February 17, 2004

Facts Must Matter

It's entirely disheartening to read about The Tyranny of the Facts in Transport Blog. In certain policy discussions, facts not only matter, they are paramount. Not understanding the facts can and does get people killed. Ask the families of the Challenger astronauts whether facts matter.

The idea that facts do not matter is something of a misframing of the true situation, that facts are relatively defenseless when unbuttressed by principles making sense of those facts. Everybody who looked at a dewy lawn throughout history knew, at some level or another, the fact that dew drops bend light and enlarges the view of the blade of grass the dew drop is on. When the fact was treated seriously and organized in a collection to create a theory, a principle if you will, its power became manifest. But the fact was always there just as the facts are always there, sabotaging and undermining our lives as we proceed with them using deluded theories that do not conform to them.

You can sail the middle of the ocean with bad charts saying where the coastline reefs are and it doesn't much matter. But if you approach the coast and do not have someone up front to take soundings, if you incautiously plunge ahead based on your false charts (your false principles) you will take the bottom out of your boat and sink quickly like a stone.

So let us all adopt a sensible principle to take soundings, look at the facts, and resolve to order our principles in accord with them, as we know them.

Posted by TMLutas at February 17, 2004 09:51 AM