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The death of science, journalism, debate and common sense

Science is no longer science. It is a tool to be used by activists on either side of the equation, and as such it has lost its value and meaning.

The world sure is changing. These changes didn’t happen overnight, but it feels that way. It happened quickly, but not so fast that I can pinpoint the exact moment.

Science may have been the first casualty. I’m not sure how or when science became totally politicized, but I suspect it happened in part when government became the primary source of funds for public research, and when private entities began to turn away from academia, preferring to perform and conduct their own research.

Just this week, Maryland joined California in becoming the second state to pass more restrictive laws on antibiotic use than the new federal regulations. Whether it be antibiotics, the environment, GMOs or any of the other areas we deal with in agriculture, we’re facing an uphill battle. Science is no longer science. It is a tool to be used by activists on either side of the equation, and as such it has lost its value and meaning. Science was initially simply about discovering the truth regardless of where that might lead. Science as we have always thought of it is dead.

Popular journalism, like science, is supposed to be about exposing the truth and getting accurate information in the hands of the people so they can use that information to make informed decisions. That, too, is dying rapidly.

Journalism is largely agenda activism and promotion of ideological viewpoints. All one has to do is listen to Fox News or CNN to see how off balance it has become. Everyone has a filter or world view that distorts the presentation of facts, but there is no longer even any pretense or attempt to be unbiased or accurate.  

Advancing an agenda and promoting an ideology is what popular journalism has largely become. Actual journalism is rare, and when it occurs it doesn’t affect opinions anymore as the opponents disregard the source and motives of those presenting information that doesn’t conform to their way of thinking.

Like popular journalism and science, debate is also becoming extinct. Without science and balanced journalism, the open exchange of ideas and the debate between competing viewpoints is no longer accepted. You are with us or you are against us, and anyone who holds an opposing view is considered to be ignorant or worse yet, simply immoral.

And in the end, common sense has become a casualty as well with the death of science, balanced journalism and debate. Compromise and common sense in many ways are almost irrevocably linked, and the death of common sense has pervaded our two-party political system as a result.

Partisanship, especially in a deeply divided nation, is akin to the old saying of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Politicians are no longer rewarded for statesmanship; in fact, they are punished for putting country ahead of party. It is counterproductive to not embrace common sense approaches, but common sense is more times than not seen as a lack of political purity.

It is why I have come to believe that agriculture will play a key role in salvaging our country from the decline it has been embarked on. We still believe in sound science, the open exchange of ideas, a good debate, and a healthy dose of common sense. Ideology is important, but when it grows to the point of rejecting science, debate, journalism and common sense, it can be a very destructive thing as well.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com and the Penton Agriculture Group. Marshall is a Colorado rancher and a regular contributor to BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly newsletter.

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