My friend Daniel Sheerin in the State Department’s eDiplomacy group (where I sadly recently ended my second and final year as a Franklin Fellow — what a great group!) sent me a quotation from Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan to balance the quotation I use in Too Big to Know and just about whenever I talk about knowledge.
The quote I’ve been using is: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not his own facts.” I like it first because it’s put so well, but mainly because it expresses a promise that knowledge has made to us in the West: If we can just sit down and look at the facts, all reasonable people will agree. I think the Net is showing us that that’s not a promise that can be kept.
But, of course that’s not the only thing Moynihan said on the topic. Dan points to the this from the Senator: “I fear that rationality is but a weak foil to the irrational. In the end we shall need character as well as conviction.”
Much better! But, I’m not convinced that character + conviction is going to win the day, and since Moynihan was in politics, I suspect that he agreed. Today the formula is probably more like: Character + Conviction + $5,000,000 ad budget.
BTW, I’ve always liked Bertrand Russell’s remark (approximately): “One cannot be argued out of a position that one was not argued into.”
And also BTW, Dan highly recommends Moynihan’s letters.