Monday, March 7, 2011

Why the Old Adage "Seeing Is Believing" Is Wrong

One of the remarkable aspects of the fierce "conservative-liberal" debate that is so disturbing today is the frequent reliance upon ideology rather than fact. More disturbing still (as folks like Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolution pointed out decades ago), recognizing "anomalies" or findings that are inconsistent with your theory is an incredibly hard thing for any true believer to acknowledge.

Thus, followers of Aristotle, found it heretical to believe (like the Copernicans) that the sun and the planets did not revolve around Mother Earth. Conservative, free-marketers similarly find it heretical to believe in any structural explanation for the massive levels of unemployment (Certainly this is an anomaly from the standpoint of "individual responsibility" it's hard to explain how 9-10% of the economically active population suddenly "got lazy" or failed to yank harder on their bootstraps). Certainly it's hard to recognize an anomaly like the impoverishing effect of our health care system (seen in rates of higher infant mortality, lower longevity, poorer health care outcomes) than in other industrialized nation states. Certainly it's hard to recognize the failure of "trickle-down" economic theory - when no one, with rare liberal exceptions, spotlights the consistently massive growth of wealth inequality in this country. And certainly, its hard to recognize that budget documents are moral documents as much as they are fiscal documents unless one is prepared to acknowledge that biblical teachings instruct us to favor the wealthy. In all of these cases, it's the tight prism of radically conservative ideology that prevails - even as the counterfactual universal grows larger and larger. For a good take on this conservative moral prism see Lakoff's blog

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