Questioner: “Professor Sowell: You were a Marxist even after taking Milton Friedman’s course at the University of Chicago. What caused you to eventually change your view ?”
Thomas Sowell: “Facts.”
In this blog I tend to harp on the axiom that in making a decision on any matter whose consequences you will live with, it is worth informing yourself with what the relevant data indicates about the likely outcome, and giving that precedence over your own feelings and impulses. I’m going to harp at-length about specifically that here. Adhering to what the facts say is the only way for real course-corrections and improvements to be made to our ways of doing things (our policies) and to our understanding (our science). This means absolute fidelity to the empirical data on whatever the subject at-hand is. It sounds like and is a simple axiom, but often people find it hard to stick to it when it challenges their cherished beliefs or their vested interests. Businesses and institutions find reasons for operating in other ways, often with quite a cost. But our efforts and initiatives wont effectively improve things for the future unless we adhere to this a great deal more than we are now.
It takes integrity and humility to abide by this. One good example is Einstein. He devoted around a decade of the latter part of his life to learning and applying the mathematical apparatus he needed to work out his theory of General Relativity. It represented a sea-change in our conception of how time and space behave with respect to all of the massive objects moving through them and to the masses’ gravity fields. Once astronomical data confirmed the predictions of his theory very accurately, an uproar arose among the physics community. An indignant group of about 100 scientists got political by penning an open letter rejecting his new theory that so fundamentally challenged their long-cherished understanding.
Einstein was more bemused than indignant or defensive about this. He said that if they were so convinced that his theory was incorrect, then instead of writing haughty letters, they should simply prove their claim in the way that scientists do: by presenting a repeatable set of experimental data that categorically refuted it. He didn’t care about coming out on top, looking good, nor winning arguments and prestige. He was intent on advancing our conception of what the nature of the physical universe most-essentially is. And if his new theory did not faithfully replicate its actual behavior as-shown by the empirical data, then so be it; something else would have to be tried. Despite the fact that GR was his own monumental idea elegantly formulated over decades of intensely-focussed work, he didn’t cling to (defending) it. In fact he spent the final years of his life toiling to develop a ‘unified field theory’ which would have replaced or superseded it. His only aspiration was for an ever-deeper understanding of reality.
In warfare, soldiers automatically drop any conjectural or sentimental ideas about their tactical situation that doesn’t jibe with the known data about their enemy. They rely only on how their training advises them to respond to the known data. Since their imperative is to stay alive, they cannot indulge any unproven whimsey that may get them killed. But in other circumstances people will stubbornly cling to and pursue ideas that they hold dear, even when real-world data has made it evident that they are not working adequately and are causing problems. For emotional reasons like the fear of being proved wrong, people will persist in failing agendas that will only eventually prove how wrong they are. Leaders are doing so now even as their agendas are doing harm, and are even waging information warfare to convince us that their failing agendas are working.
There are two primary reasons for this: (1) The person doesn’t actually believe in the soundness of his agenda, and is being purposefully deceitful in promoting it – He has an ulterior agenda. (2) He has such a strong emotional or pecuniary attachment to his belief that he will not accept it when the data refutes it. Both of these reasons underlie many of the irrational social changes being pushed now. Powerful institutions and individuals tend to be the deceivers and enablers, manipulating many everyday people by inciting their emotional beliefs to the point where they become indifferent to the need for those beliefs to accord with the evidentiary data.
The work to gain greater understanding based upon carefully-collected empirical data never ceases even during periods of collective madness like the one we are in now. The third run of the LHC at CERN just completed at the highest energy level yet of 13.6 TeV with new more sensitive detectors, and the very hard-fought-for new data is being streamed to universities and research centers across the globe for study. We may soon understand new fundamental particles and physics that shed light on the nature of dark matter and the quark-gluon plasma. Yet at the same time, the dark matter in the hearts and minds of the elites and the uncritical thinking of the ordinary people who they mislead continues to undermine our freedoms, food supply, freedoms, and the relatively high level of peace that we have enjoyed in recent decades. Though there will always be careful workers establishing new findings on how both the physical world and social nostrums actually work in-practice, there will also continue to be those people who prefer to willfully ignore or obfuscate all these facts in-favor of either reason (1) or (2) above. Factual data is the ultimate revealer and clearer of bullshit. So get your hands on the raw data and follow what it indicates like Mr. Spock would.
