A little Armchair-Statisticallizing goin' on here…

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So I'm not entirely sure what prompted this, but I think I've stumbled across something interesting (admittedly, I know very little about this subject). There's this idea that historically, America has been this diverse "Melting Pot" of different cultures (at least, this idea persists among the White majority – I wonder how other American groups view this idea?), but something made me ask myself, “If this is true, why does it feel like we have more racial tension and animosity than ever before? Why is there such a vigorous Immigration debate right now?" Maybe it's because we've never actually been a ‘Melting Pot.’ Looking at the data, America has always been far-and-away culturally ruled by one group of people, which is a takeaway that, on an individual level, isn't something that probably shocks too many of us.

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For The First Time…

The point I’m trying to make is that I think it's only now, for the first time in American History, that we're approaching the very real possibility of the only American Majority that has ever existed (White people, specifically the older White male), no longer being the majority, or at least having their cultural influence and significance reduced considerably, which is probably the more important point to make. This feels like another "Transition Point" similar to other aspects in our society we’re seeing, such as rapidly-changing technology, employment arrangements, and socio-economic statuses. In an attempt to back this idea up with data (compiled from https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Historical_racial_and_ethnic_dem…), I created the image below. Notice the historically significant change in the percentage of the White population from years 1970-1980 – a drop of 4.6%.

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Never before has there been anywhere near that large of a drop in the percentage of American’s White population. The drop from 1990-2000 is even larger. It’ll be interesting to see what the 2020 census reveals.

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We Can All Agree…

Now I think we can all agree that if there’s one thing humans as a whole hate, it’s change. People go to ridiculous lengths to avoid, or completely deny, that anything in their neat little packaged-up world is changing, especially if that change is felt to be negative. Like I’ve written about before, people simply want to feel safe, comfortable, accepted, and included in all aspects of their lives – financially, emotionally, socially, culturally. If this holds true, then it makes sense that there should be increased racial tensions at a time when our society and culture is changing to include more sources of diversity than ever before.

Slavery may have become outlawed on-the-books, but, aside from desegregation, never before have the majority of Americans had to face such a cultural shift in their own daily lives – from the media they consume (piped straight into their homes and smartphones), to the racial and ethnic makeup of their coworkers, to the “Political Correctness” one adheres to in polite society, no matter how much they WANT to “cut through all the politically-correct bullshit.” Even if this change is more “felt” by people, and isn’t really backed up by data, that “feeling” is really all that matters. It’s as if we’ve “talked the talk” about racism, tolerance, and inclusiveness, but we’re now being asked, more and more in our own daily lives, to “walk the walk.” 

People are at heart emotional beings, who do not instinctively jump to cold logic and reason when assessing their opinions and viewpoints on nearly any subject

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Shifting Demographics, Shifting Economics…

There’s a reason there’s so much conversation about how massively successful the new “Black Panther” movie has become – perhaps it’s because there is finally enough of an increase in the size of the Minority the movie features (or enough of a decrease of the Majority) to significantly sway the box-office numbers, proving that movies of this kind, that feature a predominately Black cast, are not only financially feasible, but are potentially untapped goldmines. This hints at another mainstay of our culture, for better or for worse – eventually, our society succumbs to changes that reflect the direction the money is flowing in (which is why some businesses' recent reluctance to donate to the NRA or stop the sale of some types of firearms and their accessories is important – but that’s another issue).

Anyway, bottom line seems to be this: the demographics of America are changing, or at least the perspective is that they’re changing, like never before, highlighting more differences and inequities throughout our culture that are becoming harder to ignore. It’s important for us all to remember that change is hard, and people are especially vulnerable to feeling as if they’re under personal attack when certain things in their neat, comfortable, packaged-up lives are modified in some way. Again, we all want the same things – to feel safe, comfortable, accepted, and included in all aspects of our lives – financially, emotionally, socially, culturally. Some groups feel they still have a long fight ahead of them to achieve these things. Other groups feel as if these things are in danger of being taken away from them. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Also, become comfortable with change!

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Yep… Earth is definitely not a big round ball floating in space…

1 There are "Scientists" out there that are really, really bad at practicing good Science. Then there are those that are really, really bad at explaining it to the general public. Just like any other subject or area of study or anything else that has anything to do with humans, there are those that give their career field and subject matter a bad name. Creating a "bad name" for Science is doubly-dangerous, as it's already a pretty misunderstood thing.

