When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

March 13, 2005

A Peeve

Bravo Romeo Delta

Just because you have an internally logically consistent framework that fits all the data you have available does not mean that your explanation is correct. More data may come to light that disprove your thesis or require you to re-evaluate your assumptions and premises.

This is, in large part, all derived from what I feel is the most important discovery of all time: the Scientific Method.

In brutally inept summary, the deal put forth in the Scientific Method is this: come up with a new theory, test it. If the tests don't agree with theory, pitch the theory and go back to square one. If the tests do agree with theory, then come up with more tests until you break your theory and go back to square one.

Simple, no?

Except no, it's really not. Sure, people accept the concept in theory, but in day-to-day application, most of the time, people use it as a reason to point out why other people are stupid, and in so doing, miss perhaps what is the most critical element of the entire Scientific Method: self-appraisal.

In other words, we should debunk ourselves, so you don't have to.

And this is where people fall apart.

Most of the time, particularly when it comes to the broader question of ideologies - be they political, theological, philosophical folks use the amazing debunking power in exactly the way it shouldn't be used. As a tool to make data fit to their thesis, rather than revising their own thesis. For example, just before the heliocentric model of the universe came on to the scene, astronomers were having an increasingly difficult time getting their model of the universe, in which everything orbited around the earth, to square with observation. So the astronomers kept adding on and pasting over with new revisions and patches to their theory.

In a roughly similar fashion, in fields which are not nearly as neatly quantitative, people do a similar disservice to themselves when analyzing the world around them. When looking at the question of media bias, I don't know of a single soul who really believes that the media breaks in their favor. Now, given that there are cries that the media is right biased or left biased, one should expect that it is breaking in someone's favor.

Without delving into the media bias question again for right now, lets broaden our scope again. In the aftermath of the election (possibly one of our most final empirical experiments in today's democracy, there were a number of reassessments prompted by election results. But for some the reassessment was not one of whether or not their policies were most palatable to the greatest number of people, it became a question of whether or not the electorate was just stupid or stupid and malevolent. For others, the electorate was thought to be wise and intelligent, but had been thwarted by the evil machinations of the proto-fascist government led by the Svengali-like Karl Rove.

It seems that the genuine proposition that maybe the worldview presented in the election, combined with lackluster campaigning, an uncharismatic candidate, and disastrous campaign management led to the failure of a campaign.

But no, folks have gotten just enough scientific theory to be dangerous. They look back and tell themselves that sometimes conventional wisdom (e.g. phlogiston, the heliocentric model and so on) is sometimes wrong and the daring explanation is right. But in so doing they forget that whether or not one likes it or not, if the data fits - wear it. Just because one happens to be so darned right and so incredibly moral, if the world presents you with an option that you don't like, you may have to live with it anyway.

It might be tempting to assert that the guys on the other side of the aisle are less moral and more devious than you are, but is one choosing that theory because it is more likely and a better fit to data, or because it is more tempting and emotionally satisfying.

In the end, if this were simply a matter of discussing the relative merits of the designated hitter rule, then it would be something I would just as soon let slide. As it is, however, this is the discussion of the fate of perhaps one of the grandest experiments in governance the world has ever seen. If that weren't enough, we're discussing the future of a republic locked in an existential struggle. A republic with more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy civilization and jeopardize the fate of a number of species around the globe.

So yeah, is it too much to expect that we can at least decide on what analytical tools we can use to decide if something works or doesn't? If we can't manage that how are we going to even seek compromise and effective cooperation?

(Simultaneously Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta from Anticipatory Retaliation and Demosophia)

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at March 13, 2005 10:02 PM

Retaliatiory Launches

Hmm. You may have encapsulated one of the root cause explantions for all the "talking past each other" we've all witnessed in the recent past.

Now I have to figure out whether I'm guilty of it. I'll get back to you on that.

Posted by: Patton at March 14, 2005 07:40 AM

In medicine there's an old rule-of-thumb: “When you hear hoofbeats think horses, not zebras”. Of course you've got to be prepared to recognize a zebra when one trots by. And if you keep getting zebras you may not be where you think you are.

Posted by: Dave Schuler at March 14, 2005 06:35 PM

free hit counter