Facts aren’t (that) important

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Facts aren’t (that) important

May 23, 2019 Fear Trust Values 0
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

It’s a sad fact (ouch) that what really matters to people are not facts but values and emotions. We are emotional herd animals with a brittle and porous surface of rationality that is constantly overridden by our core values and our strong emotions. This is built into us since long before we acquired conscious rationality, as a survival mechanism.

Fear is our strongest negative emotion and natural selection made sure that the fearless ones generally didn’t pass that trait on, they got eaten. Values are also a survival mechanism because without shared values in a herd there is no herd and without a herd there is no safety. At least not for herd animals.

So, although fact checking as we know it today is not useless per se, it is not going to help our world a lot. It is not going to help people with different opinions agree on anything and can even do the opposite. You can’t fact check values or emotions.

As it says in one more interesting article from Nieman, talking about the Mueller report: “Shouldn’t nearly 700 hundred pages of details, after almost two years of waiting, have helped the nation to achieve a consensus over what happened? Well, no. As Goethe said in the early 1800s, “Each sees what is present in their heart.”” And their conclusion is: “Perhaps the most disappointing finding from our studies — at least from our point of view — is that there are no known fixes to this problem.”

Fact-checking can’t do much when people’s “dueling facts” are driven by values instead of knowledge

The thing is, there are very seldom any easy fixes in our world today. Instead we need to focus on doing the right things that incrementally improve our situation. And one thing we need to do is improve our trust. In each other. And thus make it more likely that we stop and think and listen to each other and learn about each others values and fears. And hopefully help each other overcome our fears by increasing trust and finding the common values that most of us share. This is what Better News is about.

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