Reality doesn’t care what you believe. Or as Daniel Patrick Moynihan [and quite a few others] said, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.”

Put another way, just because you believe in something with all your heart and soul doesn’t mean that it’s so. President Trump’s assertion that his inaugural crowd was the largest ever doesn’t make it so. Nor is climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. It’s not a matter of opinion that the latest iceberg that broke off the Larson C ice shelf is roughly the size of Delaware, nor is it a matter of opinion that the Arctic ice cover is diminishing radically.

No matter what conservative politicians claim, lowering taxes won’t increase higher paying jobs for the working and middle classes; lower taxes will benefit primarily the upper middle class and the upper class, particularly the top tenth of one percent, simply because they make more money. For example, the average household in the middle 20 percent of earners [the average American taxpayer] pays slightly more than $8,000 in federal taxes, on income of about $56,000. The average household in the top one percent [the rich taxpayer] pays about $430,000 in federal taxes on an income of $1,500,000. A one percent cut in the tax rate means the average family would get back less than $800, while a one percent cut for the rich taxpayer would give back more than $16,000. For an ultra-rich taxpayer, with an income of $100,000.000, a one percent tax cut would give back one million dollars.

No matter what anyone claims, U.S. manufacturing has not declined. In fact, the U.S. now manufactures twice as much as it did in 1984. The political “problem” is that it does so with five million fewer workers than it did in 2000.

The holocaust did exist; the Germans killed more than eleven million people, including six million Jews and five million others they thought “undesirable,” the second largest group of which totaled than a million gypsies. The Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks also took place from 1914 through 1918, with the deaths of between 1.5 and 1.9 million Armenians, yet the present Turkish government contends that the massacre was not genocide. Both events have been documented extensively.

Various surveys show that Americans believe that immigrants, defined as people not born in the United States, account for between thirty-two and forty percent of the population; federal statistics place the number at slightly above thirteen percent. People also believe Muslim immigrants are 16% of the U.S. population; the actual number is one percent.

We all have a choice. We can look at the facts and then form or change opinions, or we can form opinions and then invent or search for facts of dubious origin to justify them. Which do you do?

8 thoughts on “Reality…”

  1. Tim says:

    Being honest, when presenting an argument I want to win, I will cherry pick the facts to suit. Like rhetoricians in ancient Rome or barristers nowadays.

    Yet I want my government to deliver facts to me in an objective way.

    The human condition?

  2. Lydia C says:

    Perception is 9/10 of reality for most people. Therefore if the reality matters to you, you will need to change people’s perception of that reality. Also even though one knows what the reality of a situation is if the perception does not match the reality – this is a type of reality that has to be dealt with. There is no point in being naive about the facts being the facts, which is in fact a mistake I keep seeing otherwise intelligent people make.

    1. It’s not naive to say that the facts are the facts; it is naive to believe that people will ever see facts contrary to their beliefs.

    2. Joe says:

      People are more affected by mass media than by their friends.

      Mass media is a commercial enterprise defending commercial interests, not reporting in a way that ensures people’s perceptions match reality.

      Until people stop relying on being spoon-fed what to think, it will be impossible to change their perceptions without changing mass media.

      Yet mass media itself depends on advertising as a revenue source. This is competitive and depends on their creating whatever perception in their audience will make their audience buy things.

      For example, the reporting on Hurricane Harvey has been remarkably light on the cause (climate change) and very strong on the disaster. Telling people to cut back on consumption doesn’t sell stuff. Watching people dying does (there’s research showing people tend to buy things after having watched a murder, hence all the dramas).

      We’re in a vicious cycle of our own making. Unfortunately there are many examples of such behavior preceding dark periods of our history (pre-WW-2 Europe, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, etc.)

  3. Wayne Kernochan says:

    Your blunt and insightful thoughts reminded me that I recently read two books on advances in genetics (Matt Ridley’s Genome, 1999, and Steven Heine’s DNA Is Not Destiny, this year) that hopefully changed my beliefs in significant ways. But what I thought might be useful to this discussion is two psych ideas that Heine mentioned: the “cognitive miser” and “essentialism.”

    If I have these right (crude approximation), being a “cognitive miser”, which to some extent we all do, means deciding that you can’t fully understand something, and coming up with a minimal set of “facts” that you feel is good enough — typically, coming up with a couple of examples from your own experience or taking the word of an “authority” you happen to trust. If you overdo cognitive miserliness, then you have very little way of breaking out of the trap you describe, which is to use facts increase your understanding and thereby to change your beliefs.

    “Essentialism” is an apparently universal belief that there is something at the core of each of us, our “essence”, that cannot be changed by the external environment, but will inevitably surface, just as (example given in the book) Harry Potter is bound to be a wizard despite discouragement by his foster family. The belief in determinism by one’s genes (yes, say both authors, genes do influence us via “heritability” far more than we used to think, but in far more complex ways than we used to think, and the genes are far more responsive to the “environment” than we used to think), says Heine, is an example of essentialism. Essentialism can be positive in its effects or negative, as when people who are told studies show gayness to be genetic are more accepting than those who are told studies show gayness is the result of choice.

    This also relates in an odd way to the Holocaust — I read in a book about WWII recently that the Germans sterilized 400,000 people, many of them mental patients, as part of their eugenics campaign (Heine characterizes 20th century eugenics as ‘genetic essentialism’ run amok) and slaughtered 70,000 of the sterilized mental patients because Germany was running short of hospital beds for its wounded.

  4. JM says:

    Facts are facts. Ignoring them won’t change them. Preaching contrary information won’t change them. The reality is there’s a whole lot that could be done better in this world if people could just understand this. Starting with a lot the companies I work with.

    But then we wouldn’t be in our current situation if this were possible. I wouldn’t be in my current situation.

    1. Alan Naylor says:

      It’s worth noting there is a phenomenon called the Backfire Effect. There are a variety of articles about it, but what it boils down to is that when you prove some one wrong by present solid, incontrovertible facts to them they dig their heels in and refuse even more firmly to accept that they might be wrong. There are a bunch of associated responses but it’s well documented that people not only don’t like changing their views but will actively fight it. Often times without even realizing they’re fighting it!

      1. Wine Guy says:

        They realize they’re fighting it: they just call it something else… generally along the lines of “fighting for what we believe” or “standing up for our right to (insert verb/phrase here).”

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