Do you worry about the food you eat? Do you worry about the composition,the origin, or the effects it may have on your health? Do you REALLY worry about this to the point where the anxiety interferes with your day-to-day existence?
That used to be me.
Over the last few years, I’ve made an important change in how I live my life:
I no longer worry about stupid shit.
A major element of this philosophy involves keeping a distance from “movements.” Those movements can be political, social philosophical, economic… whatever. Prior to my “don’t sweat stupid shit” philosophy, I spent considerable time worrying about a litany of issues that didn’t affect my life in any discernible way. Sometimes it kept me up at night. My focus on the irrelevant was interfering with my life.
My involvement in the barefoot running movement was the major eye-opener. There was a subset of barefoot runners that were convinced the shoe and medical industries were conspiring to keep runners (or non-runners) injured to increase profits. There was no empirical evidence of such; the furor was based entirely off illusory correlations, emotional pleas, a a healthy dose of hyperbole. The “true believers” seemingly had no capacity to objectively examine contradictory evidence or question their own beliefs. Since I’m a naturally skeptical person (especially with my own beliefs), frustration set in quickly, which led to a close reexamination of my entire life outlook.
The change was simple- I just stopped getting caught up in the noise of largely irrelevant issues. All that anxiety magically disappeared. In the event an issue popped up that managed to suck me in, the “meh” approach allowed me to analyze both sides without emotional attachment, come to an appropriate conclusion, and move on with my life.
Of course, I’m absolutely fascinated with human behavior. I love to understand why people do what they do and believe what they believe. My favorite forum for these observations tends to be Facebook, and my favorite tool tends to be sparking antagonistic debates. Luckily, I have a ton of like-minded friends that understand this “game.”
One issue that pops up repeatedly is diet. I have a lot of “diet fanatic” friends. Some are vegan, some paleo, some eat only organics, some eat nothing but junk food. Regardless of their actual diet, the important point is they talk about it.
Not only do they talk about diet a lot, but they have a strong emotional connection to their dietary choice. It is a major life focus. And a strong emotional connection to any belief is like blood in the water for the shark that is my antagonistic debating.
[Qualifier- my own diet philosophy is pretty straight-forward: Eat anything and everything in moderation and variation without creating significant caloric surpluses or deficits.]
Specifically, I’m fascinated by the genetically-modified/ scientifically-derived food debate. It elicits some shockingly strong feelings that seem out of proportion to the actual effects of GMOs. The recent development of a lab-created hamburger brought up an angle that’s not always discussed. The science behind the development could feasibly provide a great deal of sustainable protein that would require far less animals that our present system.
I wanted to know if moral vegans (those that don’t eat meat because animals are killed) would oppose or support this technology. I was also curious if the natural foods folks would oppose this. Finally, I wanted to know if the anti-GMO folks would consider this a “Pandora’s box” issue.
I wanted to know what people thought because it would help me answer an important question- are these issues rational?
The discussion was interesting, which led to people posting several resources that eventually led me to investigate several issues in more detail. One of the best was this Ted talk by Michael Specter. That talk led me to start researching the origins of the anti-GMO movement starting with the empirical evidence (this Wikipedia article is a good summation of the research.)
The conclusion I came to- people spend way too much time fretting about GMOs. Much like the shoe/medical community conspiracy, the anxiety is warranted by the preponderance of empirical observations. Some is good, some is bad. Overall, it represents progress just like computers, vaccines, and multi-speed vibrators. And I’m not going to spend my days worrying about it.
I’m curious- what do the readers think? How do you assess the rationality of the issues that are important to you? Do you actively seek out sources that conflict with your opinions? How do you deal with propaganda that supports your opinions? What about propaganda that refutes your opinions? How about empirical data… is it a necessary prerequisite?
Leave a comment!