This morning we get an article from the Washington Post about the torrent of information about potential terror suspects gathered by the NSA and sent to the FBI for analysis. Bottom line; "...virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans." Just like torture, it's illegal and it doesn't give you the results you want.
This disconnect between the theory and the practice, the premise and the results, is increasingly the hallmark of the Bush administration and the right wing in this country. We have attempts to push creationism in public schools, establish government-sponsored religious displays, active dismissal of global warming research in favor of big business' polluting ways, torturing of suspects to obtain intelligence information. Funding is cut to social and medical programs, with a blatant disregard for the resulting greater costs that will come later. Benjamin Franklin's "ounce of prevention" is being abandoned with no thought of paying for the inevitable "pound of cure" that will come due in the future. Of course, the biggest example of this erroneous thinking is our invading Iraq on the assumption of the existence of WMDs, despite the lack of any conclusive proof these weapons ever existed. In each case, policy is made based on what someone wants to be true, rather than what is.
Let's say I told you I just built an airplane and I want you to fly in it. I tell you that I have no aeronautical experience, no knowledge of building an engine, or an air frame. My plane has not been examined or certified by the government to be flight worthy. I myself have no certifications or education that would tell you I'm qualified to build an aircraft, nor even to fly one. However, I tell you that I really think the damn thing will fly. Would you get in it? I don't think so.
Yet this happens continually in government. We are told that the NSA spying program has saved thousands of lives, yet no one can prove it. Instead we learn (years later) that the NSA spying that happened just after 9/11 was largely worthless, yielding little or no useful information. Does that keep us from doing more of it? Evidently not, based on the current story about the president ordering the NSA to wiretap people in this country in direct contravention of FISA laws. We continue to waste huge amounts of time and resources in a futile effort to control the uncontrollable, manage the unmanageable, detect the undetectable, mangling the civil rights of thousands of American citizens in the process. This is a lose/lose scenario here, something this kind of thinking all-too-frequently leads to.
Science is simply the process of finding out what's provable, what works. We rely on the results of scientific research literally every moment of every day. We wear clothes, drive cars, type on computers, live and work in buildings. We read and write. We think. We talk. Farmers grow crops, pilots fly airplanes, doctors save lives and cure diseases. Every aspect of our society that matters is based on those who went before us and went through the painstaking steps to figure out what works. The abandonment of this simple principle in service of political expediency, religious proselytizing or a grab for power and control is running rampant in this administration.