Category Archives: Character

“Missing Mindware” Makes a Difference in Children and Adults

The four-year-old in this video will tell you what he thinks, not knowing that when he does, he’s revealing that has has some “missing mindware”. And my point in this post is that adults will do quite the same thing. So let’s talk about the boy first.

The lady in the video is surveying the boy on Piaget’s conservation tasks. She expertly asks him questions to determine how he’s thinking about what he sees. For example, when the blue water is poured from one of two identical glasses (equally filled) into a new, taller-but-narrower glass, he judges that the new glass has more water than the old glass did, even though he saw the transfer of the water with his own eyes. It appears that his reasoning is based solely on the fact that the height of the water has increased, and ignores the fact that the width has decreased. (He doesn’t know that both the height and the width are factors in determining volume.

He lacks the “mindware”, then, to account for these two factors. Nor does he know the more-sophisticated resulting principle that under normal circumstances, the volume of the water would be conserved, even if its shape changes. To you and me, these things are intuitive, but to the four-year-old, they are not. (Intuition is nothing more than understanding that is powered by memory.)

So, he happily answers the questions, normally with only one consideration in mind. And you should know that this is normal for a child of his age. The human mind is born without a grasp of these things, but typically grasps them in the early years with enough real-world experience.

Missing Mindware in Adults

Kids aren’t the only ones who can be missing mindware. Adults can do it, too. For example, many adults will miss this problem because they either don’t know the proper way to figure it, or don’t take the proper care in the moment to reason through it well:

In a certain pond one day, a certain lily pad begins to double in size every day. On day 30, the lily pad has covered the entire surface of the pond. On what day was the lily pad half the size of the pond?

Lily pad. Credit.

Many lacking a sufficient grasp of certain mathematical principles will answer Day 15, while the correct answer is Day 29. To arrive at the Day 15 answer, they’re not just guessing, but doing math, but it goes wrong simply because they’re doing the wrong kind of math. When they see the word “half” in the word problem, they decide to half the total days (30), which yields the answer, 15.

But this way of approaching the problem ignores some of the information given in the first sentence of the problem: “…a certain lily pad begins to double in size every day.” That is, it didn’t just double its size on the first day, but on the second day, it doubled the enlarged size of the first day, and so on until day 30.

Reframing the Problem

Suppose we had asked this related question instead:

If a certain lily pad has been doubling in size every day, how many days ago would it have been half the size it is right now?

This problem gets at the same principle as the original problem, but does it without mentioning any number of days. And it may be that when the original problem mentions “day 30”, it provides a stumbling block for the ignorant or non-careful mind. That is, it’s as if presenting the original problem to the subject excites the brain thus: “Ooh, boy!—a division problem!—I can do division!—I just need two numbers, and I’ve got a 30 already—oh, and I know that to half something, we divide it by 2—so, 30 ÷ 2 = 15. Yay, I’ve solved it!”

To keep this brief, I’ll fight off the temptation to do a full analysis of the lily pad problem. Instead, let me just say that right principle to have in mind for this problem is this:

Every day moving forward in time, the lily pad doubles in size, and every day moving backward in time, it halves in size.

Solving the Wrong Problem

The issue at hand, then, is not halving the 30 days, but halving the size at 30 days. And the size is never explicitly stated by way of numbers in the original problem. So, a brain seeking numbers to perform operations on will immediately find the 30 explicitly stated, and can rightly infer that there must be some halving that needs doing, but the number 30 is not the right thing to be halved; it’s the size at Day 30.

And for the record, let me briefly point out just two more things about the the lily pad problem before I move on to the ultimate point of this post:

  1. Someone could know exactly how to solve this problem, and still make the Day 15 mistake simply by not paying attention well enough before answering. That is, the mindware for the problem wasn’t missing, exactly, but it wasn’t accessed!
  2. Another way to look at this problem is with the question, “How am I setting up the problem?”. That is, do I think this lily pad problem is about an additive process where the same amount of new area is added every day, or do I think it’s a multiplicative process instead, where there’s geometric growth involved?

It Happens with More Than Just Lily Pads!

Adults can have problems with missing or unaccessed mindware in many ways, such as in moral behavior. For example, when a person feels mistreated by another, he may turn the tables and mistreat the mistreater if he has opportunity—as if mistreatment were only wrong when done to him, and not when he does it to someone else.

And it could be that the adult simply has not yet learned the principle of the Golden Rule, or that his mind is simply not engaging this already-learned principle in the way it responds in the moment. But whether it’s a missing mindware problem or an unaccessed mindware problem, it’s still a problem!


In the case of the four-year-old, we’re pretty sure that he has simply not learned the conservation mindware at that stage in his development. But what about the adult who has some mindware and simply doesn’t isn’t careful enough to use it in the moment? Or what about the adult whose will is habitually opposed to applying some certain principle to his own behavior?

This is so often a moral problem, and it may be one of the biggest moral problems this world has. Among other things, we call it hypocrisy, which is a particular form of double-mindedness or cognitive dissonance. And there’s so much more to be said about it, but this post will have been a smashing success if I can simply get you to be on the lookout for it—not only in others, but particularly in yourself!

The Rise of the Dubious “Imagers” Doctrine

What would be the point in being Line Leader if everyone else were Line Leader, too? Credit.

Regarding this verse:

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27. NIV

I have explained at length (here) what I think this passage means. But I have witnessed in the last decade or so an emerging camp who prefer to read into this passage the idea that God created man to be his “imager“. That is, his “representative”. And it appears from their usage of such language that the camps who use it have quite got the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18-20 in mind.

