Part of being human is the fact that we all have a tendency to believe that our opinions are always right. The way we think, whether religiously, politically or socially, is influenced by our upbringing, our friends, our surroundings and the information we consume. Sadly, too many of us don’t seem to understand that opinion and truth are two different things. Worse is the fact that too many of us don’t care about what the truth or reality is these days.
A friend of mine mentioned the term “ego-casting” the other day. It describes the tendency we all have to only consume information that agrees with our feelings and our comfort. This leads us to live in our own world view. It can also be described as “confirmation bias”. It is a dangerous way for the bulk of the populous to live.
Recently I was on Twitter and got into a discussion about a bill (S-219) that the Conservatives had put forward about having our intelligence community investigate and report on Iranian terrorist activities. The ruling Liberal majority was against this and that had set the right wing Twitterverse into a spiral. I asked the question: “Don’t you think this is something that is already being done and is just a political stunt?” I got a variety of rather negative comments to that to which I replied: “You do understand that we have agreements to share intelligence information with our allies, don’t you?” Clearly they thought our intelligence units should be doing the same information gathering that the U.S., Britain, Israel and others already do. Needless to say, the thread went dead from my comment. I love people who complain bitterly about spending on social programs but are more than happy to spend any amount, no matter how redundant, on military and intelligence.
I use this example to highlight how people don’t look at information outside their sphere. In another conversation I had, I was saying how media slants coverage so you have to be careful what you read as truth. I mentioned MSNBC as being left leaning and FoxNews as right leaning. The person laughed because they felt FoxNews was the absolute purveyor of truth. How do you get people to see truth when they don’t even know their own biases?
I’d love to say there was an easy short-term fix for the whole thing. There isn’t. Think of the war against science right now. People have done a great job of mixing up corporations and drug companies with actual science. Science is the least biased because they do peer reviews. If you have a scientist pursuing a theory and he/she fudges the results, the scientific community will take him/her down for it. I understand why people don’t trust corporations. They do not follow the same rules and money is used to get approvals.
We have to teach our children about bias from the beginning, in school. We need that concept taught and pursued throughout the breadth of the education system. Open minds are better minds and better at solving complex world problems. All we get today is divided nonsense without solutions. Where there is no ability to negotiate and compromise, there is no forward progress. Whether there would be any ability, in this divided climate, to change a lot of adult minds, I do not know. Honestly, I don’t know what it would take for someone who is hardened into their bias to open their mind. When someone is presented with proof that they are wrong and they just don’t care, there’s something wrong with the world. We are in dark times. We need the next generation to step up and show this one how to be. I truly hope they can and do.