Recently I posted a meme on Facebook which listed the “qualifications” of President-Elect Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education. The meme listed her lack of experience in anything remotely linked to public education and her special interests that call her intentions into serious question. What was most interesting about the meme was the response garnered from a few acquaintances who are passionate Trump supporters, but posted awkwardly worded rhetoric having nothing to do with the original post. Most troubling was the anti-intellectual attitude of these individuals, both of whom have hostile feelings towards having an education. As I read through their posts the phrase which continually popped into my mind was “you are entitled to your own opinions, just not your own facts.”
Few truer phrases have been spoken, the notion that everyone is entitled to spout off whatever they please has some merit, but the concern I have is the passion with which political zealots proclaim their worldview. What’s more troubling is not their political views, it’s their absolute certainty in their knowledge of the scientific world. I’ve written many article that garnered controversy, from my dissent against the movie “American Sniper” to my pieces on GMOs and climate change, but time and again the negative reactions I attract have little to do with evidence and more to do with feelings and beliefs.
The hardest concept to get across in a discussion about science with someone who lacks a science education is that beliefs are entirely irrelevant. Just because you feel a certain way does not mean it holds any validity at all. For example, I felt the Cleveland Indians were a lock to win the World Series, I felt the Seattle Seahawks should have handed the ball off to Lynch and I felt that acid wash jeans were going to stay in fashion a lot longer.
So when your arguments against climate change are birthed from Info Wars, political pundits (both sides) or the industry you work in, they have absolutely no merit whatsoever in rational discussion, let alone on the data itself. Since we are discussing climate change, let’s keep using that as an example. When someone claims that there is a scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is causing the planet to warm and its climates to change, they are not saying a room full of nerds in lab coats are sipping cocktails and nodding in agreement towards one another. Rather, the consensus is an above 50 percent similarity of results in data collected, then published through peer-reviewed scientific journals. The consensus of studies showing man-made climate change…97%, thats enormous and much more compelling than infographics, documentaries and one on one political talk show back and forths.
So, in this age of anti-intellectual education shamers, I compel you to look beyond belief and feelings, take pride in what you do, regardless of what it is and to stop letting your insecurities ruin a perfect opportunity for dialogue and honest dissent. Belief is an incredibly important aspect of life, it adds depth and emotion to the human experience but, must be held accountable for what it is: faith. I take no issue with someone believing in a God who sends a geriatric man to round up two of every animal on the planet in order to massacre 99.9% of life just to prove a point. Just don’t let that get in the way of you seeing the world you live in for what it really is. So please keep believing, but once your beliefs are confronted with confounding facts, be humble enough to change your beliefs to fit within universal truths that can be observed and tested. Facts, not feelings when it comes to science.