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The decline in fact based knowledge is harming governance

by Peter Rose about a year ago in controversies

The more we are told the less we know

The decline in fact based knowledge.

The more we are told, the less we know.

Many decisions are now made based on the prevalent opinion, rather than scientific fact and this is harmful to world wide governance. It allows manipulation of both public and authority perceptions.

Fact is defined as a truth verifiable from experience or observation.

Scientific is defined as conforming with the methods used in science.

Science is defined as a systematic study based observation, experiment and actual measurement, this implies the measurements are verifiable and the experiments repeatable.

Far too many media reports, especially social media but also including “professional” main stream publications; are lazy, unchecked reports of reported opinions. An estimate or best guess from someone, gets accepted and repeated until the public and politicians, all believe it must be a true fact. Time and technical developments change things; yet “facts” based on the original technology, still get used as factual basis for decisions. Examples of this are vehicle speed limits, which are based on out of date stopping distances and assumptions about average persons reaction time. Another example is the “fact” that we should all drink 2 litres of water a day. This, like the amount alcohol that is “allowed;” makes no adjustment for the individual physical body mass, the rate of metabolic absorption, fitness etc.

It is a reasonable opinion, based on experience from over 60 years of adulthood, that the more technology give us access to information; the less reliable that information has become. For the average person living in the period just after the second world war, the only sources of information were the radio, the newspapers and the guy you talked to in the pub. Due to all the security propaganda from the war, this last one was always treated with a degree of scepticism. Today it is this scepticism that seems to be lacking, even in professional journalists. TV news readers, who are very well paid and supposed to be journalists, are often promoting an opinion, one that is held by people they personally are homogeneous with. The opinion is treated by the broadcaster, and so, it has to be assumed, by a large number of their audience; as fact rather than opinion. Prior to the last general election in Britain; December 2019; broadcasters, in what is supposed to be the completely neutral non political BBC, often suggested that the socialists were proposing popular causes and so likely to win the election. The results of a secret ballot showed how wrong they were. This appears to be a case where a section of the media allowed its own political preference to shut down the process of detailed examination of reports. If the report came from a person or group, they felt allied to, then they did not subject that report to the scepticism all reports should receive.

Opinion polls are an area where misleading reports can be made to be influential. Opinion polls are just what they say they are; surveys of relatively small numbers of people, in some cases very small and so selective, and the recording of the opinions given by that small number, then extrapolating this into a claim that it is a “fact” that a large number of people believe or agree with a pre-set statement. They are, in reality, nothing of the sort. Despite all the pseudo science jargon used by the well paid polling companies; they are at very best simply a guide to what many people may be thinking and this supposes that those who took part in the survey told the truth. This, truthfulness of those giving opinions, is becoming more doubtful as the years pass. Some polling companies claim they achieve an accuracy and a balance by proportional selecting age groups, gender groups, socio/economic groups. This again relies on honesty from those giving answers and is open to manipulation by political activists. For example if seeking the voting intention of the general population, they select a proportion of those under the age of 21 that is compatible with the last census figures. What is not taken into account is the low level of actual voting by this age group.

For anyone who doubts that the media can be manipulated it is suggested they try watching Netflix Narcos or any political thriller going back to written words of Mr Charteris and onto present day. Go back as far as the pre Christian times and public opinion could be swayed by the writers and orators of the day. In medieval history the priests of the Christian churches were the main providers of information, to the general population; and some times to the ruling monarch, who made life and death decisions based on what the church human hierarchy wanted known. With literacy limited and no other inputs of information, it was easy to control and manipulate opinions. Now we have a wide range of information inputs, such a vast possibility of “news feeds.” But we have stopped checking the validity. Opinion is polarised and intolerance magnified, because each person selects those “facts” that they personally find agreeable, while rejecting out of hand, all others. Manipulation is widespread, there are social media post claiming to “fact check” previous posts. When examined the “fact checking” relies on statistical analysis that is flawed. Estimates are treated as fact and become the basis of the “fact check” conclusions. This is not science, It is not truth, it is opinion being supported by estimates. TV news films can be made very misleading. The direction and angle from which a photograph or film is taken, can change the “reality” of the resulting visual effect. Taken from a side the subjects can be spaced apart but taken from one end they can appear crowded together. Films are edited, the editor, the producer even the presenter and cameraman will subconsciously select an end product that fits their own belief system. This may or may not be, consciously and deliberate.

The world wide rush to electric vehicles is driven by manipulated perception and emotion, rather than cold logic. Electric vehicles are only pollution-carbon footprint- free at point of use. In the manufacture of the vehicle and the replacement batteries they will need ever 3 to 5 years they cause environmental damage. In fact it is known that several alternatives to lithium based batteries are being developed, the oil and petrol is not going to run out tomorrow. There is not the need for the urgency to rush to Lithium based electric vehicles, yet all governments around the world have been stampeded into doing this.

Voters must become accustomed to treating, with great suspicion, all news, all presentations, all political and economic claims, all reports, from all sources; even those they feel sympathy with.

Political decisions affect us all, getting politicians to check the real validity, the origins and hidden agendas of the authors, will not come about until the majority of the public start doing the same thing with all social media and news reports.


Peter Rose

Collections of "my" vocal essays with additions, are available as printed books ASIN 197680615 and 1980878536 also some fictional works and some e books available at Amazon;-


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