By Robert P. Coutinho
“’Why don’t they teach these children logic’? the professor asked.” C. S. Lewis
“The wisdom of man is not the wisdom of God.”
“To be, or not to be. That is the question.” W. Shakespeare
Many people are asking questions in this political climate. Those questions often come back to the basic quotes above. We are, collectively, now dealing with a national situation that rarely occurs. Our entire society is facing a crisis where a conscious (or unconscious for some) choice of basic life is being asked. To be, or not to be; lies or falsehood; reality or fantasy; charlatanism or science; stories or history; these choices are laid before an electorate that has been increasingly dumbed down by continual budgetary cuts in educational funding—often by GOP legislators, I might add.
Logic: A is A. Existence exists. Proof: I exist because I can define myself as the entity asking the question—therefore, it is self-evidetiary that I must exist. Thus, existence must exist, as I am part of existence. Any claim to the opposite is false.
Logic: Any claim that existence does not exist is evil as it seeks to undo reality itself.
All other questions of good and evil MUST, AT ALL TIMES, follow these tenets.
Now, this does not mean that one can not practice the arts, such as telling stories, acting, painting, etc. Those do not pretend that the art is reality. It is in showing how close to reality they can get (usually) that they show how well they are performing.
The reality of knowing things has an order to it. That order has a preference due to its immutability. Those things with lower numbers can not be violated by higher numbers because: 1. If a higher-numbered philosophical group of study violated a lower-numbered group, then the lower-numbered group would need to change its laws in order to account for the abnormality observed. 2. Lower-numbered groups laws are, thus, fundamental to the learning of higher-numbered philosophies in-so-much as they must not be violated (or at least must be accounted for).
1. Study of stuff (Geology, includes astrophysics, space, etc)
2. Study of motion (Physics)
3. Study of basic particles and interactions (Chemistry)
4. Study of Life (Biology)
5. Study of Animals (Zoology)
6. Study of Humans (Anatomy and Physiology)
7. Study of Human interactions (Social Sciences)
8. Study of Societal interactions (Higher-level social sciences)
9. Study of Arts
10. Study of Unknown (such as religion)
11. Study of being (Metaphysics)
In comes politics. Politics is a social science. Other social sciences include (but are not limited to) Psychology, Sociology, Economics, History etc. As such, it has a few other “sciences” before it that are supposed to be inviolate. Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Human anatomy and physiology (including medical science) all come before any social sciences. The reason for this is because if anything is discovered in a social science that violates one of the previous sciences then the previous science itself would also change. Let me elaborate. If, for instance, psychologically people were convinced that water was made of phosphorus and nickel (not oxygen and hydrogen), then either the people would be wrong or the chemistry would be wrong. It is not possible for the chemistry to be right and then for the people to be right simply because they are comforted in thinking that the wrong elements make up water. One’s opinions about what elements make up water do not change the reality.
The world goes into chaos whenever a later-included learning element is given preference over an earlier one. If people are comforted in having the knowledge that they have nice, clean lead pipes for their water delivery; that is all nice and well until one discovers that the correct precautions are not used to ensure that that lead is not leaching into the water and wiping out their brain cells! If people do not understand the difference between climate and weather, it is not the meteorology community’s conclusion that is at fault about overall global warming, it is the inaccurate understanding of some of the people. The scientists will usually have it right. When there is a discrepancy, the numbers need only be added up, the people with the numbers on their side win.
Next come the social sciences. Sometimes numbers do not win. Social sciences are not completely predictable because human choice is involved. Note that when animal choice is involved, one need only have a large-enough control group to get an accurate prediction. Humans are not quite so predictable. Often a large control group will suffice, but not always. Ask any pollster and he or she will tell you tales of horror when a particular outlying group came up with a wildly inaccurate prediction.
Back to our current political climate. I know; I had lulled you into a state of happiness because you had forgotten all about the misery that is the current state of the United States of America. We are facing a crisis because people are being asked (forced in many cases) to choose between reality and falsehood. Many are choosing falsehood. Those who are kind are attributing this to those people being either ignorant, duped, confused or somehow mentally inferior. In a fascinating, if somewhat ironic, twist, both sides are claiming this of the other side. Thus the supporters and deriders of our current president claim that the others are being led astray by evil-doers. The way that they say it may differ, but the claims are mostly the same.
