–By Mark Egidi, Contributing Author
Let me give you a little bit of background about myself. I have spent the last five years of my life learning serious science. Learning science isn’t just learning facts; a trained monkey can execute tasks involving simple memorization. Science is the process of evaluating the validity of data or evidence in the pursuit of truth or greater understanding. A massive part of this undertaking is the intersection between science and social issues.
My grade school education was abysmal when it came to the sciences. When I transitioned from a private school to a public school I was totally unprepared. Likewise high school ill prepared me for college. In a large part I owe my drive and desire to overcome my attention deficit and hyperactive habits to children’s educational programming such as Bill Nye The Science Guy. To this day Bill Nye remains one of my biggest hero’s. What drew me towards the sciences was the fact that data leads to facts. An experiment repeated over and over again showing the same results is the most conclusive evidence one could possess, and this evidence could be used to make people’s lives better.
When I became active in the vaping advocacy scene I relied on this scientific background as my primary tool. Study after study has shown that vaping is a safer alternative to tobacco smoke. The studies that counter this position may seem convincing at first glance, but when dissected show deep flaws which invalidates their conclusions. But what was I missing? The anti-vaping crowd still persists and their argument is as convincing as ever, despite their lack of empirical evidence. How can a movement that is so fundamentally wrong retain so much power? When the facts are laid out there, why do these people continue to argue? Don’t they realize that the data is on my side?
I was listening to a speech given by Penn Jillette, the Las Vegas magician the other day and all of a sudden I found my answer. At the intersection of every social issue that has to deal with the acceptance of evidence or data, there are two types of people. The first are the people who argue for a position that is supported by the evidence, they argue with their intellect. The people on the losing side argue with their passion. The unfortunate fact of this dynamic is that people are more likely to listen to a passionate appeal since it grabs us at our core and forces us to judge using our emotions and empathy. They can’t be wrong since they offered no supporting evidence, only their passion. Passionate people will seek out an audience and share their views. Those arguing with their intellect and facts will share, but only when they are asked to – or they are trying to counter the opposition – whose passion for the issue has already seized the attention of the audience. In short, we believe the facts are on our side, and those facts will do the work for us. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
We need to fight fire with fire. It is not enough to simply present the evidence. While the data is important, it will not win on its own. The only way to counter the strong emotional appeal of the “it’s for the children” anti-vaping movement is to counter it with our own passions. The years of life we got back, or the improved quality of life. Our family members who are healthier now than they were a year ago when they smoked, and the additional time they now have with their families. These are the things we need to put out into the world to support our cause.