It doesn’t happen much, but on occasion I find myself on the opposite side of some very good people who mean well, and with whom I generally affiliate politically and socially. It’s especially hard when they feel so strongly about an issue. It’s even harder when I used to share their perspective and feel awkward in trying to thwart their efforts.
Recent studies show that when presented with facts which contradicts their world view, most people respond by digging in their heels to cling to their own beliefs. 911 truthers presented with engineering facts – they become more vehement than before. Same with birthers when presented with a birth certificate. Same with anti-vaxers when presented with the fact that mercury isn’t even used in most vaccinations and when one of their most famous spokesman upon which much of their world view is based is shown to be a fraud. Same with moon landing truthers. And chemtrail truthers. And one world government truthers. Climate change skeptics Anti-evolutionists. You can present facts. You can provide links to studies. Recommend books. If they read it, and that’s a big “if”, they will cherry pick whatever suits their world view.
But it isn’t limited to conspiracy theorists. Conservatives, liberals, libertarians – and even those who elude easy categorization – those with a framework of perception which is reinforced by years of activism around an issue, especially if the efforts involved sacrifice, are also very resistant to the influence of new information which might render some of that activism meaningless, or jeopardize the community which arises from solidarity over a particular issue. It is very hard to step outside of the tribe. To be open to new information. To look at the issue just a little bit differently. To face the possibility that you and much of your social network is simply wrong on an issue of crucial importance. It is difficult to face the possibility of leaving the comfort of the fold, even for just the one fight. It is difficult to risk the wrath of people who might feel betrayed. I’ve met and worked with many of the proponents of Measure P. Nearly all of them I consider friends.
It is really, really difficult to change a mind. It was difficult to change mine.
I supported Proposition 37. I believed and still believe that consumers have a right to knowledge about products they might purchase and I believe labeling should be mandatory when there is a large enough controversy such that it would be a significant factor in purchase choice for a large number of people. It is irrelevant that the information is of no practical health import. People want to know if the product is genetically modified with lateral DNA transfer, and they have that right.
But I don’t support bans lightly – bans which significantly reduce consumer choice. I would have a hard time with this measure even if I believed that there are health dangers inherent to the technology. I have been over the science, and while I don’t support some of the applications of biotechnology, there are numerous applications I can support. A blanket ban is irrational to me, even with the exceptions provided.