What Happened to Common Sense?

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I am amazed at the nonsense I encounter from TV news, email strings, newspaper articles and social media.  The statements made are obviously propaganda, exaggerations or outright lies.  I have an engineering degree and am well read up on numerous topics.  However, you don’t need to know a lot to spot most of the nonsense.  Who is the source of the information and what are their qualifications on that topic?  What are their motives and conflicts of interest?  If the source is not credible, ignore the information.

Once upon a time, journalists had high standards.  Before reporting a news item, they had to verify its accuracy by an independent source.  That no longer seems to be true.  Reporters seem to accept statements by anyone as accurate without verification.  Often reporters state their personal opinions as fact without identifying it as opinion.

There are numerous social, political, and even science topics that have organized supporters and opponents who promote one side or the other.  The arguments used by both sides are opinions and the so-called experts who promote their opinion are conflicted because they are paid to do so.  It is virtually impossible to get an expert third-party opinion that is not conflicted.  For example, on the issue of Global Warming the only unbiased third-party source I’ve found is a book by E. Kirsten Peters, “The Whole Story of Climate”.  The author is a geologist who says based on geological evidence the world climate has always changed dramatically in cycles over millions of years for many natural reason’s scientists don’t fully understand.  All other information I’ve found was obviously propaganda by both sides whose opinions were conflicted by personal financial interests.

We don’t have to be experts to use our common sense. For example, years ago when the increased height of the new harbor bridge was being decided, a city council member who’s no longer a council member, was reported to propose that instead of building a higher bridge we should dig the channel beneath the bridge deeper to handle taller ships.  There are fundamental laws of physics that prohibit that.  However, any person with common sense would realize the deeper channel would be filled by water from Corpus Christi Bay and the bay would be refilled by water from the Gulf of Mexico and the water level under the bridge would remain the same.

I read a Wall Street Journal article recently about teenage boys’ and girls’ anxiety and depression.  One girl cites one anxiety was about polar ice melting.  What a shame that someone put that guilt trip on a teenager.  Common sense should have told her if it was true there is absolutely nothing she could do about it and therefore ignore it.  Instead, focus on choosing her life long vocation and deciding what degree or post high school certification course she needed to qualify.

Our human common sense often fails when we assess risk to our personal safety.  For example, based on the number of US car crash fatalities per year, the US population and typical life span, our risk of dying in a car crash is about one in one hundred.  Our risk of being in a terrorist attack is about one in 10,000.  Our risk of dying from environmental pollution is about one in 100,000. We tolerate car crash risk because we value personal transportation and we feel in control of the risk.

Ralph Coker, author

Bio:  Ralph Coker is a retired petroleum refinery plant manager.  He writes on business, economic, political, military and social topics