Got a link for that fact?

Internet discussions and debates often begin with facts. If someone presents his or her facts, others will often ask for links. We are supposed to be getting clear direction from the plethora of links, facts, and information readily available on the internet. Unfortunately, what often happens is we become ignorantly well-informed. By this I mean we trust the consensus determination of experts without being able to verify these determinations ourselves.

I have to admit to being slightly uncertain of my convictions. For the most part I am not sure of much. What gets my ire is when anyone proclaims something that they are certain of or dismisses something because it is preposterous and violates some notion they have about the ways of the world they are certain of. Usually this certainty is not the result of worldly experience, but rather a certainty born from trusting the advice of experts they have read in newspapers, journals, the internet or seen/heard on the evening news.

The only thing I am certain of is that nothing is certain. Of course, that statement contradicts itself and the weight of certainty can be lifted from one's shoulder simply by shrugging and saying, "Who the hell knows?"

I don't want the polar ice caps to melt, but do I really know if man is causing global warming? Who the hell knows? I am in favor of some regulations reducing the amount of CO2 being put into the atmosphere because I don't like the idea of burning fossil fuels and lowering the Earths storage of non-renewable energy versus using the annual supply of solar energy and renewable resources. I read Buckminster Fuller as a youth in the 1970's and he always made sense to me.

Here is where we are all confused and lost in this conundrum, in my opinion, though. We expect someone else to solve the big problem facing our increasingly global economy. Science tells us that the Earth is warming and CO2 is the likely cause. There is a consensus. I don't have the equipment or the know-how to verify if this is true or not, so I am just supposed to trust the experts. Fine, in this case I do. However, the experts in science have been wrong on the consensus views in the past. How do I know that this is not also one of those cases?

In today's world we are beholden to the experts. Our education does not teach us to verify the results of scientists, but rather to trust the experts and the work they produce. We are fed these results in the media and by journalists, whom we are supposed to trust can verify the results of the scientists, when, in fact, all they are really doing is reporting the conclusions of experts. We are left with an elite group of experts making our decisions for us and arguments or debate usually is opposing sides spouting facts from each side at the other. We leave for the experts to reach a consensus, then we scream at our opponent, "Science says!" How is this different than appealing to the Priests and the religious icons in the past to settle debate?

I think we often come at debate wrong. Many people think it is ignorant to begin with an opinion as opposed to having facts on hand. I disagree. I think one should begin first with an opinion that is based on ones experience and socially formed morality. For instance, I start most political arguments with a few basic opinions that reflect my morality.

   1. We should have concern and compassion for our fellow human beings.

   2. War is bad and should always be avoided in almost all instances.

   3. We should preserve local resources and strive for a sustainable economy.

   4. We share the Earth with other species and we should have some reverence for all species on Earth.

   5. We should not take ourselves too seriously.

   6. Love is universal and is the closest thing to an absolute humans can experience

There are others, but I begin with these opinions that are not backed up with scientific fact or religious ideology. However, when I meet my interlocutor, I must attempt to understand the opinions that inform his or her views. Once the point is reached where we each understand the others viewpoint, then we can reach for facts on hand supporting out views and work toward common understanding.

I once had a conservative friend in college. We used to go round and round on many issues. Over time we came an understanding. He believed that each person was only responsible for his or herself and his or her family. If everyone would just take care of his or herself, the world would take care of itself just fine. This view contradicted one of my fundamental starting points that we should have compassion and concern for the well-beings of others (#1). He believed that my views often led to people being worse off. For example, the welfare argument that giving a helping hand to someone promotes laziness. Well, we differed in our fundamental beliefs, but we had a starting point for a discussion. After awhile, we would begin an argument over any issue and in a short time we would conclude, "been, there! same argument. You believe we are only responsible for ourselves, I believe we have a responsibility for the welfare of others." Neither of us was going to change the fundamental beliefs informing the other's view, but I did have to take into account the possibility that my compassion could lead to dire outcomes. I had to ask the question "What if I am wrong?" This is what leads to healthy discussions. If all we have is facts at our disposal when we go into a discussion and repeat the thoughts and ideas of experts with the facts they have provided us, we may be well-informed but we cannot have a discussion on important issues that will lead to productive results.

