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If This, Then………………..

by on July 18, 2015

                                                                        If This, Then…….

                                                                       by Marco M. Pardi

 Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  The comments sections for all previous articles have been opened for use.  I will certainly look forward to your comments.

“Since proofs need premises, it is impossible to prove anything unless some things are accepted without proof.”  Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). The Faith of a Rationalist. 1947.

“A mind all logic is like a knife all blade.   It makes the hand bleed that uses it.” Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Stray Birds, 193, 1914.

In my early schooling numbers intimidated me.  It was not until I was in the military and began using my free time to read academic books – admittedly a risky environment for that pursuit, that I found logic texts which clarified for me that numbers only signify relative powers.  Deeply embedded in a system of relative powers, the military, that epiphany opened my universe.

The applications of logic go far beyond simple syllogisms, even beyond the means to understand and, if necessary solve those once daunting mathematical formulae.  Logic informs the structure of grammar, and thereby provides insight into the mind utilizing that structure to convey an idea.  An example I use in teaching potential crisis counselors is as follows:

There are three fundamental characters of expressed thought:

Rational – statement of fact supported by evidence.

Non-Rational – statement of fact resting on unsupported supposition.

Irrational – incoherent presentation of unconnected morphemes.

Many people engaged in an argument either employ or find themselves the object of the claim of being irrational.  This tactic of desperation arises when one side sees its arguments fail to change or convince the other side.  Objective analysis will show there was nothing incoherent and unconnected in the presentation of the opponent; the accuser is simply lamenting his or her own failure to change the opposing narrative.  Thus, Irrational is inappropriate to our discussion.

A Rational investigation of a fatal one car accident, D (death) works backward to C (conditions, as verified by time, meteorology, etc) to B (driver’s behavior, as evidenced from the scene) to A (antecedent circumstances such as recent argument with significant other, ingestion of intoxicants, etc.) and forms a Conclusion.

A Non-Rational investigation of the same event may, and often does, completely agree with the Discovery and Conclusion of the Rational investigation but it appends a Non-Rational ultimate causation: “It was God’s will” or “God called him home” thus making the medical examiner into a retrospective haruspex, specially trained to examine the entrails of the case and divine God’s will.  It is Non-Rational only because it is an unsupported supposition; there should be no claim it is inherently false.  There is simply no objective evidence to support its truth.

A primary focus, then, in any discussion with another person, regardless of topic, should be the discovery of “where the person’s coming from”.  Rational or Non-Rational?  Most of us employ a Boolean algorithm a system of logical thought developed by the English mathematician, George Boole (1815-64), to varying degree in our thinking process. Basically, this system seeks the power relationships of concepts and provides a bridge to an outcome: If this, then that; if that, then…and so on.  As epistemology makes clear, a common failure is that of not questioning the initial If this – the initial premise. 

This failure to question the initial premise often cascades toward unfortunate outcomes.  Military historians I have read agree WWII in Europe most likely would have ended 10 months sooner than it did had serious questions been directed at General Eisenhower’s (Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe) initial premise.  After the successful liberation of France Field Marshal Montgomery, in the north, and General Patton, in the south, proposed a pincer movement on Berlin to decapitate Nazi Germany. Eisenhower refused the option and ordered a uniform advance across Europe, premising his objection on the difficulties of rear guard action even should the pincer succeed.  However, even staff officers at the time felt his true concern was that the British might reach Berlin first, allowing them to take the bulk of the credit for ending the war in Europe.

The unfortunate outcome?  10 months of greatly accelerated, 24/7 feeding of concentration camp prisoners into Germany’s Final Solution – the crematories;  the Soviet takeover of most of Central Europe, including about half of Germany; and, the displacement of millions fleeing ahead of what Churchill would call “The Iron Curtain”.  A Rationally based decision, or Non-Rationally based?

