Category Archives: Libertarianism

Analysis of Race and Perspectives of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement

As police shootings of black men under dubious circumstances continue to make headlines, along with peaceful protests among several professional athletes, opinions on racism and the  #BlackLivesMatter movement abound.

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem prior to the 49ers' season opener.(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images)
Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem prior to the 49ers’ season opener.(Photo: Thearon W. Henderson, Getty Images)

I do not have any affiliation with the group, and being Caucasian, cannot genuinely identify with their specific plight.

But I can apply some pretty basic critical thinking to understand their message, instead of dismissing it outright as divisive.

But before we get into the opinion portion, let’s take a look at the science and psychology of race and racism in general.

Genetics

First we must understand that there is no black or white gene. I think we all understand we’re not literally black and white. But moving past that, the term “black and white” supposes there is a binary system with only two options. But with the multitude of skin colors around the globe, this clearly isn’t the case.

As the Anthropology Department from the University of Alabama explains here, skin gets its color from three different molecules referred to as pigments.

  • Carotene: which is rather uncommon, and is typically only a factor if people overeat things with carotene in it—like carrots. It causes the skin to take on a yellowish shade.

    Carotene
    Carotene
  • Hemoglobin: This molecule is contained in our blood for facilitation of oxygenation of the blood. It takes on a reddish hue, unless you’re oxygen-deficient, in which case it will be purplish.

    hemoglobin
    Hemoglobin
  • Melanin: The component responsible for the “black” and “white” we refer to, is a severely dark brown color typically. The higher the concentration of this molecule in your skin, the darker your skin tone will be.

    Melanin
    Melanin

These three variables to one’s skin color have a default value they would inherit from their parents. But as you might expect, there are environmental factors that can change them such as the aforementioned carrot eating or tanning which increases melanin production. Since we’re talking about genetics, we’ll ignore the environmental factors for this post.

How the differences came about

As with most genetic traits, nature has selected for different skin tones too. This natural selection is almost entirely based on geographical location of our recent ancestors. And I say recent, because we’re all African in decent if we go back far enough.

Because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis, seasons are reversed depending on which side of the equator you’re on. For instance, winter in the northern hemisphere coincides with summer in the southern.motionsofsunandmoon2-axistilt1

But also, Earth’s path around the sun is elliptical—not a perfect circle. Therefore, those of us in the northern hemisphere are actually closest to the sun (perihelion) in January, and furthest from the sun (aphelion) in July—the difference being about 3%.

As a result, the Southern hemisphere being tilted towards the sun when they’re closer to it means the southern hemisphere’s summers will receive slightly more solar radiation than their northern counterparts.

In theory, this would mean the climate variation in the northern hemisphere would be less severe than in the southern hemisphere, but the increased water-surface to land-surface ratio of the southern hemisphere mitigates the variance for them, as explained in the video below.

These variances in solar radiation are the reason that skin tones lighten “about 8% per 10° of latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, and about 4% per 10° of latitude in the Southern Hemisphere” as you move further from the equator, because until quite recently in the history of mankind, thanks to the invention of boats, cars, and airplanes, traveling from one climate to another was quite the monumental task, and therefore rarely occurred.

Why nature selected for different skin tones

The excess melanin in one’s skin helps absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation, protecting the skin from potential harm such as skin cancer. So people living closer to the equator, being exposed to more solar radiation, have better survived due to the protection melanin provides their skin.

However, solar radiation is the only natural way your body gets the vitamin D it needs, and that UV blocking melanin inhibits vitamin D’s production in the process. So those further from the equator would naturally select for lighter skin to maximize the vitamin D production from the lesser amount of solar radiation they receive.

This is why darker skinned people who live further from the equator can have an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, and lighter skinned people located closer to the equator may suffer increased risk of skin cancer.

The reason this is important when discussing race, is to make the simple point that variances in our skin color, through natural selection from our ancestor’s environments, have dictated how dark our skin tone is based on how far our recent ancestors were from the equator. And any other reasoning one might attribute to our different skin tones is largely ignorant and false.

Mislabeling

While race is identified by skin color, it’s typically understood to be more about someone’s ancestry, than the actual color of their skin. But our desire to stick to a binary system of black and white, is entirely unfair to a large group of people who have mixed ancestry.

For instance, someone with a medium skin tone of mixed heritage is often just as closely related to someone referred to as black as they are to someone who is thought of as white, or any other different race. Therefore, referring to them as a light-skinned black person, wrongly puts them in one racial bucket when they really belong to both; or more correctly, a third bucket in between.

ANAHEIM, CA - JANUARY 21: Kultida Woods and Tiger Woods at the dedication of the statue honoring his father Earl Woods at the Tiger Woods Learning Center on January 21, 2008 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
ANAHEIM, CA – JANUARY 21: Kultida Woods and Tiger Woods at the dedication of the statue honoring his father Earl Woods at the Tiger Woods Learning Center on January 21, 2008 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Tiger Woods for instance, is often referred to as being black, when his mother Kutilda Woods is actually Asian.

President Obama, also often referred to as black, has a Caucasian mother, Ann Dunham.

Ann Dunham - Barack Obama's mother
Ann Dunham – Barack Obama’s mother

The whole concept of race in general is simply a man-made construct held over from our ignorant past. We used it to differentiate ourselves from one another, long before we understood genetics or biological species.

As this Nature.com report shows, “approximately 85−90% of genetic variation is found within these continental groups,” referring to Africa, Asia, and Europe, “and only an additional 10−15% of variation is found between them.” This illustrates that our fundamental differences lie in things other than our skin color.

The Psychology

As you hopefully already know, humans are typically social in nature, sociopaths, also known as people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, make up a mere 4% of the population. This means the desire to bond with other people is ingrained in about 96% of us as a result.

One way people bond is by finding commonalities with each other.

Imagine the person next to you, talking to a friend, says they just “pahked the kah.” If you’re a Bostonian in Boston, this won’t even get your attention. But if you were a Bostonian in the UK for instance, you’ll almost assuredly at least say, “Hey, I’m from Boston too.”

This is because the two of you have something unique for the location you’re in, that you share, and therefore can bond over.

In that example, you had to overhear the person say it though. With race, you can plainly see that you share that trait with another from across the room, and therefore immediately make an instinctive connection with that person. This is fairly natural, and not an inherently hateful form of racism.

The Good, the Bad, and the UglyNAACP-Logo[1]

Racism can be good if it’s simply a way to bond with others as illustrated above. But also with cases like the NAACP, where segregating by race is simply a way to focus your efforts on helping those who are discriminated against, such as “colored” people (the C in NAACP) certainly were at the time the NAACP was founded.

