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« Scared to vaccinate? So am I, but there is something I fear more. | Main | Immigrant among US »

Is there a middle ground between normalization and siloing?

Lately I've been confronted with views - political, social, intellectual and personal - from the opposite end of the spectrum of where I normally inhabit. As a scientist and contrarian, I value opposing views as they often force me to look at issues in a different light. In this brave new world of retro-romanticizing and granola glorification, the ideas gaining ground are often ones that I struggle to understand and value.

For the record, I am pro-vaccine, pro-science, pro-evolution, a climate change believer, pro-GMO, pro-choice, in favor of a separation of church and state, pro-public schooling, pro-fluorinating public water supplies and pro-social democracy.

I've generally tried to avoid engaging people with opposing views in their own homes. The old adage of not talking religion or politics in polite company is one that I've tried to integrate into my social media activities. I don't go to my conservative, pro-Trump friend and rail against the current administration just as I don't harangue my anti-vaxxer friend who posts memes about fluoride being added to the water supply to pacify the masses. I keep my views on my own and topic friendly forums.

After the election, I realized that I needed to take a more active role in advocating for the values I believe in. That has meant calling state officials, adding a countering view on news social media sites and not supporting companies and groups that propogate views that I believe to be dangerous to the general public and myself. The last thing I want to do in this current political climat is normalize a growing trend of anti-science, ultra-conservative, difference intolerant, quasi-religious views. I realized that there is really no way to change anyone's mind, especially not online.

But by withdrawing from these circles and conversations I wonder if I'm not guilty of intellectual siloing. Essentially isolating myself among my similarly believing peers.

I've been horrified by the animosity and paranoia spread by the right-leaning media. I've been shocked to see left leaning media engage in exaggerate headlines and fear-mongering.

I might not agree with anti-vaxers, but I know there are children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. I also see the value in forcing the FDA to continue to re-examine the safety of widely administered agents. I've watched the videos of the moms with autistic children grasping at what they believe is the culprit of their child's illness without understanding that coincidence is not causation and that anecdotes are not evidence.

I have no problem with GMOs, but I can understand people wanting to make the choice of what industries to support and knowing what they put in their bodies. Just like the gluten-free labels, which were a real benefit to people with celiac disease, there may be people who are potentially allergic to some newly introduce component in their food. However, just like the gluten-free label, GMO-free has become a trendy marketing term and people rarely understand what it is they are so afraid of.

I fully support ourKatahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine. Listening to an On Pointe discussion of the subject I was astounded by the opponents hyperbolic language that equated supporting the establishment of monuments by the federal government as being akin to supporting feudalism. His language completely undermined the very valid arguments about reducing taxible land bases in states with limited property taxes to support their public school systems.

Opposing views are good in that they force me to re-examine my position and often teach me about consequences I had not anticipated. That is the balance between opposites that established a common middle ground. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost our middle ground. Every outcome seems to be the end of the world for one view or another instead of being a working point for moving forward.

However, there are some views for which there is no middle ground.

Find a way of engaging people in calm rational discussions seems to be harder and harder. But avoid conflicting view points risks narrowing our knowledge. So I keep searching for a middle ground to stand on and simply have a conversation.



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