Sunday, January 25, 2004

WMD, Cognitive Dissonance, Rationalism, And Serious Analysis - Part I

Back over at Kevin Drum's place (blog) yesterday, I was musing on his discussion of pre-war Iraqi WMD beliefs, and, even more, his dismissal of Noam Chomsky as not a "serious" critic. Now, I have all the respect in the world for Kevin, but I have as much or more for a challenging critic like Noam Chomsky. As always, keep in mind these comments are on-the-fly, and not vetted, proofed, or multi-drafted.


If you look into it Kevin, you'll find that reliance on ideology and fiction is what allows these things to happen (mixed in with some genuine fear).

To be honest, Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn [Kevin did not mention Zinn, but I'm using him as another example] are two of the more serious analysts around, and just because they seem so radical in their visions doesn't mean otherwise, just that the measure of useful illusions and fiction we live on may be the more radical in nature.

9/11 should have caused people to look up and start asking questions about the conventional wisdom, and its insistence on how to correctly interpret the available information, and, along with this, what information ought to be ignored or downplayed.

The answer is that important information should not be ignored when it contrasts with the belief system and conventional wisdom (i.e. cognitive dissonance). Instead, the rational thinker will examine the available information and look for patterns of consistency in order to gain some understanding and hopefully predictive insight.

This is called the rationalism - the scientific process.

There has never been a compelling argument that Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn aren't rational or scientific in their thinking - only that either they are too much so, or not suitably emotional enough to understand the importance of information being consistent to belief and conventional wisdom.

In other words, have you already formed your beliefs and understanding of the world, your knowledge, and only supporting information is needed, as you are rigid and certain in this belief?

Or, are you more fluid, adaptable, and able to change, by realizing that your beliefs and conventional wisdom are only working hypotheses, and that in the face of conflicting information more sensible wisdom and beliefs may be appropriate?

Which one do you think will be more successful in a changing and fluid world?