Politico reported shock in the legal community over Alan Dershowitz's frequent defense of President Trump. They shouldn't and wouldn't had they read his book, The Genesis of Justice. Dershowitz's insights of Genesis' many moral ambiguities and contradictions are exceedingly valuable. They can be particularly helpful to ideologues living with comforting, often damaging certainty. Ditto data analysts.
The brightest minds recognize life's many contradictions. They value simplicity, but reject simple-mindedness; are often confident, but rarely certain. They value and follow principles even when they lead out of their personal comfort zones. In this context, they don't always praise or condemn, or stop asking questions when they find agreement.
Analysts should learn from Dershowitz's willingness to question dogma and shared beliefs. He lets principles lead him to understandings that can challenge his prior positions. Similarly, analysts should allow data and information to speak, even with disturbing voices. The job is not to structure analytical inputs to promote desired conclusions. That only validates prejudices.
The highest measure of the analyst's craft is its ability to challenge assumptions and beliefs promoted as facts. Data, like Genesis, are filled with contradictions. Conclusions based on analytical results are almost always probabilistic. The most probable are not guaranteed success. The least likely sometimes prevail. A world filled with certainty is not the one we share. We should be grateful. Few things are more boring and mind-numbing as certainty. Certainties close our minds. Uncertainties grease the gears of insight and creativity. These are the qualities smart leaders should value most in their data analysts.
Leaders must embrace uncertainty to thrive in our dynamic world. Confidence is a plus. Absolute certainty is a toxin. That distinction empowers a Christian engineer like me to find wisdom in the words of a Jewish lawyer. Dershowitz, by his own admission, did not vote for Trump. That doesn't mean he won't defend the President and the political process, as he does in Trumped Up. His fellow attorneys should ponder the wisdom of his principles and keen mind. Analysts should similarly take them to heart. Dershowitz is a great attorney. He would have made an outstanding data analyst.
1. Evan Mandery, What happened to Alan Dershowitz?, May 11, 2018, Politico, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/11/alan-dershowitz-donald-trump-what-happened-218359