Post-Truth and the Precautionary Principle

-Many have come to call our current epoch the post-truth era. They do so because scientific consensus is widely mocked, the news is deemed the enemy of the people, and higher education is considered by many to be corrupt and meaningless. No one knows who to trust and most assume that they are constantly being lied to in one way or another. I needn’t even say what this does to a person’s psyche. The only trustworthy value left for the majority is hard to find, but it resembles a type of stubborn insistence on one’s right to curl up like a hedgehog into a little psychosomatic ball, impervious of change or corruption from outside. If one closes one’s ears, eyes, and heart, one cannot fall prey to the corruption and lies. This rigidity and stubbornness closes one off from the world and grants a type of stability, but at the cost of education, connection, passion, purpose, and livelihood. It has become the norm for many.
-I cannot blame anyone for wanting to hold on this final, self-centered value. Holding on to the ego is the last hope for the hopeless and the confused. But it is a false hope, and the tighter you hold the less you live. You sacrifice everything for this stability and become inhuman, small, cut-off—like a drug addict avoiding the responsibility’s demanded by life. And most of the responsibilities you have been taught are false ones, so you don’t even know how to take responsibility any more—responsibility for whom, for what? And so, it is here, in the region of care, where doubt takes hold of one’s mind and prevents one from gaining any sense of truth, morality, or social existence. In order to learn, you need to be open to the possibility that you are completely wrong. The world does not deal in dogmatic absolutes. But the world does deal in existential absolutes, ones that are by and by, good enough given the circumstances. And it is the inability to be satisfied with this “good-enough” where individuals fail to learn. Instead of researching and learning the information themselves over years, they expect others to grant them the information all at once, like a medicine one can just swallow away. Instead of trusting the direction of current scientific research, understanding that science is imperfect, but moving in the right direction, one distrusts all science, and makes sure they will never even begin to learn the first thing about it.
-It is unreasonable to expect every single human being to understand, for example, all of the science involved in confirming that yes; global warming is happening, it is caused by humans, and it can be mitigated through human effort. It is simply impossible to educate anyone who isn’t a graduate in the sciences of these facts to any degree close to certainty. There will always have to be some semblance of faith in the science at hand, and its importance for the survival of the human species, for one to understand that faith in ethical science, at this juncture of human development, is an existential necessity.
-In the philosophy of science, there is a moral principle called the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle states that scientific advances must take into account the possible moral harm that they might cause, as genuine variables to consider during these developments. Thus, uncertainty is understood as a variable capable of influencing action. If we have just developed a new drug that cures some illness, but have no idea what the long term effects of the drug are, on behalf of the fact that studies to determine the long term effects of the drug would, as it were, take a long time, then we are taking a risk if we insist on releasing the drug. The uncertainties pertaining to the drug’s release are weighed against the possible harm the drug could cause to determine whether or not it should be released. The importance here is that a decisive morally-influenced decision is made, despite a less-than-certain degree of scientific understanding.
-The same applies to global warming. If we wait until scientists are 100% certain that global warming is anthropogenic, we risk a great deal of negative moral consequences on behalf of this inaction. The enormous danger entailed in the type of mass production and energy consumption currently expected as normal to modern life violates the precautionary principle because, despite the lack of absolute certainty pertaining to the present scientific consensus, the threat to humanity is at a scale rarely seen before. Thus, a debate between an advocate of the scientific consensus that global warming is anthropogenic, and that humanity needs to alter its behavior lest it rick a catastrophe, and someone who is skeptical of anthropogenic global warming, will lead nowhere if the only axis of debate is whether or not global warming is man-made, because certainty along these lines is near-impossible. Instead, each party needs to come together to weigh the risks involved in each respective action, on a more probabilistic level, to understand why immediate action is necessary.

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