Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fact or Opinion: It Doesn't Matter As Much As You Think

What are the facts? Again and again and again - what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” -- what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

- The Notebooks of Lazarus Long, Robert A. Heinlein

With the plethora of knowledge accessible with a simple google, many people assume that the masses will avail of said knowledge when making important decisions, such as which candidate to support in the voting booth, which car to purchase, whether or not to use vaccinations,...

Sadly, this is not true.

According to several studies published this year, the majority of people unconsciously filter out information that doesn't support their view on a topic in which they already have an established stance.  One of the studies, which involved vaccinations, tried several methods to reassure parents that vaccines are not only safe, but necessary for society in general.  The parents who already decided against vaccinations not only seemed to miss the "vaccines are safe" message, but doubled down on their rejection.

The question this brings to mind is - why?  Why do people disregard plain evidence, choosing to believe folklore over logic?  Let's be honest here; the places with the lowest vaccinations rates are now showing recurrences of diseases that we had previously thought eradicated, such as measles and whooping cough (pertussis).

But this problem goes farther than vaccines.  When the Iran Nuclear Deal was announced, several people announced their opinion on the deal, proudly stating that nothing would change their minds.  In debates over gun control, the two sides stand opposed, unwilling to even listen to the other side.

Since when did being closed-minded and uncompromising become something to brag about?  Do they not realize that they sound like tired toddlers?

Of course, I think the current batch of politicians promotes this type of not-thinking, because it allows them to spin outrageous stories that gain more traction than if people questioned what they hear.  For example, remember the sadly large group of "Birthers" who swore that Barack Obama wasn't an American citizen?  Mind you, we have safe guards in place to ensure that every candidate meets the requirements for presidency.   But these people would rather believe the entire Democratic party was maliciously pulling the wool over the nation's eyes then admit President Obama is an American citizen.

Now, I admit I have my own opinions on events and news.  And I will argue my opinions to anyone who wants to have a real discussion (i.e. no trolls).  But if you can come up with reasonable information or evidence that contradicts me, I will change my mind and my opinion.  I see no shame or embarrassment in being mistaken, only in being blindly stubborn.

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