Monday, September 26, 2005

Convenient Reality

I'm currently reading this great book, Freakonomics (hey these guys even have a blog!). In it, economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner quote John Kenneth Galbraith on "conventional wisdom":

We associate truth with convenience, with what most closely accords with self-interest and personal well-being or promises best to avoid awkward effort or unwelcome dislocation of life. We also find highly acceptable what contributes most to self-esteem.

This type of reasoning leads people to believe the strangest things (WMDs, "all government is bad government", ID ...). And that exactly sums up the problem with the discussion of issues in the American public sphere. And it gets me MAD.

Just because something is convenient, it doesn't make it true. This is exactly what a good scientist should be guarding against ... and I'll reiterate it again ... do not take anything for granted. You should be very careful in how you analyze data, because often we see what we want to see and miss the bigger picture. But I guess in some degree we are all trapped in our current paradigms.