So, even though it is obvious by my own writing (even within this article) how my own views lie, how can one try to safely determine which side is telling the truth and which side is not? That is a very important question. I have a few fairly good rules:
1. Has this source been internally consistent?
2. Has this source been confirmed by other sources, especially by sources that are competitors?
3. Does this source have ulterior motives for the claim?
4. Why would this source want lie about this (if they are accused of such)?
5. Why would this source bring up the subject in the first place? (especially if not appropriate)
The next subject deals with evidence. There are things that can be known, things that can be implied, things that can be infered and things that can be deduced. However, to make things simple, I will simply state that things can be either facts or opinions. Facts are knowable, opinions are interpretations of the facts.
Here is an example of a bunch of opinions masquerading as facts. John Doe murdered Jane Frost today in broad daylight on 5th Avenue in New York City. There were thousands of witnesses who saw him shoot her with a Saturday Night Special! He’s going to get the chair for certain!
Here is the same example written up as facts. Jane Frost was declared dead by an examiner. Her body was found on 5th Avenue in New York City. The coroner determined that the cause of death was a .45 caliber bullet to the heart. The time of death was estimated to be approximately 1:45 pm, Eastern Standard Time. Police inspectors have questioned multiple people who were at the scene of what appeared to be a crime scene. The witnesses agree that a man fitting the description of John Doe appeared to have a hand gun in his possession and that a loud bang could be heard just before Ms. Frost fell to the ground. Smoke could be seen coming from the object in Mr. Doe’s hand. Police who responded to the incident reported apprehending Mr. Doe and confiscating a .45 caliber Colt hand gun at the scene.
The differences are huge. Murder is not a fact until proven in a court of law. Time of incident must be established. What punishment the court may find appropriate is completely unknowable before a trial has even been set or even contemplated. So the first statement is almost all opinion, not fact. Meanwhile, broad daylight would require a weather report in addition to the time of the incident (and would be pretty irrelevant in any case).
Next comes the stupidity of something often called “whataboutism”. The pseudo-logic behind this is that if someone commits an evil act then pointing that out only counts if someone on your side never committed a similar act. That is plainly stupid. If this were the case then if a Democrat points out that a Republican is shooting someone in the Senate chambers, it is totally irrelevant if he failed to point out that a fellow Democrat did the same thing the day before. Wrong! The act is still objectionable, and pointing it out is still a valid action.
Next I would like to cover something about the validity of witness reliability. Character assassination seems to be all the rage for a current political party at the moment. They seem to believe that so long as they can find any possible fault with a witness—in any form whatsoever—then they can discredit that witness. Once again, that is wrong-headed on an epic level. Going back to my list of reasons to credit or discredit a source, would the witness gain anything by lying? Would that witness be corroborated by others? Witnesses who risk their careers, their credibility, their privacy, and even their lives to come forth and testify are very compelling witnesses. However, even witnesses who would gain something monetarily or by noteriety may still be truthful. Those who engage in constant character assassination are always to be taken as having an alterior motive, since they are showing a pattern of negative behavior. This behavior may be appropriate; it is entirely possible that all the witnesses are bad people. However, if the one questioning the validity of all the witnesses is engaging in name-calling and wild and unsubstantiated accusations, it is likely the accuser who is the one who is less reliable.
Finally, let’s do some simple logic and logic fallacies. If A then B. This does not mean B implies A. Thus, if I say that I will go to the movies if it rains tomorrow. If I go to the movies tomorrow, it does not mean that it necessarily rained. I never said I would not go if it was sunny. Lawyers are taught logic. Unfortunately, many of them use logic fallacies whenever they think they can pull off a falsehood on their listeners. Con artists also do this. There are 22 rules of logic (or at least there were when I took a course on it as a thirteen-year-old boy during one summer). It pays to listen carefully and reason out what someone says.
If all else fails, try checking in with a fact-check site. They usually explain how they checked their sources, and thus why they ruled the way they ruled. I happen to use Factcheck.org and Snopes as my primary sites, but there are others on the internet as well.
Robert Coutinho is a disabled pharmaceutical chemist living in Massachusetts. He has been learning about life, the universe, and everything since he was born in 1963. He has had little else to do since his disability began in 1997. He has written a fictional novel, Their Last Best Hope, which is currently available at Tate Publishing, Amazon and book stores.