But while individuals use racism to create strong bonds, it sadly has a more heinous side that’s often rooted in hate. Because just as we bond over our commonalities, an us-against-them mentality can kick in when two or more people are like each other and another party in the area is not.

The heinousness of hateful racism is so well-known and understood, that I really don’t care to go into that any further here. It’s an unpleasant topic, and there’s probably little I can say that would add anything new to the conversation anyway.

But it’s important to understand that some level of racism is instinctual and what an instinct actually is in the first place.ailmentangermanagement1

Instincts are things we do subconsciously and uncontrollably without thinking about them. For instance, imagine someone were yelling hateful and vile insults at you—you will have no control over your instinct to punch them. But because you’re a responsible adult,  and know violence should be avoided if possible, many of you will suppress that instinct.

Racism is not that different, and can only be suppressed through knowledge and understand of why we do it, and then a genuine desire to avoid acting on it maliciously.

Who’s A Racist?

Now moving on to the op-ed portion of this post. While I explained above why we are not in fact black or white, I will use the terms “black” and “white” going forward since the word black is in #BlackLivesMatter, and the terms are for the most part the social norm. It will help make this next part a little easier to read than using “light-skinned” or “dark-skinned.”

Let’s first state unequivocally, that racism isn’t exclusive to any one race. So while the discussion of people being racist is often assumed to be white-on-black, it can just as easily be black-on-white. It can oddly even be white-on-white (when white people attack others like them for their “white privilege” for instance), or black-on-black (when black people assume the worst from other black people but tend to be more trusting of whites).

I should also point out that it’s not just skin tone. I’ve met Japanese people who don’t like the Chinese, Brits who hate the French, Colombians who don’t like Mexicans…the list of racial animosity goes on endlessly.

So this problem isn’t uniquely black and white, and it certainly isn’t even uniquely American. It existed long before America did and will likely endure for as long as vastly different skin tones exist.

So when I talk about racism, I’m referring to all of it, not just white-on-black.

#BlackLivesMatter

Now  let’s get back to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Once the #BLM movement started, it launched a lot of counter movements like #PoliceLivesMatter or the more generic #AllLivesMatter. At first, you can understand the opposition’s concern that #BlackLivesMatter seems to be segregating in nature, but I believe that entirely overlooks their underlying point.blm

As troubling as it is, when a news story airs about a police shooting of a suspect, there seems to be an improperly common sentiment among the media and the people. That if the victim is a black man, it is more likely to be justifiable homicide by the police than if the person who was shot were white. They are assuming the black man must have been engaged in criminal activity, where a white shooting victim more often gets the benefit of doubt.

While all people officially have equal rights under the law; these days, this perceptive double-standard on the presumed innocent of two people, solely based on the color of their skin, is the darker side of racism that still remains in the hearts and minds of far too many, despite many of them feeling they’re not racist in any way.

(Credit - Blavity.com)
(Credit – Blavity.com)

While I don’t believe most people, black or white, make a conscious effort to be racist, almost everyone will have some instinctual racial bias based on the psychology aspect mentioned above, and their own life experiences with people of a different race. The better those experience were, the less likely they are to be hatefully racist.

Honest Assessment

The next few times you see a police shooting of black and white civilians, see if your initial reactions to those shootings are the same; regardless of skin color.

Also, do the media portray both incidents equally? Do the public seem to have the same concerns or outrage on social media or around the office? Sadly, if I’m truly being honest with myself, I have to say they’re often not.

Where the #BLM Opposition Goes Wrong

So why do I think people are misguided when they think the #BLM movement are arguing other lives don’t matter? Because they didn’t specifically say that. It’s a straw man argument—one of the most common logical fallacies.

The opposition’s argument is that by saying #BlackLivesMatter, the #BLM people are arguing that white lives, police lives, et al., do not. But the #BLM movement is made up of three simple words and a hashtag. It says nothing about anyone else. So if you assume they’re saying non-black lives don’t matter, that’s a assumption you added yourself.

The predominance of people supporting the #BLM movement acknowledge wholeheartedly that all lives matter. Their argument is that the rest of the public don’t seem to value black lives. If the #BLM movement has any fundamental flaw, it’s poor phrasing. The simple addition of the word “Too” at the end of #BlackLivesMatter could have went a long way.

The Protests

While I don’t like the tactic of lashing out at our country, our flag, or our military as some professional athletes have chosen to do (I think community outreach programs, focusing on positive interaction, would better achieve their goal), we should also recognize that a peaceful and non-violent protest is exactly what most of us encouraged people to do when riots, vandalism, and looting by outraged people have broken out, and this is genuinely what those athlete’s are doing.

It’s easy to be mad at each other, but it’s better to be empathetic, and honest with ourselves that their concerns are often legitimate. Instead of getting angry, and pushing back, it’s not too much to ask to be skeptical of police who shoot someone.

Be A Skeptic, Even Of The Police

While the police by and large do a great job, and should always be given the utmost respect, on some occasions they exercise bad judgement, and in incredibly rare incidents, are would-be-felons willingly committing crimes.

If this weren’t true, there would be no Internal Affairs Bureau. So it is important to remember they’re not perfect, and may actually be the person in the wrong when they use their firearm against a civilian.

Pastor Terence Crutcher
Pastor Terence Crutcher

The shooting of pastor Terence Crutcher is one example of several, where many in the media and on social media initially assumed he had potentially done something to cause the officer to shoot him. That officer has since however been charged with first degree manslaughter, and Pastor Crutcher deserved the respect and outrage he sadly didn’t get from far too many people.

At the same time, it’s also important that the #BLM supporters wait for all the facts to come out when a black person is shot by police, because he may have indeed been engaged in a crime and was endangering others.

We should all let the facts come out, let the court system do it’s job, and if we’re not on the jury ourselves, try to accept the idea that the jury was given more evidence that’s credible and scientific, and therefore made a more educated decision than we could have.

Where the media often purposefully distort the facts for ratings, our legal system has safeguards to prevent such unfair biases in a court of law by excluding prejudicial evidence, and ensuring all witnesses can be cross-examined.

Synopsis

While you may not agree with the tactics of the #BLM movement and the peaceful protests of several black athletes, no fair person can argue there isn’t occasionally a double standard in TV and print media, social media, and public opinion as to how tragic the death of a black person is compared to anyone else.

If we want this racial divide to stop, we have to understand it, make an effort to change it, and more important than anything, exercise a little empathy and understanding for those on the other side of the issue.

