“True Believers” In A Fact-Based World…

Do you ever play video games?  In some games, the programmers include the possibility for the player to create a character.  Commonly, the game establishes a list of attributes important to success in the game and then allows the player to distribute some kind of “attribute points” – for lack of a better name – among the pre-determined categories.  Often, as the game progresses the player acquires more attribute points to add to character attributes.

If someone (with more time than sense) were to collect every character ever created for a given game, that person could easily see groups of players that emphasized a certain attribute.  The odds that the point distribution would be identical among created players is probably pretty low but it would still be possible to discern general strengths and weakness and sort them by group.

On a much more complex level, I think it’s a good way to think of how human beings are created.  We all start out with pretty much the same “categories” and we all start out with a given number of “attribute points” that DNA “distributes” randomly for us.  Then, we can add to various attributes or allow them to wither depending on what we do as people, er, “players”.

It’s important to note that “different” and “better” are not the same thing.  In the game, “Strength” might provide one game experience and “Magic” another but neither is necessarily “better”…they’re just “different”.

It might be beneficial to our society to start sorting people according to their most identifiable, though generalized, group.  This is not about starting some kind of caste system, though.  It’s just an identifier.  It would be helpful for other people to know who belonged in which group.

For example, I’ve long held that the character set that makes a good cop a good cop also makes for a poor choice of spouse.  Now, I’m not ripping on cops.  Our society needs them and I’m glad they’re there.  But good cops are people with high self confidence in their own judgment.  They’re not prone to buy sob stories and they don’t compromise.  They respond to their own determinations and let the courts worry about nuance.

But nuance and compromise are the very core of marriage.  See?  The character set that makes a good cop conflicts with the character set that makes a good spouse.  (Certainly there will be some number of people with “attribute distribution” that allows them to move seamlessly between the two disparate roles, but I think this would be a very small number of people, indeed.)

Knowing one’s own group could help someone avoid mistakes in life.  Knowing someone else’s group could help society direct people into fields in which they could excel and probably enjoy.  The value is two-fold: a kid displaying the attributes of a good cop could be introduced to the idea of police work.  (The child still gets to choose, of course.)   A person seeking an understanding life-partner might know to avoid cops.  Fewer divorces. Conversely, knowing someone’s group could dictate when their input has value and when…not so much…

I recently became aware of an “attribute distribution” that I would never have guessed would exist…but it does.  I call them “true believers”.  We all know one or more.  They gravitate toward fundamentalist religion and/or the neo-conservative movement but the predominant characteristic isn’t so much WHAT they believe.  It’s more THAT they believe…because they believe in spite of available evidence.

True believers have made a decision and seek information that supports their decision.  They disregard information that conflicts with their decision.  Facts and logical thought are unimportant – detriments, even – to their preferred position.  Now, let me be clear.  I’m not talking about intelligence or capability.  There are certainly plenty of true believers who are incredibly intelligent and/or talented.

But since these people have no use for fact-based information that doesn’t serve them directly, there’s no way to debate them.  There’s no benefit to discussion with them.  There’s no way to improve their understanding of issues facing the nation.  They already know what they know and they will not – sometimes forcefully will not – update what they “know” based on mere “facts”.

I’m not saying these people have no value, at all, in any field.  But governing a nation requires the ability to make actual life-affecting decisions based upon actual events, viewed in the context of testable reality.  When you want to figure out how to get to the moon, you bring in people strong in math and science.  When you want a new hit movie, you bring in people strong in language skills.  When you need to govern a nation, you bring in the pragmatic, not the true believers.

True believers are uniquely unqualified for the role.  Yes, of course, they have a right to their opinions.  Of course, they have a right to express those opinions.  But the rest of us have an obligation to sort of pat them on the head, thank them for their input, then ignore them and go about the business of improving society.

To be sure, they won’t understand.  They can’t.  But we, the people, are currently sifting through the wreckage of “governance by true belief”.  It’s time to return government to a fact-based institution operating in a fact-based world…

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