First Lecture

Day one of specialized courses on human awkwardness and uncomfortable situations.

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Hello, students! Welcome to our first lecture of “How to Deny Basic Facts”!

I’m your professor, Dr. Dean Isles. I have a real doctoral degree, from a real university. Does he really, you’re asking yourselves? Nothing about this man says elitist, or pretentious, or coherent thinker…

Yes, I’m a real doctor. As you will learn in this course, a vague, emotionally based opinion is just as valid as any so-called “fact,” and I very strongly believe I have a Ph.D. My wife believes it too. It’s what I told her when we first met in a Facebook anti-vaxxer group, and I have never once deviated from that backstory.

When you get more than one person believing a thing with no corroborating evidence whatsoever—well, then, you’re on your way to a bonafide alternative fact. And those are just as good as regular facts. Better, even, because the only limit is your imagination! So let’s everybody get on board with this Ph.D. thing, okay? Good.

Let’s go over the syllabus, shall we?

Some of you are muttering that you don’t have a syllabus. Show of hands, how many of you don’t have a syllabus. Everyone, then?

Well, you do have a syllabus, and it’s right in front of you. Pointing to the empty space on your desk will not change my view that each and every one of you has a syllabus, personally printed and passed out by me at the beginning of class. I will never deviate from that version of reality.

Please turn to page two, everyone, so we can go over this semester’s assignments.

You’ll notice, on the syllabus you definitely have, your first alternative fact is due in four weeks. You’re A.F. drafts must be approved by me personally, and they must demonstrate an appropriate skepticism towards anything the elitists of this country would describe as “painfully obvious.” Metaphorically your paper should plug its ears and shout “LA LA LA” at fundamental conclusions even a small child of average intelligence could reach with five seconds of uninterrupted concentration.

If the mental gymnastics you perform while creating this fact don’t earn you an Olympic gold medal, a Wheaties sponsorship, an investigation for doping and an eventual rescission of that medal—you haven’t gone far enough.

Examples of acceptable alternative facts:

  • These photos of a Kansas landscape prove the Earth is flat.
  • Global warming is fake because it still gets really cold in Lewiston, Maine.
  • Jeff Bezos deserves a net worth that is 4.5 million times the annual salary of a 10th grade science teacher.
  • Gay people choose to be gay to make me uncomfortable when they kiss on TV.
  • A daily weed habit improves my functioning.
  • My uninformed opinions are both valid and valuable.

Examples of unacceptable alternative facts:

  • Science provides an accurate understanding of the world.
  • Empirically-driven conclusions are superior to my uninformed gut feelings.
  • The word salad of my inner monologue is an accurate reflection of my cognitive abilities.
  • Changing your mind to reflect new information is helpful.
  • Television and talk radio pundits are literally as ignorant as they sound.
  • I am the Dunning-Kreuger Effect, personified.

Make sense? Now, since we’re almost out of time, go ahead and email me your preliminary ideas after class. Because we are out of time. Just ignore the clock on the wall. And the time on your phones. And the infinitesimal movement of the sun across the sky. And your internal sense of the passage of time, which probably also suggests it has only been five minutes. It’s been two hours and you won’t change my mind about that. You have your beliefs and I have mine.

Also, you were all super impressed by this lecture and you admire me very much.

Class dismissed.