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craigmcn

Feelings

My Mom doesn’t care for the introduction “I feel …”—she believes it has replaced the more appropriate introduction “I think …” And I generally have to agree. In my opinion, people seem to prefer to feel the facts rather than to think about them. To me, it’s the reason some people believe the Earth to be flat or that vaccinations should be optional. On both of these points, the science is solid, not a matter of opinion.

I also think the media is partly to blame for this, because they like to present a so-called balance of two sides of an argument, when only one side is legitimate. For example, human-caused climate change is a fact. It doesn’t need to be argued by one person who believes it and another who doesn’t, just because there are people, even scientists, who don’t believe it. If anything, one would need 49 scientists arguing against one. That might not look very good, but it would add the correct amount of legitimacy to both arguments. Rather than this display of obvious unfairness, one could just treat human-caused climate change as a fact and argue about possible solutions. By giving the public the idea that some facts are optional, we open the door to every fact being optional: the Earth is flat, vaccines cause autism, the moon landings were fabricated. There is no evidence for any of these things, but when we give these things time, and legitimacy, people begin to believe them.

The so-called 24-hour news cycle strengthens these nonsense positions by having hours of uninformed discussions by uneducated, non-expert pundits who speculate on any number of topics, reasons and arguments with no facts of any kind. When the uninterested public catches short sound bites of these discussions, they become fact. “If gay marriage becomes legal, what’s next, people marrying their pets?” becomes “It’s going to be legal for people marry their pets!”

While I don’t remember the exact situation, I’m reminded of a comment from when CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was about to go online and some pundit suggested there was a 50-50 chance that it would create a black hole on Earth. What?! “It either will or it won’t.” Umm, true, but the chance of it happening is very unlikely, not 50-50. The options in this speculation are certainly binary, but the probability is not equal. This is what happens when people feel the facts without thinking about them.

I think that media, and all of us on social media, should stop giving time to nonsense. We don’t need to rebroadcast every time an idiot does something stupid, it just legitimizes stupidity. If we ignore it, and rebroadcast smart people doing and saying smart things, maybe most people will forget about the idiots and start expecting smart things.

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