I have to admit, I was baffled. Maybe it was just my defective upbringing. I was always mystified when George W. Bush and his crew talked scornfully about “reality-based policy”. Why all the sneering scorn for reality; no other kind of policy seemed to make much sense. But now I’m beginning to understand. It’s still very vague, but I recall my Philosophy 101 prof saying that there are two ways of knowing something: evidence and faith.
So, it would seem that having faith that something is so is equally valid as a way to know that it’s true. Hmmm. I’m still not quite convinced, but I’m working on it.
Suppose I believe that my house was not burning down. I really believe that. I have complete faith that it’s standing there just as it always has. However, when it got hot and smoky I ran out the door, and now I’m watching the firefighters and the flames, and the roof just fell in. But I really do have complete faith my house is not burning down.
The big problem I have with faith as a way to know the truth is that there is this other thing, this much-scorned reality-based thing, and it keeps intruding on my faith and showing me that this pile of ashes means my house has burned down. Maybe it’s just me.
But now I understand why the quickest test of whether a person understands science is to ask whether he is a Republican, because a whole lot of Republicans have faith, and their faith tells them that the planet is 4,000 years old, and that global warming is a fiction, or it’s real, but we didn’t do it. This warming is just like the ones 15,000 years ago and 140,000 years ago were natural. Wait a minute. How could there be warming 15,000 years ago if the world is only 4,000 years old? But I just can’t get around this little science thing, and science tells us that we have living trees older than what they say the planet’s age is. And global warming has reached the stage where it’s here. It’s all around us, and worse all the time, and it’s ever more obvious that we did it. Sorry. I’m just a faulty person. I don’t have enough faith. Reality keeps intruding.
But at least there’s this: I understand, sort of, where these conservatives are coming from. It’s just that I’m baffled by their inability to see that the house is burning down when the clear evidence is all around them, the flames, the smoke, the fire hoses and trucks, the collapsed roof…
Well, hard as I try, I just can’t seem to get with the idea that belief in some idea is the same as it being true. There are all these conservative ideas about how things are and how they should be. And I would be the first to change my mind about any one of them if some sort of evidence came in, from the outside, so to speak. Not from someone’s internal belief, but physical evidence from outside their brain.
Like what? you say.
Well, like lots of things. Like the steps Europe took two years ago to deal with the economic downturn. Faith said that now is the time for austerity. We must solve the problems of unemployment, the housing crisis, inflation, mortgage rates, balancing the budget, and more by instituting austerity. If this is the way to go, I’m all for it. But what have we found so far? All the painful measures put in place two years ago have not ended high unemployment or brought housing costs down. Inflation and mortgage interest rates were never high to begin with, so naturally the austerity steps did nothing to change them. Well, that’s the faith-based path, and it doesn’t seem to have worked. How about the reality-based path?
We don’t know about the reality-based path with regard to the current crisis because we only tried a stimulus plan that economists told us from the beginning was far to little. But it’s been tried at other times and in other countries. It worked.
So we have immediate evidence from the EU that the austerity measures did not work, in spite of the great faith that they would. This suggests that all the austerity steps that Congress seems certain to bring down on our heads will be the same. And we have evidence that steps taken to reduce unemployment, improve wages, and increase the tax base do work. Maybe we should try the non-faith-based ideas first.
I guess I’m just out of it. I ain’t got no faith.