The Utility of Facts and the Stubborn Elusiveness of Truth

By February 27th, 2014

Utility and Limits of Facts – My Facts and Your Facts – Expenditures for Education Technology for and Internet Access of U.S. Students

by Mack W. Borgen

THE RELEVANCE OF REASON

Two Companion Books Presenting

The Hard Facts and Real Data About the State of Current America

Book One  – The Hard Facts and Real Data About U.S. Business and Politics (July, 2013) (408)

Book Two – The Hard Facts and Real Data About U.S. Society and Culture (October, 2013) (438 pp).

NOTE: Although these books are companion books, they have been written as independent, “stand-alone” books. Many buyers get copies of both books, but they can be read separately depending upon the breadth or focus of one’s interest.

Outtake Comments and Reviews

Stimulating, refreshing, and original…” Wayne S. Bell, Chief Counsel, CA Dep’t of Real Estate, Sacramento, California

                ”…(A)stonishing undertaking…” Brigadier General Dulaney O’Roark, (Ret), Louisville, Kentucky

       “…(R)e-opens the doors to civil dialogue,’ Martha Lange, The Aspen Institute, Santa Barbara, California

Books available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, SummerlandPublishing.com or ask for these books at your local bookstore or your local public or academic library.

Bookstores and public and academic libraries can also obtain copies of these books through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Quality Books, and other distributors. 

Order The Relevance of Reason - Business and Politics (2013)

                                             The Utility of Facts and the Stubborn Elusiveness of Truth

Knowing the realities of our country, our society, our economy, and our people will help us in understanding the nature and extent of both our problems and our successes. It is facts, as distinguished from hopes, dreams and theories, that can help us evaluate alternative courses of action.

While facts cannot imbue the power of blind faith or the tempting draw of ideologies, they can assist us in selecting remedies and in allocating our limited and precious resources. They can help us in diminishing our fears and placing both our enemies and our problems in proper perspectives. Facts can improve or restore our confidence  and can remind us of our accomplishments. In other words, not only can facts show us the bad, they can also show us the good.

But despite all of their allure and utility, it is not as simple as selecting facts over guesses; wisdom over ignorance. To the contrary, facts also have troublesome characteristics, and the boundaries of their usefulness must be recognized.

First, there are too many of them. Some of them may be interesting, but they are of little use. Some of them are more akin to finding isolated bits, near curiosities of another age. For example, it is a fact that Aristide, in 1873, was the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby. It is even more interesting that he was ridden by Calvin Borel, a black jockey riding before that all-white Kentucky crowd. “In fact,” as they say, Borel went on to win three out of four of the next Kentucky Derbies. But, by themselves, these facts are more in the nature of trivia. Without thought and reflection, they tell us little about horse racing in America or the limited rights of blacks in post-bellum Kentucky. Similarly, it is a fact that Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont was the first beneficiary of social security and that she got %$650 per year for 35 years. But, once again, by themselves, these facts about Ms. Fuller do nothing to guide us in evaluating the wisdom of our having expanded the social security benefits systems over the ensuing decades or the importance in our resolving the trajectory of financial insolvency which faces our 21st Century society security system.

Thus, the first troublesome nature of facts is their sheer volume and the variances of their respective importance. In our era of Big Data in which “2.5 quintillion bytes” of new information are generated each day, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between, as Nate Silver has stated, “the signal and the noise.”

Second, facts are always vulnerable to subjectivities of selection and emphasis. Each person’s factual selection and emphasis will sometimes be different. Thus, facts are not simply like stones lying on the ground. Some of them can be bound together. Some can be forged to fit a pastern, to serve a purpose , or to reveal a greater meaning.

Facts have even cone to attract their own litany of descriptions and lexicon of adjectives — hard facts and cold facts. Facts can be omitted or distorted. Facts can be buried or concealed. Facts can be used out of context and can be, or seem to be, contradictory. There are so many of them that one group of Americans can wrap themselves in one set of facts while another group blindly or purposefully wraps itself around another group of facts. Aided by the age of technology, facts have become so readily available that they are far more tempting to use than the plodding, burdensome work of applying reason or thought. For some, facts in their own willy-nilly way, are used to supplant useful conversation and respective debate. Instead, they are exchanged in a chorus of “my facts” and your facts,” “my “ya-buts: and your “what abouts.”

Borgen, M., The Relevance of Reason – Business and Politics and – Society and Culture, p.p. 27-29.

 

The Fact of the Day

Education Technology, Computers Per Student, and Internet Access for Students

Appr. $65.7BB (or about 6.7% of total U.S. education spending, was spent on education technology in the U.S. in 2011. As of 2011, there was a ratio of one computer for every three students (up from one for every 92 students 25 years ago) and “nearly 100%” of U.S. schools had at least some Internet access for their students.

Borgen, M., The Relevance of Reason – Society and Culture, p. 209, citing Webley, K., “Reboot School,” Time, July 9, 2012, p. 36

 

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2014 at 5:22 pm and is filed under Facts and Reasoning, Technology and Information. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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