Tag Archives: Neil Postman

Logical Gal – are people allergic to reason?

1 Jan

It’s probably true – there exists a category of human beings who are NOT interested in rational thinking!

I know, I know, you’re probably saying: “Pas possible!” not possible.  But I’ve read about such a group TWICE now.  These are people who hold on to certain beliefs simply for the reason that they WANT to.

This past summer I read a book by Neil Postman.  In it he narrates an experience he had working on a friend’s political campaign.  During a debate his friend conducted with his  opponent, Neil who had worked diligently to prep his friend, was shocked to find out that reasoned discourse did NOT win the day.  The opponent simply LOOKED better on TV and as a result had higher approval ratings.  Furthermore he offered few policy positions and fewer rational REASONS to vote for him!

Then just this week my husband read aloud from a contemporary book by a young, successful businessman who echoed Postman’s experience although it’s been 40 years!  It seems as though times do NOT change and that the ‘good ole days’  were not much better than today!  The writer discussed how some/many politicians purposefully and blatantly LIE and how constituents KNOW they are lying and still vote for them!  He went on to say that most people just do not want to spend energy to listen to reason.

So what’s a logical Joe or Jane to do?  Should we abandon reason just because the world doesn’t want to listen?

Yes..and..no!  I think we have to be wise and selective.  Wisely use questions over assertions to interest people in dialogue.  I heard a clever way to sound out if someone is actually interested in rational discourse.

For example, say you encounter a self-proclaimed atheist who asserts that he doesn’t believe in God.  You could approach him like this:

You strike me as an intelligent man who is open to following the evidence wherever it leads.  Do you mind if I ask you a question?

(and if you get his approval..)

Tell me, just what kind of God is it that you DON’T believe in?

And  if this gentleman prefers NOT to engage, then drop it!  After all, surely you’ve heard the adage in the photo below!

Don’t throw your pearls before swine – Matt 7:6

Wishing you and your family a clear-headed New Year!

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

30 Aug

Our neighbor has a sign by her gate advertising a certain security company.  In our last neighborhood, many homes had also chosen to pay for monthly security.

I don’t know whether it was the lack of funds or that we were just cheap, but my husband and I never talked about whether we should sign up with such a service.  Therefore, my only real ‘knowledge’ of home alarm systems comes from a few TV commercials.  I’ve noticed that they often employ the technique of fear to get you to consider their services.

Don’t you want to protect your family from all the possible ‘bad guys’ out there? Dad might be travelling a lot and away from home.  What’s a fearful mom to do in the middle of the night?

Or if you’re an elderly widow, all alone in her home, who feels vulnerable, what steps SHOULD you take?

Well, what’s wrong with wanting to safeguard your family, or provide for grandma?

Nothing at all! Those are legitimate concerns.  It’s just that they are not the best reasons for going with brand X alarm system.

It’s much EASIER for the company to advertise their product by playing on our fear.  They default to the shortcut or FALLACY, called the Appeal to Fear,  (aka scare tactics.)

It might look like this:

If you don’t arm yourself with our security system, then you might get hurt.

To bolster their claim, they use actors to create a convincing scene:

  • the potential intruder is apprehended by the rapid security company
  • relieved family members offer convincing testimonies.

I have just read Neil Postman’s iconic work, Amusing Ourselves to Death.

  I was startled to learn that before the 1880s, all print advertising promoted their products based on propositional reasons their goods would solve your problem or meet your need. They did not show pictures of cute babies or happy moms or successful blacksmiths content with their purchase.

Today vendors cater to our lazy buying habits by appealing to natural fear.  But we buyers SHOULD ask for evidence that their product will indeed meet our need.  And before we seek reasons, we need to have articulated the exact nature of our need or desire.  And that requires THINKING!

Unfortunately, thinking is becoming more and more an unused muscle!