Man Made. Current right wing thinking is it’s all a hoax because socialism. I realize the last few words there are something of a word salad for most folks, but it makes perfect sense if you put it thru a 90˚ (to the right, orthogonal to reality) politicizing filter.

    The ‘warmist’ or ‘alarmist’ view is that we have what might be a Very Bad Thing hurtling towards us. One side says, ignore it, it isn’t real. The other says, well, maybe we should talk about doing something, and then maybe do something.

    If clouds all over the world suddenly stopped raining by 50%, we’d figure out how to make it rain.

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