Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Slanted Sight 9/16/09

12:02:12 AM EDT

Slanted Sight

Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insight
can be winnowed from deep nonsense.

Carl Sagan

Some time ago I began to learn how to develop a healthy skepticism about almost everything. I'm not an absolute skeptic, no one can be. If I was I would question my own existence and therefore lose my ability to be skeptical. That's the snake swallowing it's own tail. But I began to notice how gullible people seem to be about important things.

An actor appears on a television commercial wearing a lab coat and talking about some new medicine and some people will believe he's really a doctor and will rush off to buy it. Someone else puts on a round collar, stands up and delivers a sermon and therefore he must be divinely inspired. You can find this kind of nonsense everywhere: teachers, mechanics, politicians, car salesmen, real estate and insurance agents, friends and members of your own family.

The problem is that there is usually some truth in there somewhere if you can only tell the difference. "Winnow all my folly and you'll find a grain or two of truth among the chaff." W. S. Gilbert. The winnower usually knows what he's looking for, but what happens when the nonsense is very deep and the difference between it and wisdom is vague? What happens when we are confronted with borderline cases?

That's when good reasonable skepticism is needed. One must read not only between the lines but behind the lines as well. An actor has to know the motivation behind his character's speech and behavior in order to portray him effectively. So it is with observing others' speech and behavior. People frequently don't mean what they say nor say what they mean, even if they think they do.

And then there's making assumptions. If A, B and C come together as a group, and A and B are both true, does that mean that C is automatically true? And is the set (A+B+C) true if it's two thirds true? What makes it even more complicated is that there is a difference between something being "false" and it being "not true." But, as my friend Paula once said: "Only a mother can figure that one out."

DB - The Vagabond

1 comment:

  1. Mothers always know how to figure things out! LOL