So, I think we should value opinions over facts and stop with the links. That's my opinion, at least.

< Defunding a superpower | Bland v. Oklahoma - executing the terminally ill >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Works for me Peaches.... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 10:13:42 AM EST
    especially since I'm always short on the facts and long on opinions.

    I too find I'm more interested in how my fellow humans feel and think than in the "facts" they can spout.

    Who the hell knows?  Great question, damned if I know:)

    I think we should value opinions over facts (none / 0) (#2)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 12:56:15 PM EST
    That likely won't go over well with the disdainful "religion is superstition" crowd...

    hey.... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Tue Jun 26, 2007 at 01:48:23 PM EST
    I'm in that crowd, I think it is an opinion like any other.  Granted, one I feel strongly about, but still an opinion.

    I personally don't fault anyone their religous beliefs, I just get peeved when the religous hold their opinions as facts, or hold them above criticism.  But then again, what do I know?:)


    Science and belief (none / 0) (#4)
    by Peaches on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 08:53:41 AM EST
    Sarc and Kdog,

    valuing opinion over fact doesn't go well in many crowds. I don't mean to pick on Edger, because his belief or faith in science is something that many in our culture share. However, he provides some good examples of the ability to be irrational while staunchly defending rationality (another common symptom of the religious and superstitiously inclined).

    [Belief]Has nothing to do with hypotheses validated through repeatable experiments that produce a consensus of conclusion (meaning multiple scientists reached the same conclusion) based on repeating those experiments.

    You can question the experimental methodology if you wish to, but if you do you'll need to form a hypothesis that the methodology is invalid and design and  conduct repeatable tests (experimental methodology) to determine whether the original experimental methodology you question is valid or invalid.

    But "belief" has no place in the discussion.

    Actually, this requires and absolute faith that the scientists are in fact conducting these experiments and verifying these results, because most of these experiments require such vast amounts of resources that verification is impossible to the individual.

    Here's Edger's description of scientific methodology.

    You're a scientist I take it?

    You've formed this hypothesis, designed tests to verify whether or not your hypothesis describes reality, lined up the funding, bought or built the equipment, run the tests, had your methodology and the results of your testing published in the relevant journals so that they were peer reviewed and independently verified through repetition by other scientists running the same tests, and concluded that 'If Mars is warmer, it is because of that big bright orange ball in the sky called the "sun."'.

    And because so many other scientists besides you have independently verified your results, you now have a consensus that your hypothesis is correct?

    OK, I believe that burning fossil fuels could lead to increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and this could instigate climate change that has negative impacts upon humans and the planet. Science appears to have confirmed my beliefs. All is good so far for science and me.

    I also believe that cell phones could cause harmful health effect to humans and the environment. Scientific evidence has concluded that there are no links between adverse health effects and the use of cell phones and that cell phones are not linked to the recent decline in bees around the world termed colony collapse syndrome. Well, something has to give, either my faith and belief in my instincts and common sense or my faith in science in this case.

    Well, I am going to trust my instincts that say that an increase in the amount of radio waves in the air could have some negative effects on biological beings since we are entities with electrical energies that relate to different energies in our environment along with bees that rely upon magnetic and electrical energies to navigate from the hive and back. What about science? Well, call it rationalization if you like, but we know that scientists rely upon funding sources and grants for funding come with stipulations on who owns the results of the research. We know that many sources for funding will not allow the publication of research that reflects negatively on the products that the provider of the funds markets. This has happened numerous times according to many researchers, and as an economists who believes that the profit motive is the ultimate motivational force and driver, I belief it is safe to assume that this is commonplace amongst our research institutions. Thus, money and funding has significantly compromised the science that is published and available to the public and we really cannot trust facts and figures made available to us, unless we hold on to an absolute faith in what we have called science at the expense of our better judgement.

