Enough with the echo chambers!

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I want people to make decisions based on reality. It annoys me when I hear blatant lies in politics, such as rumors that Obama is attempting to ban home canning or that the American or Canadian governments are building death camps. I hear these kind of nonsense from people of both sides of the political spectrum. I get annoyed when attempts to confront those lies are met with “well, we cannot know the truth” or “who are you to demand proof?” Who am I to demand proof? I am someone who wants to work in the real world. I want to find the real world. I don’t want to live in either a fairytale land or an imaginary nightmare. I want proof or at the very least a fairly persuasive argument.

I get annoyed when I hear people say such and such a political party is against soldiers without providing the explanation for how or in what way the party is against soldiers. I’ve heard that a certain political party is against soldiers because they disapprove of a particular purchase of fighter jets but I’ve never heard an explanation for why that particular purchase of fighter jets is necessary and how the opposition of it amounts to being against soldiers. There are huge leaps of faith that never get explained.

There are logical inconsistencies in so many of the arguments people make. Few of us can see the gaps in our own understanding. We need each other if we’re going to come closer to figuring out whats really going on in the world. Yet sometimes it feels like absolutely any and all discussion is rejected as argument, and arguments seen as bad things. People act like their views are an inherent part of themselves that others must not dare to challenge. Why? Why not let things be challenged?

Politics isn’t the only place where this problem is encountered. I hear it lots in mommy groups, where mothers hold steadfast to the belief that homebirths are safer than hospital births or vice versa and any attempt to explore the issue is met with the idea that the other person is obviously just “sheeple.” I hear constant arguments that any scientific paper refuting a person’s belief is obviously flawed but the majority of the time the person arguing has neither read the paper nor developped the ability to explain why or how it is flawed.

I’m as bad as anyone on this, except more and more I’m coming to the belief that I don’t know the truth. I want to try to hear the best arguments, and I want to acknowledge that there are people who know better than me. There’s a fine line there somehow of acknowledging that there are others who know better and at the same time believing that the experts should be held accountable for explaining themselves but somehow I want to find a way to walk that fine line.

We cannot abandon the idea of expertise. We do not all have the time to learn everything about everything. Yet the experts need to be held accountable. How do we do that? I don’t know. I know there are people who distrust the medical profession and argue that the medical profession cannot be held accountable by its boards because it guards the gates of who can join those boards; only those who already agree with the medical profession can become a part of it, thus only one view can be heard, and the medical profession can’t be trusted to be self-accountable. For the most part I disagree with that assessment because I still have faith in medical education and science. I believe that doctors are capable of having debate around issues because they have a set of criteria by which to have debate. But I can see the dilemna, particularily how those who feel like the criteria by which doctors establish agreements is inadequate.

I’ve gone off on tangents here. I’m trying to use specific examples to get at the issues of communication problems but bringing up specific issues makes it feel like I’m jumping around too much. The common thread I’m trying to talk about though, is this issue of how we decide what reality is.
I want people to be much more educated than they are. I want people to take the time to read things. I want them to take the time to actually understand issues.

In my head, I can hear the response to the above line: “well, educate yourself. It’s not my job to defend my viewpoints to you. It is your job to educate yourself.” Well, I’m tired of that line. It is our job to educate ourselves, but it is also our job to help educate others. It is our job to be willing to back up and defend our own points of view. What I’m seeing all to often is people throwing out nonsensical positions with absolutely no internal logic or a shred of evidence and then claiming that it is the job of the opposition to come up arguments against it.

I am tired of echo chambers. I want to see where opposing viewpoints collide with one another and I want to see people attempt to dissect issues and get to the heart of them. I want to find the common ground and what is underlying the true disagreement. Finding out what is really going on in the world takes time. It is messy. But I think its worth doing. Don’t you?

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