Separating fact from fiction

by Ginosar  

Too often when we try to solve serious problems we express our opinions, we do not discuss the issues.

I often observed  "discussion" between educated, intelligent, professionals that in reality were just opinion sharing.

When we are working as a team to solve a problem seldom are questions asked of the underling reasons or facts for the opinions expressed. There is no interchange of ideas, just expression of opinions. Almost every one try to show how smart he is or how much he/she knows.

These opinions are not been challenged by a back and forth discussion, nor by questions of sources, validity, or any thing else that may separate valid facts from just beliefs or personal opinions.  I am more aware of this American habit since I was university trained to find and counteract this habit and also spent a number of very rewarding years countering narrow business thinking of this nature.


This American habit of not challenging opinions leads us astray much of the time. In the past when we were extremely wealthy country, with no serious national debt, and no critical issues were threatening us, waste and mistakes were not too critical as now. However, in the case of global warming we can't afford to base our actions on opinions.  Not only that, too often these erroneous opinions are very popular and we follow them blindly.

Just look at the following popular illusions: Wind turbines kill lots of birds (half a billion birds are killed by buildings and cars annually in the US); "clean coal" (the dirtiest fuel and CCS is a future promise); solar energy is inexpensive (very expensive - but others pay for it, so it is not my problem); put wind turbines on top of buildings (blades fall on people);corn-ethanol is green (it has a larger CO2 footprint than gasoline).

[Read elsewhere on this web answers to the above misconceptions].


Why do we behave in this mistaken way? Because we consider it impolite to question the opinion of others.

"You don't trust me?" "You think I am not smart enough to distinguish between facts or fictions?"  "I would not question you, so do not question me."

These are just some of the unexpressed thoughts and feelings guiding the so-called "discussion" in most cases.


This is especially noticeable if there is a chain of command such as in a business or a government agency. You would not dare question the rationale, the reasons people above you expresses. The US military is a good example: follow your orders and do no ask questions. In the battlefield most of the time you must follow orders, but in the planning stages and in non-combat situation you need to think before you act. Only recently the US military started to develop counter-thinking groups of officers that are not only allowed to challenge the conventional wisdom but their duty is to seek loopholes, mistakes, errors and find better ways of developing solutions to a specific military situation.


In my decades in business, government and even voluntary organizations I rarely observed, or heard any one else observe, a willingness to question direction from above, or challenge popular opinions.


Our inability to open ourselves to new ways of thinking, our fear of being exposed as not as smart or as capable as we think we should be, deteriorate our national ability and organizational ability to solve many of our problems, from poverty to military strategy to better building construction.


Most of the time we are more concerned about how we are perceived than how to improve the operation we are hired to do.


We educate our youngsters not for independent thinking, not for courage and not for determination, but to be fearful of ridicule. Just look at a university setting. Rarely will a student ask questions, challenge the views of others. Privately they will tell you, I do you want the professor to think that I cannot understand him. I do not want other students to think that I am dumb.

Knowledge, reality, are not important. Face-saving is.


Our worry how people perceive us is our Achilles heal.


We must reduce our need for face-saving, concerned for our image. We must challenge ourselves to face reality. We should challenge our elected officials to face the reality of global warming. We must question the conventional wisdom that if it is green energy it is good. No. Some of the "green" paths offered to us are not good for the country. Do learn, analyze, question, find facts, and act on this new knowledge.


We would not progress much as a nation, we would not be able to fight global warming effectively if we continue to be more concerned about our individual image instead of the result of our effort against global warming.



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