Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Deadly Allergy

     WARNING! The following piece contains not merely facts and logic, but also the correct uses of the words datum and data. (Also, persons who find the word whence offensive to their sensibilities might want to seek out some lighter reading.)

     Once upon a time I was a scientist. Back then, one of the jokes slung around among my colleagues went roughly like this: “If the data contradict your hypothesis, discard the data! Your grant may depend on it.”

     I must emphasize that it was a joke. It cross-cuts the central tenet of all the sciences:

Hypotheses are cheap.
Data are sacred.

     This has been honored as the core of scientific thought since Francis Bacon first propounded the scientific method.

     But what is a datum? Whence does it come? What makes it sacred? Can there be legitimate differences of opinion about such things?

     A datum is not an opinion. It is not an evaluation. It is not an interpretation of something someone has written or said. It is a fact provided by objective reality: i.e., by the world outside our heads. It is some object or event that any two persons whose relevant senses are unimpaired could confront simultaneously and agree on.

     All else – i.e., all that is not data – is open to dispute. Data are sacred.

     A world in which data are not agreed to be sacred is one in which no proposition can be verified or falsified, and no argument can ever be settled. It is the world of Berkelian subjective idealism – the world of the solipsist.

     Be certain that you understand that before proceeding further.

     Get an eyeful of Esteemed Co-Conspirator Dystopic / Thales’s latest encounter with a leftist, which I have reformatted somewhat for ease of reading:

Dystopic: Should the Left gain power again, they will surely desire revenge on the Right. They will want to punish us. And some number of them want us dead.
Leftist: Telling me that “it could happen” is not evidence that something WILL happen. We could all die tomorrow. That could happen. But something tells me you still won’t spend all your money today.

Dystopic: Poor analogy. I have historical evidence to tell me that this scenario is at least as likely as not. [Lists a series of revenge revolutions gone wrong, starting with the obvious French Revolution.] You have no likely historical scenario that all human life will be extinguished tomorrow.
Leftist: I do have historical info that all human life can go tomorrow. It happened to the dinosaurs.

Dystopic: The likelihood of humans butchering one another over political differences is hugely more likely than a meteor wiping out all life tomorrow. If you can’t see that, you’re a moron.
Leftist: Instead of calling me a name, why don’t you give me evidence supporting this contention, other than you just saying it?

Dystopic: When was the last time humans butchered each other over political differences? Probably fucking yesterday. Hell, probably as we were typing this. When was the last time a meteor caused a major extinction event? Now math that shit and get back to me. Humans killing each other over politics. More likely than a meteor wiping out all life tomorrow… yes or no? If you don’t answer this one right, we’re done.
Leftist: Who knows? You certainly don’t but you act like you do.

     Before anyone clucks at Dys’s incivility or profanity, allow me to say that I don’t think I could have maintained my gentlemanly aplomb half as long as he did. He was “arguing” with someone to whom facts – data — are irrelevant, not worth bothering one’s head over.

     There’s no profit to be had from such an exchange. Sadly, it can take a while before the nature of such an interaction becomes clear.

     The Left is monstrously allergic to facts. The examples are beyond enumeration. A few recent cases:

     If you have the time, please read the linked articles. They’re an education all by themselves. Note in particular, in the cases where it’s observed and reported, the Left’s reaction to being confronted with facts. Dracula never retreated from a crucifix any faster, though he usually refrained from calling the crucifix-bearer a lot of insulting names. (Old World manners, don’t y’know.)

     The Left’s hypotheses / claims / narratives stand contradicted by the data. Therefore, the data must be discarded...and along with them, anyone who dares to assert them.

     Allergies induce avoidance in the sufferer. An allergy to data is a guarantee that the allergic one will never learn anything he doesn’t already know. Worse, he’ll remain securely in the grip of “what he knows that ain’t so.” That latter observation is the key to the Left’s behavior, for why would anyone want to remain deluded about a proposition he (at least) believes to be important?

     The answer lies in Eric Hoffer’s observations about the “fact-proof screen” the Left interposes between its desperate-to-belong “true believers” and objective, verifiable data:

     A rising mass movement attract and holds a following not by its doctrine but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness, and meaninglessness of an individual existence....it does this by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely knit and exultant corporate whole....

     All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ....

     Thus the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity, or the validity of the truths it embodies, but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from his self and the world as it is.

     [Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements ]

     In that insulation lies the explanation for another pattern of note:

     There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations doubts, and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgement. [Ibid.]

     Something to bear in mind should you be minded to cross swords, whether rhetorically or in fact, with a Leftist on some future occasion.

     The Left’s allergy to data is the key to defeating its lies and distortions. Therefore the prescription for us in the Right should be clear...but there’s that word again. Suffice it to say that data are much like guns: Regardless of whether you ever need them, you’re far better off for having them.



Data may be the key, but you have to have people willing to listen - at least, short of holding their eyes to a screen with a gun pointed at their head.

But even then, defense mechanisms kick in. (I won't link to my essay, at least not in the first comment, on this topic.) As Thomas Sowell said, and I paraphrase, "It is useless to debate people who draw a sense of moral superiority from a particular belief".

Consider, as one of my own causes, the view of Israel as an oppressor in Gaza. I've engaged people who say Gaza is an "open air concentration camp"; to which I post links to hotels.com and tripadvisor.com showing hotels, open for business, in Gaza. I post links to restaurants in Gaza, again - open for business. Doesn't matter... they're CONVINCED that condemning Israel makes them morally superior, so - facts don't matter. VERIFIABLE facts don't matter.

I recall, a few years ago and (dammit) I wish I'd downloaded the video. It was a phone video looking out a window through bars at an alley intersection. Some soldiers (presented as Israel - haven't been able to verify or disprove) come running down. Just as they arrive at that intersection a boy steps out, trips/interferes with the soldiers who - understandably - are not kind to the kid. Of course, it's presented as this horrific case of Israeli abuse of Arabs.

I then show it again, and start counting OUT LOUD as the video starts. I get to about eight seconds with quite literally nothing happening; then the action starts. It takes about 3-4 seconds, then someone makes the connection: WHY was the man just filming "nothing" out of the window? Invariably someone says "It was a set-up".

THEN the scales fall from eyes, and people are open to discussion.

People are very easily manipulated, but once they understand they've been lied to, THAT is when the door is truly open for new data.

Give another example, same topic. There was an infamous photo of a girl, smashed, that was published in multiple Arab newspapers as another Israeli crime. When talking with people about it, I say "As it happens, there's actually video of this..." I then show them the video - which is a scene from one of the "Final Destination" movies.

Again, once people realize they've been played, they're open to new information.

So now the question is: how can we TRAP people into watching / seeing data that will not just contradict what they believe, but actually realize they've been lied to? Once we trigger that emotional response, the rest is downhill.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Wrong slant, Nitz. The target for sound data is not the Leftist but "moderate" or "uncommitted" Americans. Often times they're swayed by the Left's emotional manipulation, and never learn that the facts are precisely the opposite of what the Leftist has told them.

There's no point in trying to persuade a committed Leftist. Remember the "fact-proof screen?" I thought the column had made that clear.

Manu said...

As I mentioned at my place, I was grateful to the Leftist, in a way. Exposing this allergy to facts - to reality - is important. Even a regular Joe can math out the relative probabilities in a very general sense and realize the Leftist is utterly full of excrement (I am generally less vulgar in your house than mine, you'll notice ;).