BY SHARON MARTIN
Here’s an example: Measles killed 120,000 people in the world in 2012. That same year, there were no measles deaths in the United States. Why? We vaccinate.
Brendan Nyhan and a team of pediatricians and political scientists from Dartmouth have been running an experiment on facts vs. belief for the past three years. He provided various forms of proof of the benefits of vaccines to believers and nonbelievers.
Not only did the proof fail to convince the nonbelievers, it made their disbelief stronger.
Another example: Two recent charts outline the economic changes during President Obama’s Administration. Both have elements of truth.
The liberal chart includes the growth of the stock market. The Dow crashed before Obama took office. During his tenure in office, the recovery has been stunning.
It took a few months after the Dow’s swan dive and the death of Lehman Brothers for the GDP and unemployment rate to reach bottom. Conservative charts use pre-bottom numbers. Add a special twist about debt and deficit, and there you have it, a chart that makes the president they detest look bad.
PolitiFact rates most of the debt and deficit claims as outright lies or mostly false. That won’t change a true believer’s mind.
Last week, two items made the news feeds: One said that the ice sheet in western Antarctica has begun melting, passing “a point of no return.”
The day before this science news was released, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio declared that there is no evidence that humans have contributed to climate change.
Within a century, two of the major cities in his state could be at least partially submerged due to human activity, but he isn’t worried. He has validated the beliefs of the anti-climate-change crowd, and he won’t be running for office in 100 years.
Will it do any good at all to say that we must start checking our biases at the gate? Pundits on both sides know how to slide a timeline or tweak a bar graph scale. They know which information to include and which to leave out. They know how to lie.
We must question every fact that appears in our inbox and on our Facebook homepage, regardless of the source. We must hold candidates and Super PACs accountable. We must hold ourselves accountable.
If we don’t, we stand to lose great cities, a sizeable chunk of the human race, and the next election.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer