The Huffman Corollary: Does it Predict Our Doom?

This from a Q&A at the WashPo by Kevin Huffman:

“My worry is that we increasingly live in a world where people can’t agree on a common fact base. And if you can’t agree on facts – not how to respond to them, but the facts themselves – it’s hard to see how you ever get to agreement on justice or urgency.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/12/10/DI2009121001819.html

The above paragraph said a lot to me.  I am also concerned about our ability to respond, collectively, to the  immense problems we face.  What do you bloggers think?

21 Comments

Filed under Ethics

21 responses to “The Huffman Corollary: Does it Predict Our Doom?

  1. Whose job is it to help us arrive at an agreed upon fact base?

  2. Powerful subject and one I would like to see discussed in depth.

    Facts have become too elusive! Take a look at the “birthers,” or any one of the other conspiracy groups and you see the very worst of this, but even everyday ordinary intelligent people point to their accepted sources for truth and ignore others they deign untrustworthy.

    Partly I think this comes from so many people we used to hold in a place of respect proving themselves not to be deserving. It’s difficult to know what to trust! Our government made up “facts” and exaggerated others to get us into a war with Iraq. Then, they faced NO consequences for those actions!

    How can science be ignored so easily by those who hold as their truth the earth is somewhere around 10,000 years old? Along with the neglect of science has come a broader neglect of expertise, competence, and even functional government. Science—and the broader way of thinking that comes with it—trains its adherents and practitioners to relish the very act of questioning for its own sake, of figuring out what’s true and false, of determining what works and what fails.

    Today, it seems people relish arguing and disagreement not for the opportunity to hammer out the truth but more on the level of the schoolyard fracas where someone will be declared the victor.

  3. After a few short minutes of conversing with anyone who makes up their own facts and then argues them I grow disgusted and bored. You know immediately that person isn’t capable of critical thinking skills and may not even be rational.

    Rational arguments don’t usually work on religious people. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be religious people.
    Doris Egan, House M.D., The Right Stuff, 2007

  4. PrairiePond

    Truly, this denial of facts was what made me hate the other place so much. Not the ignorance, bigotry, sophistry, and just plain humorless mean spirited people. Although they did help 🙂

    It’s not possible to have a discussion with someone who lives in a “that is not a hammer” world. Not possible at all. Not a civil or uncivil or even humorous discussion. When someone denies easily provable facts, the discussion is at a standstill. Game over.

    I always liked learning new information, or seeing differing opinions. My information and opinions need constant testing. The world just isnt black and white. Of course, as a learning society, we gain new information, hopefully using the scientific method, that may change what we previously “knew” as fact. That’s the beauty of discovery and learning.

    But non the less, once a fact has been proven, it must be accepted until PROVEN different. Otherwise, it’s off to Egypt and the Queen o’ da Nile. And the denial of facts just makes me, um, what do you call it?

    Oh yeah. Crazy. And angry. The refusal to seek or accept proven fact, the denial of real information, is the very definition of stupid.

    Like the old saying goes, ignorance can be fixed, but stupid is forever. Or as the great Ron White paraphrased, “you cant fix stupid”.

  5. PrairiePond

    I think the cons and repukes have proven the effectiveness of repeating a lie over and over until it becomes the truth. Or at least accepted as the truth, since it will never BE the truth.

    I read something once that the more intelligent someone is, the more the world appears in shades of gray, not black and white, and they live in the world of gray.

    The less intelligent person sees things almost completely in black and white, and lives in that world.

    This difference means people of lesser intelligence are many times able to be more effective in that they can more easily act on incomplete or even wrong information. Sometimes, the very intelligent are paralyzed by trying to find the “right” answer before they act. And when you live in gray world, there isnt much absolute “right” or “wrong”. It’s all gray.

    And at the end of the day, action is always more effective than inaction.

    I know, that’s all an amazing grasp of the obvious. Welcome to my gray world!

  6. PrairiePond

    And thus endeth my tail chasing for the day….