In the Far East George Marshall refused to support Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist leader of China, against an ill equipped, vastly outnumbered and nearly defeated guerrilla leader named Mao Tze-dung.  His premise?  Such support would be costly inasmuch as Chiang was considered not a very able leader.  The outcome?  The emergence of a growing super-power that supported North Korea’s invasion of South Korea a few years later; the slaughter and forced labor deaths of millions of Chinese; Chinese support for North Viet Nam’s invasion of South Viet Nam; and, the emergence of an economic power which all but holds the mortgage on the United States.  Rationally based, or Non-Rationally based?

I’ve written elsewhere about the “Domino Theory” and its disastrous outcomes for SouthEast Asia.  But a new Domino Theory has emerged centering on same sex marriage.  The claims about same sex marriage range from “will destroy the sanctity of marriage” to “will destroy traditional marriage” to “What will come next is marrying your pet”.

What about that sanctity?  In the early 1970’s two students (heterosexual) asked me to marry them.  When I explained I had no power to do so they rectified that by paying the entire costs for me to be made a Notary Public in the State of Florida.  They wrote the vows, choreographed the ceremony, and rented a hall for the families and friends – Catholic and Baptist.  They billed it as a Zen wedding.  Quite a crowd, awed by the solemnity and gravitas, by the huge text I held in my hands (my Paleontology text with the cover papered over), yet following every movement of what they were sure was a Zen ceremony.  But the ultimate fact of the matter came after the kisses and procession; I stepped into a side office with the couple and the witnesses and had them sign the State legal document which I then signed,  clamped and stamped.  The takeaway lesson was that the State could not care less had they been married by the Pope with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing back-up; without a duly sworn officer of the State certifying the wedding there was no marriage.

The wedding is the formalization of a contract between two parties, no different from buying and registering a car.  Proof of this secular pudding comes at divorce time.  One sues for divorce, citing reason(s) the contract has been broken. No priest, rabbi, shaman or even Notary Public can execute a divorce;  attorneys mediate a negotiated agreement for termination of the contract and a judge reviews and approves, with rights to modify it or vacate it entirely.

Several people did come to me later to comment on the sanctity of the Zen ceremony, having never seen one.  In the spirit (so to speak) of the event I did not “enlighten” them that they had yet to see one.

Clearly, the State held a Rational view of marriage while it is likely that many in attendance that day held a Non-Rational view; that is, that some earthly representative of a non-physical entity they did not understand but toward which they had numinous feeling intoned Words of Power over two young people who were somehow powerless otherwise to make their contract real.  Magic in the air. Legal paperwork in the room off stage.

Once the County Clerk’s office learned I could perform these functions in several languages I responded to quite a few calls.  But when it dawned on me that I was getting people into something I could not get them out of I stopped.

And what of the much trumpeted threat to traditional marriage?   Returning to simple basics, the appellation “traditional”, the initial premise of the claim,  has seldom been questioned.  Heterosexual marriage has claimed primacy by several contributing factors, none of which have any basis in sexuality:

  1. In every society homosexuals have been a minority;
  2. In many societies, past and current, homosexuality has been proscribed by custom or law thus making self-declared advocacy evidence of culpability;
  1. In those societies which have decriminalized homosexuality laws are only now being passed to legalize homosexual marriage.

So, saying heterosexual marriage is traditional and therefore correct is like saying Whites, by virtue of accredited levels of education, must be smarter than Blacks.  This overlooks the history of preventing Blacks from receiving education and the roadblocks to getting educated even through the early years of admission to decent schools.

Indeed, heterosexual marriage has traditionally been the refuge, the cover for homosexuals.  In the 1970’s I knew two men and one woman who, long enrolled in heterosexual marriages, announced their truth, divorced and moved in with their lovers.  One of the men had fathered six children.

It also reminds me of (and I’m historically interpreting here) White people saying if Blacks were allowed to ride the busses it would destroy public transportation. As far as I know, no bus has ever broken down because it had a Black rider.  In the same way, I am confident there will not be a noticeable spike in heterosexual divorces because same sex marriage is now legal.

In looking at our social discourse it is hard to say if the cart is before the horse, the horse before the cart, or if they are sliding down the hill side by side.  Clearly Non-Rational populist religious leaders and politicians abound. One noteworthy political party is a born again hybrid. But are they driving the masses to Non-Rational thought and action, or are the masses pushing them forward as their spokespersons?  Symbiosis in Nature is mutually beneficial.  Symbiosis in this case is universally dangerous to all.