Take the issue of transsexuality for one contemporary example. Despite what might be considered ‘OK’ to say now, the truth is that there are only two sexes, because the data on humans and other creatures going as far back as we know it shows only that. The very notion of sex/gender was not a human invention – it came from nature. And in every species we’ve look at throughout nature that expresses sexual differentiation, the differentiation is binary into only male and female (a very small number below one percent are born as hermaphrodites). People can invent whatever alternate truths they want about gender in their own minds. But to be able to push those mental inventions upon society as a new standard that we all should change our public bathrooms, sports-eligibility criteria, and our existing common sense for is not justifiable, because it is compels the rest of the people to accept something that they know, and can show by means of evidence, is untrue. Nonetheless, House democrats introduced a bill on Tuesday called the “Transgender Bill of Rights” that would codify this wrongful new standard into law (aren’t rights that apply only to a specific group of people more correctly called ‘special privileges’, or simply discrimination ?).
Transexuals are not a gender category; they are people who undergo surgical and hormone treatments to modify their bodies. Noone has ever been born as a transexual. It is decent, right, and humane to accept them and to afford them the same basic respect given to anyone else. But the attempts by school teachers and others to groom young kids, who haven’t even encountered the sexual impulse yet, into sexually modifying their bodies is harmful, predatory, and motivated by something other than letting those youth find their own way of living that best serves their own happiness. I know that’s a strong statement, but I can make it because I have facts for it. A clear indictor is that adults (in some of our schools, primarily) have held regular meetings with groups of kids to convince them into gender conversions, while taking pains to keep their parents from knowing about it. Parents who have pushed-back against this stuff on behalf of their kids have received accusations from the left, including the Biden administration, that they have some innate egregious prejudice or bigotry toward transsexual people. But they have another very-justified and easily-provable reason, as well as a responsibility, for pushing-back like this. One which they never present.
The goal of the parents and of the public servants should be to facilitate the flourishing of young people into their fullest productive capabilities, individuality, and most of all their happiness and well being. Hopefully they can all still (at least pretend to) agree on that much. Playing Russian Roulette with a .38 revolver loaded with a single bullet presents you with a one-in-six probability of blowing your own brains out. Putting two bullets in the cylinder and giving it a good spin before playing increases the odds of that to one-third; that’s not a good game to play for people who want long happy lives. If there were any course for young people to choose for their lives with death as a (well-known) 1/3-probable outcome, it would be a crime to guide them into it no matter how beneficent the other two-thirds-likely outcome set might be. But statistically-speaking, that’s exactly what the transsexuality life-course is.
Trans people are statistically a particularly unhappy and mentally fragile group of people. The shocking fact is that around one third of them end up committing suicide, and 80% of teen trans’ have either attempted it or live with ongoing suicidal ideation. Parents who want to repel the accusations that they are bad intolerant people for guiding their kids away from the trans life need only quote these facts. Responsible parents should know them, and a genuinely responsible and caring society would make them widely known. Noone advocating for the trans way of life ever will quote those stats, but they are certainly known by a good number of those people (though they would deny so if asked). We prohibit young people from smoking and drinking to protect their health and development. If we were to legislate evenly based on the factual data, it would be unquestionable that we must also prevent them from being exposed to, much less groomed for. transsexuality. Period. Parents urge their kids into higher education and faithfully save their money to afford for them to pursue it, because the statistics show that it tends to afford them a better life – they should take the same approach with these other life options that their kids often have to make decisions about now. It’s not hard to do.
Some additional things can also be inferred from just this simple statistic: The adults who are aware of it and are still pushing youth transsexuality cannot be doing so in the interest of the youth themselves. This should indict the trans-advocating schoolteachers, since a teacher’s job is to promote the positive development of the youth in their classroom. But handing out dope to the kids would be much less likely to lead to their demise that conning them into transsexuality. And entirely apart from the lethality of becoming a transsexual, it’s an odd thing to focus so much attention and promotion upon in light of another independent statistical fact: transsexuals presently consist of only 0.6% of the population (hopefully all the ongoing promotion of it wont increase this number significantly).
Anyone could determine all of this very quickly for themselves by just taking a few minutes to lookup this data. And with all the political impetus promoting transsexuality now against parents’ will, it’s astounding to me that people don’t bother to do that. As soon as you do, the following question naturally and immediately arises: If these adults promoting trans-ism to the youth aren’t interested in their welfare, then what are their real motivation for doing so ? With just this small amount of data, parents could not only deflect the accusations that they are trans-prejudiced, but turn the tables and demand the teachers and politicians to explain what their real motive is for promoting transsexuality. Any arguments that they doing it for the benefit of the kids could be shot-down immediately and definitively.
