Saturday, August 19, 2006

Politics as Science- Part 2: No Baloney.

Carl Sagan is famous for having written about a Baloney Detection Kit. Its original purpose was to recognize and deconstruct pseudo-science, it applies equally well to politics because it, too, is scientific.

Sagan’s kit was rooted firmly in the world of science. Skepticism, analysis, investigation, and finally conclusion. While this seems like the only way to go about things, and that any rational person, especially those in politics, would obviously solve problems in this way, politics seems to operate in reverse. People make a conclusion, investigate for things to support this conclusion (confirmation bias), analyze this new concoction to ensure everything fits, then fashion a hammer from this with which to bludgeon any skeptics that may wander along.

For glaring examples of this, look no farther than your closest cable news channel. If none of you have yet done so, I recommend listening to, or reading a book by either Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly. In fact, you can swap these two out for almost any other political celebrity. I find Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken, and all talking heads to be equally annoying. These people are exceptional in their skills at misrepresenting, distorting, posturing, and at times, outright lying. Yet, all of them garner significant attention.

Some of them are so off the charts that I have seriously wondered if their public persona is nothing but a show. Ann Coulter is seemingly so out of touch with reality that I have a hard time believing she actually subscribes to what she says. Rush Limbaugh has been exposed as the hypocritical jackass that he is, and Bill O’Reilly makes a habit of distorting truth nearly to the point of complete lies. These are not difficult conclusions to reach. They can be easily come to with the Baloney Detection Kit. Research what these people say and suddenly, most of their arguments fall apart.

Baloney infests politics even on the semantic level. Just as the words ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ have become loaded terms, as has the word ‘politics’ and all its variants. For example, stem cells, we have people decrying that the science has become politicized. That shouldn’t even make sense, but it does. Just the world ‘politics’ is laden with baggage with which it shouldn’t even be associated. Science is just science. It has no opinions, no beliefs, and no bias. It is what it is. Most of politics should be the same. I think we should drop the political cover of these beliefs and reveal them for what they are. They have absolutely nothing to do with politics and everything to do with ideology, namely, religion.

I dislike anyone who subscribes to either side, but I can at least stand to be around liberals. Conservatives (I feel the need to point out I am now using the two terms in their pop-definitions) really seem to be wrong a majority of the time on actual problems. I don’t have any evidence, although I feel confident that some driven liberal has analyzed assertions made by conservative talking heads to determine the percentage that is right or wrong. I’m sure it’s depressing.

Pop liberals are correct, but not because they're informed, intelligent people who reach conclusions. They're right because the people who they blindly follow are. This is the distinction I see. Just because what someone is spouting happens to be correct or somewhat correct doesn't mean they're not a fool. Both groups have reached their conclusions using the exact same process. Since my primary concern, in the end, is the solution of problems, sheep who are correct are better than sheep who are incorrect.

And that’s what this is all about, problems. As citizens, it is our responsibility and our duty to the precepts of this society to forever check up on our leaders. We must constantly put them to task. We must demand full, thoughtful explanations of every action. We must force them to remain focused on the problems that we have elected them to solve. We can not afford to be sheep and just hope that those who we decide to follow to not lead us off a cliff.

Obviously, this is something that career politicians are behooved to avoid. For if they actually solve all the problems, there’s not much reason for them to be around. Much like you’re average executive, career politicians spend most of their time convincing us why we need them, and rarely ever doing anything of importance.

Every single time they feed us a line, we can use our political Baloney Detection Kit to ensure that no sly-tongued career politician will ever pull the wool over our eyes.

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