Will America’s disregard for science be the end of its reign? | Big Think


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From America’s inception, there has always been a rebellious, anti-establishment mentality. That way of thinking has become more reckless now that the entire world is interconnected and there are added layers of verification (or repudiation) of facts.

As the great minds in this video can attest, there are systems and mechanisms in place to discern between opinion and truth. By making conscious efforts to undermine and ignore those systems at every turn (climate change, conspiracy theories, coronavirus, politics, etc.), America has compromised its position of power and effectively stunted its own growth.

A part of the problem, according to writer and radio host Kurt Andersen, is a new media infrastructure that allows for false opinions to persist and spread to others. Is it the beginning of the end of the American empire?



KURT ANDERSEN: Americans have always been magical thinkers and passionate believers in the untrue. We were started by the Puritans in New England who wanted to create, and did create, a Christian utopia and theocracy as they waited for the imminent second coming of Christ and the end of days. And in the South by a bunch of people who were convinced, absolutely convinced, that this place they’d never been was full of gold just to be plucked from the dirt in Virginia. And they stayed there looking and hoping for gold for 20 years before they finally, finally faced the facts and the evidence and decided that they weren’t going to get rich overnight there.

So that was the beginning. And then we’ve had centuries of ‘buyer beware’ charlatanism to an extreme degree and medical quackery to an extreme degree, and increasingly exotic, extravagant, implausible religions over and over again from Mormonism, to Christian science, to Scientology in the last century. And we’ve had this anti-establishment, “I’m not going to trust the experts. I’m not going to trust the elite,” in our character from the beginning. Now, all those things came together and were supercharged in the 1960s when you were entitled to your own truth and your own reality. Then, a generation later when the internet came along, giving each of those realities, no matter how false or magical or nutty they are, their own kind of media infrastructure.

We had entertainment, again, for our whole last couple 100 years, but especially in the last 50 years, permeating all the rest of life, including presidential politics, from John F. Kennedy through Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton. So, the thing was set up for Donald Trump to exploit all these various American threads and astonishingly become president. But then you look at this history and it’s like, “Oh, we should’ve seen this coming.”

TYSON: The power of journalism: A mistake becomes truth. The print journalism is taking what I said and turning it into an article, so it has to pass through the journalist, get processed, and then it becomes some written content on a page. One hundred percent of those experiences, the journalist got something fundamentally wrong with the subject matter. And just as an interesting point about the power of journalists, I had people read the article and say, “Neil, you must know better than that. That’s not how this works.” They assumed the journalist was correct about reporting what I said, not that I was correct and that the journalists was wrong. This is an interesting power that journalists have over whether you think what they’re writing is true or not. That was decades ago. In recent years, what I think has happened is that they’re more journalists who are science fluent that are writing about science than was the case 20 years ago. So now I don’t have to worry about the journalist missing something fundamental about what I’m trying…

Read the full transcript at https://bigthink.com/videos/anti-scie…


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