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Guest Vern Edwards

Great reference, Jon. Thanks.

As for "truth decay," no democracy, ever, going back to classical Athens, has made decisions based entirely on truth. Plato criticized the political rhetoric of his day (4th cent. bce) in Gorgias and other dialogues. Aristotle criticized it in his own manual of rhetoric. See Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on Aristotle's Rhetoric, Section 4.4 "Aristotelian Rhetoric as Proof-Centered and Pertinent":

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Aristotle joins Plato in criticizing contemporary manuals of rhetoric. But how does he manage to distinguish his own project from the criticized manuals? The general idea seems to be this: Previous theorists of rhetoric gave most of their attention to methods outside the subject; they taught how to slander, how to arouse emotions in the audience, or how to distract the attention of the hearers from the subject. This style of rhetoric promotes a situation in which juries and assemblies no longer form rational judgments about the given issues, but surrender to the litigants. Aristotelian rhetoric is different in this respect: it is centered on the rhetorical kind of proof, the enthymeme (see below §6), which is called the most important means of persuasion. Since people are most strongly convinced when they suppose that something has been proven (Rhet. I.1, 1355a5f.), there is no need for the orator to confuse or distract the audience by the use of emotional appeals, etc. In Aristotle's view an orator will be even more successful when he just picks up the convincing aspects of a given issue, thereby using commonly-held opinions as premises. Since people have a natural disposition for the true (Rhet. I.1, 1355a15f.) and every man has some contribution to make to the truth (Eudemian Ethics I.6, 1216b31,) there is no unbridgeable gap between the commonly-held opinions and what is true. This alleged affinity between the true and the persuasive justifies Aristotle's project of a rhetoric that essentially relies on the persuasiveness of pertinent argumentation; and it is just this argumentative character of Aristotelian rhetoric that explains the close affinity between rhetoric and dialectic (see above §3).

Unfortunately, democracy is not proof against distortions, outright lies, and hooey in general. In fact, it's vulnerability in that regard may be its greatest weakness.

Confession: I haven't finished reading RAND's tract, but I think RAND's up-front assertion that there is a "growing disregard for facts, data, and analysis in political and civil discourse in the United States" is itself a lot of hooey. According to RAND:

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Increasingly, it seems that important policy debates, both within the federal government and across the electorate, are as likely to hinge on opinion or anecdote as they are on objective facts or rigorous analysis.

"Increasingly"? Rot. it's been true in this country since day one. Rand begins with the 1880s, but it's much older than that.

Want to read something really interesting (and funny)? Read H. L. Mencken's Notes On Democracy (1926). It's available free online in pdf form. Google it. Or read George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language" (1946): "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

As for federal contracting, truth decay goes waaaay back. Remember the stuff you used to read in NCMA's Contract Management about how the Wright brothers' contract was an example of effective incentive contracting and how it showed that performance-based contracting really works? Contracting writers kept telling those lies right up until I wrote my historical essay about it. But don't worry. Truth has a short shelf life. They'll be back to it soon if they aren't already.

The danger for us is that some of us think that once upon a time we were better about facts and truth than we are now. I used to laugh when President Obama would say, "That's not who we are." I used to think, What nonsense. That's exactly who we are. That's why there's a problem.

Same as it ever was. It just goes undisguised these days.

 

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When the serfs of corporate feudalism (excuse PepeTheFrog, "democracy"*) vote or act in the way the idiotic elites want, it's called democracy. When they vote or act in a way the idiotic "elites" do not want, it's derided as populism or "voting against their interests," another favorite. The "elites" are so intelligent and wise that they know your interests, and everyone else's interests, better than anyone! 

The RAND study is another version of "Why won't these peons just listen to the experts, who have been wrong about almost every important policy or prediction?"

The RAND study's #4 concern: 

"declining trust in formerly respected sources of facts."

PepeTheFrog wonders if the Internet and decentralization of information has anything to do with that, hmm...Oh no! People have less trust in politicians, the media, the pharmaceutical industry, FDA, the banking cartel, the Food Pyramid, American Heart Association, World Health Organization, United Nations, DOJ, FBI, State Department, Republican Party, Democrat Party...Does it have anything to do with the massive and stunning amount of lies and errors? Imagine PepeTheFrog's shock!