Nonetheless, there are groups of people now in America pushing “trans rights” (I only put that in quotes because they already have all of the rights that other citizens have) and rationalizing their predation on kids. It’s even become a profitable undertaking: The Biden administration has just entered into a contract with a private company to develop a “transgender programming curriculum” to be implemented in prisons across the U.S.. These trans-activist groups strenuously reject and ignore the facts on what gender is, and on how dismal the trans lifestyle is at producing happy and fulfilled people. Why ? Refer back to reasons (1) and (2) in paragraph 5 for the answer. Enough about transsexuality: To keep policy grounded in reality maybe the starting point should be to definitively discredit and shut up those who insist that men can get pregnant and bear children. They cant present one verifiable case, much less a dataset.
It can require resolve in political and social settings, in the workplace, and in other organizations to hold to what the factual data indicates when it contravenes or upsets commonly-held or foundational convictions. But maintaining fidelity to the truth is imperative in order to maintain real progress and to prevent mistakes and damage. On the one hand there will always be the careful investigators and (social, medical/biological, and physical, etc.) scientists whose examination and explanation of factual evidence adds to our knowledge of how to continue to successfully innovate, improve, and maintain our world and our lives. But that knowledge will only be utilized beneficially as long people remain willing to consult it and to defer their personal feelings, repute, and belief-systems to it.
In a company where your factual discovery challenges the founders’ business model, you may do a gross disservice if you don’t (at least confidentially to an appropriate person) say “this is what the relevant data indicates.” And you definitely and regularly do a minor disservice if you dont bother to examine and question. Just keep the questions restricted to issues that can be demonstrably shown to affect the bottom line and that people are not collectively irrational about. Some prevailing delusions like wokeness, and the assumption that those who question it only do so from their bigotry or other immoral and indecent motives, need to be left alone and endured until the amount of factual evidence of their harm to business efficiency grows to becomes undeniable.
As long as the’ truth’ isn’t purposefully wiped out and rewritten, and there remain people who highlight it, it will prevail over the longer term. Unfortunately, we are in a time when it is widely being ignored, obfuscated, and when the attempts to rewrite it are particularly forceful and ‘imaginative’. Still, when you accept a workplace, social circle, or a government that eschews reality, then you have allowed yourself to become a passenger on a boat lacking valid navigation, and you deserve whatever results you get from that. Course-correction has become tough in this unhinged time. Governors refuse to acknowledge the obvious fact that cutting their police enforcement leads to increased violent crime in their cities. SCOTUS justices get hounded out of restaurants for ruling to uphold the constitution. But like Gandhi said: “Even when you are a minority of just one, the truth is still the truth.”
A bit of effort is required. Try to reach for evidentiary data to inform you and avoid tendencies for laziness, dogmatism, or emotion in making determinations, and question everything. Because of purposeful suppression and misinformation, sound data is harder to ascertain and source these days, so find sources whose information tends to proves itself the most-valid as it plays-out, but continue to question and crosscheck it. But doing all that and drawing your conclusions is still worthless if you don’t have the temerity and integrity to speak and act upon them. Without plenty of critical thinkers drawing their own independent conclusions based upon demonstrable evidence, a democracy or an organization can be cajoled, frightened, or antagonized into all sorts of directions antithetical to its own good – like has happened many times before.
Preoccupation with issues like identity politics and woke green and social justice issues only arises in rich societies where the bulk of the people are no longer forced to focus on more fundamental concerns like staying fed, healthy, sheltered, and protected from hostiles. But as the policies in-effect now drive the concerns of ordinary people in the west back toward these fundamentals, more will eventually relinquish their woke idealisms. Unfortunately, hardcore wokies will cling to blaming social problems on their pet gripes as long as it remains practicable. And government will keep lying to mislead them and to pursue its control agenda now until it either succeeds or completely fails at it.
By the mid/late 2030s, we will either live under tyranny or in still-democratic-but-greatly-damaged democratic societies that will have to rebuild much of what is currently being intentionally destroyed. And either way, it’s likely that many people are going to die as a result of the imposition of the great reset scheme upon all of us without our consent. The kill-off has already begun; we are just no longer told that the ‘excess deaths’ of working-age Americans has risen by over 40% over the past 2.5 years (COVID was not the primary cause). China will be the world’s superpower. I wrote some time ago that the economic collapse due to the worldwide sovereign debt crisis will begin with the peripheral and emerging-market economies, and subsequently spread through Europe, then America. We now see this sequence starting to unfold with the WEF-led great economic reset’s harsh impact becoming evident in a number of nations now like Sri Lanka, Albania, Syria, and Egypt.
The inhumanity of the elites who devised and are now hatching this global societal reset starkly displays how abhorrent the human ego is. Once again, a small group of better-than-thou’s has decided to make the world a better place for themselves by aiming to seize control over it while disinfecting it of many ‘less-vital’ human beings. This time around, they also plan to employ genetic engineering and ‘trans-humanism’ to reengineer and control the remaining portion of the ‘human herd’ that they will allow to remain alive – what visionaries.
