Otherwise we end up bickering over our gut hunches on everything.
I met a climate crisis denier today. It came out of nowhere. I was getting my camera repaired, and I was chatting with the repairman afterward.
Just before I left, he dropped into our conversation that he didn’t believe in manmade climate change. After all, the earth managed to produce an Ice Age all by itself. Volcanoes can mess up the climate. Humans can’t.
I can imagine for people like him, people like me are infuriating. We want to make up a bunch of regulations to fix what he believes is an imaginary problem.
For me, by denying a very real problem, people like him are causing suffering — and even death — for millions, if not billions, of people.
One of the reasons I haven’t had kids — and I want kids — is because I’m terrified of what kind of world I would bring them into as the climate gets more extreme and unstable.
In the moment, I simply said I thought that just because the earth’s climate can change on its own, that doesn’t mean that people can’t also harm the planet. We’ve certainly wiped out entire species of animals all by ourselves.
Yes, he conceded. People can do major damage to wildlife. He just didn’t think we were powerful enough to mess up the entire climate.
That’s his hunch. But it’s certainly not what the science says.
One thing I’ve noticed as I’ve become trained in science myself (in sociology, a social science) and gone on to teach it to college students is how little people actually believe in science.
Take Donald Trump and his latest idea to handle the opioid epidemic with the death penalty. My own instinct would be to deal with by providing services to addicts. But which one is more effective?
Until we look at scientific evidence, we don’t know. Each of us has an idea of what feels true, but who knows? That’s what studies are for.
In this case, studies have shown that the link between severe penalties and crime deterrence is quite weak, while evidence-based treatment programs for addiction can be much more effective.
For whatever reason, scientific studies simply aren’t convincing to an awful lot of people. I got into it with a Facebook troll the other day about whether or not racism still exists. (Spoiler alert: It does.)
I cited research and evidence. He dismissed it. He told me to “Look outside.” Obama was president once, he said, so racism is gone.
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by www.OtherWords.org.