Science, facts and truth matter most when human lives are at stake

Religion News Service | 8/21/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — In politics, it is common to have disagreements over values and goals. What makes government decision-making even more difficult today is that we disagree not only on goals but also on the facts.

Is the planet warming? Are asylum-seekers in danger if they are returned to their countries or told to wait in Mexico? Would a single-payer health care system bankrupt the government?

Problems - Facts - Goals - Bridge - Lots

The easy problems are those on which we agree about facts and goals: The bridge has collapsed and needs to be replaced. There are lots of additional issues that will need to be resolved (design, contractors and how to pay for it), but we know how to build a new bridge. Agreement on the facts and goal makes subsequent decisions easier to make.

When we have agreement on facts but not values and goals, then we need a political process.

Example - City - Surplus - Money - Amount

For example, if a city has a million-dollar surplus, what should we do with the money? We agree on the amount of the surplus, but not on what to do with it.

Disagreements over goals and values can only be resolved through negotiations, compromise or the exercise of power. We have the votes; you lose.

Situations - Goals - Facts - Goal

There are even political situations where we agree on goals but disagree on facts, or don’t know how to reach the goal.

During World War II, we wanted to defeat our enemies, but at the beginning of the war it was not clear how to do that. During the space race, we decided to put a man on the moon, but no one in Congress had the scientific and engineering knowledge necessary to make that happen.

Cases - Experts - Research - Problem - Solutions

In both these cases, we called on experts to research the problem, find solutions and do the work. Often that meant trial and error until a good solution was found.

Research and science,...
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