Critical thinking is something I’ve prided myself on and something I discuss frequently when giving public speeches.
Unfortunately, this can sometimes be a lost art in today’s society. When our generation was young, our only option was to get info from broadly accepted credible sources — like libraries, encyclopedias, or university professors.
Nowadays, with the internet and access to the information highway, anyone can say anything. How do we know if what we are reading is true? Has it caused us to be too entrenched in our ideology and are too many people falling for fake news? Has it caused too much of a polar divide? Perhaps some people have become too engrained in their bias … is nuance dead?
When I was a kid, I’ll never forget how excited my dad was when I asked for a subscription to National Geographic for my birthday. I could’ve been interested in New Kids on the Block and Jonathon Taylor Thomas (Ooh, OK … JTT was a bit of a heartthrob back then, ha) but science is where I found my interest. I begged Dad to take me to the zoo, the museum — I always wanted to learn. We even recently had a good chuckle recalling the time I was little and asked him if Mickey Mouse was real. He wouldn’t say yes or no; he made me use my critical thinking skills to come to my own conclusion. I sheepishly replied, “No….” Mickey Mouse wasn’t real, nor was Santa Claus. At that time, I would continue to argue this with my elementary school peers.
Fast forward to today, and I’ve always been the type of person to change my mind. My heart and science-based mind are open to new ideas and it’s something I’ve prided myself on. As a self-employed freelance writer, I have no employer to pay me to have a bias; views are strictly my own.
That being said, when I write I can’t please everyone. Sometimes my articles will cause someone to challenge their bias. Hardcore vegans won’t like it when I discuss how well animals are cared for on farms, and I bust myths on the dairy industry. Organic food companies and groups may not like it when I discuss how organic farms still use chemical pesticides. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes conventional farmers spray, sometimes they don’t. It all depends on management and pest pressure.
Anyway the point is … we should all have the ability to think critically and challenge our beliefs. As I’ve written before, “In agriculture, let’s end the us vs them divide.” In this piece, I discuss how I’m not against organic agriculture whatsoever, but am against people who feel the need to slander an agricultural method or competitor. We should all be willing to stick to the facts with evidence and not use unnecessary fear, personal attacks, or misinformation to share our info. This comes in various forms from all directions in many industries of course. It breaks my heart… because at the end of the day we all care.
We also as a society shouldn’t be so quick to judge someone. Read a lot of articles. Watch a lot of their videos, try and get a more well-rounded view of their messaging. Just because someone doesn’t agree with one topic doesn’t mean they’re a narrow-minded extremist or aren’t open to new ideas. Arguably the most credible experts are the ones who aren’t too defensive and are open to hearing from others. It’s how we welcome discussion and move forward in a productive manner as a culture.
For me, I continue to improve my messaging and am open to a challenge. If someone can prove me wrong, I’ll accept it. This is typical among the scientific community — science doesn’t care what someone’s belief is. Science is always evaluating new information and gathering more data and context — it’s one of the aspects of science that makes it so fun, dynamic and interesting.
Also in a land divided, we should never be afraid to approach a different view. I, for one, would LOVE the opportunity to attend vegan festivals, more organic food conferences, take tours of large-scale organic farms, and learn more. If someone really prides themselves on what they’re doing they should be more than happy to open their doors to others and celebrate their work! It’s how we all move together in a unified front to close the “us vs them” divide and work together for real, rational solutions to feed and clothe the planet.
This is an open invitation. I’m a one-woman show with no big corporate budget, but if anyone would ever like to show me their farm or food-related operation and cover travel costs, I would love to learn more, write about it, share my experience. In the words of commentator Steven Crowder, “Change my mind.”
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.