Thursday, April 28, 2011

Evidence, Belief, and the Birth Certificate

The "Birther" movement has always been a great study in the weak connection between evidence and belief. People who hate Obama want to think that he is not a real American, so they fantasized the notion that he was not born where all the evidence says he was born, in Hawaii. His "short form" birth certificate, which is the one everybody uses for stuff like getting a driver's license or a passport, did not satisfy the doubters. So he got the state of Hawaii to release his "long form" birth certificate, something they will do only for a "compelling reason." The response?
“You know as well as I do that you can produce a fraudulent form,” said Sharon Guthrie, legislative director for Texas state Rep. Leo Berman (R), who has introduced a bill that would require that anyone running in Texas for president provide an original birth certificate proving American citizenship.
True, documents can be forged. But if you have no confidence in documents, why bother passing a law that requires Presidential candidates to produce them? But Guthrie didn't stop at one utterly nonsensical statement. She went on to say this:
Guthrie argued that the document Obama produced on Wednesday is not a birth certificate but merely a “certificate of live birth,” which she considers something different.
The only difference between a "certificate of live birth" and a "birth certificate" is that the former is the officially correct term and the latter the colloquial shorthand. After all, there is also paperwork to file when a baby is born dead, and the official title of the document notes this important distinction. Was Ms. Guthrie hoping for a document that did not specify whether the President was born alive or dead? All hail the zombie president!

I would say that the prevalence of such delusions is the scary thing about democracy, but so far as I can tell elites are equally susceptible to delusional beliefs, and dictators seem particularly prone to them.

No comments: