Objectivity

As smart as we think we are, we humans are hopeless at objectivity. This struck me as I was reading about peak oil on Wikipedia. I mean the issue is pretty serious. Within the next few decades we could potentially run out of the single most important natural resource that literally and figuratively fuels our civilization. And people, sometimes very smart people, cannot agree on whether something ought to be done right now or whether we have centuries of uninterrupted oil supply ahead of us. This is so typical when it comes to serious issues that may affect the survival of our civilization: climate change, vaccine safety, societal changes associated with the rise of AI, and many more. Instead of getting together and trying to come to a consensus, each side gets stuck in their position and selects data that only support their conclusions, forgetting about the caveats. It gets worse when serious financial conflicts of interest come into play or the issue is politically sensitive, but egos alone can make agreement among scientists impossible. I guess we cannot change human nature, but in a way, it doesn’t surprise me that the average Joe is mistrustful of research findings, especially when they are of the alt-right persuasion and read Breitbart news. It’s really sad, because the vast majority of us scientists really do want to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s the few bad apples that spoil the lot…

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