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Reason, Rationalization, And the Left’s Aversion to Logic

The Left prides itself on being the side of logic, reason, and science, painting anyone who disagrees with them as irrational and denying the truths revealed by science.  Yet every day their actions seem to belie these claims as they promote positions that are contrary to fact, or attempt actions that have no possibility of working.  If they are so logical and science-based, these things raise the question of why?

We need explanations

The answer lies deep in the history of human development and how we make sense of the world.  It is shaped and supported by modern philosophies that appear profound, but actually lead their followers astray.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that we have an innate drive to make sense of the world; to develop explanations of events that can guide us in future actions and help us to survive.  Our early brains developed the capability to construct cause and effect associations that gave us the advantage of prediction, and which was the precursor of reason.  No longer were we captive to events of the moment.  We could bring to bear learned experience that gave us an edge over all the other animals and allowed us to dominate our environment.

This explanation mechanism operates continuously, always seeking to fit our experiences into known categories, or to create explanations for things that are new.  In the earliest days, we learned such things as how to use fire, how to recognize edible plants, and how to hunt.  Some of our experiences didn’t fit well, though, such as storms, and earthquakes, accidents and death, but still our compulsion to explain things led us to postulate gods and spirits, unseen forces that could affect the world, but that were outside our direct control.  There was comfort in these explanations that allowed us to turn our attention to more immediate concerns.

A logical beginning

As time progressed, several cultures, notably those of the ancient Greeks, began to develop rules for formulating explanations.  These rules formed the foundation of what we have come to call logic.  Aristotle laid the foundation of modern logic with what is known as Term Logic, which is familiar to most people today as the syllogism.  It commonly takes the form of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion that follows from those premises.  A classic example is:

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All men are mortal (major premise)

Socrates is a man (minor premise)

Therefore, Socrates is mortal (conclusion)

Quite simple, no?  Although systems of logic and analysis have grown and matured considerably in over two millennia since Aristotle, most of the Left has remained stuck at this primitive level.  The reason for its popularity is that it offers reasonable-sounding conclusions from basic assumptions, and can be used to support arguments that appear to offer good explanations, but where the flaws in the argument are often hidden and difficult to articulate.

It was up to the development of scientific analysis that flowered first in the Renaissance, and then in the Age of Enlightenment to provide the means to sort out the products of logic.  Human development that had occurred over tens of thousands of years had relied on our innate ability to draw conclusions about the world, conclusions that provided useful explanation, and that were often supported by logic, but that also frequently were misleading.  It was the development of science and its methods of systematic exploration that allowed us to go beyond our ability to craft plausible explanations, and actually test the products of our reasoning against the external standard of the world.

In other words, plausibility was no longer enough.  Any explanation had to be consistent with what we could observe and measure, and with direct experience.  The idea that there was an objective reality that existed outside of our thoughts and feelings was a novel concept at the time, but offered great power to sort through explanations that seemed good and were logically correct, but that gave useless or worse than useless results.

Science and reason

The trouble was, though, that application of science and real-world testing had two major drawbacks.  First, it required a fair amount of work to make measurements, observe events, collect data, and test conclusions to see how well they conformed to reality.  Not a task for the lazy.

Second, it was too democratic.  Previously, people could become respected and powerful by providing plausible explanations that they could expound with conviction and an aura of authority.  It didn’t matter so much if you were correct, if you could come up with a plausible explanation, and could construct good explanations for those occasions when the previous explanations failed.  With the rise of science, however, the lowliest peasant could bring down a powerful authority figure simply by showing that their explanations were inconsistent with observed reality.  Facts trumped opinions!

In more modern times, though, science has become more complex and further from the common experience of reality.  The last century has been particularly separating, especially as the population moved from a rural environment rich in opportunities to experience reality first-hand, to an urban environment full of artificial constructs.  As a consequence, science has taken on the character of a belief system with scientists as unchallengeable authority figures.  Bill Murray’s line in Ghostbusters – “Back off man, I’m a scientist!” – encapsulates and illustrates this development.

A modern age of unreason

These developments were very upsetting to many, particularly those on the Left, who wished to be lauded as visionaries and authorities, but who were unwilling to expend the effort to actually study science, and who often even lacked any talent or ability in solid logic.  Fortunately for them, about seventy years ago, a new philosophy gained popularity and offered a path to prominence for these people.

