"Empirical" vs. "Imperial": A Pair of Words That Really Should Not Be Confused

by Tina Blue
April 23, 2004

With all the debate going on about whether the United States is trying to establish an empire, I suppose this error was bound to happen. But really, I should not have to tell you that empirical is not the same as imperial

Three times in the last week I have read rants against President Bush's empirical ambitions.

Now, I am actually very much opposed to the current administration's imperial ambitions, but frankly, I would be delighted if they would rely more on empirical evidence and less on ideology and fantasy when developing policy.

The desire to build an empire is what we would call an imperial impulse.

Empirical is the word we use to describe evidence that is capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment.

For example, there was no empirical evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.  But because our leaders did not consider empirical evidence necessary to support their preconceived conclusions about WMDs, they went ahead and acted on their imperial impulses to invade Iraq and try to make it part of an American empire.

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