Ronald Reagan paraphrased John Adams when he said, “Facts are stubborn things.” Adams had continued: “whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot last Thursday. In it, I discuss something that has been bugging me for a while now: the inability of people to acknowledge the facts. Or, as Einstein put it, “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.”It’s no wonder, then, that there has been a proliferation of fact-checking services.
Not that it matters. It’s far easier to just attack the fact-checkers than it is to admit they are right, especially when it is something that we already disagree with. That’s part of the reason we have this serious divide in our country. It is impossible to move towards a solution as long as we can’t agree on the facts.
Politicians and advocacy groups cherry-pick facts all the time. We know it – and yet far too many believe the tall tales, anyway. And opinion writers? They completely forget that while you are entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts.
As I sit to write my op-ed each week, no matter the topic, I spend most of the time researching. I found this Malcom X quote to be pretty close to my own process:
Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as a new experience and new knowledge unfolds. I have always kept an open mind, a flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of the intelligent search for truth.
Sometimes, my research leads me in a completely different direction than where I started. Sometimes, the “facts” as originally reported turn out to be wrong.
What passes for opinion these days is often no more than a repetition of talking points, which, as I point out in the article, it merely the latest corollary of The Big Lie. Of course, the ability of groups to tell these lies is directly related to the lack of critical thinking skills these days, a topic I mentioned in an earlier column.
The argument over Medicaid expansion is a perfect example. The fact is that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. The fact is that as designed, there is a coverage gap that was supposed to be filled by Medicaid expansion. The fact is that reimbursements to hospitals for uninsured care will be reduced. The fact is that additional federal taxes are being collected to pay for the expansion. The fact is that the federal government will, using those taxes, pay 100% of the initial cost of expansion and 90% thereafter. Finally, the fact is that SCOTUS allowed the states to decide on whether or not to expand Medicaid.
It is not a fact that the feds will shirk their responsibility. That is conjecture.
So putting on your critical thinking skills cap, what should Virginia do?
This Washington Post editorial gives a hint. Facts aren’t optional.
My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.Follow @vpaige