by Angela Sams
“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.” A common phrase indicating that everyone can have their opinion on any variety of matters, but when it comes to clear, objective facts, there’s really no point in arguing. Needless to say, there are plenty of opinionated people out there, and sometimes having an unsubstantiated opinion on unarguable facts can come at price.
Political arguments overwhelm our country as we read about the Paris climate change conference and prepare for elections next year. It takes a well-informed and discerning individual to separate fact from fiction (or, opinion), when sometimes one may be presented as the other. As a recent Op-Ed article in New York Times points out, “disbelieving science isn’t skepticism, it’s a form of willful ignorance.” Skepticism is something that is evidence-based. For example, we may read about a topic, but are not convinced enough by the facts to believe that whatever the article states is true. Denialism, on the other hand, is more about believing what we want to believe (“I don’t want climate change to exist, so I just won’t believe in it,”), pushing aside obvious evidence, and focusing on so-called “facts” that would help support our own opinions on the matter.
In order to avoid denial, it’s important to understand science. Science does not mean that there is only one answer, and it does not mean that if new evidence comes along it will not change the current understanding of something. Rather, it’s something that’s always evolving, something that is never “settled.” And while it may turn out that a theory is false, science’s “successful track record suggests that there is no superior competitor in discovering the facts about the empirical world.” Rejecting the current scientific evidence on a topic such as global warming is not just being in denial—it could also come at a price. Instead of pretending that something doesn’t exist, wouldn’t it be smarter instead to prepare for it or try to prevent it, until further evidence suggests that this is not necessary?