Monday, November 23, 2009

Whom should I believe?

There is so much information and opinion out there today, that it's very difficult to know who is on the right track and who is blowing smoke. Even crackpots seem to be able to produce data to support their views ("tests show," "studies indicate," "evidence suggests").
In Pilgrim's Progress, the author creates a Slough of Despond, with the pilgrim has to go through. Well, the Slough of Despond is nothing at all when compared to the Morass of Misinformation.
So, how do we get through? I do it by borrowing a 19th Century technique: Using touchstones. Touchstones are proven principles, guides to help us understand the ambiguous. In my case, the touchstones are people. I compare ideas with those of Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Mark Twain. In natural science, biology, anthropology, and psychology, it's Darwin. The central question I ask of anything is, "How can this be explained in light of evolutionary theory?" In the harder sciences, I ask, "What would Al think." For everything else, there's Mark Twain. After all, wasn't it Twain who said, "Suppose you were a member of Congress, and suppose you were an idiot; but I repeat myself."


Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

I have to add Will Rogers to your list.

But reading your list I was saddened by the realization that probably fully 60% or more of our population over 21 does not have a clue who all those people are, let alone can come up with a theory or doctrine that can be ascribed to them.

So sad. BTW I do think Will was wrong about never having met a man he didn't like but then he did not know the Bush family.

On both your houses said...

Thanks, Jacqui. The neat thing about Will Rogers was that not only was he a trenchant wit but he could do rope tricks too.