February 17, 2004

Facts Must Matter II

Thomas Sowell has a good column out on the importance of facts. Unfortunately, he also illustrates how facts can be twisted to produce horrible outcomes when they are abused by wrongheaded principles.

It is not just a few readers but government agencies and the highest courts in the land that dogmatize against any recognition of differences in behavior or performances among groups. Statistical differences in outcomes automatically fall under suspicion of discrimination, as if the groups themselves could not possibly be any different in behavior or performance.

Any school that disciplines black boys much more frequently than Asian American girls can be risking a federal lawsuit, as if there could not possibly be any differences in behavior among the children themselves. Employers can be judged guilty of discrimination, even if no one can find a single person who was discriminated against, if their hiring and promotions data show differences among ethnic groups or between women and men.

The problem isn't just one of ignoring the facts of the situation. Facts may be stubborn things but unprotected, unfortified by meaningful rules to make sense of them, they can be just as stubbornly overlooked until the pain they cause creates a half-understood heuristic that is always vulnerable to the next great wave of mistaken theory. For a current example, you can see the gay marriage debate which clearly demonstrates at least one thing. Most people don't understand why we have the marriage system we have evolved.

Posted by TMLutas at February 17, 2004 04:04 PM