    Actually, no it does not require (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 09:40:49 AM EST
    absolute faith that the scientists are in fact conducting these experiments and verifying these results
    What it does require is a basic comprehension of the peer review process, and of double blind experimental procedures.

    And the knowledge that faith and belief enters into neither.

    It was an interesting read though, Peaches.


    The question (none / 0) (#6)
    by Peaches on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 09:51:27 AM EST
    is not whether you have belief in the scientific methodology and if it reaches useful conclusions that benefit humans (although this requires some faith to associate useful with facts), because I share this belief.

    What requires absolute faith is the belief that what we call science actually has undergone these processes without being compromised by infallible humans, money, and other social issues. It is this faith in entities and institutions that are beyond the reach of the individual that makes science no different than other superstitions.


    Peaches - this is a silly comment (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 10:34:48 AM EST
    What requires absolute faith is the belief that what we call science actually has undergone these processes without being compromised by infallible humans, money, and other social issues.

    No aspect of human life is not compromised by infallible humans, money, and other social issues. That, however, has nothing to do with what I said.

    You can do better than that. I don't think you want to, however. Psychology is another very interesting subject (for another time and place)

    Aside from Global Warming, of course:

    My comment above was not an acceptance of an implied invitation to enter into a fallacious debate with you arguing that science is equivalent to superstition.

    I understand that you would like to debunk Global Warming science but are unable to, and that therefore you've decided to try debunking science itself - but you have tied yourself into a knot here while painting yourself into a corner - you are trying to use logic and reason to discredit logic and reason.

    You will no more be able to do that than be able to bite your own teeth, or see your own eyes (without the aid of a mirror).

    Have fun. I'll just sit back and watch. It should be quite a show.

    Enjoy your day!


    Well, you are just wrong... (none / 0) (#8)
    by Peaches on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 10:59:34 AM EST
    about my intentions and didn't read my posts clearly. I've always been in support of the Global Warming issue and have worked long and hard at educating people on the potential impacts of our continued reliance upon fossil fuels as the engines for our economy.

    I have no desire to debunk Global Warming Science. My argument is merely the suggestion that individuals do not have the resources, power or information to challenge what passes for Science in published journals and are thus required to accept what these publications give us as an article of faith. This is no different than past eras that required an acceptance of the public to have faith in institutions that were not scientifically based for their facts. Is science based institutions an improvement over religions based institutions as our primary sources of facts? Probably. This does not erase that faith plays a part in an individuals acceptance of the facts given to him or her from higher institutions. Especially, given the knowledge that these institutions are still susceptible to corruption and compromise.

    I am only trying to be consistent and if I don't accept the science in some cases(e.g., harmful effects of cell phones), it has to lend some doubts to the science I credit in other cases (e.g., Global Warming).

    as far as using logic and reason to discredit logic and reason, I suspect you are saying Science is synonymous with logic and reason, when really it is built upon a foundation of logic and reason. I don't believe that foundation exists and I think Godel proved that with is incompleteness theorem in 1931. But, that is neither here nor there in regards to my argument that what we accept as facts handed to us from the institutions representing Science requires an absolute faith.


    Now :: That's Entertainment!! ::: (none / 0) (#9)
    by Edger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 11:19:15 AM EST
    what we accept as facts handed to us from the institutions representing Science requires an absolute faith.

    Got a link for that fact? Or is it just your opinion?


    Okay, Edger (1.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Peaches on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 11:28:10 AM EST
    You're entertained. We know. Perhaps, others might find your attempt at ridicule entertaining as well.

    Really, though, I wasn't trying to get into a discussion with you I was making a point to Sarc and Kdog using you as an example. Long ago, I realized you were incapable of discussion and were without an original thought. I'm sorry (and I have never found you entertaining). That you were entertained was a side benefit, I suppose. Glad you like the show.

