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Important issues deserve unfettered debate

Science is rarely settled and facts aren't changed by debate. Wrongheaded notions cannot stand the test of time, while the truth gains converts each time it is successfully defended.

Published on March 13, 2014 9:46AM

Our View

An unsigned email asks us why we give space on this page to anti-GMO “fanatics.” With no proof that genetically modified plants or foods are unsafe; with the USDA, Food and Drug Administration and responsible scientists in consensus; isn’t the issue settled?

We agree that there’s no credible evidence that GMOs are dangerous. We think farmers should be able to plant legitimately approved genetically modified crops. Conversely, no one should be forced to plant those crops, or buy the products produced with them.

We are confident in our position, but open to evidence that proves us wrong.

We chafe at the notion that much in science is settled and beyond further review. We aren’t convinced that the popularity of a theory prevents it later from being proven wrong.

Migrating lemmings are in consensus when they, en masse, jump off cliffs — sometimes with fatal results. The popularity of an idea, though comforting to those who hold it, is no guarantee of its accuracy. Reasonable and widely held beliefs have regularly fallen to our expanding knowledge.

The medical community was once in consensus on the efficacy of bleeding sick patients.

For more than 1,400 years science placed the Earth at the center of the universe.

Not long ago, atoms were known to be the smallest of particles.

We know better now. We concede the possibility that today’s scientific consensus will seem equally outdated in short order.

Widely accepted theories are, at best, a snapshot of what is understood today. Tomorrow’s discoveries will change the picture.

Our knowledge grows by challenging theories, not by accepting them to the exclusion of all possibility.

In the process, advocates and critics must be allowed to make their cases.

We like our speech as free and unfettered as our science. Each reader should have equal freedom to be wrong or right, and to express themselves passionately.

The idea that restricting debate settles an argument is wrongheaded. You cannot force someone to believe what they think is false by denying their idea expression. Experience tells us that too often it is the inconvenient and unpopular truth that is suppressed.

The truth inevitably triumphs, as certainly as the dark eventually gives way to the light.


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