Embrace that which makes us different—it makes us interesting to one another, it helps provide alternate perspectives, and most importantly from a science perspective, our diversity actually preserves our species (think of purebred animals which have much higher incidents of disease and genetic defect).

But know that the difference between any two of us, is basically the same, no matter what color we are, and therefore we should all have equal rights under the law, and equal rights to the presumption of innocence.

 

 

 

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Justice Sotomayor: The Libertarian?

In December 2014, The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Heien v. North Carolina. You can click on the link to read the entirety of the case if interested, but I’ll give you fairly brief synopsis here.

In 2010, a man named Maynor Vasquez was pulled over by police for having one of his two brake lights inoperative. Police observed his friend, Nicholas Heien sleeping in the back seat of the car. Thinking this behavior seemed a little odd, police fairly asked if they could search the car, and were given permission to do so.

Official Portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Click for Biography
Official Portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Click for Biography

Upon the search, they discovered 54 grams of cocaine in the vehicle, then arrested and convicted Heien of two counts of trafficking, presumably due to the amount larger than one person’s normal usage.

Heien’s lawyer challenged the traffic stop as North Carolina law only requires you have a working brake light, not both of them. As such, council argued the police stopping Vasquez and Heien constituted an illegal stop, and the search was therefore the proverbial “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and should have been thrown out.

Eventually, certiorari was granted, and SCOTUS heard the case in 2014. The court ruled against Heien in an 8:1 decision—Sotomayor being the only dissenter.SCOTUS8-1

During oral arguments, Sotomayor asked the petitioner:

(You can click below for the entire oral arguments transcript)

“So how many citizens have been stopped for one brake light who are asked to have their car searched? And is that something that we as a society should be encouraging?”

It’s fairly common knowledge, that SCOTUS at that time was comprised of what most considered five right-leaning justices, and four left-leaning. Sotomayor being one of the left—as she was appointed by Obama.

The issue at hand was whether Heien’s Constitutional rights were violated by a search under the Fourth Amendment which reads:

“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

While it is often believed that the left-leaning justices don’t often seem too concerned with the Constitution, if you listen to oral arguments long enough, you start to see both sides indeed heavily use the constitution for the basis of their arguments.

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 1960-2016
Justice Antonin Scalia 1960-2016

What’s often the case however, is that some are absolutists, and use the constitution strictly as it’s written.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia was among the most supportive of this notion. In an interview he stated that, “The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution. The problem with a living Constitution in a word is that somebody has to decide how it grows and when it is that new rights are – you know — come forth. And that’s an enormous responsibility in a democracy to place upon nine lawyers, or even 30 lawyers.”

However, other justices try to interpret what was intended when the Constitution or its amendments were written, instead of interpreting it solely by its verbiage—referring to the Constitution as a living document. Most notably, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote this piece explaining his ideals.

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist 1924-2005
United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist 1924-2005

This “Living Document” idea also means that they often try to modernize the Constitution in such a way as to essentially say, “If the framers knew what we know today, this is what they’d have written or done.”

Scalia (and I agree wholeheartedly) would argue that it is for congress to rewrite the Constitution through the amendment process, and that the “Living Constitution” concept is nothing less than legislating from the bench—blurring the lines of the separation of powers intended by creating the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches.

But nonetheless, Justice Sotomayor’s lone dissent, was clearly the only decision made with the Constitution in mind as written, almost stunningly not echoed by the late Justice Scalia and other conservative justices.

The United States Constitution
The United States Constitution

In today’s highly politicized society, we often wish to assume that partisan’s, including justices, are always on the side of their party, but every once in a while, you will find an ally in the most unlikely places, and on this particular issue, the only ally to liberty was Justice Sotomayor, recognizing that you cannot allow police to search someone’s car under a false pretense, and then allow prosecution to proceed accordingly.

I’m often pretty outspoken in my disdain for any politician who is consistently on the wrong side of liberty, but I’ve always said I worship ideals, not people. I just give people credit where it’s due, and attack when I believe it’s warranted. On this day, Justice Sotomayor was right, and she should be commended for it.

 

How To Improve Relations Between Police and Citizens

Unless you avoid the news at all costs, you’re fully aware of the shootings by police, killing two black citizens, Alton Sterling and Philano Castile, both under highly questionable circumstances.

Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)
Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)

Then Army reservist/Afghan war veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, so enraged by such shootings, murdered several police officers in Dallas in retaliation.

There can be no doubt, that tensions between the governed and the government are at levels that are bordering the animosity that triggered us to war for independence against Great Britain 240 years ago. But how did we get here, and how do we get out?

Facts versus Headlines

It’s fair to say that the media push narratives that get ratings. But while according to the FBI in 2014, most black and white people are killed by people of their own race—89% for the black community, and 82% for the white, they often push a narrative that a young black man is more likely to be killed by a white cop.

There were a total of 444 police shootings deemed justifiable homicide, by police in 2014. Pointing out those deemed justifiable homicide is important to the story, because the concern is that police aren’t prosecuted for such shootings. So for police not to be prosecuted, it means the shooting was deemed justifiable.

The FBI didn’t break them down by race, but even if they were all white cops shooting black victims, which they certainly aren’t, that’s still four times less than the 2,205 black-on-black murders in the same year, or the 2,488 white-on-white murders.fbi-logo-404553[1]

Let’s be clear about that statistic, though. It has little to do with living in violent communities, a narrative that is often asserted. The first clue is that white-on-white murders are very similar.

It actually has to do with people being four times as likely to be killed by someone they simply knew.

See this table from the FBI, also in 2014, which shows that 43% of the time people were killed by an acquaintance or family, compared to 11.5% by strangers. The rest are unknown, but since the dataset is somewhat large, we should reasonably assume that nearly 4:1 ratio would be true for the unknowns as well.

The Attitude Adjustment

We need to change the way we interact with each other.

The police were hired to protect our rights. If one pulls you over or otherwise interacts with you, remember that this person is potentially willing to die for you—treat them accordingly. A little compassion for police who do such a dangerous job would go a long way to improve the exchange you have with that officer.

Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images
Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images

But as always, it takes two to tango.

Police are trained to fear the worst and prepare for it in each interaction they have with the public. The most innocent traffic stop could be their last.

But preparing for the worst doesn’t excuse assuming the worst, nor treating them as if they’re the worst. If police want people to respect them, they must first show citizens the same respect they expect from them. If an officer didn’t specifically witness a citizen harming someone, they are innocent until proven guilty—it’s an officer’s duty to act accordingly.

Blame Legislators Versus The Police Where Appropriate

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat (libertarians already generally know this), when you try to socially engineer society by passing victimless crimes, you cause police to have to enforce those crimes—requiring more police.