    As to your question (which I know is not serious, but I will treat it as thus, anyway), I provided a reasoned argument that required anyone who was reading it to think it through (another requirement you have demonstrated yourself incapable of). Yes, it is my opinion. No I don't have a link.


    Peaches (none / 0) (#20)
    by coigue on Thu Aug 16, 2007 at 11:32:20 PM EST
    If you are uncomfortable leaving it to the scientists, I recommend that you take some science courses at your local college to enlighten you on how the process works. A specific type of course would work: a seminar course on a topic. I am an Ecologist, so I can recommend Ecology as a topic. What you will do is have a series of published, peer-reviewed papers to read-one-three per week, on a single theory. Then you will discuss the ideas in the paper. Commonly the papers contradict each other in interpretation or in the data itself . You will discuss why that could be: is the situation different, or do the scientists need to hone their hypotheses?  That will give you an idea on how scientific thought progresses, since these arguments go on in the published works and in special sessions at conferences.

    Then I think you will remove that "in the dark" feeling one often has when one feels it is neccesary to accept the words of experts.


    Coigue (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Peaches on Fri Aug 17, 2007 at 04:39:40 PM EST
    I don't like to tout my credentials, but I probably have had more courses in ecology as well as experience than yourself. I also have been through the peer review process in Ecology Journals as both a writer and editor along with other scientific journals.

    All of this has nothing to do with my points or my distrust of science or the scientific process. I just don't automatically assume that because something has been through that process it should be considered as Truth and not be questioned by the non-expert, especially with all the evidence suggesting the contrary. Accepting what has been approved by Science as Truth without skepticism requires as great of faith as accepting it from any hierarchical institution such as religion.

    I suggest you read Kuhn along with some other pragmatist philosohers (such as Dewey or James).


    Heh (none / 0) (#22)
    by coigue on Mon Aug 20, 2007 at 07:38:05 PM EST
    I doubt it. I am a professional Ecologist with a PhD, and have also done peer reviews and grant panels, etc. I sadly don't even qualify for early career grants anymore (sniff).

    I am not suggesting that anything should be accepted as truth, just that if one wants to delve in there are ways of doing so that are quite open. Nobody is stopping anyone else from doing that, and in my experience, continuing education can occur at very high levels.

    So, I guess I consider it a bit of a straw man to say that people think that something that went through a process is truth. Because the fact is (for many things like intelligent design) the processes that are used to debunk are simply not as rigourous. I believe that should be considered as a factor.


    Credentials aside, (none / 0) (#23)
    by Peaches on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 09:08:21 AM EST
    You miss the point of my diary. We agree on everything, but - as do with many people with post-graduate degrees - you assume that a lay-persons opinion is steeped with ignorance. Of course, there are disagreements in Science and reasons behind these disagreements. Science is no different than any other community. My point is not that Science is not to be trusted. My point is that, as individuals, we don't have the resources to verify every scientific study - even ecologists with PhDs. Believe it or not, I understand the peer review process in Ecology as well as other sciences. I am aware that it is a process that produces many useful results. I am not setting up a strawman, but rather making the point that in internet discussions, more can be accomplished with rhetorical arguments defending ones opinion than simplyu linking to facts produced by "experts" and journals. Facts, science, and experts should be used to support ones position, but not without a supporting argument. What we have, usually, in internet discussions are two sides citing studies and attempts to shout down opponents, rather than making intelligent arguments.

    That is why I am interested in opinions more than facts. Aside from my opinion that opinions are much more interesting, and aside from the point that there is nothing inherently more truthful about facts than that they, at times, more useful than opinions, opinions require greater intelligence to defend and a well-defended opinion as much more likely to earn my respect in an internet discussion than a link to some PhD produced article in a peer-reviewed ecology journal.



