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Americans Disdain for Facts

Americans Disdain for Facts

            Robert A. Levine    July 5, 2023

Is it our school systems? Is it our water? Is it our concept of equality, that every man’s knowledge

and store of information is the same and worthy of attention? Such a large proportion of our citizens refuse to believe experts and look down on scientists. Conspiracy theories and bald-faced lies flourish and the facts languish. And this disdain for what is true and scientifically proven is just as prevalent on the left as it is on the right. Disregard the facts. Don’t believe accepted data in science and medicine, but what Tom so and so says. He has two million followers on Facebook so he must know what he’s talking about. Don’t people think for themselves any more, or do they merely mirror popular trends and influencers who tell that what to think. Even bizarre conspiracy theories like Qanon have millions of people believing.

Initially, the disregard for the truth and the facts seemed to be typical of conservatives and the right, Americans who idolized Donald Trump and his coterie, took their words as gospel, no matter how far out they might seem. Democrats as pedophiles. Cannibalism. Soros’ space lasers causing forest fires. Stolen elections. And Trump’s missteps ignored. Paying off a call girl. Grabbing attractive women by the pussy. Paying homage to Putin. Running his businesses from the White House. And hundreds more noxious actions. So what. He got conservative justices on the Supreme Court. Character doesn’t matter.

But now, some of the left is following in Trump’s footsteps, willing to accept lies as truth, disregarding facts and buying in to conspiracy theories. Robert Kennedy Jr has become the leader of this portion of the Democratic Party, and doing surprising well in the polls for president. At one point he had around 20 percent of voters, though apparently he has fallen back somewhat. But his lies and conspiracy theories and his dislike for standard medicine and scientific facts has resonated with many on the left. Kennedy refuses to accept facts about vaccines preventing diseases and that medications to treat various illnesses are a necessity. He thinks all pharmaceutical companies are promoting their medications just for profit and that they really don’t help against illnesses. Kennedy also believes that the government conspired in the assassinations of his uncle John Kennedy, his father Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. He spouts all these lies and conspiracy theories without any evidence to back him up.

But people believe what he says because he’s a Kennedy and would seem to have no reason to lie. However, it appears that Kennedy doesn’t think he’s lying, accepting his own doctrines on faith. And the people who believe him also accept his words on faith, because they are misinformed and don’t like taking advice from experts and the “elites.” The vaccine skeptics and those who won’t acknowledge conventional medicine are doing harm to themselves, their families and their communities. And they weaken rather than strengthen America.

When confronted with contradictions in terms of what are considered facts and the truth about issues, people have to seek information themselves and not depend on the words of politicians and conspiracy theorists. It may be easier not to do the research and just follow the leader, but that path is not good for America and democracy. It’s bad on both the left and the right.

P.S- Investigate the Dunning Krueger effect, a cognitive bias where people with little knowledge, expertise or ability regarding an issue, tend to overestimate their knowledge or expertise. Many of the followers of Trump, DeSantis and Kennedy ably demonstrate the Dunning-Krueger effect in their views and actions.

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Don't Do It, Joe

Don’t Do It, Joe

            Robert Levine

            So far, Joe Biden seems to have done a good job in his term as president, with the country deeply polarized and slim margins to work with in both Houses of Congress. Of course, others may disagree. But in either case, he should not run for a second term as president and should announce his intention soon to allow others to develop the traction necessary to be successful candidates. It is quite possible he could beat Donald Trump if Trump were the Republican candidate, though he would likely have more trouble winning a presidential race against Ron DeSantis. But my concern is not the campaign but how he would function again in office. To put it bluntly, he would be too old. Donald Trump would also be too old and has a major risk factor for dementia, heart disease and strokes. He is obese, no matter what his sycophantic physicians may say. Biden may feel that if he rejects a second term and is a lame duck, he will have less power, but there is no objective evidence to confirm this. For the good of the country and the Democratic Party, he should not run again.

            I am a retired neurologist whose main area of interest has been aging and cognitive impairment. I have had three books published on these subjects. I am not ageist and it is quite possible that Biden might function quite well during his second term. But we do not know that for sure. The older people get, the more susceptible they become to various diseases and the more likely they are to experience cognitive decline. Though many older individuals are intellectually intact and function quite well, it still may take them longer to process new information and memory may not be as sharp as in younger years. This is simply a fact of life. Joe Biden just celebrated his 80th birthday and is the oldest president ever. By the end of this term he will be 82. If he runs again and wins, he would be 86 by the time he finished his second term. Donald Trump would be 82 by the end of his second term, but many Americans already consider his judgement suspect.

            There is a difference between a person’s chronological age and his or her physiological age, with people aging at varying rates due to multiple factors. Thus, two people of the same chronological age may be quite different physiologically. Though it is unlikely our political parties will ever allow this to happen, there should be mandatory physical and cognitive examinations for all candidates before they are allowed to run for Federal offices, especially president and vice-president. Supreme Court justices should also be tested periodically if they are to hold lifetime appointments, though long term limits for the courts should probably be instituted.

            America has always been considered a vital and youthful nation, though the average age of our population is increasing as is true in most advanced nations. However, with decades of polarization imbued in our politicians and our population, it is time to bring in new and younger leadership to government offices at all levels. Perhaps younger officials can find new ways to work together for the betterment of our nation and reach out across the aisle. Whether one agrees or disagrees on the quality and performance of Joe Biden as president and that of Donald Trump, it is time for them to step aside and allow new people to assume leadership roles in our two political parties. Our nation needs to be reinvigorated by younger leaders to meet the challenges of an evolving and complex world.

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