'A nation of magical thinkers': Michigan professor warns of 'apocalyptic' disregard for truth
HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA/USA DECEMBER 10, 2019: President Donald Trump, left, appears with vice-president Mike Pence

A professor at the University of Michigan Law School says that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a "fundamental flaw" in America's education system.


In an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press, Professor Len Niehoff argues that students are not being taught about the importance of evidence in making public health decisions.

"We have failed to teach a subject of critical importance, and as a result have imperiled our health, our economy, and our republic," Niehoff writes. "We teach it in law school. We call it Evidence."

COVID-19 has revealed our societal failure to understand what evidence is and to respect how it works. National and local political leaders have made decisions that ignored the evidence. Members of the general public have proved slow to accept the evidence. Measures adopted to help flatten the curve have been met with virulent protests, despite the evidence that they are working.

COVID-19 has no monopoly here. We’ve done little to address global warming, despite the evidence. We pretend the wild escalation of the national debt has no consequences, despite the evidence. And so on.

"We have become a nation of magical thinkers, making decisions based on what we hope is the case and whom we want to believe," Niehoff laments. "When confronted with opposing evidence, we do not engage with it. We dismiss it and stick a label on it: 'fake,' 'phony,' 'biased,' etc. And then we mistake that label for evidence."

Niehoff goes on to suggest that every high school student be required to take a course in evidence.

"Without such training, we will continue to make decisions based not on what is true but on what we wish were true," he warns. "Things like pandemics don’t care about our preferences. They have a ruthless commitment to reality. We need one, too."

"If we don’t, we will not just repeat the errors of the past," Niehoff concludes. "We will blunder into fresh ones that were avoidable, but that our disregard of truth has made apocalyptic."

Read the entire column here.