A reporter interviews a coal miner and admits, at the miner’s probing, that he has never personally been to a coal mine, and then abashedly lays down his assertion that coal emissions are damaging the climate. “I’m having a strong reaction to this,” says the reporter. “Because I realize I’ve never actually experienced the thing I’m talking about.”
If we demand lived first-hand experience of a thing as the only reliable basis for claims about that thing we’re sunk. I have never fired a gun or been part of gun violence, yet I know that guns kill more than 33,000 Americans annually. I’ve never been to Syria, yet I’ve learned that a staggering 470,000 people have died in its civil war. And I’ve never visited a coal mine or a coal-powered electric plant, but I know that emissions from burning coal makes up a significant part of CO2 emissions in the U.S.
We live in a world of information. Much of that information is researched and peer reviewed. Much of it also is not. Some of it is even full on fabrication. I believe that reliable information is out there, though, and that the answer to fabrication is better information, which is still readily available.