Category Archives: Logic

An Arrow Can Only Be Shot…

I’m pondering this meme I found on Facebook:

This thought is not ready for publication. It’s sloppy, and has some flaws that weaken its impact considerably. Let me make some general observations first, and then we’ll look at the stumbling blocks here.

The human brain is designed to notice things and to make sense of them in various ways. One of those ways is that we can notice similarities between things—even if the things we are comparing could also be contrasted in various ways. And we can describe one thing in terms of something else. That’s what the meme attempts to do—to describe the value of being “launched” into great things by way a description of the bow and arrow.

What’s Wrong With It?

  1. “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward.” This is simply false, and immediately provides a stumbling block to those who catch the arrow in it. Having trained in archery, I can easily recognize that rather than pulling the bowstring and arrow backward, one could certainly push the bow forward. No, that’s not a common method, but it’s certainly possible. But the author starts with an absolute statement that is not only unnecessary, but is false. Why not say something like, “Before the archer launches the arrow forward, he pulls it backward in the bow”?
  2. “When life is dragging you back with difficulties…”. For what it’s worth, I think it’s much more common to describe life as “getting in the way” rather than as “dragging you back”, so this is clumsy writing here. Sure, the reader can figure out the intent, but an extra mental step is necessary to do so.
  3. “…it means it’s going to launch you into something great”. Let’s check the logic here. Does the author really intend to imply that everyone whose life is difficult gets launched into “something great”? This is an overstatement. The meme over-promises. This will be a stumbling block to the realitan who sees it for what it is. He can still get the author’s point, but not without dealing with the mess the author has made. It’s cognitively distracting, therefore, and is also needless, as a better-written meme would simply avoid such stumbling blocks.
  4. “So just focus and keep aiming.” Huh? Who am I? Am I the bow? Am I the archer? Am I the arrow? Previously, I was informed that I was going to be launched, so that makes it sound like I’m the arrow, and this is a passive ordeal. That is, that “life” (the bow?) will launch me whenever it thinks it’s loaded enough energy into the system by pulling me backward. So if I’m the arrow, and life is the bow (or perhaps the archer and bow together), then how am I supposed to “just focus” and “keep aiming”? Arrows don’t do either one.

All three of the meme’s sentences, then, are messy. The intent is to encourage, but it’s fairly obvious that the author hasn’t thought it through. And so, likely, with the reader who would share it with others. And this is how it goes in our cognitive-miser culture, where we often deal in fuzzy ideas without ever sitting down to sort them out properly to see whether they’re really good ideas or not.

I see problematic memes every day, and often, there’s a single point that needs attention. This one is worse, and it struck me as a fine example of someone having the barre set pretty low for their thinking, while still having the desire to share those thoughts with others.

Working the Bible Puzzle

It can take quite some time to learn how to work the Bible puzzle—and for many of us, one of the first steps seems to be coming to the realization that it is, indeed, a puzzle at all! I remember taking offense when I heard a certain author call it that sometime in the early 2000s. My view of it at the time went something like this:

  • We’ve been “given everything we need” in the Bible, so it’s all in there.
  • If we were just faithful and diligent, it would all make perfect sense. It’s very “clear”.
  • The Spirit helps us understand it, so what’s to puzzle over? (The way I understand it, therefore, must be pretty close to being right.)
Continue reading Working the Bible Puzzle

Predetermined Non-Listening

Quite obviously, when you limit the field length for the incoming message, you are excluding messages that will not fit in the prescribed space. This means you’re probably assuming
that any good message would fit in the box and any that won’t fit must be bad.

But this is all kinds of wrong.

Surely, God himself could tell you more good things than would fit in your little box. And you could argue that, for obvious reasons, you aren’t expecting God to be submitting an answer. But it seems you aren’t expecting that anyone else could have any wisdom that might exceed the limits of your box.

Continue reading Predetermined Non-Listening

Statistics Aren’t the Same as Rules

The statistician will collect and publish statistics about how people are, and the rest of the world tends to take those stats as rules. And in doing so, they often draw some bad conclusions. For instance, when some certain ailments show up a lot in the elderly, it’s easy to assume that the ailment happens because they are elderly, rather than because they’ve been doing some certain bad habit long enough for it to start showing up in disease. We see alarming rates of disease, so we jump to conclusions about the causes, without ever stopping to give due consideration to the question, “Why aren’t all the elderly suffering from this disease?”

Continue reading Statistics Aren’t the Same as Rules

Why Political Pandering Is As It Is

When politicians want to be elected, they need the support of the majority, generally speaking. But what’s the average cognitive state of the majority? Are they all highly-diligent thinkers with enough time on their hands to vet all the facts?


The majority are busy, distracted people who don’t spend much time in reflection or in problem solving. They are given to biases, memes, and hearsay as their method of gathering information. And when they use logic, it’s not always sound logic, because they don’t put much thought into that, either.

Continue reading Why Political Pandering Is As It Is