I refuse to engage in discussions which are glibly founded on unquestioned premises.  Such discussions are the Siren songs, luring us happily and hopefully to the rocks of our destruction.  And, yes, if that last sentence sounds like an If this, then that, I fully acknowledge it and will defend accordingly.

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14 Comments
  1. This has been a most interesting article; I shall continue to learn from you “as long as we both shall live”. I’ve long been aware of your dislike for all things illogical; it is a trait we have in common.

    Do scientists use rational investigation to get from their hypothesis (non-rational) to being able to prove (or not) their initial assumption to be fact (now rational)? Do we need one to find the other?

    One of my other most influential teachers used to say that any statement which contained an absolute (all, always, none, never) on his tests (and indeed, in life) could be assumed incorrect. I must say that , over all, life has proven him right; there are few, if any, absolutes in this world.

    My sister and I were recently discussing her nephew’s same-sex marriage. They are very happy, and have just adopted a child. We all accept and support them, and wish them the best in their new adventure. Their relationship has been a true Cinderella story which needed no princess to make it complete. “Traditional” or not, they are a happy family, and that’s as good as it gets.

  2. Thank you, Rose. Knowing you as I do, I felt quite Rational in thinking you would enjoy this. You have the rare blend of precisely logical mind with the open wonder of a visionary.

    Your question about the nature of forming a hypothesis is insightful, and shows you truly do understand the process. Indeed, hypotheses grow from associations (often overlooked in basic science classes). Ergo, yes, the premise of a hypothesis is non-rational until repeated proofs raise it to the level of theory. As you know, theory is more rigorous than the average person has in mind when using the term, but it still must manifest deeper levels of proof before becoming Law. And even Law is casually and incorrectly used by those seeking an authoritative foundation for that which they wish to be true. “Law of Attraction” being an example.

    I agree with your teacher on the use of absolutes. I prefer to visualize a continuum of probability. My congratulations go to your sister’s nephew on the successful adoption.

  3. Gary permalink

    I wonder, Marco, what importance you would ascribe to “imagination” , which is entirely non-rational. You seem dismissive of the non-rational, but I would suggest that many strides in science and technology started with somebody’s imaginative visualization (the Wright Brothers and Tesla come to mind). What used to be only in the realm of science fiction writers (purely imaginative at the time they published) is now mainstream science.

    And I am not entirely certain that I buy into your notion that the primacy of heterosexual marriage (correctly speaking, one should now say the former primacy) does not have a sexual basis. I suppose it depends on how narrowly you are defining sexuality. If you mean only “I prefer women, I prefer men” then yes.

    However, a broader definition would include procreation. Before the waning part of the 20th century and the rise of the 21st when in vitro insemination and cloning became viable, the only manner of reproduction was the traditional one. And prior to the 20th century, going back to the dawn of modern humans, about 150,000 years ago, the only way a community, a society, a tribe, or whatever group of humans could survive was to reproduce themselves.

    Human life was very short, infant mortality rates were high, and producing multiple children was a couple’s only survival technique. Until the rise of the welfare state in Germany in the 1860s this remained universally true on most of the planet and still remains true in more primitive parts of the world where there is not a state safety net . It is not an accident that the birth rate in parts of the Middle East is about 8.9 children per couple compared to about 2.1 in the U.S. and 1.5 in Canada.

    We now live in age when we want to discourage reproduction because of over population, but I think that procreation has been the long time driver of the primacy of heterosexual marriage.

    • Thank you, Gary. You raise very valid points. I did not clearly acknowledge the non-rational foundation of the transition from association to hypothesis, a vital part of what will become a rational process of inquiry. Certainly, many of our advances have come through “inspiration” – a term deriving from the intake from non-physical, non-rational sources. It’s not that I dismiss these, as I hope I made clear when I said it is not a matter of one (rational) being better than the other (non-rational); it is simply a matter of distinguishing the two and keeping that distinction in mind.