2 Science and God (or some other concept of a "Higher Intelligence" or "Creator") could possibly co-exist; there’s nothing in any good Science book that says, “Here is proof God doesn’t exist.” Then again, there’s nothing in any good Science book that says, “Here’s definitive proof that God does exist” either. In and of itself, Science doesn't inherently have anything to say about God or religion one way or another. When asked if Science disproves the existence of God, a good Scientist will respond by saying, "Well, we don't currently have any Scientific evidence for the existence of God, but that doesn't mean God doesn't exist – it simply means we don't have any Scientific evidence." There's even some waaaayyy-out-there theoretical science-fictiony kinda scientific theories, based in cutting-edge, barely-understood theoretical physics that purports to explain how some sort of universal consciousness could exist… not to mention the theories that we're actually living in one gigantic simulation (and usually, simulations have creators). All of this is to say that we've been colossally, monumentally wrong before – a good Scientist should have the most open of minds.

3 Good Science is a “practice,” one that changes over the years as we humans observe and learn more about the physical, natural world and it's inhabitants (also, this is one of the reasons medicine is called a "practice.") The majority of Scientists used to believe that Cholera, Chlamydia, and the Plague were caused by “Bad Air” (called the Miasmatic Theory of Disease) that would drift into town at night and strike those who slept with their windows open. Then we learned about germs. The point is, good scientists will admit there are gaps in our scientific knowledge, and that as we learn more, our theories and understanding of this universe we live in will change, grow, adapt. That being said, there are certain areas of Science that we’ve studied, learned about, and observed for so, so, so long, and that we've gathered so much information on, that they’re pretty much fact – such as the world being round. But if tomorrow, someone said, “Wait a minute, due to a unique feature in the human brain, human eyeballs, and the human sense of balance, the viewpoint that the world is round is actually an illusion – we’ve all been fooled,” good scientists would be forced to take another look at the issue. Pretty unlikely in this case though.

4 Believe it or not, Scientists are actually individual humans, subject to the same weaknesses, biases, and agendas as all other humans. There are plenty of bad Scientists out there who cling to a belief in something, regardless of the proof, simply because they don’t want to be wrong. Good Scientists will admit when their theories don’t pan out, learn from and incorporate new information, and will then keep trying to understand how something really works or functions with their updated knowledge at hand.

5 Good Scientists use a “recipe” to practice good science. You can also call it an "algorithm" or The Scientific Method – they're all synonyms for a methodical, step-by-step process, and nothing more, so don't let these terms intimidate you. Scientists start with an idea – say, that the world is round. Then they ask themselves, “Yeah, but how can I actually figure out if the world is round?” They think a little more, and suddenly it occurs to them, “Well, I suppose if the world is round, then if I just jumped in an airplane and flew in a straight line, eventually I’d end up right back where I started, right?” So they do just that, and lo-and-behold, after a long flight in a straight line in their own personal airplane, they ended right back up where they started. Now here’s the most important part of the recipe – they tell their straight-line flight story to someone else, say someone living in China, ask that person to do the same exact thing, and then compare their experiences. If the Chinese straight-line flight ended up right back where it started, then so far so good – this idea that the world is round sounds even more likely to be true. If that first scientists then had 10,000 more people from various parts of the world repeat the same exact steps (get in an airplane, fly in a straight line) and all 10,000 ended up back where they started, then the Scientist has just gathered 10,000 individual pieces of evidence that support his idea – that the world is round. Let’s now suppose that all 10,000 of those individuals either were never heard from again, or only a handful returned, reporting that they reached the end of the earth – a point where the waters of the oceans ended in one infinitely-deep waterfall – and turned around to come back home. If the scientist is a good scientist, he’ll think to himself, “Ok, maybe my original idea isn’t correct, or maybe I need to try and find a different way to discover if I’m right or wrong, something other than flying in a straight line.” He then devises another method of figuring out if the world is round (say, flying really, really high above it and seeing if it looks like a ball, or a flat piece of paper), has others repeat the same method, and compares results. This story illustrates the fundamental way science, good science, is supposed to work – come up with an idea, come up with a way to test if that idea is correct, and have as many other people repeat your exact steps and compare results. Take those results, learn from them, repeat the process. That’s it. It’s not fool-proof, and it is subject to human error and human ego, but it’s one of the best ways we’ve ever discovered to learn about ourselves, our environment, and our universe.