We have a truth crisis in the United States.
I’m not just talking about the fact that our president has made more than 14,000 false statements (some of them blatantly obvious) since 2016, but also the way we look at evidence.
Somehow or other, the greatest country in the world insulated itself from the truth in all forms.
We don’t use reason anymore.
Take, for example, the anti-vax movement. The United States reported the highest rate of measles in 25 years. I know children of anti-vax parents. Frequently chiropractors’ kids, oddly enough. They’re probably safe; we have enough herd vaccination to keep down any major risks.
Ask Samoa how that’s working out.
The anti-vax movement was founded on a lie, propagated by some evil people and picked up by well-meaning people. The way evil things are done. The evil people get us good people to do things because their arguments are convincing.
Usually, in lieu of actual science, they use anecdotal evidence.
Then we add in the flat earth movement. People gather all around the world to argue that the earth is flat. Somehow, they miss the curvature of the earth visible from the window seat of their planes. Yes, they have some arguments that seem plausible — even coming from The Bible! — but the overwhelming evidence says that the earth is not, in fact, flat.
But anti-vax people and flat-earthers are often not stupid people. They’re educated and earnest. What broke down, I think, was their ability to reason.
Part of it, I think, is our unwillingness to just tell people they’re wrong. When I was at Millersville getting my teaching degree, I was told that I should never tell a student out loud that his or her answer was wrong. Mark it wrong on the test, but say, “Well, I can see that, but…”
I don’t do this for my flat-earth students, by the way. The line has to be drawn somewhere.
To preserve other people’s feelings, or to avoid conflict, we pretend that the opinion of, say, a random person on Facebook is the same as that of a doctor.
And by doctor, I mean someone who actually went to medical school. For more than four years.
The other reasons I think we can’t reason is that we’ve been taught that “controversy” means that settled science is not settled. Ask the 97 percent of scientists who believe that climate change is real.
And there is a difference between weather and global climate. Just because it’s snowy here does not mean the ENTIRE PLANET isn’t warming.
And it’s round, by the way.
So for this new year, what I want from my beloved country is that it stops pretending that fact can be the same as an opinion. If you think Republicans have a better plan for the future, that’s an opinion, and a fine one that you should back up with evidence. If you don’t believe that the world is round, that’s idiotic. You are entitled, as the man said, to your opinions, just not your own facts.
The best part is that we don’t have to flail around in the dark wondering what’s true and what isn’t. First thing, let’s realize that while science changes based on new research and new technology, certain fundamentals are not changing. Gravity still pulls you down, for example. Medicines are based on natural selection. I could go on, but I’m running out of space.
Next, use Google! I had several stats I wanted to use in this column, but I was unable to find more than one credible site that had those stats, so I didn’t include them. I also learned that I was wrong about something while I wrote this! I learned something new! If multiple places tell you something is untrue — like if you can find information on Politifact, FactCheck.com, or Snopes — then it’s not true. I also check to see if the information I’m seeing has sources cited so I can double-check their conclusions.
We don’t have to trust authority when it speaks in a vacuum. But when it’s backed up by other authorities and evidence, then we should allow ourselves to see the truth clearly.
Andrew Bundy is a husband, father, teacher, writer, and nerd.