Philippine Daily Inquirer

WHEN DARKNESS FALLS ON REASON

- LEMUEL L. BAROLA, Surigao City, Surigao del Norte

the story, “Rumors of 3-day darkness sent people buying rice in Surigao del Norte,” by Chris Panganiban (4/8/24), relevant. It is a striking example of a far darker problem in our society: the widespread lack of scientific literacy. It is quite worrisome to see people simply give up on critical thinking when confronted with such an absurd assertion.

It is not for us to assign blame to the terrified locals. When one lacks informatio­n, fear is a normal human reaction. The system is to blame for not providing them with the necessary resources to safely traverse the dangerous waters of internet knowledge. We are submerged in a sea of false informatio­n, and even the most well-meaning people might be carried away in the absence of scientific knowledge, which serves as a life preserver.

This is also a reminder that in education, a paradigm change is needed. Science shouldn’t be just a boring list of facts to commit to memory. Inquiry, critical thinking, and knowledge assessment should be ingrained in daily life. Children need to be trained to read critically about the scientific environmen­t in which they live, just as we educate them to read.

But knowledge on its own is insufficie­nt. It is the duty of organizati­ons like the Philippine Atmospheri­c, Geophysica­l, and Astronomic­al Services Administra­tion to convey difficult scientific ideas in a simple and understand­able manner. They must gain the public’s trust by becoming dependable informatio­n pillars amid a deluge of exaggerate­d claims.

Social media sites must also do more to combat disinforma­tion, which spreads like a disease. Stricter moderation and fact-checking procedures are essential to stop the spread of lies.

But ultimately, each of us must take responsibi­lity for the other. We need to develop a healthy distrust of internet sources of informatio­n. Don’t use fear as your sole guide. Take a minute when you share that frightenin­g headline because of a popular post. Obtain confirmati­on from reliable sources.

Though it wasn’t the end of the world, the “three-day darkness” story is a serious warning. May this be the moment of change. Let’s make investment­s in science education, equip individual­s with media literacy, and work together to drive out disinforma­tion with reason.

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