  7. PrairiePond

    One more thing…

    I think Klaus gave us a very big compliment the other day when he said why he liked to blog here. He likes that while we share the same flavor of opinion on many issues, this blog is not an echo chamber. We seek and post new information as we find it, and while the flavor may be the same, the individual dishes vary greatly. There are many times we disagree quite passionately, but not meanly.

    I like that thought. Thanks, Klaus!

  8. PrairiePond

    Does any of this sound familiar? I must sheepishly admit to a few myself.

    http://www.johntreed.com/debate.html

    Intellectually-dishonest debate tactics are typically employed by dishonest politicians, lawyers of guilty parties, dishonest salespeople, cads, cults, and others who are attempting to perpetrate a fraud. My real estate opponents, in general, are either charlatans or con men. As such, they have no choice but to employ intellectually-dishonest tactics both to prove that I am wrong and to persuade you to buy their products and services. My coaching opponents are generally not charlatans or con men, but many are quite political. Those who dislike my military views are also career politicians notwithstanding their claims to be “selfless servant warriors.”

    Here is a list of the intellectually-dishonest debate tactics I have identified thus far. I would appreciate any help from readers to expand the list or to better define each tactic. I am numbering the list in order to refer back to it quickly elsewhere at this Web site.

    Name calling: debater tries to diminish the argument of his opponent by calling the opponent a name that is subjective and unattractive; for example, cult members and bad real estate gurus typically warn the targets of their frauds that “dream stealers” will try to tell them the cult or guru is giving them bad advice; name calling is only intellectually dishonest when the name in question is ill defined or is so subjective that it tells the listener more about the speaker than the person being spoken about; there is nothing wrong with using a name that is relevant and objectively defined; the most common example of name calling against me is “negative;” in coaching, the critics of coaches are often college professors and the word “professor” is used as a name-calling tactic by the coaches who are the targets of the criticism in question; as a coach, I have been criticized as being “too intense,” a common put-down of successful youth and high school coaches. People who criticize their former employer are dishonestly dismissed as “disgruntled” or “bitter.” These are all efforts to distract the audience by changing the subject because the speaker cannot refute the facts or logic of the opponent.

    Changing the subject: debater is losing so he tries to redirect the attention of the audience to another subject area where he thinks he can look better relative to the person he is debating

    Questioning the motives of the opponent: this is a form of tactic number 2 changing the subject; as stated above, it is prohibited by

    Robert’s Rule of Order 43; a typical tactic used against critics is to say, “They’re just trying to sell newspapers” or in my case, books—questioning motives is not always wrong; only when it is used to prove the opponent’s facts or logic wrong is it invalid

    Citing irrelevant facts or logic: this is another form of tactic Number 2 changing the subject

    False premise: debater makes a statement that assumes some other fact has already been proven when it has not; in court, such a statement will be objected to by opposing counsel on the grounds that it “assumes facts not in evidence”

    Hearsay: debater cites something he heard but has not confirmed through his own personal observation or research from reliable sources

    Unqualified expert opinion: debater gives or cites an apparently expert opinion which is not from a qualified expert; in court, an expert must prove his qualifications before he can give an opinion

    Sloganeering: Debater uses a slogan rather than using facts or logic. Slogans are vague sentences or phrases that derive their power from rhetorical devices like alliteration, repetition, cadence, or rhyming; Rich Dad Poor Dad’s “Don’t work for money, make money work for you” is a classic example. In sports, coaches frequently rely on cliches, a less rhetorical form of slogan, to deflect criticism.

