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The logic behind worry

3 Feb

Weather forecast

I’m preparing to lead a group of students to Québec and God-willing when this blog posts, we will be in the middle of our weeklong French language ‘field trip’.

Travel like all of life is unpredictable, but flights in the winter seem more weather dependent.  The other day during my morning prayers,  I was asking God to grant clement conditions. Immediately I found myself reasoning, “There’s no point in worrying about that!”

Suddenly I found myself engaged in a hypothetical conversation:

Maria 1 – No point getting anxious about the weather two weeks hence!

Maria 2 – Why not?

Maria 1 – Because I can’t do anything about it!

Maria 2 – Right!  but….is  your overall guiding assumption  “One should worry only about those things one can control.”?  Is that it?  Tell me, what ARE the areas over which you exercise control?

Maria 1 – Well, to be honest, I don’t really control anything.

Maria 2 – So why worry about anything?

Maria 1 – Good point.  It’s not rational or ‘reason-able’, is it.

Conclusion: Logic is VERY practical and useful for everyday life.

 

Logical Gal – when pre-suppositions lead to different conclusions

20 May

suspicion

Listening to some commentary the other day, I learned that secular scientists now have data to prove that even babies draw back with hesitation when they see the face of a person of a different color.  Their conclusion was that racial bias is hard-wired into us through the evolutionary process.  These naturalists can even point to and impute a safety, survival benefit to being suspicious of ‘other’.

It turns out, that if one subscribes to the theory of evolution as a means of explaining human development over time, then one simply accepts racial distrust as something, although regrettable, at least natural.

Here’s the rub.  If we can explain the foundation for hateful behavior as something the evolutionary process has brought about, there is little we can do to eradicate, let alone curb, ugly actions at their root!

However, Christians evaluate the world through a different lens, that of Original Sin.  According to this foundational doctrine, we are pre-disposed, from the womb, to be sinful.  And in a racial context, that sin works itself out through suspicious behavior at its mildest to mean-spirited, cruel and downright evil actions at the other end.

But……(a life-giving 3-letter-word if there ever were one!) only one world view offers hope – Christianity.

If racial prejudice is part and parcel of species survival, then there is no significant hope for eradicating it permanently.  At most, one can TRAIN humans to act not in accord with their natural instincts.

However, if sin is the root cause of racial prejudice, then Jesus’ atoning death on the cross, His righteous record applied to believers AND His power through the Word to kill sin provide mountains of hope for change!

Power of God's word

When Christians see that we are ALL ‘other’, all alienated from a Holy God, then what we have in common is far greater than physical or cultural differences.  Therefore, we can begin to apply truths from the Bible to our hearts, to convict us of the sin of NOT loving our neighbor as ourselves. And since the FACT of being greatly loved by God at the cost of His Son comes before ANY of God’s commands about love for God and love toward neighbor, we can grow in our trust of what God says about all of us.

If ‘this’ is just the way I am, then there is no obligation on me to change.  Evolutionary explanations and beliefs, it would seem, challenge NO ONE to give up comfortable habits. In fact they actually talk out of both sides of their mouth. In essence, they preach:

  • You shouldn’t act like this, so don’t!
  • Due to evolutionary survival of the fittest, the way you are is how nature saw best to continue the species!

So which is it……?

Logical Gal – Allowed to have an opinion?

4 Mar

From her 22 January 2015 Press Conference at the Capitol, when pressed about whether a 20-week old fetus was a human being, Pelosi responded:

“And as a mother of five, in six years, I have great standing on this issue, great understanding of it, more than my colleagues. In fact, one day many years ago, perhaps before you were born, when I was a new member of Congress, as a Catholic and a mom of five, opposing some of the initiatives similar to what–in the same vein as–what we have today, one of the Republicans stood up and said: Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the pope.

“Yeah, Yeah. That would be true.”