    I do NOT assume that! (none / 0) (#24)
    by coigue on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 09:45:21 AM EST
    Why is suggesting that a layperson attend a graduate-level class considered calling one ignorant?

    As to the other portions of your first paragraph, It's been a couple of days since I read your diary, but I do agree with most of what you say.

    As to your second paragraph,I am more interested in opinions that have data behind them. I read dailyKos often and that place really proves the point that opinions are like a certain part of the anatomy. OTOH, I did hear a study cited on NPR suggesting that the more educated a person is, the stronger their allegiance to whatever their political party is. Which goes to show you that education allows you to find data that agree with your position, as well as helping you form that opinion in the first place.

    But of course, you are entitled to yours. (Which I am sure is much more informed than most)


    Yeah, (none / 0) (#26)
    by Peaches on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 10:34:57 AM EST
    Daily Kos is a good example of the internet discussion. Good arguments are hard to come by.

    It sounds like we don't have much disagreement. You're first impression was that my suggestion that Science is similar to religion in many, though not all, respects, was that I must not have had any graduate level science courses. This was wrong and left me with an impression that you assumed I was ignorant of how science is done, since I must be a layperson. So, we have a minor disagreement on each of our credentials, but we appear to agree that Science, though useful in many situations, is not exact and is difficult for individuals to verify many instances thus requiring each of us to have "faith" in the process leading to the results given to us by leading journals and experts as relayed to us (usually)by the media. My point is a small one, that when people make a point and argue it as "fact" based on the reporting of scientific consensus, they are doing nothing different from a past era where individuals made points and argued it as fact based on reports from the Vatican.


    I do agree with that (none / 0) (#28)
    by coigue on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 11:23:14 AM EST
    but I guess I also have more faith in the 'evolving' nature of science, because I have seen the flow of ideas and heated arguments about ecosystem function models, etc (always backed by data on all sides). THe power of the process is that it is constantly being argued about by people with data.

    I am sorry I assumed you did not understand the process, my bad.

    My only (lame) excuse is this: I have heard similar arguments from those who clearly do not understand the process, and who equate Op-Eds with referenced scientific peer-reviewed articles. Especially in the areas of climate change and Evolution.


    edger (none / 0) (#19)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jun 28, 2007 at 08:21:55 PM EST
    Actually, as the NOAA links show, the rules are being changed as the world turns.

    So peer review and  double blind means absolutely nothing..

    You have become a true believer. There is no difference between you and Pat R., except he is more successful and richer,


    the triumph of ignorance (none / 0) (#29)
    by Sailor on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 12:18:46 PM EST
    So peer review and  double blind means absolutely nothing.
    Willful ignorance and denying reality are no substitute for research. The scientific method has been proven for hundreds of years to produce accurate results that can be verified thru other means.

    Just because someone doesn't 'believe' in the answers does not make them incorrect.

    You have become a true believer. There is no difference between you and Pat R., except he is more successful and richer
    Yes, science is exactly like a christofascist extremist who claims to have invisible beings talking to him, blames natural disaters on gays and preys on poor ignorant people.[/disgust]

    PR is a dishonest huckster selling snakeoil w/o regard for facts or ethics ,,, hmm, sounds kinda familiar.


    That's where you are wrong. (none / 0) (#11)
    by Edger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 11:42:21 AM EST
    All my questions are serious, Unless I say they are not.

    If you say so, Edger. (none / 0) (#12)
    by Peaches on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 12:07:51 PM EST
    You know, yesterday you replied to my comment on Road to Guantanomo and rated my comment a five. I said I was ashamed to be an American. It is frustrating to identify as something and then discover that others who identify as the same as you  hold views that are shameful or act in shameful ways. But, I remain an American and I refuse to allow some Americans with abhorrent behaviors to taint the rest of us who still have belief in America. That is my opinion.

