Monday, August 09, 2004

We All Rather Be Dead Than Wrong

The evolutionary history of this species has served to put a premium on the ability to make appropriate decisions...The decision is always reduced to its simplest level: Is this a threat to my survival? This has placed an incredible burden on the mind to be right. Because in the mind's view, the alternative to being right is being dead. The mind (thus) equates rightness with survival and wrongness with dying...We, as individuals, have to be right whatever we do.
- A Rage for Revenge
This book isn't the original source for this idea, I just happened to run into there since I read a lot more pulp SciFi novels than I do texts on sociological evolution. When I read it over a decade ago, this paragraph stuck in my mind for a long time and has recently come back into my thoughts since the blogosphere has proven the best medium to date to track predictions and opinions and point out where people were wrong.

While there are certainly people on both sides of the isle that have this problem (well, according to the theory, all humans have it), it does seem a lot more severe on the left (Ed: because they are wrong more often?). I don't mean matters of opinion where overwhelming facts still don't prove a point (i.e. you can still believe that the Bush tax cuts didn't help the economy) or on issues where the jury is going to be out for a long, long time (whether going into Iraq was the "right thing to do" will probably take over a decade to settle out). I mean things that have already come to pass where you can point out and say "you were wrong here"

The Iraq war didn't produce a refugee catastrophe. It also didn't produce tens of thousands of deaths for American troops. Invading Afghanistan didn't result in a quagmire. Iraq did try to by yellocake in Africa. Arnold won in a landslide. Has anyone who made a prediction or statement opposite one of these facts come out and said "I was really wrong about that."?

"Fisking" has been one method used to point out where others were wrong, using links to point out factual errors or even contradictions in people's opinions, but this has rarely resulted in people admitting they were wrong or issuing a mea culpa.

Maybe as the blogosphere matures we can look forward to the day that Kevin Drum admits to double standards or to The Daily Kos acknowledging distorting facts to support a point of view, but evolution says don't bet on it.

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