Thursday, February 08, 2007

No Need For Two Sides To An Issue 

There are some issues that are so settled one needn't look at both sides of them. Global warming is one and evolution is another. As a PR practitioner and former journalist, I have been taught to listen, but there are times when listening is a waste of time. Proponents of the opposite view are so out of the mainstream that it is unlikely they can be brought around to an accommodation. In cases like this, one moves ahead, as this museum is doing, but takes precautions against actions from the fringe element.

The hard part of moving forward is to make sure that one isn't blinded by conventional wisdom. That is, everybody believes X, therefore it must be true. That is where a PR practitioner can get into difficulty. One uses a preponderance of evidence but not a preponderance of opinion. Where there is no clear evidence, a practitioner should take great care to listen. Sometimes, it is not always clear what is evidence and what is opinion. For quite some time, both global warming and evolution had aspects of opinion and not evidence. That is no longer true and hasn't been in the case of evolution for more than 100 years.

There are still those who believe in a flat earth. We shouldn't have to spend time arguing with them.

Perhaps I'm being the Devil's advocate (or maybe I'm just curmudgeonly), but it seems to me that in the early part of the last millennium folks would have said that a flat Earth was settled fact. Indeed, those who propounded otherwise are said to have been ridiculed for their beliefs.

You suggest that PR practitioners should look to a "preponderance of evidence but not a preponderance of opinion." But what qualifies those of us in the field to assess the evidence in cases like the ones you mention?

Now, I'm not questioning the existence of evolution or global warming. I'm certainly not in a position to do so. But there are those who raise credible questions about the extent to which one can take even those widely-held beliefs.

Should those questions -- or others like it on other "settled" topics -- be ignored simply because the perception is that there is no room for debate?
Jim Horton and Chip Griffin -- two very savvy cats who give PR blogging a good name. I appreciate both of their positions on the issue at hand although I lean toward Jim's perspective on evolution and global warming. We're talking science here, not religion; reason, not belief; fact, not fantasy. When it comes to religion and belief, however, I definitely lean toward Chip's view although I have a different take on the dynamic of dialogue in this instance. To wit: if we can't or won't discuss contrasting ideas of God or faith or what's true or untrue about humankind's spiritual inclinations, what can we discuss? Certainly not much of consequence.

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