I hold these truths to be self-evident. Or at least they surely would be if everyone operated from the same set of facts and the same reasoning processes. Unfortunately, people frequently don’t have a complete set of salient facts and do not operate using the same reasoning processes. In fact frequently, people don’t use facts or reasoning processes at all.
For the vast majority, political beliefs much like religious beliefs are faith-based. Facts, if any, are chosen selectively that support beliefs and ignored when they do not. Sometimes logical positions seem persuasive. But logic based on incomplete or inaccurate facts is likely to lead to erroneous conclusions.
“It isn’t what you don’t know that gets you, it is the things you know that aren’t so.”
Assuming that people are making an honest effort to get the facts and not just making it up as they go, it is often difficult to get unadulterated data.
- Many “fact” sources are bloggers expressing opinions as fact. Frequently their sources link to other bloggers adding opinions to opinions. Particularly frustrating is when the links go to sources that either do not have the purported facts or demonstrate the complete opposite of the blogger’s premise. I have not tracked the numbers, but maybe a quarter of articles that say something like “This was verified by Snopes.com” either do not link to Snopes or the premise is repudiated by the Snopes article!
- Newspapers, TV and other media have all but abandoned their ethics. They openly makeup information or slant it to create sensationalism to sell ad space.
- Scientists frequently find themselves similarly compromised. Many stand firm, but who can be shocked when their research supports the vested interests of their funding sources.
- Even if the facts are accurate, arguments are frequently based on logical fallacies.
I am not holding my breath, but it would be cool if exposing facts and fallacies in a rational process would create runaway logic.