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2018/01/no_author/the-intellectual-yet-idiot/

*Try to find the word "democracy" in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Go look for it! The Founders, like the ancient Greeks, understood that democracy and majority rule has inherent flaws.

 

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Pepe, interesting that you bring up Nassim Taleb "Intellectual yet idiot".  RAND considers the push back on GMO to be an ignorance of the facts, however Taleb believes that the industry is utterly shortsighted on the long term, immeasurable effects of GMO.

https://medium.com/incerto/the-logic-of-risk-taking-107bf41029d3

Vern...thank you for anchoring this in the classics.  I had forgotten about Socrates who made a living (ok...a meager one, but he lived till he died) poking those who considered themselves "experts" and calls for the banishment of the poets (or rhetoricians) (Apology & The Republic).  

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Guest Vern Edwards

Think about this statement in the RAND report, which appears to be a conclusion.

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Complex decisions, even when they require subjective judgments and intuition, can be made with more confidence when anchored by agreed-upon facts and reliable data.

What does that mean?

Does it state a fact or an opinion?

What is a fact?

If you say it states a fact, how could you prove that your statement is a fact?

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Pepe:

Quote

PepeTheFrog wonders if the Internet and decentralization of information has anything to do with that, hmm...Oh no! People have less trust in politicians, the media, the pharmaceutical industry, FDA, the banking cartel, the Food Pyramid, American Heart Association, World Health Organization, United Nations, DOJ, FBI, State Department, Republican Party, Democrat Party... (emphasis added)

Our use of words can betray us.  It's Democratic Party.

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Vern:

I was puzzled by this.

Quote

agreed-upon facts

A fact does not require agreement to make it a fact.  

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2 hours ago, bob7947 said:

Vern:

I was puzzled by this.

quote: “agreed-upon facts”

A fact does not require agreement to make it a fact.  

Bob, you are correct that a fact doesn’t necessarily require agreement to make it a fact. The quote from the Rand Report didn’t appear to say or suggest that.

I would probably agree that I can make a complex decision with more confidence (have more confidence in my complex decision) when my decision is anchored by facts that are “agreed-upon” *,  with reliable data to support the fact or the decision -  than a decision I make, based upon information purported to be factual, where there is little or no agreement about the information or based upon information that is purported to be factual with questionable data or otherwise unreliable data.

* depending upon what is meant by “agreed-upon” data. I don’t know if the Report defined that. If Vern doesn’t know what they meant, I would guess that it didn’t.  Vern stated that it appears to be a “conclusion”. If so, then perhaps the Report provides the necessary information to so conclude. 

I freely admit that I didn’t read it. 

These are just my opinions.

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Guest Vern Edwards
7 hours ago, bob7947 said:

A fact does not require agreement to make it a fact.  

Bob,

We encounter very few of the world's facts face to face. What we usually encounter are assertions of fact, and on those we need agreement in order to act. In criminal trials jurors are the finders of fact, and when they disagree and get hung up the court decrees a mistrial. Not even in science is there always agreement about what is a fact or the nature of the fact, which is why so many "laws" of science are really just theories. Even when two or more people observe a fact, they may disagree about what they saw.

Metaphysically speaking, if there are facts, they are often unknowable. What we often strive for is agreement about what we think to be the case. The exception that I know the most about is math, a type of a priori knowledge. As far as I know, 2 + 2 is indisputably 4. No agreement necessary. I think.

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4 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

As far as I know, 2 + 2 is indisputably 4. No agreement necessary. I think.

I was going to mention that but was afraid that you’d debate me about it or ask me to prove it. Hee hee 🤠

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Vern:

Between about 300 to 200 BC, Aristarchus claimed that the Sun was the center of our solar system.  Centuries later, Copernicus wrote that the Sun was the center of our solar system.  A century later, Kepler believed that the Sun was the center of our solar system.  At about the same time, Galileo proved the Sun was the center of our solar system.  After centuries more, religious authorities finally accepted that the Sun was the center of our solar system.