Continue reading The Rise of the Dubious “Imagers” Doctrine

Finding Your True Identity in an Chaotic World—Part 1

Tullio Lombardo’s Adam. See credit.

I’m going to tell you a thing about your natural identity that is too marvelous to be fathomed all at once—a thing that must be grappled with and reflected on—a thing at the end of which it will come down to what kind of soul you have and what kind of wanting it does in the deepest of its depths. So if it takes you extra time to ponder these worthy things, do let it.

Unwrapping the Identity Story

I must begin by helping you know what to look for in the Bible stories to which I want to direct your attention. These are stories about the deep question of human identity, and if you are like most, you will have missed the better part of the message.

This is because, whatever else they are in all their fullness, God and Jesus are both consummate storytellers who know how to pack into an account more than just the facts and figures necessary to make it viable at face value. Even their stories of real events are loaded with more than just what happened; for there are themes and images and precepts and principles aplenty to light up the mind, trying the one story to another, and back again.

When God or Jesus or one of their inspired prophets tell a story, there is almost always meaning underneath the surface—to be missed by those who do not understand how good story works. And for those who do, what is underneath is so rich as to make them sometimes doubt whether it is even necessary that the story on the surface be true to history, since what is underneath is so very true to philosophy. But even so, this God and Jesus have always had the power to shape the very course of human events into the perfect story to demonstrate these heavenly truths for all mankind.

So, then, let us consider the story of what God intended for our lives.

The God-Intended Identity of Man

As you will likely know, when God made man, he formed the man’s body from the soil, and then breathed a spirit into that body. What you may not have perceived, however—for so few of us know much about how to read a great story—is the agrarian imagery of it all: that this was God planting a seed of sorts in that soil of the man’s heart. And like any good Gardener, God would be on watch to see what would become of his seed in good season.

It was a curious arrangement—an intended collaboration between the proactive Creator and the passive Creature, who had neither asked to be created, nor to be in a collaboration—nor to be assigned any work, whether physical or spiritual, nor to be bound by any rules. God, in his wisdom,had seen fit to risk the response of man. And the man was put on the spot, as it were—his new soul set in a ready-made and mature body, and having to choose in real-time his response to each new event and opportunity.

And we must strain to remember our own childhoods if we are to grasp what it was like for the man, that not yet having any idea how things go on this Earth, every moment in his new life would come as a surprise. And like it or not, the outcome of his very self was to be determined in the aggregate of the choices he would make throughout his tenure on the Earth.

It will shock many to hear it, but I’m pretty sure the man’s soul was not created mature, as many are taught to believe, even against the evidence. Spiritual maturity was not the goal of man’s creation, but of his consummation—not of his birth, but of his death in due season—not of the day of planting, but of the day of harvest. Life on Earth was the very-fair test of man’s choice over time, and his habitual choices would hold sway over the qualities of his own disposition. He had indeed been bestowed with a great power over himself, and could will it into action if he so chose..

And the Gardener would keep watch to see how much the man would care about pleasing him, and how well he would settle into this collaboration. And it would become obvious whether he would take to working the soils, both literal and metaphorical.

This was the plan, and before they had really gotten started, God saw that it was good. That is to say that this arrangement for humanity suited God just fine, even as indeterminate as it might be in the case of any particular human. And all together, even with that Serpent in view, it was very good. This was the intended identity of man: to be the one that does the physical work of making his own way in this real world, and the spiritual work of making the soil of his own heart fertile for instruction from God.

This was the identity that the very God of gods—the Giver of Life—appointed for the man. And I think it was exactly this that God had in mind when he said, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness“—for we have no reason to presume that God should literally look like us, though surely, some arrive at this from sheer arrogance, as they do other bad assumptions.

Now, about their particular sin, let us not miss the fact that it was Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience of the simplest command—not a hard one, mind you, but quite a simple one—that demonstrated for the ages that they were not yet ready in spirit to live with God. They had so far not fully grasped the import of what it means to be Creature to the Creator. Nor had they previously had any cause to know, as far as we are told, either the cunning of the Serpent or the ferocity of his game.

They did not curse God, nor mount a coup or rebellion against him. Rather, the way the story has it, they simply ate from the one prohibited tree that stood in the Garden among the permitted ones.

And this was their lot in life. This was the reality into which God had set their lives. So off they went, Adam and Eve, where legend tells us they repented of that minor sin that was the center of God’s major demonstration of their immaturity.

And I have yet to tell you about God’s greater purposes in all this, or about the many ways in which those of us who have shunned God’s identity have shirked the responsibility of the physical and spiritual work required to be pleasing to God.

But let us pause here while I sum it all up to say that the whole Bible saga, beginning to end, is about whether man—any man, really—will want to live under that predetermined identity—that heavenly design and intent. It’s about whether he will want to conform himself to the Image and Likeness of God and walk in God’s Way and Truth and Life, or alternately, to do something else in his long-but-short time here on Earth.

That Most Pernicious Choice

And I have much more to tell you about all this, but ending it here for now, I do well to warn you about that most pernicious choice of man, more egregious to God than refusing his Identity outright, and yet more appealing to many immature souls than being all in or all out. It is the choice of pretending—of going through the motions outwardly, yet without the fire of authenticity in the heart. This is the sin of Cain, the firstborn of Adam. And his evil was so great in God’s eyes—and in Abel’s—that Cain himself would become a figure of wickedness for all generations.

This is what I will tell you about next.