Consider these sentences.
1. I believe it, therefore it is true.
2. It is true, therefore I believe it.
Two radically different statements, and the difference between them is why Rick Santorum scares the hell out of me.
We like to think brains follow the pattern of statement 2: we build our beliefs on solid facts and sound reasoning. Researchers are discovering, though, that we spend most of our time in the world of statement 1. We hear a claim and evaluate it subconsciously in the black box of our prior beliefs and life experience. If it fits, the black box spits out TRUE! and our conscious mind manufactures — or seizes upon — a set of reasons to believe it.
That’s not terrible; it’s just human. It’s also essential. You can’t survive, you can’t even make it across town in heavy traffic, if you analyze your every choice in painstaking detail. It’s also human, though, to wake up from the world of statement 1 and push yourself into statement 2. To say, Whoa, is this really true? when it’s appropriate and when you have the time.
I fear Rick Santorum because when it comes to the presidency, he seems to operate entirely in the realm of I believe it, therefore it’s true. We saw this in his vomitous reaction to John F. Kennedy’s speech on religiously freedom:
To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?
As Jon Stewart put it “How do you hear, All faiths are welcome, as No faiths are welcome?” The answer’s easy, though. Santorum believes religious freedom is under attack, therefore Kennedy was attacking religion. I believe it, therefore it’s true.
We saw this in his policy statements on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:
…we would move forward in conformity to what was happening in the past, which is — sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself — whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual.
How can you say with conviction that straight soldiers never talked about sex in the past? Easy: Santorum believes traditional values are under attack by gays asking for special rights, therefore it was always the case that no soldiers ever got to reveal their orientation. I believe it, therefore it’s true.
Recently Santorum claimed:
In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly. And the bracelet is: ‘Do not euthanize me.’ Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized — 10 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands — half of those people are euthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness.
False. But Santorum believes ObamaCare is an assault on freedom, therefore any report of a government killing the sick to save money must be a fact. I believe it, therefore it’s true.
Santorum seems willing to believe almost any report that confirms his strange and faulty view of the world. And he shows no willingness to check whether these things are true before going on TV and spreading them to a national audience. That would be irresponsible in a pundit. It’s tragic in a president. Especially one who seems so eager to start a war with Iran.
Yes, I’m tying this to Iran. Santorum’s mental machinery reminds me of how Bob Woodward described Cheney’s obsession with finding WMD in Iraq:
Cheney was acting as a kind of super-investigator, trying to ferret out the elusive WMD, Kay concluded [David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group]. But there were always loose ends in intelligence, disparate bits of information that could lead to all kinds of wild conclusions. But by focusing in on only a few items and assigning them great significance, they could wind up with a skewed picture. It continued to remind Kay of the blockbuster novel The Da Vinci Code, in which a Harvard professor and a French policewoman piece together clues ¡ri the Bible and in great works of art and myths that supposedly reveal a giant conspiracy to hide the true nature and life of Jesus Christ.
Emphasis added. It won’t matter how many experts (inside the military and out, including the former head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency) oppose an attack on Iran. Facts won’t matter to Santorum when it comes to Iran, just as they don’t matter on religious freedom, gays, or healthcare. Santorum will always be able to find disparate bits of information that can lead to wild conclusions, bits he can focus on and assign great significance. We’ll end up with an administration that has nothing to do with reality as it exists, and policies that function only in the counterfactual ground zero of Santorum’s brain.
H/T to Slacktivist, in an article well worth reading.