However, if the theory that the Sun is about 4 billion years old is true, it was a fact that the Sun was the center of our solar system billions of years ago.  Of course, that would be billions of years before humankind existed, as it is theorized.  Facts are not dependent upon humans for their existence.  Facts simply await humankind's capacity to discover them.  At least that is my theory.

Now, I have no idea why the Easter Bunny hides all those chicken eggs in our yards.  Maybe it is a chicken in disguise as a bunny.  I just don't know.

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Come on, RAND, if it is so, I want to know!

Fsscinating! At least RAND could reach for their best tool box and try to convince me in this paper about Truth. This is a subject worthy of granite and they are working in wax.

Setting sentiment aside, what evidence does RAND offer to support its conclusions? Where is their data? What contra-indications do they frankly acknowledge (e.g. what significant weaknesses do they realize might belie in their conclusions)?  What predictions might their conclusions allow us to make?...and if there are, such, in the final analysis, if not verifiable, is this thing at least falsifiable?  If not, what have we really learned?

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I went back to the Oxford online dictionary to find out what they define as fact

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1A thing that is known or proved to be true.  (emphasis added)

If we accept that, the Sun as the center of our solar system became fact when Galileo proved it.

Then I looked for their first definition of real

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1Actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.  (emphasis added)

Hmmmm.  According to those definitions written by a human(s), reality and fact may be two different things.  I'm too old for this stuff.

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Guest Vern Edwards

Let's consider an oft-repeated assertion at the bottom of some of our toughest policy debates. (I hope this isn't too controversial.):

Diversity is one of America's great strengths.

Sen. Lindsey Graham is supposed to have said something like that very recently.

Is that true? Is that a fact? Should we base our governing policies on the belief that it is true that diversity is a strength? Or should we consider diversity to be a weakness and the cause of many of our present political troubles?

The following is from an article by Jonah Goldberg published in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 18, "What if diversity isn't America's strength?":

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There's a growing body of evidence that even if diversity— the kind that results from immigration — once made America stronger, it may not be doing so anymore. Robert Putnam, a liberal sociologist at Harvard, found that increased diversity corrodes civil society by eroding shared values, customs and institutions. People tend to "hunker down" and retreat from civil society, at least in the short and medium term.

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldberg-diversity-strength-20180115-story.html

Goldberg's short essay is all over the place, and he dodges his own question, but the essay is interesting nonetheless.

Are some topics simply too controversial to permit truth-seeking and discussion? Is that why it took so long for heliocentrism to take hold in scientific circles? Were too few willing to advocate the theory, because they were afraid of the Office of the Inquisition? (Galileo died after nearly ten years under house arrest.) Does RAND address that question?

What did the first democracy do to its greatest truth-seeker?

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Guest Vern Edwards

Has anyone here seen the September 2017 final report of the congressionally mandated Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Making? Did you know that there was such a commission? Did you know that a bill on evidence-based policymaking has passed in the House and is now in the Senate, co-sponsored by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray?

https://www.cep.gov/content/dam/cep/report/cep-final-report.pdf

 

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Given how RAND framed their research into the issue of "truth decay" I'm less concerned about that concept and more concerned about the ease with which one can blatantly disseminate misinformation and the resulting consequences (e.g. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/business/media/comet-ping-pong-pizza-shooting-fake-news-consequences.html).  Blatant misinformation preys on a human's cognitive biases (anchoring effect - the tendency to rely heavily on the first piece of information received).  Coupled with short news cycles and a plethora of distractions, those who speak first and loudest can win the argument regardless of the validity or soundness of the position.

I came across an article in Foreign Policy after the election that those interested in this general topic may find interesting (http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/11/10/the-dance-of-the-dunces-trump-clinton-election-republican-democrat/).  For those who may be turned off by the article's title, don't be...here's the last sentence:

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Trump’s victory is the victory of the uninformed. But, to be fair, Clinton’s victory would also have been. Democracy is the rule of the people, but the people are in many ways unfit to rule.

Our world is full of distractions and temptations that are more immediately rewarding than thinking.  It's no wonder that most people I know can name more athletes on their favorite sports team or actors and actresses than they can politicians, academics, or business leaders.

I suspect these same issues may apply to acquisition knowledge and "truths" as well.