This puts both police and citizens in harm’s way; increasing the odds of violent interactions between the two parties.SundayAlcohol[1]

Drugs, prostitution, blue laws, and other such victimless legislation which protect no one—yet risk many, are a huge part of the problem.

If you support passing a law, then you must be comfortable with the notion of putting a gun to the offender’s head and killing them yourself if they violate it. If you’re uncomfortable with this thought, then it’s pure hypocrisy to put police in the situation where they may have to do so in your name.

For instance, if your neighbor were smoking marijuana, would you walk next door, put a gun to their head and tell them to stop or you’ll kill them? Of course not. But if that same neighbor were raping a child, I suspect you’d feel quite differently. This is bad legislation versus good in a nutshell.

If we want to reduce senseless violence, we must first elect someone looking to undo all the senseless laws we’ve passed which trigger senseless violence. Then be sure they don’t pass new ones going forward.

Respect the Constitutiongun-and-the-constitution[1]

I’m in a state where concealed carry requires a permit. So this means I open carry when walking my dog at night, because I haven’t taken the course and applied for that license. I carry in case I get accosted by a miscreant. In so doing, I often worry I might get accosted by the police.

The current scenario is that if a busy-body citizen calls police to report me walking down the street carrying a gun, the police must investigate. They do this because we’ve allowed a litigious culture where police can be held liable for not investigating.

What should happen however is that the police should respond to the caller with, “Carrying a gun is every American’s right. Does he/she appear to be committing a crime? If not, there’s nothing for us to investigate.”

This may seem wrong at first, but the police would do this if you reported someone just driving a car down the street. Driving a car and carrying a gun are both perfectly legal actions that have an intrinsic danger if done so irresponsibly or maliciously. So while at first it may seem like a horrid analogy, they are almost exactly the same.

The reason it feels wrong is simple conditioning by anti-gun people who deem gun carriers as a threat, despite the fact everyone is a threat in some way, and gun carriers aren’t any more likely to harm someone. Most are responsible citizens exercising their 2nd amendment rights just as all of us exercise our 1st.

We then need to pass serious tort reform to preventing civil action against police who don’t investigate someone carrying a gun, on the off chance that person actually harms someone.

Better Community Outreach via Police Training

This proposal is a bit novel and controversial, and I admit it may have unintended consequences. But I like blue skies thinking, so I’ll propose it anyway just to get some creative juices flowing.

Much like we have food stamps to help the needy eat, I think police could use confiscated weapons that are normally destroyed, and start a program with impoverished citizens in bad neighborhoods to protect themselves by donating these weapons and giving classes on how to use them properly.

Of course those citizens would be screened properly for criminal backgrounds like they would for a gun purchase. And yes, it is possible one of those guns may be used in a crime later. But it’s also highly possible that those guns may save many lives of people too poor to buy one themselves, yet absolutely may need one as a result of living in a high crime area.oc_zps62e1c21e[1]

If every good citizen were armed, and prepared to defend themselves against a would-be criminal, we’d have a lot less would-be criminals.

Criminal prey on the weak, but it’s hard to call anyone packing heat, weak. Guns are the greatest equalizer mankind has every invented, turning a feeble grandmother into a Chuck Norris level threat.

Police Need To Eschew The Brotherhood Mentality

Being a Corvette owner, we tend to recognize each other—so much so, that nearly all of us wave at another Corvette owner driving past. Motorcyclists do this too. If you were from Boston, visiting California, and overhear the person next to you say he just “Pahked the Cah,” you’ll almost certainly strike up a conversation with him.

This is because people are hard-wired to bond with those they share commonalities with—it strengthens societal bonds. The easiest way to do this, is to bond over a unique common interest or trait. I say “unique,” because if you were both in Boston, you’d pay the same person no attention whatsoever.

Police know that their work is dangerous, so they form strong bonds among one another so they can be confident they’d have the other’s back, even if they don’t personally know each other—it’s a very natural phenomenon.

But they should be taught that this is a natural emotion, and that they should avoid following it blindly. Much like the placebo effect, while it’s natural, it can do far more harm than good if all skepticism is eschewed.

Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data. Click image for the full article
Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data.
Click image for the full article

This data shows that police are just as likely to commit criminal acts as the general public.

At first, you might think this seems odd, but the police are regular people, not superheroes.

We often hear stories of good Samaritans doing wonderful things. So being a good person isn’t unique to police, nor is being a criminal unique to the general public either.

The reason I say they need to eschew the brotherhood mentality is that police often defend other police who have clearly done unconscionable things.

While at first, a police officer might think defending their “brothers” is the honorable thing to do, but it’s absolutely not in their best interests.

When an officer commits a crime, they violate their sworn oath to uphold the law of the land, dishonoring their noble profession. But it also creates animosity with the public who feel as though police can operate above the law without repercussion.

This hatred and distrust often leads enraged citizens to act violently towards the police, because they feel it the only way justice will be served—putting good cops needlessly at risk, as evidenced by the aforementioned Micah Johnson.

Instead, if an officer is arrested or put on probation for a potential felonious act, police should distance themselves from that person entirely, and make it clear that if the person is found guilty, that person is no “brother” of mine.

They should also be quick to report any criminal acts among their ranks, and clean their own house unmercifully. They will never get the trust and respect of disenfranchised citizens otherwise.

And let’s be honest, if you are a police officer, are you really OK with one of your own committing a murder or unprovoked assault?

Drew Peterson should serve as a shining example of the harm that can come from this blind loyalty. His fellow officers failed to properly address allegations of abuse against Drew when his then wife Stacy Peterson reported him a multitude of times for serious domestic abuse.

Stacy Peterson
Stacy Peterson

It is almost certain that had his fellow officers taken Stacy’s complaints seriously, and treated Drew like any other violently abusive husband—investigating Drew in earnest, Stacy could very well be alive today, with Drew safely in jail where he belonged.

By all means, police should have each other’s backs, but never at the expense of what is right. A criminal is a criminal, whether they wear a badge or a wife-beater, they should be treated with the same prosecutorial mindset.

I could write an entirely separate post on the tactics police unions use to protect police in ways that harm the general public, and destroy the public’s trust in them. They should merely assign the accused a lawyer, and refrain from professing the person’s innocence or any other public statements until that officer is cleared of any wrongdoing.

But once convicted, their sentences should be as harsh as what would be applied to the general public (in my opinion harsher, since they swore to uphold those laws). The slap on the wrist sentence for an offense that would land us regular citizens in jail is surely one of the largest factors in eroding the relationship between the governed and the government.

