I’m coming around to you, Charles Murray.
As I’ve written before, Charles Murray (of The Bell Curve fame) has just published a book called, “Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960-2010”. I should really read this book before writing one more thing about it, but this is striking.
One of his quotes from the book was:
Data can bear on policy issues, but many of our opinions about policy are grounded on premises about the nature of human life and human society that are beyond the reach of data. Try to think of any new data that would change your position on abortion, the death penalty, legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage or the inheritance tax. If you cannot, you are not necessarily being unreasonable.
I, of course, lost it. But what’s interesting is that Murray has changed his mind on at least one of these things. In this Charlie Rose interview (17:45), Murray says on same-sex marriage,
I’ve changed my mind on this one … the fact is that my wife and I know many same-sex couples and they have great marriages.
Interesting that what took to change his mind — and it was not an easy mind to change — was people and relationships, not facts and data. I think that’s a fair way to change one’s mind because what is data without the real people to live it out and back it up?
We can produce all kinds of studies on how kids raised by same-sex parents are just like every other kid on the block, how marriage equality is good for everyone, how the promise of equality can save gay kids’ lives, and how, yano, gays are going to save the world someday. But that means nothing if you don’t actually know happy, well-adjusted, independent gay people who have a positive impact on your life. Most of us are not very good at abstracting lessons from data in any meaningful way. We need to bear out the facts in our lives with the people we know, love, and trust before changing our minds.
So, make friends with your local gays/straights. They’re probably more interesting than you anyway.