Tag Archives: Concepts

Meaningful definitions require boundaries

19 Oct

human-animal-stem-cell-research

Scientists at the National Institutes for Health apparently are talking about lifting a ban on research that would co-mingle human stem cells with animal embryos.

Human-Animal Embryo Stem Cell Research

Listening to a discussion about this back in August, the commentator who mentioned this new development posed the question:

  • What does it mean to be human?  If you have 99% human DNA and 1 % ‘other’, are you still considered human?

In other words, “How do we define the term, HUMAN?”

What came to mind was how TODAY, we seem to be playing fast and easy with definitions.

Two examples come to mind:

1a. Tolerance once referred to the restraining civil behavior between two or more people who held and articulated differing and/or contradictory beliefs and positions.  If you think about, one doesn’t tolerate what one find acceptable, one AGREES with it.  By definition, the ‘classic’ view of tolerance presupposes contrary views.

1b. Tolerance today seems to require that a ‘minority, despicable viewpoint’ be shut down, shamed and disbarred from the discussion table.

The term has remained the same, but the concept has changed.

2a. Marriage once referred to the legal union between one suitable (not a close relative) man and one suitable woman of appropriate age.

2b. Marriage today refers to a state-granted status that recognizes a two-person, gender-indifferent union with the same legal rights of a married biological male and female.  (A temporary quantity and constituent view – down the road who knows how many humans and what/who else might fit into this new definition!)

Logical friends, definitions matter!!!

These are but two current examples.

Think about other terms in the area of religion, for example:  God’s love, Faith in God or Prayer.  These ALSO seem to stand for a multiplicity of concepts.  So what exactly is the relationship between TERM and CONCEPT?

First of all, a concept is the immaterial idea of something one pictures, the image of which one holds in his head.  A concept can indicate something real or imagined like a tree or a unicorn. A term is the written or verbal name we give to that concept.

Terms can be confusing because the same term can refer to different concepts.  Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason teaches that before ANY discussion about a topic can ensue, two people must clarify and agree on the definition of terms used.  Conversational partners must know and state the concepts they have in mind when each employs a term.

So back to those religious terms I mentioned. Today, in Christianity, people seem to talk with ease and certitude about ‘the love of God’ or they announce: ‘I believe in God’ or ‘I pray’.  We cannot assume that they and we are picturing the same thing.  As the fox in Le Petit Prince says ‘Words are the source of misunderstandings.’

As the social climate across the literate world grows more fractured and sharp, logical and reasoning men and women CAN make a difference by gently asking the clarifying questions that will guide others to think about what they mean.

Who knows?   In bringing a concept to light, in employing the discipline of articulating WHAT WE MEAN, someone or even we ourselves might decide to modify what we believe. Not a bad result. For thinking is never wasted effort or time.

 

 

Logical Gal and how contrasts help

3 Jul

contrast

How to understand a new concept – that is the question!

I heard a writer say that drawing CONTRASTS brings CLARITY.

This resonated with me, because intuitively I’ve picked up seeking contrast.  Living with a mathematical and analytical kind of guy exposes me to many new concepts I would probably avoid if I could!  So when Michael attempts to explain something like ‘standard deviation’  I have NO framework at all on which to hang this new idea.  My first question in all these kinds of conversations tends to be like the following:

  • ‘standard’ deviation as opposed to what? non-standard deviation?  and is there standard ‘pattern-following‘ as opposed to standard ‘deviation’?

Those 2 questions probably sound lame, but I’m trying to fill in the blanks and mostly all is blank when I have no idea what he’s talking about.

Knowing what something is NOT establishes boundaries.  And boundaries help the mind’s eye.

boundary lines

Back to those standard deviations…..I found out that the contrast to ‘standard’ deviation was ‘absolute’ deviation.  And that ‘deviation’ refers to the spread among gathered information in a group or set of data points.

What FURTHER brought clarity was not just this CONTRASTing information, but how standard deviations could be used. Never mind how one calculates it, but the information gained from determining the SD is satisfyingly useful, even to me, Miss Non-Analytical.

One quick example: if you record your daily weight for a month and calculate the standard deviation of all your numbers (or let the spread sheet do it for you!), you  learn that 95 % of your daily recorded weights will fall within the boundary or limits of the average weight (they call it the mean)  plus or minus 2 standard deviations.  That’s the green area under the red curved line below.

standard deviations - 2

So….???  The way this is helpful is that if I step on the scale after a big meal eating out and my weight is NOT within the green area, I can say to myself:

  • Self – don’t worry.  This is just an outlier, not your norm.  Give it a day or 2 and your weight will be back in the green.  No cause to panic!

Who would have thought that an analytical concept could bring some degree of peace of mind?  Now what else have I missed?

Question:  what do you do to begin to understand or grasp a new concept?  What questions do you ask?

 

 

Logical Gal asks – “….as opposed to what?”

25 Oct

Single words and short non-threatening questions…….

are a great tool when confronted with difficult material to comprehend.

We’ve talked about the value of the 2-letter word ……SO??? 

I’ve used that word when an emotional  friend has announced with outrage something like, “And we have to pay a $15 co-pay each time we go to the doctor’s office!”

By using ‘So?’, you are encouraging your interlocutor to state his or her pre-supposition that is BEHIND their bare proposition.  It’s like you’re saying, ” So – what’s your point? Is it good or bad or strange or wonderful that you have to pay a $15 co-pay?”

Today, I’m adding a 4-word question that helps me when I’m trying to categorize a new concept or term.

If someone were to offer this comment about their spouse, ” John is a good provider”, I would lack context to understand the point of their communication. For me to begin to understand  I would ask, ” a good provider, as opposed to what?   If your husband is a good provider, what would he be if he were not?  What are the other possibilities?

Skitch - Husband Roles

The articulation of other possibilities helps me now to compare this information with other attributes.  The very fact of SELECTING and communicating just the one quality of  ‘provider’ actually says a lot more, like

  • EITHER  her husband John doesn’t have the other qualities
  • OR that she does not value those other qualities as much

The other day in a phone conversation with a friend, she mentioned that her new pastor was KIND.  That was the ONE word she used out of many.  Knowing she could have chosen others such as:

  • theologically deep
  • good communicator
  • excellent administrator
  • sound counselor
  • effective teacher
  • holy in his practices

helped me see not only what my friend valued but that this man’s kindness must REALLY be noteworthy.

This morning, listening to a podcast discussion about the Mathematical Laws, one speaker mentioned that they were discovered.  My 4 word Question flew out of my mouth – ” As opposed to what?”  

In the next breath, he answered…..as opposed to being invented.

Bingo!  That contradistinction made the quality of being DISCOVERED much clearer to me.   For if laws are invented by humans, then they do not necessarily conform to reality.  But if they are discovered, then they are grounded in Truth.

Do you see how useful this question may be?  Where has it helped you?