The Path to the White House for Libertarians

The votes have been tallied, and Former governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are officially the Libertarian Party’s (LP) nominees for President and Vice President respectively.

Bill Weld - LP VP Nominee (Left) and Gary Johnson LP POTUS Nominee (Right)
Bill Weld – LP VP Nominee (Left) and Gary Johnson LP POTUS Nominee (Right)

Gary Johnson was the LP nominee last election cycle as well, where he garnered a mere 0.99% (1,275,923 votes). While that may not sound like much, as it turns out, it was the highest number ever attained by a Libertarian candidate in its 45 year history.

So how do we take this momentum to the house? I’d like to outline a few simple points.

Take the High Road and Act Like You Belong Here

Sadly, we libertarians are used to being a fringe group, and our party being a fringe party. As such, often what we say or do garners little attention from the media because we simply aren’t deemed viable by most of them yet. So there’s little repercussions for behaving badly as a result.

One way to get attention when you aren’t getting it through normal means, is to behave abnormally. But I caution libertarians not to fall into this trap. Thanks to the poor choices from the DNC and RNC faithful, the attention has shifted to us organically. Behaving abnormally garnered those two party’s a lot of attention, but it isn’t good and people are looking for alternatives.

So if we’re to be deemed the party of reason, we have to distance ourselves from people like James Weeks, who serve as a pure embarrassment, and will surely set our movement back. We must be on our best behavior 24/7 if we want to win, because our detractors are just waiting for us to behave inappropriately and pounce on it.

Our message of liberty and freedom is exactly what our founding fathers envisioned when they declared independence and subsequently drafted a constitution to limit the government’s power over the people. Everyone inherently wants to be free—we don’t have to sell people on that. We simply have to explain to them that they’ve slowly and deceptively been robbed of their liberty through the years, and we want to give it back.

Now that we’re getting attention, the best thing we can do is be the adults in the room. While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sling insults like a monkey in a cage slings poo, we must to be the party of reason and critical thinking. We know our ideas aren’t radical, and I think most of us agree that the majority of people are already libertarians and just don’t know it. But behaving radically will make independents question those ideals, because they won’t want to be associated with “whack jobs.”

Avoid The Anarchy Trap

Another important group we have to distance ourselves from are anarchists. Especially those wearing the Guy Fawkes masks.

Person wearing a Guy Fawkes Mask
Person wearing a Guy Fawkes Mask

Aside from the fact that Guy Fawkes wasn’t a libertarian, he was simply someone who wanted to trade one theocracy for another, and murder people to do it, it’s creepy to outsiders. If you come off like someone who wants to “burn it all down,” no reasonable person will side with you. So for the love of the movement, lose the mask and be that person which supports a government to protect our rights, but ONLY protect our rights.

On a personal note, I’d also like to point out that wearing a mask reeks of being too cowardly to promote your ideas openly and honestly. If you believe in what we’re doing, use your real name, and show your face. Let people know you’re a real person who’s really a libertarian, and your proud of it.

Lose The Conspiracy Theories

I get it, you hate government, and therefore want to believe any story about government doing evil things. But the fact remains that conspiracy theories are almost entirely fictional. There have been conspiracies that were uncovered like Watergate or the Lewinsky affair, but try to think of a conspiracy theory that was put out into the world, then evidence came to light about it afterwards—it simply never happens.

From the faked moon landing, to the idea that 9/11 was orchestrated by anyone other than Al Qaeda, if you believe that, you’re being supremely ignorant. All of these have been thoroughly debunked by a myriad of well-respected independent science universities and publications to the point that only the willfully ignorant, or the vehemently unscientific still believe them. But if you insist on believing such things, at least know most don’t, and promoting those ideas will hurt our cause. (See video above regarding the 9/11 myth)

Give Real Examples

It’s important when promoting liberty, that you give examples that people can relate to. For instance, we libertarians often talk about people dying to enforce irrational laws, and most just roll their eyes thinking we’re making stuff up. But there are real examples, like Eric Garner, who was killed because police were enforcing the sale of untaxed cigarettes.

Some may blame the police, but the fact remains that if New York respected it’s citizen’s rights to engage in dangerous behavior (smoking), and thus didn’t have ridiculous additional taxes on cigarettes in the first place, this would never have happened.

Police rarely kill citizens for no reason, they kill because they were called to enforce laws. So it’s important to push the idea that if we’re going to pass a law, it should be a law we’re comfortable with the police killing someone who fails to comply; such as rape, theft, murder, child molestation, etc.

How To Explain The Legalization of Vices

When promoting legalization of vices like drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc., be sure to point out that doesn’t mean you’re advocating them. Maybe even go a step further and argue that people probably shouldn’t do them. But instead, promote that idea that you’re just not comfortable killing people who do them, or throwing them in jail and ruining their lives for such actions.1427760478737[1]

I know there are a lot of new medicinal uses for marijuana being discovered, but there’s no recreational use that’s healthy. It’s important you do not promote these things as if they’re things we should all do. Acknowledge that you understand such things are unhealthy or risky, but that because there is no victim in such things, we shouldn’t pass laws to prevent people from doing them.

Instead, we should pass laws that prosecute people who violate the rights of others while doing them. For instance, we don’t make alcohol illegal, but drunk driving is. That same logic can be applied to all vices, and it’s a far safer and more reasonable alternative than outright banning vices, as evidenced by prohibition.

Many crimes and deaths that result from such vices are because of the laws preventing them, not the usage itself. It’s imperative that this be our reason for promoting legalization, because it shows we’re concerned about others versus simply wanting them legalized for selfish reason that we want to engage in such behavior without penalty ourselves.

Be Reasonable

The last point I wish to make is to be reasonable with your ideas. People don’t typically like change, they’re often scared of it. If you propose radical change right away, the voters we need to win, will run away in droves.

This is why Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld might be the best candidates we’ve ever had. Not because they’re the perfect libertarians, but they’re the perfect bridge from Republicans to Libertarians. If they win, and do what they’ve done as governors, it will turn our country away from oppression, and back towards liberty in a very meaningful way. Then in 2020 or 2024, maybe we can elect a more libertarian Libertarian (small “L” is someone who is libertarian, capital “L” is someone who is part of the Libertarian Party) once people realize liberty is something worth fighting for again.

Analysis: The Notion of Deliberate Suppression of the Cure for Cancer

Credit – Dan Broadbent from A Science Enthusiast

Recently, this meme from Dan Broadbent at AScienceEnthusiast.com was shared on Facebook by Yvette d’Entremont, also known as the SciBabe. Yvette’s science credentials are that she “holds a B.A. in theatre, a B.S. in chemistry, and an MSc in forensic science with a concentration in biological criminalistics.”