      My point regarding the other than strictly sexual drivers of marriage was that using sex (and perhaps procreation) as a basis for primacy can be viewed as retrospective teleology. Marriage, broadly through time and cultures, is a coupling of two (or more) social groups (families, clans, etc). That children issue from such a coupling is certainly advantageous but may not be the driving reason for the coupling.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to consider this piece. I know I also speak for others when I express my appreciation of your thoughts. Marco

  4. Ray Rivers permalink

    Excellent discussion Marco. It has always puzzled me to hear people speculate on how ‘same gender’ marriage would destroy something as strong as the institution of marriage. It defies logic and reason to argue that the notion of two people (or more) making a bond to live together and share their ives, will somehow have repercussions on how any other two people consummate their own ‘traditional marriage’. And this, particularly given the argument Gary raises about the special role children play, belittles any argument on that account.

    • Thank you, Ray. I share your puzzlement at the “logic” invoked by opponents of same sex marriage. I am inclined to think that with enough time we could uncover non-rational homophobia. And, it seems similar in some ways to the convoluted thinking behind opposition to abortion and opposition to contraception at the same time and by the same people.

      Sometimes I am concerned that these highly vocal people will encourage others of us to hold our counsel. And so I have great appreciation for this opportunity to share thoughts with you and the others on this blog. Thanks again.

  5. Gregg permalink

    I didn’t know that fact about Eisenhower and the proposed solution to end WW2 10 months earlier than it did. The quote by Tagore is delightful.

    • Thanks, Gregg. The whole sordid business is well documented in the book, What If, published a few years ago. Marco

      • Gregg permalink

        The event reminds me of something I read a few years ago where a British special operations force was in place to capture Bin Laden but were told to hold back so US forces could get the credit. Of course by the time the US soldiers showed up to the party Bin Laden had long vanished into Afghanistan.

      • Thank you, Gregg. Indeed, there was much going on behind the scenes that I’m sure the public will never hear of. Obviously, an open forum such as this is not a good venue to elucidate it further. And, yes, Pakistan.

      • Gregg permalink

        Good point.

      • Gregg permalink

        Sorry, Pakistan.

  6. Mark Dohle permalink

    You always amaze me my dear friend. I do not look upon myself as a rational thinker, in fact I am not sure I ‘think’ at all. Yet I seek to be able to express myself in ways that others can at least get what I am trying to say.

    I find highly rational people lop sided. You are a blend of both, a good balance of rational/intuitive thought….. so you are always a help to me in my own lopsided intuitive way. When reading Ayn Rand, I found her helpful, but when she started to use her own brand of rational thought to talk about faith, I was actually embarrassed for her. Also when I finished her last book, I thought she had a lot to offer, but in the end I felt her life must surely be chaotic/claustrophobic/closed in..

    When Nathaniel Brandon and his former wife Barbara Brandon came out with their own Bio on Ayn, they both showed that in fact her emotional and intuitive relationship with others was truly destructive to all.

    I do believe that religions should not play a role in leading, but in gently working from the ground up, not from the top down. The will to power is way too strong and most can’t fight it. Power attracts those who seek it like it is a drug. Looking at our politicians will give everyone an idea what it does to them…..as well as to religions….I am grateful that the Catholic Church lost most of its power in the past. Also even for the scandals and the loss of money, we need to be poor in many ways before we can reach others. I believe that Pope Francis is doing just that. Christ taught that leaders should be servants, a paradox that Christians need to learn….difficult as that is.

    OK, enough, not sure I am even responding to you in the right way, but as always you get me to thinking……so thanks my dear friend and brother along the way.

    Peace
    Mark

    • Thank you so much, Mark. You and I are so very much like Hesse’s Narcissus und Goldmund. In fact, each of us embodies both those figures in many ways and that is a main reason you are so dear to me. I do realize some of what I write seems hypercritical of non-rational thought but I strive, not well at times, to recognize the appropriate venue for each form of thought and to encourage that one form not demand superiority over the other.

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