Science vs. the Tribalism of Truths

The Tribalism of Truths is a paradox involving subjective truth and objective tribalism*. We’re genetically hard-wired to believe our tribe of trusted friends and those we admire more than sterile but scientifically-proven facts. 

We have faith that our friend, our pundit, or our favorite influencer-of-the-moment speaks the truth, no matter how widely it varies from other established voices. This fanaticism fuels phenomena such as McCarthyism, collective delusions (involving windshields), climate crisis deniers, moon landing deniers, anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, and even witch hunts (the16th century kind, not the political theater kind [but also the political theater kind]). 

The veracity of science is under question by social media masses. Google Trends tracks the rise in search queries challenging scientific concepts such as climate change. The daily challenge for communicators, especially those of us representing technology companies, is enshrining best practices that present a potent antidote to tribalism > truth. 

And as a quick note, no publication, person or institution should rise above scrutiny. Our exchanges should be reframed, as the authors of this academic piece on The Tribalism of Truth suggest learning through conversation vs. winning a conversation. 

As communicators, how do we counter the combat-ready antagonists poised to attack our emerging technology as science-fiction? After all, according to Crunchbase, the percentage of Americans who view technology companies as “having a positive impact on the United States” has tumbled 21%–down from 71% to 50% in the last four years.

Here’s a quick 8-point checklist to fact-check yourself before sharing news: 

  • Establish credibility of quote sources 
  • Build a trust-bridge (** and ***) by tethering new data to previous established technology and innovation universally agreed upon 
  • Avoid bending known truths to fit your narrative 
  • Omissions of relevant facts are opportunities to lose credibility
  • Cite, cite, cite your source
  • Prepare for a dialogue by drafting an FAQ prior to pushing news
  • Prepare to learn not win through conversation****
  • Know exchanges online/via apps are part of the permanent record

Don’t let this post discourage you, but rather fortify you with the facts and foresight needed for sharing your scientific story. 

Expression, and especially entrepreneurship, are acts of courage. Perhaps it takes more courage now than ever before to speak publicly, especially about scientific innovation. Our society is mired in an age of-choose-your-own-facts. The potent force of earned credibility, established authenticity and public trust is ultimately the antidote to the Tribalism of Truths. And ultimately with enough foresight and understanding, the credibility of your news is within your control. And we’re always here to help. 

*Mother Teresa explains another, more enlightened paradox, “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” 

** sounds a little too much like Peace Train

*** not a real thing 

**** not far from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 5 – Seek to Understand, then to be Understood

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