Liberal Grace

Friday, July 28, 2006

Getting it wrong, again and again.



Philip Tetlock’s book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good is It? How Can We Know? argues that experts are no better than the rest of us in making predictions.

I won't try to summarize his conclusions but will tell you mine, which I think are fairly consistent with Tetlock's:

While political experts know a lot more than the rest of us, this is canceled-out by their strong presuppositions.

These strong presuppositions come from a their set of organizing principles and "big ideas" they used to gain their expert status.

"Arab propagandists have done a great
disservice steering the Arab world
into some very wrong political decisions."

But for issues as organic and messy as politics or religion it is generally better to consider everything, case-by-case.

Living in the Arab/Muslim world, it seems to me that practically everybody has a very short-list of organizing principles about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Here they are, simply put:
1) Israel/Jews are evil war mongers with territorial ambitions
2) Israel is the puppet of America (and/or visa versa)
3) Israel's enemies have no alternative to violence

For example, it is bewildering to many Americans when Arabs blame America for this war. But if one believes in #2, this makes sense.

Since I don't believe #2, I seriously doubt Israel would heed America's call for a cease fire.

I think the legion of Arab propagandists have done a great disservice to their world by propagating the above principles. These "organizing principles" have helped steer the Arab world into some very wrong political decisions.

Don't think I'm letting Israel off the hook. While I don't know them as well as the Muslims, I can identify at least one "organizing principle" that steers the Israelis wrong, every time,

"Those people only understand power."

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