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July 19, 2012


Excellent talk!

The question of what constitutes "truth" is peripheral to Brendan's talk. However, I wish Brendan would better distinguish between actual facts vs. things Brendan thinks one ought to believe.

Bush's decision on stem cell research is objective. One can verify its exact provisions by reading his executive order. So, it was definitely untrue to accuse him of banning all stem cell research.

OTOH cause-and-effect cannot be proved in economics. So it's merely an opinion as to whether Bush's tax rate cuts caused the sharp increase in revenues that began a couple of years after his rate cuts took effect. It can only be an opinion as to whether global warming will continue and whether it will be catastrophic if it does continue.

In these two examples, Brendan treats widespread beliefs among certain groups of experts as facts -- economists in the former case and climate scientists in the latter. However, he wouldn't apply this standard uniformly. E.g., Christian clergymen are experts in the Christian religion. No doubt they overwhelmingly believe it to be true. Yet, Brendan obviously wouldn't call the Christian religion a fact.

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