This philosophy, Postmodernism, solved two major problems for the Left.  First, it set forth the idea that even if there was an objective reality, we had no way of knowing about it outside of our senses, so any arguments founded on the assumption of an objective reality could be dismissed as meaningless.  That got rid of one major roadblock.

Second, it asserted that reason itself was flawed and useless for understanding reality.  Indeed, reality could only be defined by each individual’s own thoughts, feelings and experiences, and was therefore a subjective product unique to each individual.

In one fell swoop, the entire foundation of millennia of progress was wiped away and humans were returned to a primitive state, reliant on the pronouncements of authority figures who would compete on the basis of the plausibility of their assertions without any need to subject themselves to agreement with problematic facts.  The Left embraced the philosophy with glee!  Their reaction was much like that of the sailors in Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark“:

He had bought a large map representing the sea,

Without the least vestige of land:

And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be

A map they could all understand.

Hidden in plain sight

Now, there are few on the Left today who would actually be able to name the philosophy that is the underpinning of their current systems of thought, but they live by its precepts, nonetheless.  The idea that thoughts and feelings have primacy in evaluating matters is one characteristic.  The Star Wars line “Trust the force, Luke” where the character is called to abandon logic and reason and operate instead by nebulous feelings and sensations is a prime example.

The idea, too, that the actions of others must be constrained to protect one’s own feelings, is another indicator.  In essence, such a position absolves an individual of any responsibility for assessment and control over their feelings, and instead gives control over their emotions to anyone else in their proximity.  Hence, control over others becomes justified to protect an individual from unpleasant emotions that might result from words or actions that the individual may find disagreeable.

Once cast loose from the challenges of inconvenient facts, the Left has free rein to claim their superiority in matters of reason and logic, adopting the position of Emerson when he said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  The rest of the quote is most enlightening.  No longer constrained by rules of logic, they can offer such “reasoning” as:

College is for superior people

I went to college

Therefore I am superior

and

All liars deny they lie

Trump denies lying

Therefore Trump is a liar

and

CO2 absorbs heat radiation

The Earth’s climate is warming

Therefore human generation of CO2 from fossil fuels is causing climate change

and

Newborn infants have the potential to be any gender

Gender is socially determined

Therefore children must be taught their gender options as early as possible

Those of us on the Right with even a modicum of understanding of logic will recognize the numerous logical errors those examples embody.  Yet since their philosophy teaches that it has risen above the level of mere facts and constrained reason so that its practitioners operate at a higher level, the Left considers itself superior.

A critique of impure reason

At one time, logic and reasoning was taught at most high schools, and even middle schools.  I have a copy of a textbook from that period, entitled “Applied Logic”.  Among the exercises assigned were to collect stories from newspapers and analyze them for logic errors, the use of manipulative language, and other uses of language to shape a reader’s opinions beyond those justified by the reported facts.  When it was found that such training led to students who would ask awkward and uncomfortable questions, these courses were discontinued.

What has replaced these courses is an informal education in rationalization. The Oxford English Dictionary defines rationalization as:

the action of attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate.

In other words, it is the process that humans worked with for millennia before we devised logic and science.  It has the advantages that you don’t actually have to know anything to use it, and the results don’t actually have to be correct – they just have to sound good.

The claims of today’s Progressive Left that they are the superior purveyors of logic and reason are unfounded.  They have actually confused rationalization with reason, and proof with plausibility.  The result has been the spread of a number of nonsensical ideas through a population that has been deliberately denied the tools to identify the illogicalities in those ideas.  Perhaps in anticipation of a battle of wits, most of the population has been disarmed.  This is not a good situation.

Emotions are easy to manipulate

Whether the situation is the result of a deliberate attempt to eliminate a general ability to reason accurately, or simply the consequence of social and educational trends, the result is a populace that is far more prone to manipulation than in almost any period of our history.  Emotional manipulation is the basis of most advertising as well as a lot of propaganda.

The well-known quip from Rahm Emanuel about never letting a good crisis go to waste is simply an expression of how easy it is to use fear as a motivating force to get people to do things they would otherwise reject.  Look at all the destructive things that were done to the economy and all the abridgements of fundamental rights all using fear of Covid – a disease not much worse than the seasonal flu.

