Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Belief in War Affects Belief in WMD's

I noticed a little note in the August 7th edition of Time Magazine.  In a 2005 poll, 36% of Americans believed that Iraq actually had weapons of mass destruction prior to our invasion in 2003.  And when surveyed again this year, 50% believed they had WMD’s.

My question is this:  what evidence has been presented in the past year that can account for these differences?  To the people who changed your minds:  what did you learn in the past 12 months?  How do you know what you know?

My wife suggested that there was a significant finding:  it was the absence of evidence.  Perhaps she is right.  Our culture appears to be so driven by ideology at the moment that it actually seems reasonable to change how you respond to a factual question in order to support your opinion on the war and for the Administration.  After all, this is the age of belief above all in yourself.  Just have faith in your own thoughts.  Talk to your friends who think the way you do.  Reflect.  Pray to God.  And always remain positive.  Never express doubt.  Never ask a question you don't know the answer to.  Never say "I don't know."  Never admit you made a mistake, and never, never cede a fact to the other side.

The problem with this is that it's pretty difficult, maybe impossible to change people's ideologies through argument.  And now even conversations about facts, observations, evidence -- one might even say reality -- seem like arguments about ideology.  Common ground is harder to find.  We never get to discussing what we can do because we are too busy talking about what we believe.

How do we know what we know as a society?  How can you have a public discourse or a reasoned debate if we have no experience, no facts in common?  And what is to become of the Republic when there is no longer reasoned debate?  

1 comment:

  1. This was my first blogpost ever. I initially appeared in a Drupal instance I configured to host my research and writing into the relationship between science and society. I find it interesting now to see how profoundly I was motivated by politics, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular. Reading this now brings it all back to me: after years of not knowing what I could do about it, this path was becoming clear.