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In 2018, I hope conservatives return to the planet of real facts

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Last year, while passionate people dedicated to space travel solved technical challenges using data and science, America left many earthbound problems unaddressed because the political right remains allergic to facts that conflict with ideology. Share story By Jerry Large Seattle Times staff columnist Last year, the stock market soared to record heightsDrug deaths also soared, fueled by an epidemic of opioid addictionSeattle’s real-estate market was the hottest in the nation, and its homeless population boomed, too This year, I hope America gets better at dealing with humans and improving the social systems that determine how well we do, individually and collectively. We know how to get things done when we really want to do them Last month, SpaceX launched a reused space capsule atop a reused rocket, a technical achievement that will dramatically lower costs for getting into spaceThat’s great, and it happened because it became a priority for some very focused people, including a passionate billionaire, Elon Musk Most Read StoriesInvestigators think letter confirms ID of D.BCooperWashington state AG sues Motel 6 over giving ICE info on 9,000 guests'It's either fight or die': Seattle woman fights off machete-wielding man on New Year's Day'An attack on Seattle': Washington state officials say they won't back down on legal pot as Sessions rescinds Obama-era policyTop 17 new Seattle-area cheap eats for 2018 — plus 9 more to try | Cheap Eats  VIEWUnlimited Digital Access $1 for 4 weeks.Making spacecraft reusable was a difficult problem to solve, but we face some harder ones that could benefit from intense focusIt’s a new year, but we’ll drag into it a lot of problems that result from failing to deal with old business Like most people, I did some looking back over the past few days, and that’s something that stuck out in stories about the year and in my own columnsWe let a lot of problems linger, unsolved. I wrote about climate scientists struggling to make people aware of global warming without wading into politics, an almost impossible task since politics has come to define where Americans stand, even on issues where facts are clear Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are at opposite ends of the spectrum of opinions on whether human activities are causing climate changeThe science of global warming has been clear for years: The climate is warming, and human activities are causing that rise The U.Shas never moved as fast as it should to slow, or prepare for the worst consequences, of climate changePeople are notoriously bad at time, effort or money on problems that lie in the futureBut now that climate change is already affecting the planet, the U.Shas a national government that refuses to see the problem So, this year, the problem of coaxing awareness and action remainsThat can be said about many other issues, as well, from access to affordable health care to efforts to reform police practices to immigration policyThis is going to be a challenging year for people who believe our society hasn’t gotten to equality yet Polls and surveys show wide differences by party on questions of racial and gender equalityWe don’t seem to be living on the same planet anymore, and that is partly because we are inundated with information, much of it from sources that are biased I wrote about efforts to combat “fake news” and to help young people learn how to distinguish between sources that make an effort to adhere to the facts, and those that put ideology above truth That’s a huge problemThere’s no way to have a civil discussion when people can’t agree on what’s true and what isn’tPeople at any point on the political spectrum can be limited by information bubbles, but, for now, Americans who are furthest to the right are most often furthest from the factsThat hasn’t always been the caseI remember when conservative and sensible could be used in the same sentence, but today we have a problem. It is the political right that makes it difficult to gather data on gun deaths and rejects what data there are in favor of a belief that more guns will make everyone saferI thought the shooting deaths of 58 people at a Las Vegas country-music festival in October might make a dent in that belief system, but it didn’t Before we can address all the social problems we still face, we’ll have to find a way to a shared body of facts No one could launch and recover a rocket if they ignored the facts, the data, the calculations that make that effort possible Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and ThursdayReach him at 206-464-3346 or View Comments No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanityPlease keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuseSee our Commenting FAQ. Powered by Livefyre The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times. 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