People have always distrusted science, just like people have always been afraid of the supernatural (unless it promises a spiritual pot of gold at the end of your particular rainbow) but the naturalistic fallacy - that natural is somehow good and unnatural is somehow bad - is a recent invention.

It used to be that the future was good. Like in modern movies, where virtually no heroic scientists exist any more and technology is evil, a large subset of people have instead begun to believe scientists are simply unethical and that the future is bleak.

It may not be naturalism itself that is the problem, it could instead be the trap of familiarity - despite modern social science claims that surveys and voting statistics can tell us who is more 'open' to change, more rational, more thoughtful, psychology actually shows the opposite - 'natural' is what is seen as familiar and unnatural is novel. In reality, the people who claim to be the most progressive thinkers today are more like the most uneducated people of 100 years ago when it comes to science. They are afraid of it, more closed off, more reactionary and militant.

Science is new and therefore I fear it. Image link:jessandeeonline

Distrust of 'newness' among the public is now so ingrained they believe the label changes the taste of foods and its nutritional value - and that impacts what they will pay for it. That explains a $29 billion organic food industry that can't even define what organic means. In contrast, GMOs suffer from a reverse halo effect, notes Maria Konnikova, author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes” and a Columbia Ph.D. in Psychology, writing in The New Yorker. A negative-seeming attribute to people afraid of progress (its newness) completely changes the perception of the food and even makes people protest it.

It isn't just in food that people claim to like novel but really prefer the familiar. People prefer more familiar music, even after they complain about radio stations playing the same songs over and over again.

But there is hope, Konnikova notes: necessity trumps fear. So it is easy for activists to hurt children in third-world countries by filing lawsuits over Golden Rice because activists lack any necessity - they were luckily born into an agriculturally rich country - but products in the US that might be made too expensive or wiped out due to diseases will be embraced. She recounts how genetically modified oranges underwent a change in perception when the worry was there might be no oranges at all.

And, of course, young people are not going to be paralyzed by the fear of science progress that some now have.  When home computers first began to be realized, some people said it was just another way for corporations to control the world. No one is pleased about the current administration spying on citizens but that is not due to Samsung and Apple. People are not afraid of their phones.

Likewise, GMOs are not new and scary future technology to young people. Scientists and the public 30 years from now will wonder why it was ever the case that precisely-controlled genetic changes were not regarded as superior to changes made due to random cosmic rays or trial and error experimentation.