I am a news and politics junkie. I have not always been that way, and I am not sure why it has turned out this way, but perhaps around 2006 I started my slow descent into news and politics mania. The first thing I do when I wake up is check the news and read any particularly interesting articles as I get ready in the morning. And throughout the rest of the day, I will take a moment to check the news.
My family has always been fairly interested in politics and since we have always eaten dinner as a family, large portions of family dialogue was politically oriented. We are not a very politically homogeneous family. Perhaps it was a combination of being the youngest and listening to my siblings and parents argue politics that led me to my centrist and independent views.
I have always been registered as an independent. Although it does stink not being able to vote in the primaries, I make it a principled decision to stay independent. Like most independents, I enjoy the freedom of non-association. It seems that I would be constantly struggling with party lines on certain issues. There is sometimes no consistency between issues for the two dominant parties in the US. They will use an argument or evidence one way and then later use it another way depending on their interests. I do not think I could keep up with all the contortions if I were to strictly follow one party or another.
I think one might have an argument that an independent position can be a cop out. As the argument would go, one might bend under pressure to change a well-founded belief or may play fast and loose with opinions when it comes to taking sides based on whatever may be in their personal best interests. My rebuttal would be that I do have principles which I endeavor to hold in all circumstances. Beyond the statements made in the American Declaration of Independence, I rely on these principles to help me through
- Evidence-based — Are the arguments supported by evidence? Is the evidence collected and/or produced rigorously? Are results analyzed correctly? Are experimental outcomes reproducible by others? The answer to these questions should guide one’s reasoning whether or not to support a policy or position. When new evidence refutes older evidence, more investigation is needed. Bayesian probability theory says that as new evidence is added, it may increase or decrease the probability of X being true. Things are not instantaneously disproved by conflicting evidence.
- Pragmatism (and muddling through) — When faced with many problems or solutions, the most pragmatic options are usually the best. You do not need to reinvent the wheel or fix something that is not broken to make improvements. Sweeping, “comprehensive” policies are often ruined by the endless details and deals contained with. We should grant preference for incremental improvements instead of massive, one-shot reforms that may have all sorts of unforeseen outcomes.
- Skepticism — A healthy degree of skepticism is important in all aspects of life. One cannot say anything is true or a fact with absolute certainty. Metaphysical certitude is a philosophical pipe-dream. Absolute belief in anything is dangerous. Even believing absolutely in something positive is dangerous. Furthermore, the process of science is one of falsification. That is, we do not prove something to be scientific fact. We can only disprove something that challenges that “fact”.
- Pluralism — We have to accept that we cannot force everyone around us to believe what we believe or act as we act. Furthermore, we need to agree that disagreements are part of life and society. We cannot always come to a consensus on every issue. However, the laws and principles of our society make a boundary in which we all must agree to operate. Beyond that, we must accept that there are different “ends” to life that people can (and should be allowed to) choose from.