• Thought of the day: The most disappointing loss of innocence

    Perhaps the most disappointing loss of innocence I have experienced in my life is the realization that even very smart people, including and especially those in positions of power, apply faulty logic and a exhibit a willful disregard for evidence. This is painful to see every time it happens. Even though I now expect it and have seen it thousands of times it is, each time, like a fresh wound. It hurts me in a fundamental way like nothing else. I detest it. Were it possible, I’d probably give my life to end such things. In truth, I know it is integral to the human condition, though there is considerable variation. Likely nobody can achieve complete scientific purity — if there is such a thing — but some get very close or, in any case, closer than others. I am not claiming I am among them, but it is not for lack of trying.


    • Is this about Tyler Cowen?

    • I feel your pain.

      The Less Wrong community, from what I remember (I haven’t visited in a couple years) deals with this problem by strenuously avoiding any topic with political implications. Unfortunately you’re in the wrong field for that.

      At least I don’t have to deal with talking heads asserting that C++ doesn’t have constructors…

      • “strenuously avoiding any topic with political implications”

        Yikes! That kind of misses the point. It’s the politically contentious topics that need the most attention to facts. Though it pains me when facts are ignored or abused, I would not run from a subject for that reason.

        But, yeah, I get why it would be off-putting enough to some to do that. It’s a shame.

    • What has led me to dispair is the realization that most people don’t make their decisions based on logic or evidence, but on emotion. What hope have we in a democracy when that is the case? Especially when the smart and politically powerful people are the ones manipulating that emotional response.

      • We muddle through. We get it wrong for a while, but eventually we do the right thing. That is our history. Churchill figured us out. Maybe it is different this time, but I don’t think so.


    • Ummm, I get your reference to the human condition but even so this is not just a bug but also a feature and an important one. I mean you didn’t say they believe this logic though they might. But if you are a grand poobah somewhere and you are forced to decide between funding one worthy health care research project that will cost tens of millions but not so popular or one with the same cost that doesn’t provide the benefit and there’s a handy but misleading argument to make the case for the first, it’s a pity but why is it dissappointing?

      Politics being the art of the possible, to me the key is the balance rather than the violation you cite. I mean do you want a squeaky clean politician who can’t pass legislation or get respected or Lyndon Johnson in his most misrepresentative self? They said Bill Proxmire wouldn’t call fellow Senators to lobby for his bills because this was unseemly. A great legislator? Probably not. And no Im not talking ends and means but some balance.