The supremacist grandiosity of these people is as stupefying and appalling as their calculated ruthlessness; they completely lack consideration for others as well as the humility I mentioned needed for them to critically question and cross-check their cockamamie utopian-for-them/dystopian-for-us schemes against its downside possibilities. But the temptation to play god with the world is just too strong – especially when they keep telling each other how important it is for them to do so, else it will soon blow-up due to overpopulation (which has already begun self-correcting) and due to an imminent existential climate apocalypse. So they prefer to carry-out a controlled demolition of it that makes them the supreme rulers of it. The leaders of governments go-along because they have bankrupted their own nations and will soon face citizen revolts if they do not. And the little proles go-along because they are propagandized, divided, and demagogued – but only because they chose to give their lazy emotions, sentiments, and obeisance precedence over seeking out reliable data and critically diagnosing it.
I trust that most can now keep up on the breaking news developments, which have become more open and brazen and thus easier to follow. A likely-upcoming one: There is obviously some reason why Biden illegally opened the US border as soon as he assumed the presidency. He will not tell us what it is, but we may soon find out. Immediately before the upcoming election, he may sign an EO giving all of the illegal migrants he has admitted into the country the right to vote in it. If so, he will couch the action in a language of inclusivity and humanity, but of course the real reason will be so that the left can continue to consolidate power and control while they continue steamrolling over the consensus will of the American people to ram their new social order down our throats. There is nothing else the democrats are now doing nor that they could do at this point to win besides cheating. The millions of native American citizens who he may intend to betray are likely to cease remaining civil about his betrayals. Biden’s administration is already suing the state of Arizona because it will require voters there to show proof of American citizenship.
I wrote in the past that this radical administration (actually the international elites puppeteering it) views everyday people as mere ‘meat puppets’ to be manipulated in its power plays. The illegal migrants, some of whom have traveled for weeks, some who been trafficked, and those who have carried contraband for the cartels in order to get into the US, may all soon find themselves played to the same degree as US citizens in the following way.
The administration will continue to push for war with Russia as a distraction and a cover for bankrupting the country (another $1.7 Bn of US aid is outgoing to Ukraine…). Since noone wants to enlist in the new woke military, be forced to take booster jabs every few months, and to learn recently-invented woke pronouns, a new draft will likely be imposed. So far Biden has welcomed hordes of young adult migrants into the country, flew many of them up to non-border states, and gave them some of our money. Mayorkas recently said that this was to benevolently help them escape the ravages of three things that the administration itself concocted: the economic downturn, the COVID ‘scourge’, and the alarm over climate change. But once they have been utilized to keep the democrats in power through the elections, these migrant meat-puppets may next find themselves drafted into the US military and deployed to die on battlefields in Eastern Europe. “Welcome to America: How do you like your new free smartphone ?”
The massive farmer protests raging now in Holland are a response to the puppet government’s green restrictions on nitrogen that have made it impossible for (particularly the small independent) farmers to survive. Nitrogen is a nontoxic gas (like CO2) that has always comprised over 70% of the atmosphere since we began measuring its constituents. The notion that it is some sort of pollutant is patently absurd, and preventing the concentrated amounts that have sometimes accumulated in waterways due to runoff is something that can be handled without banning it outright. Altogether destroying a long-relied upon means of growing food (using nitrogen fertilizer) for people based on such reasons is unjustifiable and grotesquely brutal.
The facts indicate that this is another attack on our existing food supply and a governmental grab for the farmers’ land. In the US, government as begun to join Blackrock and Bill Gates in building it real estate portfolio, and had used imminent domain to do it. Stock up on food now – a shortage is on the way this year, and costs will not relent. Costco, where many cost-constrained people shop, is raising its prices by 33%. The other thing to do is to inflation-proof and government-proof your assets, but this is more practicable for wealthy people who can knowledgeably invest in things like diamonds and fine art.
It’s amazing how fast the stature of a once-respected institution or state can fall once people lose confidence in it. Putin is pushing for a new world currency to replace the dollar. He has played the sanctions on his country to Russia’s advantage economically, in terms of forging and strengthening new international alliances, and in terms of energy sovereignty and control. The Biden government has proven itself only capable of mistakes, destruction, and division. It was ready to use the covid and climate bludgeons to seize control and restrict society. What do you think it will it do in the event of a new and more genuine crisis like a food shortage or a war ?
“The search for Reality is the most dangerous of all undertakings, for it destroys the world in which you live.” – Nisargadatta Maharaj