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cherrypicking v04

In this post-truth internet world, where every individual can be a publisher and demonstrable fact increasingly can be denied, in favor of ideology, zealotry and delusion, the dreaded cherry is one of our worst enemies.

And we’re all guilty of conspiring with and promoting cherries too much. We’re doing the bidding of the nefarious cherry every day.

There are approximately 7 billion people. There are 24 hours in a day. There are 365 days in a year. We live, on average, 70-80 years.

Try to calculate in your head how many events must occur just within one human day. Now try to imagine how many events occur within a year or a lifetime. Now go one step further and try to imagine just how many events have occurred and are recorded in our collective history and memory.

Each one of those events is a cherry. And there are arguably trillions of cherries that we can conjure up to make a case – any case.

Guess what? A lot of weird stuff can happen in that much time and among that many people.

Do you believe that pedophilia is commonplace? Type pedophilia on Google and find a cherry. Now post it. Are you inclined to believe that cannibalism and eating babies is commonplace? Do you believe there is a conspiracy lurking around every corner?

Type any of those words on Google and hit enter. And then post the first link on your timeline, or better yet, make a YouTube video with scary music and pretty graphics.

That will surely make your cherry seem more important and prevalent to innocent, unskeptical and impressionable eyes and ears.

Want to believe that your political or philosophical enemy is evil and immoral? Type your enemy’s Google ID and find an example of one of their tribesmen doing something immoral. Now post your cherry. Or easier still, just reshare someone else’s cherry, without considering their motivation.

You have now possibly done nothing but spread misleading or incomplete information, and added little of value to the world.

If you want to be a zealot or a fear-monger, congratulations, you are now a professional cherry picker and have succeeded.

Now, do you want to consider yourself thoughtful, fair, rational and ethical?

Cherry picking data by
Cherry picking data by

Well, if you want to do that, you’ll need to work harder. You’ll need to analyze and look at all of the cherries. I know that that’s hard and takes a lot of time, but you need to; you have an ethical obligation to place those cherries in a reasonable context. You need to supplement your singular cherry with comprehensive data.

You need statistics. You need a larger sample of cherries.

You need to look at a comprehensive basket of cherries. You need to situate your cherry among other cherries and determine how prevalent and common this cherry is. How rare is that cherry? Are there other cherries?

If it’s nothing but a one in a trillion cherry, how significant is it? And if you post it, what will your audience think of the cherry? Will people now consider that that cherry is all around us, all of the time; a cherry to be feared?

Or is that cherry so rare as to be rather insignificant from the larger perspective of all cherries?

Don’t listen to cherries!

Original post: Science, Critical Thinking and Skepticism, August 8th, 2017 



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Science, Critical Thinking and Skepticism educator

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