Now governments are using fear of a nebulous climate “crisis” to consolidate power and effect huge changes in economies and societies across the world.  These changes are largely detrimental to poorer populations, increase the likelihood of famines, and act to generally eliminate fundamental individual liberties.  They even have a name for it – the “Great Reset”.

Without an ability to apply effective rational processes to analyze and critique government policies and programs, people are left to trust the words of various “authorities” to tell them what is “good” and what is “bad”, based on little more than on how convincingly these authorities can present their arguments.  The popularity of media such as MSNBC and CNN is illustrative.

In most cases, conviction is expressed not in logical arguments, but instead on how emotionally appealing or how forcefully the arguments are presented.  An angry and impassioned “How dare you!” is not a rational argument, nor does it contain any information useful in making a rational assessment. It is purely an appeal to emotion.

Truth or consequences

When logic is removed, people can be persuaded to accept many things they would otherwise reject.  Nearly every issue in society today, ranging from climate change to Critical Race Theory, to “white supremacy” to gun control to intersectionality, to abortion and most others are issues because they are rooted in emotional manipulation, rather than a rational assessment of facts and logic.

Recently we have seen crowds whipped to a frenzy by emotion-based rhetoric void of meaningful content.  The result has too often been rampages of mayhem, destruction, and even murder.

In terms of public policy and government authority, we have all recently experienced the emotional manipulations used to try to force mandatory vaccinations with an experimental and often deadly substance, the encouragement of racial hatred to divide and distract the country, and labeling half the population as domestic terrorists responsible for all the current problems we enjoy.

All these things are possible because we, as a society, have lost the ability to think clearly and to discuss rationally and without excessive emotion.  Instead, we have been encouraged in a multitude of ways to reject reason, and to replace it with “gut feelings”, rationalization based justification of feelings, and the use of anger, intimidation, and violence as legitimate modes of argument and expression.

Logic leads to truth so those who wish to use lies must eliminate logic.

Why change is hard

It is clear that if we are to survive as a free nation, we must change how we think.  We need a large majority of people who can evaluate matters clearly, rationally, and realistically.  Actually effecting that change won’t be easy.  It has been a process of many years to bring us to our present condition of irreason, so it would be unreasonable to expect rapid correction.

One challenge we face lies in how we learn and form our concepts of how to operate in the world.  I wrote earlier of how we are compelled to construct explanations.  Once we have formed a useful explanation, though, we simply accept it and seldom revise it.

When we create an explanation, it is like making a painting.  As we learn more, we might add to the painting, but we never replace it.  If we develop a new and better explanation, it is like painting over the old one.  Sometimes, the old explanation will still show through because it is never deleted.  So long as the old explanation has some explanatory power, it will continue to compete with any new approach.  This is why it is so difficult to develop new habits and to correct false ideas or ways of doing things that serve us poorly.

Get them while they’re young

This is why the Left is so intent on indoctrinating children.  Many of our basic attitudes and approaches to life are formed before the age of about ten.  In fact, by the time of puberty, our brains have lost most of the ability to easily form new connections through a process called myelination, where the way we learn things slows down and changes.

We may have already lost a generation or more.  The longer we allow the Left to indoctrinate our children, the harder it will be to fix things later.

We cannot afford to waste more time.  False modes of thought and false explanations are very difficult to remedy; much better not to instill them in the first place.

We had a time, in the not-so-distant past, when we were a much more reasonable people.  Often this ability to reason was hard won, frequently by experiences in battle or in other survival situations, where fantasy does not survive exposure to hard reality.  Ideas and beliefs that might sound good are tested against what works, and reality is a hard judge.

Finding the cure

We need to restore instruction in applied logic.  Nearly all who made the transition from Left to Right did so when the inconsistencies of Leftist thought and deeds became inescapably obvious.  If we are to effectively resist the encroachments of the Left on our individual liberties and basic freedoms, the promotion of good logical thought is one of our most powerful tools.

Kids will love learning logic as it will give them tools to question adults and point out the contradictions inherent in their positions.  That fact alone is probably another reason they stopped teaching it.  Protecting our cherished misconceptions is not a good reason to avoid instruction, though.

