Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Emotional Irrationality

I used to think people were generally smart. I mean, I know not everyone is book smart or street smart or college material. But, I always thought common sense was, well, common.

Adam and Eve chose disobedience in order to gain knowledge, to have power, to be like God.

But, alas, knowledge is not wisdom. And I'm not so sure how much people even care about knowledge anymore. It seems like too many people choose obedience, usually to someone they would not take a direct order from, for the sake of a lack of knowledge. It is easier to just agree than to reason, argue or discuss.

America was founded by men and women willing to challenge authority in the pursuit of justice and what was right. But I see so many people buying into slogans and chanting them like lemmings and surrendering any claim on demanding an account of what is true and what is just.

For example, so many people, four years ago, hated President Bush. From comparisons to Hitler to mock hangings, many people despised him. Yet when I present rational reasons why I really, really dislike President Obama, I am told to "respect the office." Now, the hypocrisy aside, just what does respecting the office have to do with disagreeing with the one who holds it? America was not born from men who respected the King of England but weren't about to allow his tyranny rule their lives. America was born in desire for freedom, justice and truth, regardless of whether it hurt the king's feelings or not. I respect my bishop's office but I don't think anyone believes that respecting the episcopate means that any bishop should be able to do wrong without criticism or consequence. Why would the president get a free pass? In fact I would contend that to truly respect the office requires, in fact demands, that you hold the president up to the standard that the office requires, whether the president does or not. Respecting the office means demanding an account for a failure to fulfill his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. It doesn't mean licking his boots.

So where the heck did "respect the office" come from? It is a slogan to hide behind. Spit out the slogan and avoid having to defend your argument. Call anyone who disagrees with you a hater, un-American, racist, homophobic, a bigot, sexist ... whatever.

We've fallen further than Adam and Eve. Instead of free-thinking individuals that choose disobedience for knowledge, people have surrendered their free will to be mindless drones for a cause without any concern or thought if the cause is even right or just. They choose chains to become beasts of burden for an ideology.

I used to wonder if this was a reflection of the public school system. Is it just failing to teach people how to think and hence you get adults that don't seem to know how to reason or rub two brain cells together to make an argument and really search for what is true and right? That might not be helping, but I don't think it is the ultimate culprit.

It comes down to a general abandonment of reason. Many people have abandoned reason. And it is scary because it is one of the few key differences that separate us from our fellow mammals. But it is why you can see blatant contradictions in people's decisions and yet they don't care that they are there. Frank Weathers wrote a fascinating piece on Patheos on Belloc and "The Modern Phrase." He quotes
There is here a contradiction in reason, but the modern phase, the anti-Christian advance, has abandoned reason. ... It is not troubled by apparent contradictions within its own body so long as the general alliance is one for the ending of all that by which we have hitherto lived.
 If those who chose to abandon reason only thought irrationally, things might not be too bad. But they don't abandon reason for no system of thinking but rather adopt an emotional approach. So that which makes for good feelings becomes what is good and what is true and what is just and that which makes for bad feelings becomes what is bad, untrue and unjust.

But of course, such a system completely leaves the minority at the mercy of the majority who make what feels good to them law for everyone - even if what makes them happy is a grave injustice or immorality or even murder to others.

So how do you convert the emotionally irrational back to reason? How do you convince someone that sometimes what is good and true isn't always what feels best or good or happy? Odds are, you can't. You can't force anyone to hear what they choose not to be able to hear.

The good news is though that such structures of contradictions generally collapse on themselves. Look at the USSR. How long will China be communist with their reproduction rate? Eventually, the truth always declares victory. Unfortunately, it is hard to know how long it will be before we can declare victory. But, fortunately, more and more people, particularly young people, are waking up to the errors they are hearing chanted.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, 82% of Catholics think contraception is morally acceptable. I can't find a poll from 10 or 20 years ago, but I bet it is less now than it was. Janet Smith, who wrote the well-known "Contraception: Why Not?" herself said it was a better foothold than she thought we had. The tide has slowly been turning and you can see it. Consider the strides the pro-life movement has made in the last couple of years. Consider the number of youth at the March for Life. I completely understand that homeschooling is not for everyone, but consider the significant rise in homeschooling and the number of parents who are taking an active role in their children's education.

I'm not sure where I was heading with this post.... it was just something that struck me and some dots that have been trying to connect in my baby-brain. Do you think "common sense" is common anymore? Why do you think people seem so eager to choose blatant contradictions?


  1. Ugh, I agree, it's so frustrating. I remember those same arguments about "respecting the office" whenever I tried to bring up valid criticisms of Bush 10 years ago. It's always obvious to me when you are dealing with someone who is not interested in a discussion or knowledge, but simply wants to parrot talking points or spew hate speech. The mark of an intelligent person is one who is open to the opposing argument. That's very rare these days.

    I don't think it's the public school system that's to blame. My theory is that politics has become so personal that it is impossible to separate out position from ideology. For instance, with the worthy and divisive issue of abortion, can you separate your belief in the humanity of the fetus from your position that abortion should be illegal? Clearly, your position is based on your worldview and thus you can't change your position without completely adjusting the way you see the world.

    What I do is basically not engage with anyone who makes a stupid comment that shows how ignorant they are. Nod and smile, change the subject, and look for opportunities to slip facts into the discussion rather than going straight for the argument directly. *hug* It's tough, I know.

  2. Actually, I do think it's partly education that is to blame. Not the public schools per se but a theory of education that affects everyone in private and public schools alike since all teachers must have a degree in education, which in effect means indoctrination in the dominant methodology. I don't think they are intentionally stressing emotion over reason; but I do think that that is the real world effect of the way that teachers have been taught to teach.

  3. I just found your blog through your comment on Betty Beguiles. Tell me, did I write this? Because you just said exactly what I have been thinking for awhile! One comment on the education thing. I find it...disturbing that it is the elected officials who have so much control over the next generation of voters. I don't believe in public education or standardization for this reason. Not to mention the fact that they seem to be failing miserably when it comes to teaching people how to think, reason, and learn.