“Evidence-Based” Wishful Thinking
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, pepinsky.blogspot.com
June 11, 2010
You can’t accommodate violence if you can’t recognize the full extent of it. Today even from generally critical news sources I hear that evidence from the Gulf of Mexico indicates that the gush of oil from the ocean floor won’t be stopped until two relief wells have been drilled in August. Cutting off oil blowouts even in shallow water is a tricky trial-and-error process at best (see http://blogs.ft.com/energy-source/2010/06/01/how-difficult-are-relief-wells-some-comparisons-with-montara/ ).
Every time BP promises containment, the gush of oil continues. Today the USG estimates the flow to be greater than earlier thought, and that is before BP cut through the riser in its latest attempt at containment.
If this were courtroom testimony, BP would by now be thoroughly discredited, and so would government and media sources who believe that two “relief” holes will cut off the Gulf blowout come August. Maybe so. Drill baby drill, and perhaps this time history will not repeat itself and BP will finally shut the blowout off. I say that on its face, there is no more reason to rely on this miracle than Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara had to rely on evidence of “light at the end of the tunnel” in the Vietnam war in 1967. Now as in 1967, we continue to believe that human will and effort can triumph over catastrophic human disaster.
It didn’t take me long after law school to discover that burdens of evidence depend on what we jurors or evaluators are prepared to believe. Right now, we are unprepared to accept that we cannot close that BP has opened in the Gulf. We are unprepared to accept that self-employment is the only option other than combat for global “redundancy.” As I recognized a week ago once more, we are unprepared to recognize that the greatest physical threat to our own children are adults like ourselves into whose care we most entrust our children.
“Evidence based” has become a cliché in my own field of criminology for the continuing myth that underclass young men of color, especially in places on the other side of the planet like Afghanistan/Pakistan, are the greatest threat to our capacity to sustain one another at home. As an advocate, I have sat in on all manner of administrative and legal forums for assessing “best evidence.” I have learned that the weight of evidence depends on what listeners want most strongly to believe. I continue to find that the burden of evidence rests on those who as Max Weber put it put forward
“inconvenient facts.” One of my principles of peacemaking is that would-be peacemakers know the world to be far more seriously violent than warmakers allow themselves to acknowledge. Such is the reality of human burdens of proof. Love and peace--Hal