Nancy Pelosi

**So in essence, Nancy Pelosi’s presupposition might be stated this way:

Premise 1:  Only those who have had babies have the moral authority or right to make judgments about babies and fetuses and when life begins

Premise 2: I am one of those people who have had babies

Conclusion:  Therefore, I am qualified to make pronouncements and judgments about babies, fetuses and life

This kind of reasoning is easy to refute when one applies a technique called, “Reductio ad Absurdum”.  What we do is apply the principle inherent in the argument to an extreme case. The argument self-destructs on its own.

So in Nancy Pelosi’s argument, let’s boil down her reasoning so we can apply it to another situation.  Her thinking goes like this:  only those who have experienced an event have the credibility/aka, ‘the moral high ground’ to make a decision.

If this is so, then we would have to preclude the following situations:

  • doctors diagnosing and commencing healing remedies
  • Congress creating laws for our country
  • judges deciding legal cases
  • parents applying wisdom in situations that they themselves never experienced as children

All these cases and a plethora of others would not be valid, since those making a judgment had not actually undergone the experience of the people affected by their decisions.

Judgments are sound when supported by sufficient reason and evidence.  Period. Plain and simple.

Don’t get snookered by this ‘playing the personal experience card’.

 

Logical Gal and ‘Neutrality’

12 Nov

Neutral

Facts are neutral bits of reality.

Humans give them context and meaning, filling in assumptions to offer explanations.  Sometimes we actually add reasons to our assertions and craft an argument.  But whether we stop short of an argument and just offer a POSSIBLE explanation or craft an intact case, we still carry assumptions that may or may not be expressed for all to see and hear.

The mid-term elections are behind us (Good riddance to all those ads!) but ‘framing’ the results flourishes.  Just like the British headlines after George W. Bush was RE-elected, some people will be scratching their heads to create an explanation for certain wins and losses.

How can 59 million people be so DUMB

Truth is – most facts are neutral.  They take on values (good, bad, stupid, wise….) only compared to something else or based on a pre-supposition.

Look at this conclusion, aka an assertion, which I am inventing for argument’s sake:

  • Senator Joe Blow won reelection because of big oil

‘because of big oil’ is one of those invented explanations.  Possible explanations are everywhere, but they masquerade as arguments. Unaccompanied by reasons, they are meaningless.  But even when the provider shores up her explanation with reasons, not all is uncovered.  We have to dig to find out the pre-suppositions that are BEHIND the reasons and conclusion.   But how do you uncover what is not explicitly articulated?

  • You can ask the person making the claim
  • Or…you can propose an assumption you think might be below the surface and ask the claim-maker to verify or deny it

For example, I might ask:

  1. So you think that Senator Joe Blow won only because those in the oil industry voted for him?

or

2. So you don’t think that Senator Joe Blow might have offered a record of results from his first 6 years or a set of values that pleased his constituents?

Our assumptions (also called presuppositions) heavily influence how we evaluate facts,; they give facts their context.

Hold your horses

(holding one’s horses!) 

Something else that influences our evaluation is our tendency to move from considering neutral facts, to drawing inferences, to making judgments.  Often our conclusions overreach the facts of the particular case.  So we must resist that tendency or habit and ask ourselves if this particular case justifies our conclusions.

Consider the following example I recently read in Senator Hayakawa’s book – Hayakawa's Bk Language

Imagine a hypothetical ‘Pete’ and the following FACT:

  • Pete just got released after spending 3 years in prison

An unwarranted inference might lead one to assume:  Pete is a criminal!

But all we know are 2 facts:

1. Pete spent 3 years in prison

2. Pete has been released

We DON’T know definitively whether or not Pete was guilty of the crime for which he was incarcerated.

If we flow quickly into that inference, however, we might be led to make a judgment such as:  Pete can’t be trusted because he is a criminal.  I would never hire him!

True confessions!  Stopping before I make an inference and slide into a judgment is easier SAID than done!  But anything worthwhile takes effort!  Our world needs more cautious but clear thinkers.

So in this post-election season, let’s exercise calm and rational thinking no matter which side of the political spectrum we land. There’s no room for unwarranted judgments that demonize or boast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal and category challenges

1 Oct

Category Management

The idea of category errors is useful.

