Facts Are Stubborn Things

Watching the HBO series “John Adams” over the weekend (based on David McCullough’s insanely gorgeous book), for maybe the fifth time, I’m reminded once again how much that man’s reason and prudence speaks to us today. He would be so appalled by the intemperate rhetoric of our times. He was a passionate moderate, a believer in the rule of law, and, above all, a freaking patriot.John-Adams

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” — John Adams, ‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’ (December 1770)

15 thoughts on “Facts Are Stubborn Things”

  1. As a young man, Adams made some important decisions about how he wanted to live his life…

    From Wikipedia:

    Young Adams went to Harvard College at age sixteen in 1751.[13] His father expected him to become a minister, but Adams had doubts.

    After graduating in 1755 with an A.B., he taught school for a few years in Worcester, Massachusetts, allowing himself time to think about his career choice.

    After much reflection, he decided to become a lawyer, writing his father that he found among lawyers “noble and gallant achievements” but among the clergy, the “pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces.” He later became a Unitarian, and dropped belief in predestination, eternal damnation, the divinity of Christ, and most other Calvinist beliefs of his Puritan ancestors.

  2. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    “The story of the blind men and an elephant originated in the Indian subcontinent from where it has widely diffused. It has been used to illustrate a range of truths and fallacies; broadly, the parable implies that one’s subjective experience can be true, but that such experience is inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth. At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, the behavior of experts in fields where there is a deficit or inaccessibility of information, the need for communication, and respect for different perspectives.

    It is a parable that has crossed between many religious traditions and is part of Jain, Buddhist, Sufi and Hindu lore. The tale later became well known in Europe, with 19th century, American poet John Godfrey Saxe creating his own version as a poem.[1] Since then, the story has been published in many books for adults and children, and interpreted in an ever-increasing variety of ways.”

  3. I’ll meet you at nine.

    A nice clear factual statement that is free of ambiguity.

    Unless you are on a bomber flying from Missouri to the UK and are expecting a Mid-Atlantic refueling by tanker out of Spain.

    That’s why our military operates on Zulu-time.

  4. Craig, I thought Howard did much better yesterday. It’s a shame that the panelist in the middle was a comparative light-weight.

  5. Flatus,

    Glad you enjoyed the selection yesterday, and thank you for the kind words.

    I admit to being somewhat of a contrarian about life in the digital age, but in truth what the internet and computers have made available to us is a marvelous treasure trove of music and film. An amazing virtual library at your finger tips. It is fun to explore, even more fun to share.

  6. Ah, yes, the limits of perception. As one who deals in facts all the time I can say that without doubt there are at least two views of any given set of “facts.” The practice of law is based upon opposing positions about what facts are, and the lowest level of proof applied is a prepoderance of the evidence -- which is a tic over 50%. The rules that each party bears the burden of proof of his or her position and the burden of persuasion to convince the finder of fact (Judge or jury as the case may be), who did not observe the actual “facts”, supports the notion that at least in the legal system the concept of objective fact and the proof of any fact is anything but objective, and in fact is subjective. Many lawyers envy scientitsts, who are viewed as dealing sitnh more certain laws and observable facts,~~~ which of course explains why there are no disputes about facts based in science, like for instance climate change and global warming.~~~ (For those who didn’t know or have forgotten, the tildes are the flying tides of sarcasm.) ;-)

  7. I never saw a competent senior leader who did not have a Rolodex stocked with trusted knowledge/fact workers in many (not just key) disciplines.

  8. It’s a good thing facts are stubborn and in this day they also need to be tough and aggressive.

  9. An interesting WSJ OpEd by former Fed vice-chair Alan Binder. His proposal is to reward workers for their increases in productivity over the past decades as the 1-percenters have been rewarded. Not just in cash, but in the plethora of programs/services that make life bearable:

    Opinion
    ‘Pikettymania’ and Inequality in the U.S.
    By
    Alan S. Blinder
    Updated June 23, 2014 12:59 a.m. ET

    The attention that’s been showered on Thomas Piketty’s best-selling tome, “Capital in the 21st Century,” has been something to behold. Pikettymania has raised public awareness of inequality in the U.S. as no one has managed to do since the 1960s. Predictably, Mr. Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, is being lionized by the left and vilified by the right.

  10. I don’t know much about Pikkety or his work other than in VERY broad strokes, and having very little background in economics wouldn’t likely understand a lot of it. What I understand is that he’s pointed out inequalities between rich and poor in Europe and the US and has drawn conclusions from the data and has made obsevations about the bases of the inequalities and theorizes that only government policies can reduce those inequalities. That’s not a huge reach if that’s a fair summary of his work, at least not from my perspective anyway.

  11. pogo, I think he wants to go one step further by decapitating those at the very top, or at least have them change their ways through the sound of knitting needles just over yonder hill.

    I hope Nash jumps in and gives an accurate analysis of where we would be in a generation if Pikkety had his druthers vs Blinder.

    I have my own plan that would tax the dickens out of hoarded wealth and inheritances except under very limited circumstances.

  12. pogo: at least in the legal system the concept of objective fact and the proof of any fact is anything but objective, and in fact is subjective.

    and that’s a fact

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