    Motivation end justifies dishonest means: debater admits he is lying or using fallacious logic but excuses this on the grounds that he is
    motivating the audience to accomplish a good thing and that end justifies the intellectually-dishonest means

    Cult of personality: debater attempts to make the likability of each debate opponent the focus of the debate on the grounds that he believes he is more likable than the opponent

    Vagueness: debater seems to cite facts or logic, but his terms are so vague that no facts or logic are present

    Playing on widely held fantasies: debater offers facts or logic that support the fantasies of the audience thereby triggering powerful desires to believe that override normal desire for truth or logic

    Claiming privacy with regard to claims about self: debater makes favorable claims about himself, but when asked for details or proof of the claims, refuses to provide any claiming privacy

    Stereotyping: debater “proves” his point about a particular person by citing a stereotype that supposedly applies to the group that opponent is a member of; dismissing criticism by academic researchers by citing Ivory Tower stereotypes is an example of this debate tactic

    Scapegoating: debater blames problems on persons other than the audience; this is a negative version of playing on widely-held fantasies; it plays on widely-held animosities or dislikes

  9. Bad Biker

    This thread pretty much sums up why I don’t post “over there” anymore. Denial of facts seems to be a rampant trait amongst the current inhabitants over there.

    I won’t repeat most of the obvious, but the one strikes me as most hypocritical is “I never supported George Bush and his policies.”

    Huh?

    Talk about revisionist history……………………..

  10. tosmarttobegop

    We all have our own “selective reality” accepting what fall into our selective reality and rejecting what does not. Climate change is a good example of that, the evidence is there that we are heading into a major climate change. That it will not be a god one and can be destructive to our way of life.

    But where the selective comes in is to cause, man made or natural cycle? Those arguing against it are focused of the effects of fighting man made, the cost of changing our way of doing things.
    But if you notice they are not truly arguing that it is not happening.

    Those arguing that is it man made are selective in that they are ignoring that it happens in a cycle.
    The “mini ice age” occurred before the industrial revolution and man impact on the environment.

    Health care also suffers from selective reality, if you watch the debate you notice how the points and counterpoints are always the same and often not truly addressing other side of the argument.

    The list could go on, but this deals with something I pointed out a few years ago.
    If there is nothing that you can believe in as a solid answer to the question.
    Then there is nothing you can believe in, an example would be the adopted child.
    The child has grown up thinking and believing that their parent is their parent.
    Then suddenly the day comes that they find out that mom and Dad are not their biological parent.
    The world is shaken to its core, what else is there that is not true or that they can believe in?

    In some case the reality is not as important as the selective reality.
    The woman and man that the adopted child had Loved them, care for them and were there for them.
    All the things that a real parent would do just not having given birth to them.
    So in the truest sense they already did know their real parents.

    Flat Earth worked for those who were living then, it was an answer they could accept and for the time believe in a solid answer. Though not true is still worked for them and allow them to function.

    The question of evolution V Creation, how we got here in the truest sense the answer is not important.
    Unless the goal would be to return to where we came from, if lost then it would help to know how you got there.

    It is troubling though if there is nothing you can believe in as a solid answer to the questions in the world and mind. And yes there can be no answers if the facts can not be agreed to.

    It does not speak well of the future of the human species, where the mind is whirling and there is no solid conclusions. Where everyone has their own facts and no center focus even the problem is not agreed on.
    Everything is boiled down to the most common denominator, there is a Wal-Mart because you can see the sign and shop there. But there is no Target or Sears because you can not see the sign and they are not local.

    Not having things that can be agreed on as fact is stepping back to the mindset of the flat Earth.

  11. tosmarttobegop

    “be a god one” should have been a “good one”

  12. I think that society’s inability to agree to a set of “facts” on just about any issue signals a decline for our society. I wonder if we are not entering a Dark Age of superstition, fighting over religious beliefs, rejecting science, etc. It sounds like an overview of the Dark Ages of Europe. It was part of a cycle.

    So, will we survive to see the age of enlightenment come? I sure hope so. Especially for the sake of my children and grandchildren. You see, I made the mistake of teaching them to think, reason and analyze for themselves. It’s tough to live through a dark age with those personality characteristics.

    • lilacluvr

      The Mayan Calendar actually predicts that 2012 will be the beginning of the enlightment period – not the end of the world as the latest movie portrays or as some of these Evangelical Christians are always wanting to end the world.

      I think this is why there are so many people turning to alternative religions and people who are not willing to be tied down to one way of thinking anymore.

  13. Zippy

    One thing that should not be forgotten: the sorry state of journalism, or what passes for journalism, in this country. This is partially the fault of newspapers (the original authoritative source) themselves, as they have been positively clueless in developing sustainable models for the online world.

