People wrap themselves in their beliefs. And they do it in such a way that you can't set them free. Not even the truth will set them free.
Be sceptical, ask questions, demand proof. Demand evidence. Don't take anything for granted. But here's the thing: When you get proof, you need to accept the proof. And we're not that good at doing that.
Denialist arguments are often bolstered by accurate information taken wildly out of context, wielded selectively, and supported by fake experts who often don't seem fake at all.
Although it may seem callous to say so, millions of Americans are lucky that Magic Johnson was infected with H.I.V. There is no way of calculating how many lives he has saved. No advertising agency could have invented a better, or more effective, role model.
All the food we eat, whether Brussels sprouts or pork bellies, has been modified by mankind. Genetic engineering is only one particularly powerful way to do what we have been doing for eleven thousand years.
By themselves, genetically engineered crops will not end hunger or improve health or bolster the economies of struggling countries. They won't save the sight of millions or fortify their bones. But they will certainly help.
The passengers in our microbiome contain at least four million genes, and they work constantly on our behalf: they manufacture vitamins and patrol our guts to prevent infections; they help to form and bolster our immune systems, and digest food.
I moved from Moscow to Rome with my family and two bicycles in 1998, and spent a lot of that year- and the next - obsessed, I am sorry to admit, with the bicycles. Italy, after all, was a place where thousands of middle-aged men felt perfectly comfortable spending many hours a week in brightly colored spandex.
We inherit every one of our genes, but we leave the womb without a single microbe. As we pass through our mother's birth canal, we begin to attract entire colonies of bacteria. By the time a child can crawl, he has been blanketed by an enormous, unseen cloud of microorganisms - a hundred trillion or more.
Why do people refuse to vaccinate their children against measles or whooping cough? In many cases, because they have never seen measles and have no idea what it might do.
Much of modern molecular biology and microbiology has been based on the effort to decipher the basic code of life, which is made up of four nucleotides: adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine.
There are people who could watch a hurricane like Sandy blow out of the Atlantic every other day and blame it on anything but human activity. They are like those who, having been diagnosed with diabetes, eat donuts for breakfast. There's not much to do about them.
When most members of a community are vaccinated, they protect those who are not by eliminating the viral reservoirs in the population. The effect is known as 'herd immunity.'
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States, and the incidence is growing rapidly. In 2009, the C.D.C. reported thirty-eight thousand cases, three times more than in 1991. Most researchers agree that the true number of infections is five to ten times higher.
We are inhabited by as many as ten thousand bacterial species; these cells outnumber those which we consider our own by ten to one, and weigh, all told, about three pounds - the same as our brain.
To suggest that organic vegetables, which cost far more than conventional produce, can feed billions of people in parts of the world without roads or proper irrigation may be a fantasy based on the finest intentions. But it is a cruel fantasy nonetheless.
All the food we eat - every grain of rice and kernel of corn - has been genetically modified. None of it was here before mankind learned to cultivate crops. The question isn't whether our food has been modified, but how.
If there is anything more frightening than the threat of global nuclear war, it is the certainty that humans not only stand on the verge of producing new life forms but may soon be able to tinker with them as if they were vintage convertibles or bonsai trees.
The history of agriculture is the history of humans breeding seeds and animals to produce traits we want in our crops and livestock.
There is a major problem with reliance on placebos, like most vitamins and antioxidants. Everyone gets upset about Big Science, Big Pharma, but they love Big Placebo.