Mark Twain said, “there are lies, damn lies and statistics.” He should know, he was an adventurous liar who often spoke the brutal truth. I’m amazed by the uninformed. Taken aback by people’s willingness to allow others to do their thinking. By those who hear a talking point, the latest “study,” or those so willing to follow the other lemmings. Those who will dismiss fact and evidence under the umbrella of, “Well it’s no big deal either way. Why question it?”
So much that we think we know and so many things we take as “foregone conclusions” are just wrong or at best inconclusive. It doesn’t matter to me if I agree or disagree with the conclusions. It doesn’t matter if the “facts” support or detract from those things I want supported or wish to be true—I live my written world in fantasy, but in the real world I prefer the truth—unfiltered and without an agenda.
Probably the best books on the subject are Freakanomics, Predictably Irrational, and The Science of Fear. One may not like many of the factual truths within the books. One might rail against the way the facts weaken his or her favorite “battle.” It may seem a lie that swimming pools “kill” more children than guns. You may want to dismiss the fact that a drinking age designed to actually impact DUI incidents would be better served and save more lives if it removed the “right” from those 24 to 28 years of age rather than 18 to 21. One may not want to know that the Komen Charity (which does a lot of good work) spends twice as much money on administrative costs as on treatment costs—and pays its founder 650k a year. One might prefer to think of the Top 10% of earners as “greedy and evil” and believe they need to pay their fair share when in fact they account for 70% of the taxes paid. And it might be uncomfortable to learn that cows create more climate change than SUVs.
One might dismiss all the evidence and facts by citing, “well these things can’t hurt.” Lies always hurt in some way and when “we give up a little bit of liberty for a little more security, we wind up with neither.” These things are just facts. I don’t mind facing the truth, I abhor facing a convenient lie that serves a personal or philosophical agenda…regardless of my personal belief in that agenda or philosophy.
The quality to seek truth creates a fact-check obsession in my work. My greatest fear is not a typo, but the chance that I might base some scene or statement on a popular belief that is folklore, spin, or just bad science. That I might mis-explain how something works like a virus or a gun or compare a porcupine to a bow and arrow instead of a sword because my information came from a cartoon. Or that I might support a notion, that is little more than deception “for the good of the community.” I was born on April Fool’s Day, but I do not intend to be one.
I like to investigate facts. I like to draw conclusions from things that are tested and true, not popular and misinformed. So I’m a careful writer with the details of the ordinary and extra-ordinary things because I learned from the 70’s that eggs aren’t really bad for you, hairdryers don’t cause cancer, and Santa Claus is in fact real if you keep the spirit in your heart and the imagination in your soul.
Note: A reader may be tempted to argue against the “facts” I’ve outlined. The article is not about my personal beliefs or opinion on “what” we should or shouldn’t do. My contention is to rely on information and not “trust us, this is what’s best for you.”
Categories: A to Z Blog Challenge