I used to have a rule for myself when I started the blog that I wouldn’t delete things. I wanted a place to write from total honesty, because when you write fiction the temptation is to always make your factual stories “better” by embellishing them. It’s also necessary to sometimes separate yourself from the world you’ve been letting your mind live in. So I promised myself two things: this blog would tell the absolute truth and I wouldn’t delete things.
I have to say that while I’m still absolute truthing it, I’ve been Moving To Trash like a madwoman. I’m starting to lose count of the partial posts I’ve crumpled up and discarded into vapor. Then again, it’s not like any of them are that profound. I just usually realise about two hundred words in that the post is either not at all interesting or may be offensive to someone. My goal is to intrigue people without hurting their feelings. (Although, sometimes, I have to say something that may just offend someone but I have to say it anyway. One of those things is coming up in a paragraph or two.)
I can’t delete this post because I’ve already thrown out one partial and the ideas for three others. I’ve got to get something down, and even though the two things I want to say are only kind of related, I need to put them somewhere. But now as I get this far I realise that I DO have enough for two posts. So we’ll save my writings on the movie Fathead for later. Right now I’m going to talk about something I have pretty high standards about.
Not that robot guy from Fake Star Trek. The actual points of information.
A few years ago in the comments on a blog (this one or someone else’s–the origin is lost to time) someone introduced me to a word that I love and now use constantly. That word–anecdata–is loosely defined as “A personal story someone tells about themselves or someone they know which they expect to serve as a fact to settle a discussion”. Anyone who has been around the internet for any time at all knows exactly what that is. You’re having a conversation about, say, whether or not vaccines cause autism*. You–or someone like you, assuming you are a factswonk like me–present a lot of scientific studies to support your case. Then along comes another commentor who says something along the lines of “My cousin Heather Anne vaccinated her son and now he’s autistic.”**
The sad truth is that most people find stories about Heather Anne to be more compelling than, say, actual science. So these junk arguments stick around to clutter up the world.
I will never change my mind about any held position based on anecdata. Appeals to emotion do not work on me. So don’t try to get me to support gay marriage*** by talking about how heartbreaking it is that your cousin Leroy can’t marry his life partner Thad. Don’t try to get me to support aid to foreign nations by showing me little kids with flies on their face. And don’t ever ever think I’m going to change my position on the overdiagnosis of High Functioning Autism, ADD and ADHD by telling me about the people you know who “really have it.” I personally know people who Really Have all of those things, but that doesn’t mean that the numbers lie.
**just a reminder: My favourite statistical axiom is that Correlation Does Not Equal Causation.
***as a libertarian I support a separation of Covenant Marriage–the religious concept–from Civil union. I support homosexual civil unions and think all churches should have the freedom to decide who in their church can receive a covenant marriage recognised by the church. And I think those Covenant Marriages should be more strictly regulated than the state regulates civil union. We in the church have gotten far too lax about marriage and need to stop asking the government to fix what we broke.