Yvette’s science credentials are quite impressive, and as such, her knowledge of the field means that this meme makes perfect sense to her. It also makes sense to me, despite my lack of such credentials, because as an ardent skeptic, I’m an avid consumer of medical science, helping me to understand the argument potentially more than most.

But for many who aren’t so interested in science and medicine, especially those who are somewhat naturally distrusting, the left cartoon seems to have merit.

However, I’m hoping that if I can walk you through some of the knowledge I have, and apply a little skeptical analysis, we can pretty easily dismiss this meme almost entirely—so let’s begin.

Point #1 – The Catch-22

The argument put forth is based on the premise that treating ongoing cancer is much more profitable than curing it, and thus big pharma suppresses the cure for increased profits.

But if this were true, then big pharma would never spend the millions, if not billions that it takes to find a cure in the first place. Because if they did spend such money to find a cure, suppressing it would mean a total loss.

So either they would spend the money and bring the cure to market to get a return on investment like all businesses do, or they wouldn’t spend the money to develop the cure in the first place; instead spending that money elsewhere, or pocketing it like the “greedy bastards” so many want to assume they are.

But spending the money, then refusing a return on the investment, is an obvious catch-22 that makes no sense.

Point #2 – There is no one “Cancer” species to cure.

When people talk about curing cancer, it is said as if cancer is one singular species, similar to mankind’s  Homo Sapien or the Road Runner’s Disappearius Quickius. But  nothing could be further from the truth. road_runner[1]

Cancer is a mutation of a person’s cells, that then becomes its own unique organism living inside that person and feeding off of them.

To severely simplify this, imagine DNA is like binary code, a series of ones and zeros. It’s actually quadratic, adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G)thymine (T) are the four choices. A always pairs with T and C always pairs with G, leaving AT, TA, CG, and GC as your four options because while there’s only two pair combos, their reverse is a different option. That code is like a road map of sorts that tells all the stem cells in your body what to become as they replace the cells that naturally die off. If this imaginary DNA were a 4-digit code  (It’s actually more like 3-billion digits) of 1010 for instance, then all the cells in your body should all have that same 1010 code.

Now imagine if one of those cells mutates and changes its code to 1011. In many instances, it would just die because it’s a bad code that can’t sustain life. But occasionally, it is in fact good enough to become viable to live as a new mutant entity. That entity may then begin replicating into a bunch of cells that have that new mutated 1011 code instead of the 1010 code they should have. Going back to my road map analogy; that code error is akin to your road map now showing roads that aren’t there or missing roads that are. This new mutated entity that stops producing new cells for you, and instead becomes its own life-form that feeds off of you is cancer.

Actual Image of Human DNA through an Electron Microscope. (Click image for more information)
Actual Image of Human DNA through an Electron Microscope.
(Click image for more information)

Click here and/or this wonderful post from Dr. Michael Wosnick here for much more detailed, accurate, and nuanced explanations of this.

As such, no two cancer strains are likely to be alike in the same way similar species of animals or plants are that inherit their DNA from parents.

As this 2013 article points out, we know of at least 200+ different types of cancer and counting.

So with all that being said, it’s important to understand a treatment that kills one cancer, is highly unlikely to kill all of the others; making the idea that there is one cancer-cure-all, almost entirely implausible.

Point #3 – The Overwhelming Conspiracy

There are several pharmaceutical companies, research hospitals, and science universities working on cancer research, typically focusing on one of the aforementioned 200+ known types. Often, the people doing the research are employees of the company, and aren’t just one person stuck in a lab. It will be a team of researchers/students, all who took up biology, in many cases, to specifically find a cure for cancer.Researcher

So in order for this conspiracy to be true, we’d have to assume that the literally thousands of researchers, who probably don’t own the pharmaceutical companies and have no financial interest in suppressing a cure, would have achieved the one goal they hoped to, which was quite altruistic, but then became sociopaths who hid it away from the world in a malicious attempt to profit from the misery of others.

I suppose it is possible that big pharma somehow defied Point #1 above, and then either added the felony of murdering any employee who found such a cure to the dumb things they did, or added the additional expense of paying those researchers off, adding more to their loss mentioned in Point #1. But either scenario simply bolsters the Catch-22, making it even more illogical.

I’d also like to add that if Bill Clinton couldn’t silence one frisky intern with the might of all the US Government agencies on his side, how is a pharmaceutical company going to silence hundreds, if not thousands of researchers?

Point #4 – There’s actually multiple cures for cancer already on the market.

This one is so obvious and simple, it’s a shame it’s completely overlooked.

Do you know someone who was diagnosed with cancer, and through treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, embolization, etc., are now in remission? I know many, including my father.liver-cancer-profile-7[1]

Each one of them received an effective cure, which is why they no longer have cancer. There may not be one treatment that cures all cancers, but that’s because of the premise I outlined in point #2.

So there is in fact multiple cures for multiple cancers already. Instead, what researchers now work on, is finding more effective cures that are not only more successful at killing the disease, but also less harmful to the affected person.

Point #5 – There’s plenty of money in a cure

Because cell mutation will always occur, and therefore cancer will always exist, cancer can likely never be eradicated like the black plague or small pox were. So there is plenty of money to be made in a cure.ecc7d1d27275a4b9cb29cf31ea08780d[1]

If drug companies lost money from such a cure due to decreased demand, they could easily move to treat other diseases or conditions to replace those lost profits with their humanity in tact.

Point #6 – The smaller conspiracy

If I ignore the big conspiracy in Point #3, it’s still important to remember that there are a lot of drug companies, research hospitals, and science universities out there. We’d still have to assume that these companies, who are trying to beat each other in the free market, all put aside their differences, secretly met in some clandestine office, then suddenly worked together to not release a cancer-curing product that would sell to anyone with the cancer it treats, and harm people in such a brutal way. These people are in business to make a profit selling medicine, and beat their competition. Suppressing it would only help their competition.

Point #7 – Where are the in-betweens?

This conspiracy assumes that big pharma is making a fortune just treating people’s cancer without curing it. But most people who get cancer either receive one of the aforementioned cures from Point #4, or they die somewhat quickly after diagnosis. Rarely do people live a long time with a diagnosed cancer.

No one treats someone who is dead, so if people die, there’s no money to be made off of them. But if big pharma does cure them so they live longer, they’ll likely catch some other condition down the road that big pharma can also treat. So the money is not in suppressing a cure, the money is in helping people to live longer, so they need more conditions to be cured in the future.

