Remember a few years ago when so many of us had fun at the Bush administration’s insistence that we “stay the course.” It was ridiculous, of course, and we said so. The idea of continuing with the course of action despite evidence it is wrong is not just silly, it is outright dangerous and eleven years, and ten thousand plus American lives later, we see that. That administrations detractors have rightfully condemned the behavior. The problem being there is more than a little hypocrisy in this.
It seems to me that stubborn dogmatism is not the exclusive domain of political conservatives. Liberals, populists, libertarians, socialists, anarcho-capitalists, and people of every other ideology you can imagine pick a side on almost every issue and never deviate, even an inch. Their truth is absolute and no argument, not one iota of empirical evidence, or any other appeal will sway them. Within economic justice movements you will see one group claim that white privilege always trumps poverty while another claims that white privilege does not exist for the poor. Both sides are preposterous, both have a nugget of truth, and neither will budge and inch.
A really great example unfolding today is the mess in the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine. On one side you have supporters of Ukraine’s new government accepting the whole that vote in that region had to be tampered with, on the other you have leftist groups refusing to be even a little skeptical of a 93% pro-Russian vote. At this time there is no actual evidence of tampering by Russia, as much as the EU and US would like there to be. On the other hand, that number is ridiculously high. What is really amazing is how emotionally invested non-Ukranians are in this issue. Besides the odd person who grew up behind the Iron Curtain, how can anyone want the truth to be one way or the other so bad they are unwilling to reflect on all the information available?
This occurs across issues and belief sets. You believe there is nothing bad about capitalism. You believe there is nothing good about capitalism. You believe the truth is somewhere in the middle. What you don’t do is honestly reflect on why you choose one of those beliefs. It is even the case that many of those choosing a middle ground do so out of some adherence to the idea that truth has to be something in between, and not out of examination of evidence.
Well, we live in an evidence based world. What happens in Ukraine will affect at least everyone in that region and possibly everyone in the world, and it will do so in a way that is quantifiable and, if you pay attention to the data, predictable. It will not do so based on what you want the outcome to be. Nor will human driven climate change happen or not based on your opinion. The economy will improve or not based on quantifiable factors and decisions based on them. Raising the minimum wage is preferable or not based on real factors. One thing we do know: digging in our heels, and staying the course evidence be damned will keep us from real solutions, and for that we have 10,000 plus years of evidence.