I don’t know if it’s an urban legend, but Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel in space, supposedly proclaimed after his return that he had searched intently and never once did he observe God while in space.

If it’s true, then the statement reveals a category error in his thinking for the following reason:

Humans can observe MATERIAL stuff, but God is NOT material.  He is IMMATERIAL.  It’s akin to asking questions like:

  • How much does blue weigh?
  • If you had to pack your Mom’s love for you to take on a trip, how many suitcases would you need?

The faulty thinking is revealed by simple facts such as:

  • Blue is a property that has no mass, so it cannot be weighed
  • Love is not something that can be measured physically nor can it concretely fill a suitcase

What occurred to me this morning as I listened to a podcast during my walk, was the wonderful Greek word tetelestai  (Strong’s # 5055).  It means: It is finished.

Jesus uttered that word when He finished suffering the punishment for human sin IN OUR PLACE.  His action of redeeming us from hell made it possible for us to be transferred from the Kingdom of this World (under Satan’s rule) into God’s Kingdom.  His work on the cross also guaranteed that not only can humans be freed from the power and punishment of sin, but they can be GIVEN/ASSIGNED a new identity.

Tetelestai

Notice that I did not say, that humans can be given the opportunity to craft their own identity.  Never once do we have that possibility.  There are only 2 possible identities for every man, woman and child who has ever lived OR will ever live.  We are either grafted into Christ and have HIS forgiveness and flawlessness applied to us…….

  • or we are left to face the just judgment and punishment for our works on our own – the imminent next events for those who live according to the outworking of the Fall  (sinful nature) which they have inherited

Here’s where the concept of category error comes back in.  Since Christians have been given a new identity when they are born again,

Identity in Christ

they are treated the same as though they had been born a citizen of a country:

  • NO exam to study for
  • No application process to undergo
  • No appearing before a judge to swear fidelity

So it is STUPID to spend any effort and time trying to craft an identity, right?

Yet that is what I still find myself doing:

  • I angst about what others think of my teaching
  • I angst about whether I’m ‘doing enough’ as a neighbor and as a member of a church family
  • I angst about whether I’m loving my husband in the ways he wants/needs to be loved
  • I angst about whether I am being a good-enough grandmother (whatever THAT means!)
  • And when November arrives, I angst about whether I will select the right kind of presents for family members

And that’s just off the top of my head.

And why?  All because doing ‘it right’ has to do with the identity I WANT to think is ‘me’.

But when I realized this morning that my identity has already been established and is in fact fixed and secure, I suddenly saw that working to shore up my identity (even if just for myself) was not only futile but stupid.

These insights are why I love logic!  Clear thinking can bring freedom.

Question:  Where has thinking through carefully about an issue led to a breakthrough that has impacted your life? 

 

Logical Gal at the movies

13 Aug

AI the movie

We’re enjoying re-watching some ‘thinking’ movies from the past.  Once you’ve screened a film for the plot line, you can go back and catch the deeper layers. AI or Artificial Intelligence has some dialogue worth pondering.

David is a proto-type robot child who is programmed to ‘love’ after a bonding sequence his ‘Mommy’ (human who owns him) initiates and follows. He responds to her eyes, voice and actions with uncanny human-like qualities that mimic true affection.

In one scene David  is challenged by the family’s REAL son to cut off a locket of Mommy’s hair.  The guile-filled biological boy frames it as a game and orders David to play. We follow the innocent David sneaking into the parents’ bedroom, scissors in hand.  The suspense builds to the predictable moment when Mommy wakes up in horror to see David with sharp edges in hand hovering over her face.   But in momma-bear mode,  she attempts to soft-pedal the event when the horrified dad comes out with this logic:

If he can love, then he can hate!

And after one more innocent event that casts David in a false light, the dad makes the decision to rid themselves of this too-advanced tech addition to their family.

*

Let’s practice some clear logical thinking by taking the dad’s announcement above and analyzing it.  This exercise will reenforce what we should do ANY time we encounter someone’s position which doesn’t seem quite right.