Summary

These seven points are by no means all the reasons why this conspiracy makes little sense, they’re merely the ones I was able to come up with in literally two days of thinking about this subject. Plus, I’m well over my 1,000-word count I usually try to maintain in these posts.

So I hope that going forward, instead of assuming the worst in people whom you neither know nor understand their work and their motives, you think skeptically as I have, and allow yourself to believe that people are indeed mostly good. Biologists who took up the cause of curing cancer, are in fact working honestly towards that goal every day, there’s little reason to believe otherwise.

 

The Myth of the Wasted Vote

I was a pretty ardent supporter of Senator Rand Paul for president, stating that he’s the only Republican Party candidate I would have voted for in the upcoming election. Since he’s no longer running, my support has shifted to Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, but will generally support whomever of the three remaining LP nominees wins their party.

Senator Rand Paul (R)
Senator Rand Paul (R)

On Twitter, I campaigned hard to any of my Republican voting followers that Senator Paul is their only candidate who can get libertarian votes, and even some Democrat votes, because his positions of liberty often span party lines. As such, I felt this strategy was their best path to the White House.

Was he polling well? No. But, this was mostly due to lack of name recognition versus the issues. More importantly, though, it’s important to understand that most Republicans will vote Republican irregardless of the specific candidate, so they would certainly follow Rand. Once he was the only person on the debate stage against a Democratic nominee, I felt he would easily win on the issues.

This might seem like I’m asking Republicans to pick my candidate instead of their own, which is counter to what I’m suggesting in this post in the first place, but the reality is that I always preferred Gary Johnson.

In supporting Rand however, I was offering what I would consider a highly favorable compromise. But the rest of the Republican voting block didn’t seem interested in such a compromise, and turned this into a negotiation where both sides agreed there simply was no deal to be made.

While I believe the remaining Republicans are slightly better than Democratic offerings, I refuse to vote for any Republican on the sole premise that it’s imperative to beat the Democrats at any cost.

The most common disagreement we have with the GOP, is that we largely disagree with their consistent efforts to subversively legislate Christian values, while skirting 1st amendment objections by simply not specifically mentioning god in such legislation.

For instance, if you look at Ted Cruz’s website, he has an “Issues” section where he specifically talks about fighting for religious liberty.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R)
Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R)

But one look at this page, it is clear that this is actually not about religious liberty, but instead, a Christian crusade of sorts.

While it might look like religious liberty to Christians, almost every issue is about fighting for Christians specifically with no protections offered to other religions nor atheists.

Let’s look at his 11th bullet reads as follows:

“Successfully defended the words “under God” in the Texas Pledge of Allegiance and Texas schools’ moment of silence law in federal district court.”

Not only is this NOT promoting religious freedom, he’s specifically promoting government imposing a religious reference in a government sanctioned pledge—the absolute polar opposite of religious liberty.

It’s this kind of hypocrisy, and misunderstanding of the Constitution from a lawyer who should clearly understand it better than most, that makes Ted Cruz come off as disingenuous, ignorant, and wrong.

While this is on Ted Cruz’s website, these Christian based ideals, are echoed by almost all Republican candidates, including Donald Trump.

Donald Trump (R)

While I have no war with religion, I don’t want to live in a country where I have to fear my leaders forcing me to be more Christian either.

Do I consider “Under God” a big issue? Not in the least.

I’m bothered that Ted Cruz considers it big enough to put on his website as one of his credentials, and under the banner of religious freedom.

More importantly though, I’d like to think he’d fight for my rights as an atheist if a Christian legislator attempts to violate them by legislating religious ideology. Based on this page of his website however, I genuinely don’t believe he would.

So what about the wasted vote?

Many Republicans have lashed out at me, arguing that people like me are giving Democrats the win if we vote Libertarian, and that we’re wasting our vote on someone who won’t win.

At first thought, it does make some sense. A majority of libertarians would choose a Republican over a Democrat if those are their only two choices, but this is a short-sighted view on their part, and frankly somewhat arrogant and presumptuous to assume I’d prefer them. More importantly, it’s counter to my own best interests in the long term.

Former Governer Gary Johnson - Libertarian nominee for President
Former Governor Gary Johnson – Libertarian nominee for President

The first and most important point I’d like to make is this. My vote is mine. No one has any right to it, and no one has any right to dictate to me who I should vote for. So if you’re a Republican who wants to attack me for voting libertarian, you’re out of line.

Second: Your vote is your way to influence change in government. It’s not just about winning, it’s about letting people know that while they may have a majority, that majority is potentially in jeopardy if they lose some support. That growing their support will require them to give more deference towards our ideals too.

But the more important point to understand about the wasted vote myth, is that if I continue to go along with the (not Rand Paul) Republican nominee, I’m supporting a system I don’t agree with. Voting for someone who won’t win isn’t a wasted vote, voting for someone I don’t want to be president is.

Because if I want libertarianism to grow, the only way I can do that is to vote for libertarian candidates and issues. Voting for Republicans will only reinforce the current Republican agenda with no deference to my own. In other words, what argument could one possibly make to believe libertarianism would grow if no one votes libertarian? So the only way I can waste my vote is by not voting for those who promote the ideals which I support.

If I vote libertarian, and Republicans do lose, this puts Republicans in a position of self-reflection as to why they lost, and how they can grow their party.

Libertarian Party
Libertarian Party

Many Republicans are quite libertarian in their views already, so it’s not that big of a leap, and I hope they consider it more seriously. They’ll hopefully recognize that the way to grow their party, is to be more libertarian on the issues. When you look at the issues that people part with the GOP on in the first place, you’ll find it’s the issues that libertarians and Democrats agree, and when people lash out at Democrats, it’s usually the policies where libertarians and Republicans agree.

I’d argue there’s a lesson in that for both the major parties, hopefully one or both of them figure it out soon.

Who Can You Trust? A Guide To Questioning The Media

The internet is full of numerous people making claims. Whether it be memes with pictures of famous people saying something they clearly didn’t say, or quotes from famous people who actually did say it.

Abraham Lincoln Weighing In On the Internet
Abraham Lincoln Weighing In On the Internet

Point #1 I’d like to make is that a famous person isn’t more credible than any other person, unless said famous person is actually educated in the field of the claim being made. (Think Professor of Physics Brian Cox speaking on the subject of physics or science in general for instance).

Professor Brian Cox
Professor Brian Cox

Before we start, for purposes of this post, it’s important to define opinions, beliefs, and facts, as I believe they are mutually exclusive.

