2008-06-13 / Columnists

The Progressive

Commentary By John Paul Culotta

"I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data, insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." Said by the world-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes, this statement should guide our every existence.

Our love of mystery and puzzles has familiarized many with Mr. Holmes and his surgeon friend and colleague Dr. John H. Watson. Many believe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is really Dr. Watson. Doyle studied medicine and was influenced to be observant, as all effective physicians should be, by Dr. Bell, his professor at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Doyle wrote many novels and short stories in the Victorian and Edwardian period featuring the adventures and challenges faced by Sherlock Holmes. Many modern day writers use Holmes as characters in their works of fiction. Although Holmes lived in a foggy London with gas lit lamps and hansom cabs, he lives today anywhere people make decisions based on facts presented, use observation and ingenuity to gather facts, and do not allow themselves to be persuaded by emotion, fear, or unjustified prejudice.

If you never read any of Doyle's works regarding Sherlock Holmes, the screenplays, television series, and plays where Holmes is the main protagonist has probably influenced your life. We would probably have no crime scene investigation (CSI) programs without his pioneer work done in forensics. Many say the main character in the television series House is based on Holmes and his methods of resolving baffling cases. Often, I read references to Holmes and his stories in newspapers and magazines as diverse as The New York Times, The New York Sun, Smithsonian, The Economist and The Hindustan Times.

Why does Holmes fascinate erudite and creative writers today to use him in their works? Why do writers of current events and analysis use examples from Doyle's cannon to emphasize their positions? Why are so many people today across the globe reading Doyle's stories regarding this legendary sleuth? The answer is complex but can be summarized in that the solution to many problems rest on recognizing the details. Holmes once said, "There is nothing so important as trifles. Never trust to general impressions, but concentrate yourself upon details."

As our nation faces the future and an important historic presidential election in November, we need to examine the facts of our social, economic, and political landscape. Our observation cannot be complete without thoroughly examining the true situation the United States is in. Have we become a society that denies a decent healthy lifestyle for too many of our populace? How can a first class medical health care system be guaranteed to all? Is the economic elite enjoying wealth at the expense of the majority? Can our society exist without turmoil unless racial, economic, and educational barriers are removed? I challenge all to observe not just the candidates but also their transformations, their political beliefs over their lifetimes, the positions their prospective parties have had for the past two decades, and the groups that support them.

This is a Herculean task but please do not twist facts to suit theories

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