Friday, December 20, 2013

Logically Right, Logically Wrong

As a teenager, I admired Spock. As an adult, I better understand the character and what Gene Roddenberry intended us to understand about him. The balance between one's emotional self and one's rational, logical self, is one that all humans must determine for themselves. Some of us are entirely emotional, others try to "out-Spock" Mr. Spock and squash their emotions, but most of us try to balance them out.

Even so, the allure of "pure logic" is that it leads to the best, most rational solutions. After all, isn't that what scientists use? You start with known facts, make a hypothesis, come up with a way to test it which others can replicate, and find out whether the hypothesis is wrong. If it survives your first test, you look for other ways to test it. Eventually, you can state with some certainty that your hypothesis was right and add it to the body of knowledge.

Yet it turns out that in real life scientists are just as human and fallible as the rest of us. They are perfectly capable of making unjustified leaps of faith, believing that what they know already allows them to make conjectures in other areas outside their fields of expertise and, as a body, pronounce what is so without doing the grunt work of testing hypotheses.

This all-too-human failing has held back advances in medicine and other areas. Consider Ignaz Semmelweis whose beliefs concerning hygiene offended his colleagues and ended up with his eventual confinement and death in an asylum, beaten to death by guards. Was he right? After all, he did conduct experiments that showed a dramatic decrease in deaths when physicians and nurses washed their hands before delivering babies, but he had no explanation for why it was so, since that was long before Louis Pasteur's germ theory.  (

Or what about "global warming"? Here we're told there is a "consensus" of scientific opinion, but our climate system is so large and complex that there is no way to reliably test the hypothesis that human activity is affecting or warming the planet. Those who dare to question that consensus are, like Semmelweis, held up to ridicule and called "deniers." And all data that cast doubt on the concept is either ignored or massaged by those who proclaim global warming to be "proven science." Never mind that there has been no measurable temperature increases since 1998! Of course supporters of the theory can point to times 100 years before when the hottest years were colder than current temperatures... but they have to ignore the existence of the Medieval Warm Period when temperatures were warmer than any time in the last 200 years and persuade themselves that during the decades that England produced fine wines that only Europe was unusually warm. Or that even earlier in the Copper Age that a shepherd died far above the current tree lines in Europe.

Then, what about social issues? Those who believe in God, the Bible, and sin are coming under fire of late for "holding to disproven superstitions." Those who reject those things are then free to cast aside all prior beliefs regarding morality and marriage... millennia of cultural norms and behaviors are cast aside and we thus are "free" to replace them with no norms or standards of behavior at all!

So, on to "free love" and same-sex "marriage"! Out with the old, in with the new! Do what you want! But don't you dare be judgmental of anything new because everything old is harmful, hateful, homophobic, or worse!!!

And watch as we reap the whirlwind. All of those old norms existed because human experience showed that the consequences of breaking them led to terrible consequences, like the murder of millions of Jews, Romani (Gypsies), Evangelical Christians, Catholic priests and nuns, as well as the murder of homosexuals and mentally ill or handicapped people. (

Add to that the unnecessary abortions of tens of millions of children. And the deliberate starvation or outright murder of tens of millions more in Stalinist Russia or Mao's China.

This former trucker really wishes people would think about what they believe and what the consequences of acting on those beliefs will be. If you don't like the results...