Tag Archives: reason

Why House is the most educational show on TV

If you didn’t catch last night’s episode of House, “Top Secret”, you should. It proves why House is the most educational show on TV. In an era when shows like Medium and Supernatural and Psychic Detectives are big hits, what a relief to have a show that sticks to pure rationality and reason for solutions to problems.

Last night’s show was interesting because House had a dream about a marine, who he’d never seen before, and who suddenly turned up as his patient the next day. And yet House stuck to his guns, did not leap toward supernatural explanations, and in addition to figuring out what was wrong with his patient, he also figured out how he could have had a dream about a patient before he met the patient. And it was all through reason.

I’m skeptical about some of the medicine on House. Granted, I don’t know enough about medicine to be sure, but I suspect like in any TV show, things are dumbed down, glazed over, and literary license is used. Setting that aside, the main focus of the show is not on the medical mysteries but on the methods used to solve them. Deduction, induction, reasoning, ruling out, ruling in, these are the way problems get solved, not by a crystal ball, lines in the palm of your hand, or Tarot cards.

Last night’s episode reminded me of one of my favorite Isaac Asimov Black Widower mysteries, “The Obvious Factor”. A mystery is presented at the gathering whereby it seems totally and completely impossible that there is any rational explanation. The guest tells a story and has his hosts completely perplexed. But not Henry the waiter. Henry points out that there is one obvious factor that has been overlooked by everyone else: that the guest is lying. And that, in fact, was the case. The guest made up the impossible events, and after ruling everything else out, the only rational explanation left was that he was lying. How many people would have liked to believe that the events described in the story could only be explained by supernatural forces, when an obvious factor still remained?

Gregory House may be an arrogant ass and have the bedside manner of foley catheter. But he’s one of my heroes because he doesn’t give into flim flam and nonsense. He keeps looking for rational explanations even when everyone else has given up.

Unreasonable Me

Yesterday, I ranted about the lack of reason and critical thinking, and among other things, how it leads to supremely idiotic email. I don’t want to give the impression that I am a perfectly rational being myself, that I am some kind of R. Daneel or Spock. So I thought I’d list a few of my idiotic irrationalities.

The one at the top of the list is my irrational disdain and hatred of political flyers placed on my car. (The hatred comes into play when you don’t notice the infernal things until you are buckled in and they are placed in such away that it is impossible to reach around them and pull them off the windshield without getting out of the car!) I don’t know the rationale behind these flyers. To they really earn votes this way? If everyone thought like me, they wouldn’t! When I got to my car this evening, I had not one but two of these flyers on my window.

The first one was SIMMS for Attorney General and the second one was for Peter Franchot, who has the original tag line: New vision. New leadership. Our values. Something we’ve never heard before from a politician!

This reminds me of how operating system software is marketed: Faster. More efficient. Powerful. All it means is that the previous version sucked and in this “new” version, they are trying to fix all of the things that worked in the original version.

So why is my disdain and hatred for these flyers irrational? Simple: I would never consider voting for someone or something for which one of these flyers was stuck on my car. Yes, it’s insane! It makes no sense at all! And it’s me! If a flyer was placed on my car telling me to vote against Proposition Armageddon, and that my vote alone would prevent the destruction of all life on Earth, I don’t believe I’d be able to overcome by passionate and fearfully irrational hatred of these flyers. I’d rather let the world destroy itself. At least then there would be a guarantee of no more flyers.

Maybe I’m not being clear on how irrational I am about this. If God Himself placed a flyer on my car, asking for my vote, I’d refuse.

Incidentally, when I got home from work, I had five of these flyers in my mail: Flo Hendershot for Country Council; Vote No on Doug Gansler; Elect Eric Olson; a second VOTE VOTE VOTE for Flo Hendershot; and Rushern Baker, for whom I could not determine what his campaign was about.

Today, I believe I am superstition free. It took a while to get here. In fact, I got rid of my longest standing superstition about 2 years ago. I have no fear of flying (I was a pilot for crying out loud!) I also have no fear of crashing. Airplane incidents are few and far between, and the training you go through to cope with airplane problems is far, far more substantial than what you go through to get a drivers license. But whenever I got on a commercial flight, I always read the the Safety Information Cards and followed along with the video, even though I knew the whole thing by heart. Doing this, I told myself, meant that nothing bad would happen on the flight. Is that not nuts!

About 2 years ago, when I was flying with increasing frequency, I finally told myself that I was being ridiculous. I make fun of superstitions left and right and am a vocal proponent of reason. And yet, here I was thinking that my reading the safety card would keep me physically safe. It took some effort, after all, what if I didn’t read the card and there was a problem. Coincidence! I told myself. No necessary connection! Finally, I got on a plane one day when I was particularly tired and I said to myself, screw it. I put my on my iPod headphones, blasted the music and went to sleep. I woke up 2 hours into the flight. It was a perfectly average flight. I’ve flown 2 or 3 dozen times since then and I never read the information cards (unless its on a plane that I am unfamiliar with, in which case it makes sense, if only to know what to do in an emergency.)

I stopped believing in ghosts, flying saucers, alien abductions, ESP, astrology and all other forms on nonsense sometime between 6th and 7th grade. I tend to get annoyed when friends and family members mention silly superstitions of their own, but I usually keep it to myself. Does it hurt me that they believe that nonsense? Still, as you can see, I have some irrationalities of my own. I hope that I am working my way through them by recognizing them as irrationalities, even though I still retain them. Maybe one day, I will be free of all of this silliness, but I don’t know. Some of it, like the bit about the flyers, is deeply ingrained in my personality.

And so when I occasionally mutter my mantra: “Against stupidity, the gods themselves content in vain,” you can be sure that from time to time, I am talking about myself.

Racism vs. Reason

This afternoon, I got a “forwarded” email message from a cousin of mine that my spam filter marked as junk mail, but whose discretion I chose to ignore and read the message anyway. It was a mistake. The message, to me, seemed like a blatantly racist attack on illegal immegrants, particularly those from Mexico. Ordinarily, I’d delete the junk and be done with it, but it was one of those messages that concluded with a ukase to forward it on to as many people as you know. I felt that was too much. I needed to correct some of the misinformation, but more than that, I needed to demonstrate that you simply can’t believe everything you read. So I replied to the message.

What I said in my reply

Church signs, part 2

Okay, so I was so curious about this church sign phenomenon that I spent some time browsing and found a sign that stopped me in my tracks.

This makes no sense to me. In fact, I think the sign should read the opposite: Reason is the greatest ally that faith has. It seems simple to me. If human beings couldn’t reason, if they couldn’t have made logical connections between things, then humanity would have died off long ago. And since faith requires people, without humanity, no faith. Clearly, then, the only reason faith exists is due to the fact that reason has allowed it to exist. It took reasoning to learn how to handle fire; it took reasoning to learn how to conquer disease. These things have allowed people to survive and become what they are today. How in the world can reason be the greatest enemy faith has?

Of course, I’m just being reasonable, so what do I know.