Are You Quite Sure?

Now that the elections are over, I hope that politicians of all stripes will find it in themselves to make the compromises necessary to get something…anything…done. However, there are two major stumbling blocks:

  1. The inability to admit they are wrong, even when the evidence is overwhelming.
  2. The unshakeable belief (at least, for public consumption) that they are right.

We all struggle to admit we’re wrong. We seem to be hardwired to avoid blame, even when it’s obvious. Phrases like “It’s not my fault” or “I had no choice” seem to pop out at the speed of light whenever our blunders become evident.

But it’s our political class which take non-accountability to a high art. Have you ever heard a politician say, “I was wrong.”? Yeah, me neither. No party has a corner on this; it seems to be standard issue, along with flag lapel pins and empty clichés.

Once…just once…I’d love to hear a politician say, “Wow…did I get that wrong!”

A man can dream, can’t he?

Which brings us to point #2: that unshakeable certainty thing. It’s one thing to have strong convictions, it’s quite another to hold beliefs that are easily disproved. I would draw the attention of our elected officials to this example: the world is about to end, as predicted by John of Toledo (1186), Martin Luther (1600), Cotton Mather (1697, again in 1716, and yet again in 1736), John Wesley (1936) Margaret Rowen (1925), Dorothy Martin (1954), Pat Robertson (1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet (1990), Lee Jang Rim (1992), Credonia Mwerinde (1999), and Harold Camping (1994 and again in 2011). All certain of their predictions; all utterly wrong.

Will Rogers once said, “It ain’t what they don’t know, it’s what they know that ain’t so.” We all have things we’re pretty sure of, yet are demonstrably untrue:

  • Remember when French Fries were renamed “Freedom Fries” because the French government didn’t agree with the Iraq war? Unfortunately, French Fries originated in Belgium. The Belgians didn’t support the war either, but no one really cared what they thought.
  • Rice paper contains no rice.
  • There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets.
  • Napoleon was slightly taller than the average Frenchman of his day.
  • Albert Einstein did not fail mathematics in school.
  • The Great Wall of China is not visible from the Moon.
  • Seasons are not caused by the Earth being closer to the Sun in the summer than in the winter, but rather by Earth’s 23.4-degree axial tilt.
  • Lemmings do not engage in mass suicidal dives off cliffs when migrating.
  • Hair and fingernails do not continue to grow after a person dies.
  • George Washington never had wooden teeth.

See? People are wrong all the time. Why not just admit it? I’ll go first:

“I was certain that the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals would beat the San Francisco Giants to go on to the World Series, and win that, too. I was completely, totally and horribly wrong.”

There you go. Now let’s all try it, shall we?

Oh, and by the way: The carvings on Mount Rushmore are not a natural phenomenon. FYI.


Today’s Fact Cetera

The man who invented Jell-O was originally looking for a way to make a palatable laxative.


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