June 18, 2005

Pragmatism

Although the philosophy of pragmatism is a bit more complicated than this, the stance of the pragmatic can be boiled down to: decisions or policies should be based on their likely outcomes.

Let's take the death penalty as an example. If we can set aside the morality/immorality for a second, does the death penalty deter crime? No. We have decades of solid research demonstrating that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent on crime. We keep it to provide the masses with retribution and so that conservative politicians can appear "tough on crime."

How about the abstinence approach to sex education peddled by Christian extremists? Again, the evidence is clear that this does not work. Why not abandon it? Because the Christians don't care whether it works or not as long as it fits with their shared delusion.

Another great example are the DARE programs that claim to deter teen drug use. They don't. Well designed studies have documented that these programs are ineffective. Again, they are kept for appearances.

What is wrong with people? Clearly, human nature is deeply flawed. Why is it not "common sense" to base decisions and public policy on demonstrable evidence of efficacy? I blame religion. It did not create this problem, but there can be no question that it maintains it.

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