For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Logic and Emotion

First, to follow up on my previous post, I'm just shaking my head. I have the dr's appointment made for the end of July, but the lump is already gone. The spot is still irritated and pains around there come and go, so I'll get it checked out anyways. If I'm "lucky," I'll have a new lump for my dr. to examine when I see him. *L*

It's probably quite silly for me to try and post right now. It just passed midnight and, knowing me, this will take at least an hour to write. But what the hey. It's not like I'd be able to fall asleep if I went to bed, anyways. Still, I apologize ahead of time if any of this comes out rather disjointed.

I wanted to write about something I've been thinking about for quite some time. I've long tried to understand why people do the things they do and believe what they believe. It's especially made me curious when I see people who look at the same information, or share similar experiences, yet come to completely different conclusions.

I found myself looking for an explanation in how we response to things; logically, or emotionally.

Logic is cold. Linear. Inflexible. Dispassionate.

Emotion is hot. Intuitive. Fluctuating. Passionate.

Emotion tempers logic, while logic reigns in the chaos of emotion.

The realization I came to years ago was this.

Logic is what people use to justify their emotional responses.

Over the years, I've yet to see anything to counter this. As humans, we are both logical and emotional beings. Both sides are valid. I'll use a personal example to illustrate.

When my first daughter was born, I was about as prepared for motherhood as I could possibly be without actually being a mother. I had plenty of experience with children from newborn to pre-school, as individuals and in groups. I thought I was prepared, and for the most part, I was. What I wasn't prepared for was having a child that wasn't at all like any other child I'd been around so far. I'd never before experienced a high needs baby. Thankfully, I had enough confidence to follow my instincts and parent her the way she needed to be, long before I ever discovered that there were other children just like her.

By the time she was a year and a half old, I was already dreading the idea of sending her to school. My daughter processed information differently. I knew that, in a classroom setting, she would be "diagnosed" ADD or ADHD, and that I'd be pressured to drug her, as had already happened to a nephew of mine. I knew she wasn't ADD/ADHD, but schools just aren't designed to handle children that don't fit a particular mold.

At the time, I was going to La Leche League meetings. I'd had breastfeeding problems immediately after my daughter's birth, and a LLL leader was the only reason we overcame them. She was incredible, and even came to my home quite late in the evening to help me out. She brought along her two young daughters, who quietly sat in the hallway with books while their mother worked with me and my baby. I had made a comment about how I hoped their being out so late wouldn't make it hard for them to go to school the next day. I was assured this wasn't a problem, since she home schooled. We weren't able to discuss it more at the time, but it stuck with me. As I got to know the LLL Leader that hosted the meetings I attended, she happened to mention she was home schooling her daughters.

I had only one question for her. "Is that legal?" She assured me it was. At that moment, my decision was made. I was going to home school my daughter.

My husband was at sea at the time and wouldn't be home for some time. This gave me the opportunity to research home schooling and be able to give him information when we talked about it. No question about it, though; the decision was instantaneous and purely emotional, and I used logic to justify it.

Here's the key point, though. My emotional decision was based not only on knowing my daughter as well as I did, but on many other fine threads of experience throughout my life that I didn't even think of, but were in my subconscious, contributing to my emotional response. The logic was in doing the research and finding out the many positive things about home schooling I had no idea about. This was the logic that backed up my emotional response. Also important is that, while this turned out to be the correct logical conclusion for us, it may not be the correct conclusion for someone else. What turned out to be right for us will not necessarily be right for someone else; their alternative conclusion for their own family in no way makes ours wrong for us.

Sometimes, logic fails to justify the emotional response, even as we try to make it do so. I knew nothing about home schooling at the time, and assumed I would have to do school-at-home. It was the only model I knew. As I researched more into styles of home schooling, I began to lean more towards a theme-based or unit study model. However, as I discovered more about learning styles and brain functions, I began to realize that what would work best for our daughter was an unschooling way of doing things. It took logic to overcome the emotional response I had based on incorrect information.

In other words, I was open to changing my emotional decision (that we'd have to do school-at-home), when logical research showed me I was incorrect. This is, to me, a vital point.

As emotional beings, we will come to conclusions based on our experiences and intuition. So long as we don't rely completely on our emotions, tempering them with logic, there's nothing wrong with our conclusions. In the face of contradictory evidence, however, we must be willing to change our minds.

This, I believe, is the biggest problem people have when it comes to hot topics like anthropogenic global warming.

In the past couple of years, increasing evidence is proving AGW theory to be wrong. At the same time, rhetorical attacks on "skeptics," and ever shriller language is being used by those who insist otherwise.

I'll admit that, before I started researching the topic, I tended to believe the AGW side of things. This was my emotional response to what I was encountering in the media. After all, all those articles and documentaries had to based on fact, or they wouldn't have been published or produced, would they? Yet I was never able to completely believe it. Based on personal experience and research in other areas, I was also getting a contradictory emotional response, even though it was only a vague sensation that I was missing something.

So I turned to logic. I began to do the research myself.

It's been about 3-4 years of researching climate change and AGW theory , and I'm still doing it. In the process, logic has reigned in my emotion responses. My emotion was telling me things like, we have to do something! We're poisoning our planet! We're causing unprecedented temperature increases! Destroying our environment! We need to Save The Planet from the horrible things we humans were doing to it!

This is the side that the alarmists are catering to. With their dramatic descriptions of cities under water, famine, sickness, extinctions, and destruction, is it any wonder that people become frightened enough to believe it?

Then, the alarmists try to use logic to justify the emotional responses. Unfortunately, they often do it by exaggerating numbers, using flawed computer models that will come to whatever conclusion they want them to (and if they don't, well, those results just don't get published), and in some cases, "adjusting" data to fit their emotional conclusion. Should that fail; should people instead look at the data dispassionately and come to a different, logical conclusion, the alarmists can only resort to trying to prevent data that contradicts their conclusions (by preventing publication, for example), convincing the general population that the contradictory data is tainted (ie: by claiming "skeptics" are in the pay of Big Oil), or by ramping up the emotional rhetoric ("if we don't Do Something, our children's children will all hate us and die! and the Earth will burn to a crisp!).

What I'm seeing is that some people are so entangled in their emotional response (whether it's fear that the earth is dying, or making themselves feel good by Doing Something), that they are blinded to anyone else's logic that doesn't support their position. They have made an emotional investment and, in trying to justify it with their own logic, they can only accept data which supports their emotional conclusions; anything else simply cannot be tolerated. The stronger their emotional attachment to their conclusion, the less willing they are to entertain contradictory views. They must, after all, Save The Planet. So long as they can justify it that way, they can feel good about changing their light bulbs, taking the bus instead of a car, or using cloth grocery bags. They are convinced that these sacrifices are for the Greater Good. They are Doing Something. If anyone points out that, well, those "green" light bulbs are worse for the environment than incandescent ones, or that driving cars doesn't contribute to global warming, or that using cloth grocery bags isn't going to reduce the amount of garbage in the world, their self-worth is so closely tied to their emotionally justified "logic," it becomes viewed as a personal attack.

As humans, we will always have a struggle between logic and emotion, as each side tries to overcome the other. So long as we are aware of this dichotomy within ourselves, we can look to our own conclusions with an open mind. We can say to ourselves, "yes, I made this decision based on an emotional response. This is why," and still be able to step back and let logic either justify it, or be willing to let go of the emotion in the face of facts that tell us we're wrong - and to do so without feeling our self-worth has been somehow attacked in the process.

After all, emotion is needed to temper logic as much as logic is needed to control emotion.

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