    I also identify as a Liberal. Many days you make me ashamed of identifying, thus. You have caused me much frustration, as I am sure you will be happy to learn. But I refuse to allow your tactics and disingenuousness taint the ideals and hopes of liberalism. And so I remain prideful as both an American and a liberal while holding out little hope for many individuals who pride themselves as the same.

    That is my opinion.


    Peaches (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 12:17:52 PM EST
    I rated your comment a 5 because I considered it a good comment passing on good information, and also because the existence of the prison at Guantanamo makes me feel the same way it makes you feel.

    IOW, I rated it on it's content.

    I'm sorry you feel slighted by that.


    My point (none / 0) (#14)
    by Peaches on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 12:24:48 PM EST
    was not about your rating.

    My point is that you make me ashamed to identify as a liberal because of your disingenuousness in debate and discussion as demonstrated by this comment and others on this thread.

    I do not feel slighted in the least by your ratings or your comments. I am ashamed of you and your presence here representing liberal positions I take seriously.


    Peaches (none / 0) (#15)
    by Edger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 12:31:45 PM EST
    You brought up the rating in your first sentence. It is clear to me now that what you refer to as disingenuousness is, imo, probably projection on your part.

    Since you seem insistent on being insulting, I'll leave you alone with your feelings of shame now.

    It's been an instructive conversation. All things must pass.


    Once again (1.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Peaches on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 12:45:26 PM EST
    you are disingenuous.

    I brought up a comment you rated as five which I obviously would not be slighted by. I used it as an example for something we might agree upon (being ashamed to be Americans). I thought you might understand my point about you making me ashamed to be liberal if I provided some contexts.

    You are disingenuous for your attempt at ridicule when you could not counter reasoned argument. What seemed so preposterous to you (that the acceptance of facts provided by higher institutions represented  as science requirs an individual to have absolute faith) was so unworth your time to respond with a quality counter-argument you resorted with a retort of ::entertainment:: instead as a means to make me look silly. I don't know if you were successful or not in your intentions, but I certainly am not afraid to look silly. I can tell you I am not insulted by you, but rather disappointed in you (and ashamed) in your continued reliance upon this tactic with your interlocutor.

    Your final line of defense is always to accuse your interlocutor of projection when your tactics are pointed out to you. (if an accusation of trolling isn't readily available)


    You may want to reread all my comments here (none / 0) (#17)
    by Edger on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 01:15:54 PM EST
    as if they were written by some unidentified person, Peaches, and take them at face value. None were insulting or ridiculing.

    You have badly misinterpreted every one of them, completely missed the humor in some, and are reading into all of them only what you wish or expect to see, imo. Why, I have no idea.

    Goodbye. I will no longer respond here.


    I reread them all (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Peaches on Wed Jun 27, 2007 at 02:20:06 PM EST
    You're right that I did not see the humor in any of them and also that I expect more from anyone attempting to engage me in a discussion.

    That I might come at your comments with a bias towards you because of your history in engaging in discussions with others and me cannot be helped, since what is history always remains a part of our experience and informs our judgement. My advice is not to engage me in discussion unless I engage you, since I long ago chose to treat you with such indifference.

    That does not mean I won't quote you to further a point to others and feel free to do the same with me if you so desire.


    The Judean People's Front (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by jondee on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 10:42:12 AM EST
    and The People's Front of Judea are going at it again, I see.

    Heh (none / 0) (#30)
    by Sailor on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 12:20:29 PM EST
    Good one.

    In unison "We're all individuals!"


    Splitters! (none / 0) (#31)
    by Peaches on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 12:33:21 PM EST
    The Only People we hate more than Neocons are the F*cking Judean People's Front [i.e. intolerant liberals incapable of rhetorical arguments with the opponent].

    Wankers! (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by jondee on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 12:35:37 PM EST
    No no no... (none / 0) (#33)
    by Edger on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 12:39:14 PM EST
    That's the The People's Front of Judea... ;-)

    They're obviously (none / 0) (#34)
    by Edger on Tue Aug 21, 2007 at 12:45:08 PM EST