When Facts Dispute Ideology, What Do You Do?

When Facts Dispute Ideology, What Do You Do?

by Don Hall

When, in Chicago, the powers that be decided that it was a greener idea to ban plastic bags at groceries, it seemed like a great idea. I mean, the alarmist media told us how bad plastic bags were. The activists enthusiastically threw themselves at the wasteful practice. My wife was already reminding me at every trip to the Jewel to bring one of my several public radio tote bags instead of using the godawful plastic bags. If I forgot, I always went for paper because the dogma was that plastic bags were the embodiment of all things anti-environment.

"So about 30 percent of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags," Taylor says. On top of that, cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which she estimates resulted in about 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year

Plastic haters, it's time to brace yourselves. A bunch of studies find that paper bags are actually worse for the environment. They require cutting down and processing trees, which involves lots of water, toxic chemicals, fuel and heavy machinery. While paper is biodegradable and avoids some of the problems of plastic, Taylor says, the huge increase of paper, together with the uptick in plastic trash bags, means banning plastic shopping bags increases greenhouse gas emissions.


What? Huh? No, wait a minute. Really?

I’ve mentioned this set of facts to several people who I know are pretty hardcore environmental activists and the answer is always the same.

They don’t care. The ban on plastic bags is good. Their boots are steeped in concrete and their ideology won’t allow them to budge.

But the FACTS, I say. Ignoring the facts is for the Other Guys, right? We’re the side of the fence who respect the facts, preach the facts, and goddamn anyone who, y’know, votes against their interests by actively refusing to acknowledge the facts.

I’m noticing a similar trend when it comes to veganism. Vegans committed to the practice are finding themselves in poorer health than when they ate meat. Studies are being done that dispute the ideology of it being a healthier approach to food. Yet, vegans double down on their conviction despite evidence to the contrary. It’s certainly a more humane way of eating but healthier. Nope, not even close.

Likely the longest standing example of ideology obfuscating the facts is white supremacy. The facts simply do not support the idea that European heritage is in any way superior to the billions of people with color in their skin but the ideology is bedrock for some. They’ve tried to justify it with science and failed. They’ve legislated it and it failed. This many failures in trying to bolster the argument, with anything rational, would mean the idea is false on the foundation. And yet ideology reigns.

“As a result of their infatuation, existence overflows with purpose.”

Another is the Milton Friedman conceived Trickle Down Economic model. We’ve seen so many examples of that model in failure, it would seem to be complete lunacy to continue to trumpet it but the zealots can’t let it go.

The idea that there are no substantive differences between male and female brains is sticky right now because to suggest that there is a difference is to somehow be labeled anti-trans but facts are facts:

[The German philosopher] Arthur Schopenhauer said there are three phases to the acceptance of any truth: First, the truth is ridiculed. Second, it’s opposed. Third, it’s accepted as self-evident. I spent much of the past 20 years in the ridicule phase: “Oh, Larry Cahill, you used to do such good work. Now he’s studying the sex-differences bullshit!”

But it’s reached a critical mass now where both within neuroscience and outside of it, it’s getting scary for people who believe there can’t be sex differences in brain. So, now we’re in phase two, which is fighting it. I tell people to stay away from the ideologues on both sides of the issue. Stay away from the ones who tell you, “There’s male and there’s female and never the two shall meet.” But also stay away from the ideologues on the other side, who unfortunately are given a voice by editors at places like the New York Times, who know nothing about the issue except that they’re afraid of appearing to be on the wrong side of it.


The tragic part of this beyond having those strident idiots at your birthday party as they turn everything including your choice of cake into a debate about their cause is that a more logical and progressive approach is this: recognize that you tried something and it failed. The underlying cause for trying something isn’t bereft of reason but doubling down on a failed solution is.

It’s more humane to avoid eating meat but it isn’t a healthy way to live. Be creative. White people are in no way superior to black and brown people. Accept it. Try redlining or something. There are too many plastic bags clogging up the sea. The ban made things worse.  Find a different solution and try that. If it fails, admit it and try something new.

Only one problem with this, though:

New research published in Current Biology on December 18, 2018, confirms this feeling: people with radical beliefs actually think differently than those without. Specifically, radicals have less metacognitive sensitivity than moderates.

Metacognition refers to the ability to be aware of and analyze one's own thinking. Metacognitive sensitivity is similar, but more specific: it refers to the ability to distinguish between one's correct and incorrect judgements. The new paper, titled "Metacognitive Failure as a Feature of Holding Radical Beliefs," shows that radicals have measurably less metacognitive sensitivity than moderates.


When facts dispute your ideology, please — PLEASE — access those two brain cells that control your ability for self reflection and understand that those facts mean your failed solution doesn’t need another shot. You need to come up with a different solution, dumbass.

Remember, the option of the intelligent outweighs the certainty of the ignorant.

I Believe… [Discarding Mitch is More Important than Slapping Trump]

I Believe… [Discarding Mitch is More Important than Slapping Trump]

A Venice Tale

A Venice Tale