The ANUSA election season is upon us, and with it a mountain of ambitions and promises. When it comes to considering the arguments of each candidate, it is essential we put aside emotion and consider the facts. To quote Bertrand Russell: “When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out.”
In this way, we prevent ourselves from falling into the trap of believing what we want to believe. It is the dream of most school children to have a life without homework, though no reasonable person would vote for the kid who promised to abolish it.
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”
– Albert Einstein
Over the last century, evidence based reasoning has become increasingly prevalent in society, often overshadowing illogical thought. At the root of this is science, a discipline built on uncovering the truth through unbiased investigation. Despite this triumph of scientific reason, we still have a long way to go before Stone Age thinking stays where it belongs, in the Stone Age.
“By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.”
– Richard Dawkins
A critical step in this process, is appointing rational thinkers to positions of power. To see what happens when this guideline is ignored, we need look no further than our own backyard; more specifically to Tony Abbott. In his book Battlelines, he states: “Climate change is a relatively new political issue.”
Here he is distorting a scientific theory, supported by countless evidence, into a question of politics, subjecting it to non-existent debate based on personal beliefs. Five years after that statement was made, the carbon tax was abolished, putting Australia at the back of the international community, in terms of handling climate change.
If nothing else, this demonstrates the destructive power of abandoning reason, as denying man made climate change in the 21st century is equivalent to denying the Earth is round.
“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.”
– Carl Sagan
To understand how illogical thinkers can find themselves in positions of power, we can consider fallacies that are manipulative in nature. One type is appeal to emotion, which replaces relevant discussion with emotional targeting. Another is appeal to unqualified authority, where “experts” in a field are quoted to support a false argument. There is also what is known as a slippery slope, which is used to claim a harmless event will produce a “snow ball” of progressively more harmful events.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
– Steven Hawking
Although the outcome of the ANUSA election won’t influence world policy, it is still essential we elect candidates who display rational qualities. By establishing a high standard for representatives at this lower level, it is reasonable to conclude that the same standard will be reflected in future politicians. If a candidate cannot support their claims with evidence, then those claims should be disposed of, regardless of any emotions they might invoke. Don’t be the person who voted for the kid that promised to abolish your homework.