So what do we have in the dad’s pronouncement?

  • a conditional major premise, what we call an ‘If, then’ statement.
  • an enthymeme – one explicit part of an argument or syllogism and 2 missing parts that our minds fill in easily.

Here’s the completed argument:

Premise 1 (the major premise):  If David can love, then he can hate

Premise 2 (the minor premise): David has shown that he can love

Conclusion: Therefore, it is logical to believe that David is also capable of hating

There’s a law in logic that goes like this:  if the first 2 premises are true, then the conclusion MUST be true in a valid argument (valid means that the argument is in the correct form) 

The above syllogism IS valid because Premise 2 affirms the first segment of Premise 1 (called the antecedent). I ask you, then, is this analysis cut and dried?  Are the two premises true?

Well, the movie clearly demonstrates that David loves.  He is a machine.  He is programmed and built to act lovingly and to have that love increase (grow) in response to his one human ‘bondee’ (one human who initiates a short programmed sequence of words enters into a ‘bonded-for-life’ connection with the ‘mecha’ i.e, the robot).  In the photo below, Mommy places the fingers of one hand behind David’s neck and reads a sequence of words, cementing the bonding.

Bonding between David and Monica in movie AI

But the error in Premise 1 lies in its presupposition.  The dad has humans in mind when he assumes that love and hate go hand in hand.  And for those created in God’s images, id est all of us, that is true.  We have been given a certain degree of free will.  We GIVE our love and we RETAIN or hold back our love.  Or else it is not true love. (What a risk God took! But He evidently WANTS the pinnacle of His creation to love Him freely). The downside in creating a machine that imitates a loving human is that the owner of the ‘mecha’ deceives himself in thinking the machine really DOES love him. If he stops and THINKS, the machine is merely following a program, however complex it may be.

David loves Mommy, acts and speaks with tender, servant-like affection because he can do nothing else.  This is not true of humans.

*

Let’s shift back to real life.  Deep movies are satisfying because they offer us food for thought.  We can practice our logic skills in a safe environment when we discuss a film’s premises and conclusions.  Then we feel more prepared gently to question someone in our circle who advances a conclusion that might not be sound.

Vive le cinéma profond!

Question:  What is your all-time favorite deep movie?  What is a premise we could analyze? 

Logical Gal and the Power of a New Thought

2 Jun

gravel road work

We now live on a gravel road that needs periodic maintenance.  And so we find ourselves dependent on road contractors. We’re  on our second one.  The first we ‘inherited’ from the couple who sold us the house.  My husband had the dickens of a time getting him both to commit  AND show up to work.

The second one has turned out to be unreliable as well.

unreliable

Each day this past week Scott was supposed to have come.  And each day my husband fumed.  Finally he contacted a builder friend to ask for a recommendation for someone else.  A passing comment from our friend changed my thoughts and conclusions.

It turns out that the gravel guy is ‘having problems’.

That’s it –  a new idea!  The possibility that there might be a DIFFERENT REASON than what I had supposed – a cavalier, unprofessional approach to business, changed my conclusion.

Before, I was reasoning like this:

Premise 1 – All ‘no-shows’ in business appointments are evidence of shoddy management and/or poor character

Premise 2 – Scott is a ‘no-show’

Conclusion – Therefore, Scott’s way of running his business is evidence of shoddy management and probably poor character!

No Sow

Now, I reasoned to a different conclusion because my major premise had changed:

New Premise 1 – Some ‘no-shows’ in business appointments are evidence of shoddy management and/or poor character

New Premise 2 – Scott is a ‘no-show’

New Conclusion – Therefore, Scott’s way of running his business might be evidence of something other than shoddy  management or poor character.  It might actually be the effect of personal or family problems.

*

Just the possibility of a different reason that was impeding good business practices changed how I thought about this man.  I actually prayed for him for the first time, instead of impugning his character.

Jumping to conclusions

It remains to be seen just WHO will repair our gravel road, but this experience has reminded me again of the danger of jumping to conclusions.

Question: – When have you made an assumption in error that led to a false conclusion?