Thursday, April 20, 2006

Compared to what?

It is impossible to understand any issue without a having an accurate point of reference. This is why children who are capable of learning facts quickly and remembering facts at rates much higher than adults are not able to apply facts as wisdom as well as adults. Some children will draw the right conclusion from the facts occasionally, but most children, most of the time, and all children, some of the time, do not turn knowledge into wise decisions. Children lack experiences that help provide an accurate point of reference to make wise decisions.

Adults form a point of reference through personal experiences, education (both formal and informal), assumptions, and social norms. All four of these components are weighted and blended in different ways by different people in developing a point of reference. Confident people will rely more on personal experience and personal assumptions while humble people will rely more on education and social norms in developing a point of reference. Confidence, in the extreme, becomes arrogance when education and social norms are not considered and humility, in the extreme, becomes meekness when personal experiences and personal assumptions are ignored. Confidence can also become arrogance when the confidence is derived from the opinions of others based on the social status of the other person expressing the opinion.

In Science, when the compare group is defined and the experiment is conducted with a double blind study, there is always a precise point of reference for comparison, but in most of life, the point of reference is a little more difficult to determine. Therefore, “Compared to what?” is always a great question to ask oneself when being sold a product or being convinced of an idea or concept. The point of reference along with a fair comparison is what leads to a wise decision or position.

When I hear others expressing an opinion about the disaster in Iraq, I know they are basing their opinion on a faulty point of reference or a poorly reasoned comparison because I have been able to ask myself “Compared to what?”, in analyzing the situation in Iraq. Compared to Viet Nam? Well no, Viet Nam was a disaster where 50,000 Americans and over 2,000,000 innocent Asians were murdered by the Communists. Iraq is a tremendous success so far compared to Viet Nam. Compared to Korea? Well no, Korea was a disaster where the Communists were allowed to retain power and untold millions of people have suffered and died as a result. Compared to World War II? Give me a break, more Americans died on most days in WWII than the total number of Americans lost in Iraq since the invasion. Compared to California? Yes, this is probably the fairest comparison. A few people in California die every day from gang murders just like in Iraq, a country about the same size and population as California.

No comments: