Monday, March 17, 2008

Attach yourself to the process

I really like this quote from Steven Novella on the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (my favorite podcast these days):
"Attach yourself to the process, not the conclusion."
We all get emotionally attached to conclusions: "echinacea cured my cold," or "nuclear power is bad," or "natural is good," or "islamo-fascists are a serious threat to this nation," or "drugs cause crime," or "the Federal Reserve was created to steal our money," or "Wal-Mart is destroying America." Our brains are great at post-hoc rationalization; it's why people really and truly believe they see UFOs and ghosts. We are hard-wired to interpret patterns and look for evidence to reinforce what we thinks we already know.

Science gives us a process we can apply to avoid reasoning our way to incorrect conclusions. Scientists commit themselves to the process, and good scientists are willing to admit that they are wrong if experimental results contradict their hypotheses.

I wish political and public policy debates focused more on process and less on specific issues. Is Universal Health Care a worthwhile goal? Sure! Is it the proper role of the Federal Government to either provide it or pay for it? Hang on a minute, let me check the Constitution and see what it says about the role of the Federal Government with respect to health care...

We need more intellectually honest politicians who are willing to attach themselves to the process, and not try to subvert the process to get results they desire.

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