Re: Confidence: A Basic Politics Puzzle

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Tue, 18 Feb 1997 17:55:06 -0800 (PST)

> >Physicists and programmers can readily point to simple, repeatable
> >experiments that conclusively demonstrate their principles.
> Programmers? Most people believe all sorts of crap that computer
> salespeople tell them, even though repeatable experiments often
> demonstrate the opposite. The vast majority of programmer claims out
> there are of the form "We can write software to do X in Y months",
> which are rarely repeatably experimented on.
> [RH]

Interesting. Is that the kind of thing taught in "computer science"
classes these days? Nebulous ideas about methodology and scheduling?
I honestly don't know; my 16 years of programming experience do not
include any formal education. Never had any use for it. They hire me
to write stuff. It either works or it doesn't. Very testable, clear,
and scientific.

But even if we remove that example from the argument, I still think it
holds: politics is a less testable science, and therefore an easier
subject for passionate advocates to flourish in with less risk of being

After seeing the other replies, though, I think Eric's "high stakes"
argument is more compelling (not that they compete). Politicians are
playing with real people's lives. If one has reached some conclusion--
right or wrong--about what political system is best, one is naturally
driven to be evangelical and inflexible, because you will view its
competing ideas as deadly.

This is precisely why I like to take on popular ideas aggressively.
I like to shake up the mental cobwebs a bit, attack ideas head-on.
Eric and I had a related exchange on argumentation techniques just
a few weeks ago; you might look that up in the archives (I changed
the thread title to "The Game of Argument", but there was earlier
stuff under a title I don't remember).

Lee Daniel Crocker <>