The Numbers Don’t Lie

It has become common place in our society, particularly in the United States, to put a quick end to debates by stating both parties simply have a difference of opinion. The problem is, of course, that a vast majority of issues are demonstrably not a matter of opinion. Your favorite flavor of ice cream or which celebrity is more attractive are opinion-based matters, we can indeed “agree to disagree.” But when we are asking questions like what is the age of the universe, does gun control decrease crime, or is there life on other planets, we are asking questions that have concrete answers. We can have an opinion if we like, but we must understand that these opinions are irrelevant to the reality we are examining. This is why we must rely on experimentation, evidence, and data rather than intuition to answer questions about our world.

I have encountered this brick wall multiple times when I try to convince people that the world today is better than it has ever been, and that we have many reasons to believe it will only get better. All you have to do is turn on the TV to see a world riddled with starvation, warfare, disease, terrorism, and poverty. Especially in the developing world right? Isn’t the world riddled with death, hunger, and disease? Surely an objective look at all of the planet and not just the west would show the world is not getting better… it certainly doesn’t seem to be getting better. Well, lets have a look…

It is crucial to understand that these numbers are not just interesting statistics. Life expectancy and standard of living are not just numbers, they represent drastic changes in the way human beings experience their existence. A twenty year difference in life expectancy is a father watching his little girl walk down the isle, a grandfather being able to play games with his young grand kids, a scientist living long enough to make his break through discovery. Similarly the differences in income can represent parents affording their curious and intelligent children a college education and opportunities they never had, or perhaps the funds to afford that all important surgery that saved dad’s life. Even those things that may seem superficial, like being able to travel somewhere new with the people you love, experience new cultures, try new things, feel overwhelming gratitude and curiosity… those are the human experiences science has afforded us. Your opinion may differ, but the numbers here don’t lie.

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