Question 1: In the photo below, it is, while not 100%, at least reasonably certain that two kinds of things crossed the sand. What are they?
A) A vehicle or ten and one or more elephants.
B) Tomaytoes and tomahtoes.
C) Peter O’Toole and Sean Connery.
D) No idea!
Question 2: In the photo below, it is obvious that:
A) Cats either were able to or one day will be able to shoot ray beams out of their heads.
B) Cats were more important than people to ancient Egyptian rulers.
C) Cats held some sort of significance to Egyptians (possibly due to their ability to kill or chase vermin away and thus preventing some diseases and loss/spoiling of food).
D) Something chipped the area above the cat’s head.
E) Some combination of B, C and D is probably fair (but probably not A unless it’s in a movie, from a book, or in an SNL sketch).
The difference between choosing 1A and 2A is the difference between educated guess and grasping at straws; analysis and reading tea leaves; trusting experience when there’s little or nothing else to go on and choosing the answer you want to be true; reason and superstition. It is correct to assume that the former is sometimes wrong. It is wrong to assume therefore it is worthless, or else one must apply that to science as well, must not one?
Case Study 1: A man feels pressure in his abdomen. Additionally, he feels a tingly sensation in his penis. Concerned (but not worried), he goes to the doctor. The doctor runs some tests to see if it’s a bladder infection. While waiting for the test results, the man dies. The test comes back negative for the infection but the man dies in a pool of his own urine. Failing to fall back on experience (“I need to urinate”) the man failed to act quickly enough due to the “paralysis of analysis” as it’s sometimes referred to in the circles of those who deem some level of common sense (EDIT: by which they really mean extrapolation of experience) and guesswork to be good enough in some circumstances.
Case Study 2: You are watching some cable news network because war is imminent and you are still naive enough to believe there is some value in watching what is said in the mainstream media. In the space of forty-five seconds, you see two completely contradictory things. First, you see an expert in a particular field explaining in excruciating detail how a particular set of objects can be used and how they cannot. (First question: what does he have to gain by lying?) Next, you see a person in a position of power saying the complete opposite without the details the first person offered. (Second question: what did she have to gain by lying?). There is no attempt to reconcile this discrepancy by the cable news network anchors despite watching and waiting for it for an hour. In fact, the first person was cut off mid-sentence in order to bring the second one on. (Third question: why does it take yet another event, specifically watching three morning news anchors salivating, laughing and otherwise looking forward to imminent war to make you stop watching the channel altogether?).
Is there more than one reasonable answer to those questions? Or does one have to rely on wishful thinking and self-deception to accept that the second person mentioned was not lying? I think it’s clear as day and it was the day it happened.
The value of looking backward? To avoid repeating it; especially allowing the same people to repeat it.
(EDIT: Sorry, the answers. “Nothing,” “Power,” and either “Naïveté dies hard” or “GawdammitS____IsRightIAmAMasochist.” EDITEDIT: Actually the last one is because I like to give people another chance even when they’ve failed to show the slightest reason for deserving one.)