Sometimes I fantasize about an omniscient authority, a human or robot, or a human/robot hybrid, that, somehow, everyone on Earth accepts as infallible on all matters.
Neither the pope (even when he speaks ex cathedra) nor God in all his/her/its iterations count because no one agrees that either of them are always right. We already have popes and gods, and people still think the planet is 6,000 years old and that vaccines are dark magic.
This hypothetical omniscient authority would serve two purposes. The first is to tell everyone what is real — like climate change and dinosaurs. The second is to tell people that they’re wrong and then make them feel really bad about it.
The ferocity of the imparted shame would be proportionate to the person’s degree of wrongness and to the virulence with which they expressed their wrongness.
The explanation would be whatever it takes to inform the person letting children die of measles that their opinions are not the same as science, that they, as an entity, are not contributing in a positive way to human progress, and that they will be remanded in perpetuity to the kiddie table, where they will have no responsibilities other than to be quiet when adults are talking.
That vaccine skeptics exist — and that there are enough of them to cause a measles outbreak — is astonishing. We, as a people, have achieved new levels of dumb.
I understand that science is hard. There’s a lot of math and Latin words and concepts that aren’t predicated on talking shrubs or a reanimated corpse flying into outer space. But a part of being smart is knowing that you’re not smart. Things are going to be beyond the power of your brain. Confronted with these things, it is essential to defer to those with more potent minds, those who went to a lot of school and those who do math.
When people don’t — when people refuse to accept that they may not know things — it endangers the rest of us.