I believe we are experiencing a major problem in the early 21st century: Selective information overload.
Today we have access to far more information than ever before through TV, newspapers and the Internet, but there are also more opinions.
And we have learned to sift through the mountains of information available to find anything to confirm whatever misconceptions, prejudices or superstitions we already believe. In other words, we don’t have to change our minds. All we have to do is find something to confirm our opinions, no matter how misguided or wrong.
Whenever I give a talk on global warming, someone tells me the Earth is going into a period of global cooling and should be burning more fossil fuels. When I ask for evidence they typically answer, “a website.”
Well, yes. But there are also lots of websites about intelligent design or creationism, pyramid power, the Bermuda triangle, and so on. This brings us back to our challenge: Sifting through information overload.
For people who do not want to believe the painstaking evidence accumulated over decades by thousands of climatologists that human-induced global warming is real, all they have to do is rely on selective reporting.
What we should be doing is turning to science, for it provides the most reliable information about the world around us. Yes, scientific conclusions are often tentative and can only become more solid after several years of further research.
And scientists also have their own biases that can influence the way they ask questions and interpret data. But in the arena of open scientific debate, over time, consensus can generally be achieved regarding the best possible understanding of an issue.
Scientific consensus does not mean we will always get the right answer. But if I were to bet on an issue, I’d put my money on scientific consensus over an observer’s hunch, a politician’s opinion, or a business leader’s tip.
Take David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge and learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.
Dr. David T. Suzuki is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster. He is the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver where he lives with his wife and two daughters.