    Some will point out “how do you compete with ‘free'”? Answer: you give away free that which motivates sale of the premium product.

    But there’s a second problem: thanks largely to age of easily digestible infotainment, where people can swallow whatever crap agrees with their preconceptions, much of what passed for “news” on TV is simply postmodernist bantering of conflicting versions of reality, and often with imbeciles like John King blandly reporting outright falsehoods as “facts”–because fact-checking doesn’t matter anymore.

    So it’s left to comedians like Stewart and Colbert–and their research staffs–to pick thru the nonsense, though they of course, as comedians, can get it spectacularly wrong, too (and, in fairness, so long as it’s funny for the right reasons, hey, they’re comedians).

    Some cheer on the wide-open information of the Internet–hey, me too. But it’s foolish and dangerous to think that blogs etc. can replace actual boots-on-the-ground journalism.

    http://www.salon.com/comics/tomo/2009/03/03/tomo/index.html

    • tosmarttobegop

      People can not escape some responsibility for that Zippy, for more years then I can count.
      I have heard the same thing said, “I don’t watch the news it’s too depressing!”.

      Finally the news had to adapt or go under, talk about what people want to hear and the way they wanted to hear it. You check out any small town news paper and rarely if ever is there news of anything bad happening in town.

      Then along comes the likes of Fox and MSNBC, you will hardly ever hear anything bad about a Democrat on MSNBC or anything bad about a Republican on Fox. People watch because they only want to hear about how bad the other side is.

      “Selective reality”.

    • I don’t believe that lazy journalism is the problem with our newspapers, television and radio, as many do. I believe that our media, en masse, bought into a new corporate model around the same time most other corporate concerns did, about twenty five or thirty years ago.

      It was a crappy corporate model which basically stated works this way: The ultimate goal being a continuous increase in profit percentage in every successive quarter, we will cut costs wherever we possibly can (quality be damned), pay the important people at the board level increasingly ridiculous salaries and bonuses (as befits their superior position), cut pay and benefits to those that actually perform the labor (as befits their inferior status, even to the point of hiring off-shore), tirelessly pursue cost-cutting measures that do not take efficiency or quality standards into consideration and seek out whatever market will pay the most.

      Media used to consider themselves a separate animal and did not run themselves as a corporate concern. Huge conglomerates have been allowed to buy up all of our media in this country and they run themselves according to the model discussed above. So, even when you don’t have a Rupert Murdoch that is going out of their way to shape the message, you have newspapers, magazines, television and radio that have corrupted themselves to the point that they should no longer be allowed to use the label “journalism.”

      • lilacluvr

        I agree 100%. Even when you think it is a separate company, if you follow the money trail, it will probably lead to a big conglomerate.

        It is that creative accounting at work – huh?

  14. tosmarttobegop

    LOL Since we are on the subject and lately I am seeing it again, mindsets and what lessons are being taken.
    One of the most remarkable things I learn while researching the Neo-Conservative ideology was what lessons they took from history to justify their ideology.

    President Wilson wanting the United States to not be isolationists and be involved in World affairs.
    Now the reality of Wilson’s stance was that the United States be a diplomatic force within the world.
    They took it as the United States has a right and duty to use it power and force to control the world affairs.

    During WWII the Untied States went to war to defeat the evil forces of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.
    This after it became clear that it was in self defense and if we had not would suffer the defeat of the U.S.
    The Neo-Con take away, by the U.S. using its power and force to go to war with Germany and Japan.
    We ended up with those countries being strong democratic friends and allies.

  15. Thank you all for your comments. I have more tomorrow, or really today, see you later. Steven

  16. Monkeyhawk

    We’re awash in information these days. It’s easy to pick-and-choose “facts” that support predisposed opinions.

    Limbaugh hammered away at “the biggest tax increase in history” which, of course, was skewed by inflation and despite not touching most taxpayers, generated enough income to balance the federal budget.

    I’m a former professional propagandist. I know the game.