  • Opinion – A statement that has no right nor wrong answer.
  • Belief – A statement that does have a right or wrong answer, but that isn’t substantiated by evidence to know said right and wrong answers.
  • Fact – A statement that does have a right or wrong answer, and is supported wholly by evidence making it a demonstrable truth.

To give an example of these three, let’s look at someone who chooses a vegan diet.

If a person doesn’t want to be someone who exploits animals, or simply doesn’t like the taste; that is a matter of opinion and they should never be questioned on their choice, as there’s no evidence one can put forth to prove them wrong.

However, if they go vegan because they argue it’s healthier, that is a matter-of-fact statement. If they have no evidence supporting it, it’s merely a belief.

To make it fact, they would first have to define “healthy.” It could mean disease free, not obese, longevity of life, low cholesterol…the list is endless. From there, one would have to do or cite a controlled study comparing veganism to omnivorous or carnivorous diets, and prove it to be true. As such, such matter-of-fact statements, unlike matters of opinion, are indeed open to being questioned.

Now that we’ve covered those points, let’s kick this off with some simple thoughts to keep in mind when you read something on the internet, or see an advertisement on TV.

  • A claim sans evidence should be deemed as nothing more than an opinion or belief.
  • A claim sans evidence from an expert, is only an expert opinion or belief.
  • While an unsubstantiated expert opinion should be trusted more than an unsubstantiated non-expert opinion, neither should be deemed as fact.

Exploring the above three points; they often come into play when viewing a celebrity or expert-endorsed advertisement. They often make claims that you feel potentially make sense. But if you practice some critical thinking, you’ll soon notice that they can’t, don’t, or won’t cite any tests, studies, or evidence-based facts to back up their claim.

When watching a science-looking TV program, it’s important to understand that a proper expert would say “I don’t know” until they have actually seen or performed a study and gathered real evidence; not speculate profusely, presenting it as fact. (Think Ancient Aliens, Ghost Hunters, etc.)

Why do some experts speculate like this? Because science is a LOT of work! It involves loads of money, and a myriad of education and testing that can take years or even decades to complete. Not to mention, it also requires something to actually test. How can someone be an expert on Bigfoot if they don’t have an actual Bigfoot to observe and test, right?

Speculation however is easy; you just start talking.

So what are a couple of tell-tale signs you should look for when you see someone making a claim that you suspect might be less than trustworthy?

  • Is it an advertisement? If so, it’s biased, and should be ignored almost unilaterally. On a credibility scale, from zero being pure bullsh*t, and ten being “Take it to the bank;” advertisements are a zero. A celebrity endorsement likely ranks no more than a one, and an expert endorsement maybe a two. Why do endorsements add any value at all if they’re just being paid to say whatever their told to say? Because their credibility is on the line, so you’d like to think they care as much about their credibility as you do yours. But that being said, Dr. Oz proved this is still not that trustworthy.

    Dr. Mehmet Oz
    Dr. Mehmet Oz
  • If the advertisement cites an independent study, look up the study. If it’s legitimately independent, that sends it way up the credibility scale, and such companies should be commended for doing so. Although to be fair, if the independent study hadn’t been favorable, it would not have been in the ad, so it’s still partially comfirmation-biased as you’ll likely not hear any negative portions the study might have reported.
  • If it’s not an advertisement, does it actually give you evidence-based answers versus speculation? These pseudo-science shows, like the aforementioned alien, cryptozoology, or ghost shows are famous for presenting themselves as science, but being anything but. They bring dubious experts on who ask provocative questions, but then never follow it up with evidence-based answers. It makes them seem smart, but most of the time, it’s ridiculous nonsense with big words.

Why is this important? Ignorance is bliss, after all. Right?

If you were building a home, would you cut a framing board at what appears to be six feet to you (Not science)? Or would you measure the board (Science)?

People spouting unsubstantiated nonsense as if it is fact are some of the most dangerous people on the planet. They convince people who don’t know any better, to act on their claims as if they’re fact. Sometimes to grave consequences. Think Steve Jobs being duped to treat his cancer with “alternative,” instead of actual medicine. Such false medicinal advice may have cost him his life; a claim that cannot be proven since we don’t have two different Steve Jobs (one who took a doctors advice versus one who didn’t) to test, as the linked article points out.

At this point, I’m sure you are wondering who exactly you CAN trust. Assuming you don’t know how to, or have the means to carry out a proper controlled study, or do actual research yourself, I’ve prepared a makeshift credibility scale to help you suss out the chaff.

Scientific Journals, such as The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Science, The Journal Nature, etc., are the most credible science sources you will find.  They report controlled and peer-reviewed studies only. They don’t take money to print studies. And they even print retractions if a new peer brings information to light that falsifies a previous claim.

Websites like Snopes, Skeptoid, or Science Based Medicine are largely devoted to debunking false claims, and do a great job of bringing just well-researched facts sans opinion. I would trust them nearly as much as scientific journals.

Skeptoid's Brian Dunning
Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning

So what about non-scientific information like politics, human interest stories, etc.?

Unbiased news sources are a very credible venue. Reuters and the Associated Press are two of the most commonly cited news sources by other commercial news outlets, and this speaks to their credibility. They don’t do opinion, so when you read an article from them, it may be somewhat less interesting, but that’s because it’s just the facts.Fox News

News sites with opinion, like MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, ABC News, CBS News, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and more are still fairly credible, despite being laden with opinion—this is mostly due to their market share.

Carl Sagan once said, “If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.” If these mainstream outlets were consistently delivering false information, or didn’t make an effort to present both sides of an argument, this is exactly what the market would do to them.

Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan

While their ideological counterparts hate such news sources, independent minded people generally understand that while they’re biased, they at least validate sources and make an effort to be accurate and fair. It’s not perfect, but it’s at least reasonably credible.

Openly biased news sources like Drudge Report or The Daily Kos still have a market to answer to, and often break accurate information first due to their aggressive desire to defeat their ideological opponents. But I would avoid citing them as fact, because their information is suspect unless you can corroborate their findings with other news sources as mentioned above.

Blogs like mine are laden with bias. They are so small and rarely ever cited, that you should almost never consider blog claims as reputably truthful. If they cite credible sources along with their opinions (This is why I often do exactly that), it increases their credibility, but you should never treat them with full reverence.

Hopefully, you’ll start to notice that “opinion” is a consistent point to avoid when looking for the truth, but the bottom line is you should question everything. Question people who make claims without providing evidence. Question people who claim to be experts but can’t back up their opinion with fact. If you’re qualified, question proper scientific studies and do your own peer review.

Either way, enjoy the information you gather throughout life, just be skeptical every step of the way. Happy hunting!