Why, in a world with terrorism, we need scientific thought

I must admit, having a heavy first substantial post really wasn’t on my agenda for this site.

…But after an event like the recent travesty in Orlando, it seems nigh disingenuous to move on with typical thought. Perhaps we bask in such tragedies too much these days, and perhaps our taste for news and writing has grown dark, but I hope instead that what instead we bring is a community of concern and thought. For however much such events are politicized or dwelt upon or can never be undone, I hope we continue to come together after them and make a better world after those sad facts.

And as such, we are inclined to throw each our own solutions at these complex and terrible events. And indeed, I share that temptation myself now. I won’t claim my words here a solution though, but rather a wish — a wish that if we could ignite one more spark in the mind of humanity, perhaps we would be just a little bit closer to avoiding these tragedies in our world.

We need a mutli-faceted approach of the best and brightest of our works and minds to exorcise ourselves of such dark, but I’m inclined to think that scientific thought has a surprising value to that process. I’ve been mulling it over the last couple of days and can’t help but notice a few mountains it might help us climb.

Beyond Passionate Pleas

Events like that in Orlando are inevitably heavily politicized, and indeed we’ve already seen that. Current presidential hopeful Trump has already headed to Twitter with the event and his campaign, while his contender has already linked it to the ongoing debate about gun control. And surely we’ll see more as the aftermath unfolds.

Which is not to say any of this discussion is wrong. These are passionate responses from those who likely really believe they have the answer to these issues. But in some sense, that passion is precisely the problem, for in that passion, we tend lose some bit of objective fact and we become swayed more easily by emotional argument and tribalism.

A Care for the Empirical

Instead, we could focus that passion on a drive to seek so much of what we don’t hear — the objective facts available to us. That’s not to say that all parties forget this, but its’ certainly not at the forefront of our discussion resulting from such events. If we think guns are the issue here, fine, but it’s time our words uplift the power in back-pocket which is the data we already have on the matter. If we feel it is an ethical or religious concern, then again, let’s explore the wealth of knowledge we have to determine our course, whether needing an extreme or not.

And some do. But for the most part, this is out of the realm of common discourse. On a matter so passionate, however, we can hardly afford to make decision on opinion alone, no matter how strongly we feel it. We need to wield the tools of knowledge that have gotten our society as far as it has to get it right, and we have to be, and care more about being, more informed to do so.

To do so would, in many ways, carry the same bastion of scientific thought that has helped us reached the heights we have and will help us overcome struggles like this one. It means we must take our passion and have it have us seek the truth of the causes of these dark events in our history and the most viable recourse, according to information we can all see and agree upon, only to afterwards agree on what we should do about it.

A Road Less Traveled

It’s a harder road though — one that requires use of things like statistics and caring about data and whether or not we can generalize something to the whole. And thinking this way doesn’t get rid of the arguing. It takes us looking at the causes of these events as the complex things they are. It’s not easy.

But when the stakes are so high, when one deluded individual’s irrational superstitions can cause so much tragedy on their own, and yet when we could have such a better world in the stead of the current reflection of humanity’s heart, we owe ourselves the harder road. We owe ourselves to think scientifically about the solutions to these matters, to key in on what is empirical rather than our own anecdotal experience, to filter our emotional arguments occasionally if not when towards the common goal. And we may not reach the same conclusion our supposed solutions may have predicted, but we will reach the best one.

It’s odd, if not initially somewhat grating to think of scientific thought in a time like this, but it’s an ingredient in what we need in such important decisions.

So spread that thought, and the next time a fire builds in the heart of our society over such a matter, ask for the data to back it up. Ask if the conclusions and relationships are generalizable. Ask if the statistics are meaningful and the conclusions are warranted. And bring those thoughts to the front while we build a better, safer world. We’ve got a lot more to get there, but that’s a step.


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