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11 hours ago, Vern Edwards said:

2 + 2 is indisputably 4

I could prove that not to be true using Modulo Operations and a 12 hour clock to represent a 24 hour day. 

 

I think of a lot of theories as facts until disproved. I think a lot of theories can't be proven entirely. 

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Guest Vern Edwards
28 minutes ago, Deaner said:

I think of a lot of theories as facts until disproved. I think a lot of theories can't be proven entirely. 

A theory is just a detailed explanation. It is based on what the theorist finds to be a body of facts, but it is not itself a fact.

https://medium.com/science-journal/scientific-theory-vs-scientific-law-5624633a8f1b

50 minutes ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

Given how RAND framed their research into the issue of "truth decay" I'm less concerned about that concept and more concerned about the ease with which one can blatantly disseminate misinformation and the resulting consequences....

I think the "media" is one of the critical problems of our time, if not the problem. A lot that goes "reported" under the cover of "journalism"  and freedom of the press is just garbage.

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1 hour ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

Given how RAND framed their research into the issue of "truth decay" I'm less concerned about that concept and more concerned about the ease with which one can blatantly disseminate misinformation and the resulting consequences (e.g. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/business/media/comet-ping-pong-pizza-shooting-fake-news-consequences.html).

The New York Times' position is or was that "Fake News" comes from the independent media, their competitor. That meme was immediately flipped to the New York Times', Washington Post's, and establishment media's detriment. When people say "Fake News," now, they're usually referring to the establishment media or legacy media. The only proof you need is the absolute fear that television networks of the establishment or legacy media have for this term. They loved the term when they thought they could attack and undermine their competitors. Now they hate the term and will literally cut off your microphone if you throw it at them in an interview. 

As far as the details of the story you reference, notice that no establishment or legacy media source ever published or questioned the pictures and comments, publicly posted on Instagram, from one of the main characters. Do not look at these pictures or comments on a work computer.

Instead, they popularized the most ridiculous and outlandish claims possible, and ignored every lead for the more reasonable and 100% verifiable details, such as the publicly posted pictures and comments of one of the main characters.

This is called "poisoning the well." Also look up which federal agency created and disseminated the term "conspiracy theory," and exactly when that federal agency created and disseminated it. It's on Wikipedia. 

No person or organization has a monopoly on the truth!

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43 minutes ago, PepeTheFrog said:

As far as the details of the story you reference, notice that no establishment or legacy media source ever published or questioned the pictures and comments, publicly posted on Instagram, from one of the main characters. 

What pictures and comments are you referring to specifically? I’m not going to litigate “pizzagate” here, but I don’t think you’ve done your research (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/10/business/media/pizzagate.html).

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Jurying information--or as Daniel Kahneman would say, our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning--is tiring. As a result, we often rely on instinctive impulses. Add in cognitive biases and the filter bubbles we are subject to and a crazy cycle of creating and reinforcing flawed theories ensues.

I recently 'finished' writing a related article for DAU AT&L Magazine. Hopefully I can submit it by the Feb 1 deadline.

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Guest Vern Edwards

George Will mentioned Truth Decay in his Washington Post column this morning.

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Guest Vern Edwards
1 hour ago, Jamaal Valentine said:

... We often rely on instinctive impulses. Add in cognitive biases and the filter bubbles we are subject to and a crazy cycle of creating and reinforcing flawed theories ensues.

Same as it ever was. And so it will be until homo sapiens is extinct. We are not and never will be Vulcans.

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15 hours ago, Matthew Fleharty said:

What pictures and comments are you referring to specifically? I’m not going to litigate “pizzagate” here, but I don’t think you’ve done your research (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/10/business/media/pizzagate.html).

LOL, nice link from the same source you posted first, the New York Times. Matthew, thank you for hammering home PepeTheFrog's point. The second link you presented is another fine example of "poisoning the well" and selective reporting (and omission).

Research this issue beyond the New York Times. The specific pictures and comments, unsurprisingly, are not posted or mentioned in that New York Times "summary." Google is your friend. You can find a complete archived compilation of all the pictures and comments. Again, do not look at them on a work computer. They're disgusting.

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