Are facts obsolete?


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Desertdog
April 5, 2006, 01:29 PM
Are facts obsolete?
by Thomas Sowell
http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/thomassowell/2006/04/04/192338.html

What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: "Demagoguery beats data."
People who urge us to rely on the United Nations, instead of acting "unilaterally," or who urge us to follow other countries in creating a government-run medical care system, often show not the slightest interest in getting facts about the actual track record of either the UN or government-run medical systems.

Those who believe in affirmative action likewise usually see no reason to find out what actually happens under such policies, as distinguished from what they wish, hope, or imagine happens.

The crusade for "a living wage" that will enable a worker to support a family proceeds without the slightest interest in finding out whether most people who are making low wages actually have any family to support -- much less seeking out the facts about what actually happens after the government sets wages.


People who have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by the facts are a danger to the whole society. Since the votes of such people count just as much as the votes of people who know what they are talking about, politicians have every incentive to pass laws and create policies that pander to ignorant notions, if those notions are widespread.

Even institutions that are set up to pass on facts -- the media, schools, academia -- too often treat facts as expendable and use their strategic positions to filter out facts which go against their own preconceptions.

Crimes against homosexuals, blacks, or the homeless are big news to be dramatized, repeated, and denounced. Crimes committed by homosexuals, blacks, or the homeless are not -- and are often passed over in silence by much of the media. The net result is that the public gets filtered facts, which can create an impression the direct opposite of the truth.

We learn from the media's filtered facts that there are countries with stronger gun-control laws than ours which have lower murder rates. We seldom, if ever, learn from the media about countries which have stronger gun-control laws than ours and whose murder rates are two or three times higher than ours.

The media also filter out facts about countries where gun ownership is far more widespread than in the United States -- and who nevertheless have lower murder rates.

Those who are in the business of teaching the young, whether in the public schools or on college campuses, too often see this not as a responsibility to pass on what is known but as an opportunity to indoctrinate students with their own beliefs. Many "educators" and the gurus who indoctrinated them actively disparage "mere facts," which they say you can get from an almanac or encyclopedia.

The net result is a student population that does not even know enough to know what needs to be looked up, much less how to analyze facts, so as to test opposing beliefs -- as distinguished from how to gather information to support a preconceived notion that happens to be fashionable in the schools and colleges.

Yet people are considered to be "educated" after they have spent so many years in ivy-covered buildings, absorbing the preconceptions that prevail there.

Facts that go against preconceived notions are likely to be ignored, even by many scholars. For example, slavery is an issue that is widely discussed as if it were something peculiar to Africans enslaved by Europeans, instead of something suffered and inflicted around the world by people of every race, color, and religion.

Two books about more European slaves brought to North Africa than there were African slaves brought to America have been published in recent years. They are "Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters" by Robert Davis and "White Gold" by Giles Milton. Both books have been largely ignored by the media and academia alike -- and the first went out of print, less than 6 months after being published.

Apparently scholars, as well as journalists, have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by the facts.


Thomas Sowell is the prolific author of books such as Black Rednecks and White Liberals and Applied Economics.

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Zero_DgZ
April 5, 2006, 01:31 PM
"In a time of universial deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."

I think George Orwell said that one.

Malone LaVeigh
April 5, 2006, 02:15 PM
People who have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by the facts are a danger to the whole society.
Yeah, like, imagine if someone like that got elected to high office and decided to start a war under false pretenses such as "weapons of mass destruction." I know it's far fetched, but...

Crimes against homosexuals, blacks, or the homeless are big news to be dramatized, repeated, and denounced. Crimes committed by homosexuals, blacks, or the homeless are not -- and are often passed over in silence by much of the media.
You have to admire someone who doesn't watch TV, but someone should clue him in. Just send a season's DVD of COPS. Or a video of any nightly news report.

.

Other than that, the article makes lots of sense. :scrutiny:

Chucksredvette
April 5, 2006, 02:55 PM
It never ceases to amaze me that some people think that all GWB had or wanted to do was to start a war. That he would do or say anything to make it happen. I'll say that if thats what you think, that he "dreamed up" the weapons of mass destruction thing then you have never been in a position of leadership where you had to depend on the assessments and opinions of well qualified others to make decisions. You tend to listen to those "experts". The same information came from several different governments intell agencies too. Then maybe it was a multi-government scheme to start a war:neener: I suppose that you are right there with Charlie Sheen saying that we destroyed the WTC buildings on 9-11 too. Never lets facts get in the way of your hatred/beliefs.:banghead:

Zero_DgZ
April 5, 2006, 02:59 PM
I don't think GWB is the Devil himself, bent on worldwide destruction and subjugation through war.

Well, not too much.

I do think he's done a lot of underhanded things, especially in respect to the Iraq war, and that he did an awful good job of jumping on tradgedy (I'll sidestep the conspiracy theory that he caused it, because right now I honestly don't know) to sieze power for himself and his cronies, and I do know that he lied through his teeth to the American public in far more than once instance.

I know Slick Willie lied, too. And that puts him somewhere on the same page in my book. But (and you'll hate me for saying this), when Bill Clinton lied it was a scandal. When George W. Bush lied, your sons and daughters died because of it.

But that's getting pretty far off topic for this forum.

MrTuffPaws
April 5, 2006, 03:19 PM
Are facts dead? No, but they have become so watered down that even if they are correct, chances are, they are only correct with disregard to others on in certain contexts.

Such as: Yes, Bush did give more than one reason for invading Iraq, such as spreading democracy and liberating the Iraqis, but the WMD dance was so flamboyant and over sold, that at the time, one needed a magnifying glass to notice the other reasons stated. Now that WMD have not been found, the democracy spreading and liberation have moved to the front of the reasons why we are in Iraq. Was there more than one reason that was stated for going into Iraq, yes, but all but WMD were so overshadowed, that at the time, they were inconsequential, even though now, they are being used as a CYA action.

Simple put, Spin and contextual negligence have killed the facts.

Molon Labe
April 5, 2006, 03:29 PM
Someone once said, "You have a right to your own opinions. But you don't have a right to your own facts."

BozemanMT
April 5, 2006, 04:21 PM
Apparently scholars, as well as journalists, have made up their minds and don't want to be confused by the facts.

totally true
Everyone "believes" that it should be X or Y
it doesn't matter about the facts, the FEEL that something should be this way.:banghead:
You can't argue and this is what the schools teach them.
it's over, we've lost.

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