First of all, I must, once again, point all readers over to Sisyphus’s blog. http://newsisyphus.blogspot.com His explanation of the ‘68 Generation is must-read blogging. Fantastic!
It also jump starts today’s entry: Dangerous Assumptions
For an idea to qualify as a Dangerous Assumption it must:
1. be accepted as truth, though it is false
2. be used to promote and enact legislation
3. result in doing much more harm than good
Here are 3 ideas which certainly were Dangerous Assumptions:
1. Welfare, by raising incomes, will end those pathologies associated with poverty.
2. Appeasing Islamists will lead them to stop attacking the West.
3. A low fat diet, high in grains and other high-carbohydrate foods, promotes health.
For a brilliant analysis of the welfare debacle go see Sisyphus’s post here: http://newsisyphus.blogspot.com/2005/01/welfare-reform-dependence-theory-and.html
A recap of that post is in one of yesterday’s posts but you should read the whole thing. Great read. Great blogger.
An analysis of Dangerous Assumption 2 is Alan Dershowitz’s book Why Terrorism Works. A review and related essay by Dershowitz are here: http://www.aijac.org.au/review/2002/2711/essay2711.html The excerpt below sums thing up rather nicely, though.
The reason terrorism works-and will persist unless there are significant changes in the responses to it-is precisely because its perpetrators believe that by murdering innocent civilians they will succeed in attracting the attention of the world to their perceived grievances and their demand that the world "understand them" and "eliminate their root causes." To submit to this demand is to send the following counterproductive message to those with perceived grievances: if you resort to terrorism, we will try harder to understand your grievances and respond to them than we would have if you employed less violent methods. This is precisely the criterion for success established by the terrorist themselves. Listen to the words of Zehdi Labib Terzi, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s chief observer at the United Nations: "The first several hijackings aroused the consciousness of the world and awakened the media and the world opinion much more-and more effectively-than twenty years of pleading at the United Nations." If this is true-and the Palestinians surely believe it is-then it should come as no surprise that hijackings and other forms of terrorism increased dramatically after the Palestinians were rewarded for their initial terrorism by increased world attention to its "root causes"-attention that quickly resulted in their leader being welcomed by the UN General Assembly, their organisation being granted observer status at the United Nations, and their "government" being recognized by dozens of nations.
Dangerous Assumption 3 is analyzed here. Debunking this assumption would require an Induction Bomb… I swear I read an article that single-handedly debunked it through deduction, but this http://www.karlloren.com/diet/p109.htm was the closest thing I could find to that article. Here’s a quick excerpt that give you the flavor:
While the government has stood by this regimen for 11 years, some critics say it's no coincidence that the number of overweight Americans has risen 61% since the pyramid was introduced -- and almost instantaneously appeared on the sides of pasta boxes, bread wrappers and packages of other food products in the pyramid's six-to-11-servings category.
So, there they are… Three Dangerous Assumptions. There is no quantifying the amount of human misery which has resulted from their existence. It is horrible that they have been around so long- that they were ever assumed, and that they still have advocates despite overwhelming evidence. The path to hell is paved with good intentions, indeed. But this essay is not, simply, a list of Dangerous Assumptions. The point is to notice what they inherently have in common, what common circumstances led to their existence... to find red flags if you will, so that we may more easily identify current, non-debunked Dangerous Assumptions. More on this tomorrow.