Friday, May 4, 2012

In Praise of Honored Dead

In Praise of Honored Dead
12 Iyyar, 5772
May 4th, 2012
27th Day of the Omer

A few weeks ago, Rex Huppke (hell of a name) published a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek obituary in the Chicago Tribune in memory of...facts. 

He believes that facts died when Rep. Allen West “steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists.”

Know that Huppke’s point is not partisan. Rather he points out the decidedly across-the-aisle degradation of facts’ health over the decades, including the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. To my mind the beginning of the end may have come in 1982, when the nation watched opposing psychiatrists find John Hinckley both legally sane and insane, respectively, in his attempted assassination of President Reagan.

I saw facts’ fatal wound came at a Shabbat lunch a few months ago. A very intelligent woman, a former teacher of physics, far more observant than I, claimed that “the theory of evolution has been all but discredited by academics.” Thoroughly shocke, I asked her to produce evidence. Sure enough she presented me with an academic citation claiming that evolution had been debunked.

The problem with her assertion and her paper is that they’re both nonsense. The vast, preponderant, overwhelming majority of the scientific community accepts evolution as valid. Whether or not one thinks the theory is valid, one should not deny this reality of what most scientists think.

However, the explosion of information that is at the heart of our new society makes it possible that, no matter what my point, I can find statistical, academic, and journalistic work to support me. And thus we’ve arrived at a place in which facts inevitably work to support our own opinions, which is to say that facts are now irrelevant, which means that they are truly dead.

It is possible to resurrect them from this backwards existence, however. The Psalms say, “Who can live in Your tent, who may dwell on Your holy mountain? (i.e., who’s a good guy?) who swears to his own detriment and does not abdicate his vow.” Psalm 15

The point being that a tzaddik is one who keeps his word, even when his word works against him. So in memory of honored dead, I propose we do the same thing. If we believe in facts, let them work against us. It’ll be a sign of our righteousness.

1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Perlo,

    Good blog, and I think there are more tzaddikim than you realize. The fact that you are writing this means that facts z'l may have passed on, but will indeed live on in our memories and through our determination to find truth, even if it works against us at times. One certainly wouldn't get the same response from the lady in question regarding a law of physics? Worry not; fact's offspring, truth, is much more vocal and constant, than her brother, factoid.