The cure is worth the effort.  Many current issues will simply collapse when their fairy tale foundations are exposed.  Some may wonder how good logic and fact-based reasoning could have any significant effect.  Yet such processes are exactly why the Founders insisted on freedom of speech, and acknowledged the power of open discourse.  When we share reasoning and explanations, truth becomes obvious through a winnowing process and ruthless elimination of false narrative.

Exposure of falsehood is the principal reason the Left is so intent on controlling the narrative and eliminating free exchange of information.  Only by preventing this exchange can their lies be preserved.  Remember that the purpose of a lie is to manipulate and to achieve the liar’s objective.  If a lie is exposed, it loses its power.

Amendment 2.1 – an addition to an essential freedom

A well-regulated populace, equipped with the tools and training of correct reasoning, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to know and use logic shall not be infringed..

Where to begin

 – start a logic club

After school clubs are growing in popularity, not only among public school students, but especially among the home-schooled.  In addition to providing vital social interaction opportunities, they also can augment or fill gaps in current education programs.  Science clubs, debate clubs, scouts, all exist, so why not a logic club.

The purpose would be to promote civil debate and discussion, fact based reasoning, and to expose manipulation and other disinformation tactics in current use.  Participants could bring in current examples from media or other sources for analysis and discussion to evaluate the truth or falsity of assertions made. For instance, as an example of equity: give all students in a class the same grade regardless of how much work they did.

– read the Britannica postmodernism article

A good article on postmodernism that I have cited before is a brief discussion from Britannica.  It gives a good overview of the important points without going into great depth.  Its one flaw is that it sometimes appears to be arguing for a postmodernist view, but a careful reading will dispel that idea.

 – take a deep dive into Postmodern philosophy

For those seeking a more in-depth discussion of postmodernism, including its history, I can suggest the book Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks. It has been the source of much of my own understanding of the philosophy, but is not for the faint of heart. It does give a good explanation of how the Left got to be where it is today.

– invite examination rather than telling a result

One habit common to most of us and especially of parents dealing with children is to try to present the conclusions without elaborating the underlying processes we went through to arrive at the final result.  The usual result is that we get ignored or dismissed.  Many have described the process as being like teaching a pig to sing.  The attempt is nearly always unsuccessful, and it annoys the pig.

A far more effective approach is to provide opportunities for individuals to form their own opinions, sometimes by asking good questions that guide their reasoning, sometimes by relating stories of our own experiences.  Through much of our history, vital lessons have been conveyed by folklore and stories passed from generation to generation.  Aesop’s Fables, the stories of Uncle Remus, Blackfoot Lodge Tales, and numerous other works have educated generations in a wide range of useful understandings of the world.

 – get a good book on applied logic and use its lessons

Although it has long been out of print, and copies are difficult to find, I highly recommend  the textbook “Applied Logic” by Little, Wilson, and Moore.  An excerpt from the Preface, provides a better argument than any I could produce.

” It is our belief that a course devoted exclusively to the development of effective thinking is as necessary as a basic course in English or mathematics.  ….  We believe that effective thinking is too complex a process to be adequately treated as an adjunct of a course devoted primarily to other subject matter, and too important in our civilization to be relegated to spare moments.

Our purpose has been to present a text which will have a real impact on the life of the student by developing intellectual skills he can put to practical use in solving the myriad problems which will confront him throughout life.”

 There may be other books as well that can present the subject in a clear, useful, and interesting manner, and any such as might be found should be promoted and shared.

In future articles, we will look at some currently popular issues to identify the premises on which they are based, and the conclusions that have been drawn from them.  Some of the false conclusions around these issues are being used to justify immense changes in the fabric of our nation – changes with huge destructive consequences.

By David Robb

David Robb is a regular contributor to The Blue State Conservative and a practicing scientist who has been working in industry for over 50 years. One of his specialties is asking awkward questions. A large part of his work over the years has involved making complex scientific issues clear and understandable to non-specialists. Sometimes he even succeeds.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Blue State Conservative. The BSC is not responsible for, and does not verify the accuracy of, any information presented.

Notice: This article may contain commentary that reflects the author’s opinion.

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