Thursday, 19 August 2010

Things we know aren't true

A few days ago my eyes glimpsed upon a British Sunday newspaper headline. It was something to the effect of:
"Mothers choosing work over children has no long-term effects, study shows."
Ha, ha, ha.

I've also this week been reading a mathematical book. It had an interesting discussion about the way modern mathematics analyses ideas. One part has discussed the mathematicians' "tool" of "proof by contradiction" or "reductio ad absurdum". When given an idea, turn it around and look at the consequences of the reverse idea.

I wonder how many people would spot the obvious nonsense in the newspaper's headline more clearly if it had been phrased the following way. Wonder why the editor didn't choose one of these...
Time spent with your children is wasted, study shows
Or this:
Investing in your kids: pointless, say scientists
Because that's the logical upshot... if not investing in your children has no long term negative effects, then on the other side of the coin investing in your children can't have any long term positive effects either. You can't win with both heads and tails. If nothing is lost one way, then neither can anything be gained the other way.

It was one of those newspapers whose editorial slant would definitely like such things to be true. Perhaps you've heard of the preacher who wrote in the margin of his notes, "argument weak here - shout louder!" And in Western civilisation, there's no way to shout louder than for the Sunday newspaper to give it the main headline and proclaim that (drum roll) scientists, (all bow!) have produced a study (gasp!). Even in post-modernity, the mythical white-coats seem to have retained their trump card in popular cultural imagination: when academics speak, truth speaks! Those who dare to question them can only be reactionary fundamentalists, tsk tsk.

But no matter how loudly they shout, we still know it's not true. God gave children to parents for a reason, and part of that reason is so that they can raise them, and that's what works best. That's how God's world works, and all other things being equal, in the world that God constructed, following God's ways will never be equal to the alternatives. God's world works God's way, and we know it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a good point David, well observed and very easy to forget. Thanks for the reminder to look out for such 'obvious nonsense'.