In the 1993 movie “The Man Without a Face,” Justin McLeod, a disfigured ex-teacher who had been tutoring a troubled boy throughout the summer for a military entrance exam, has been accused of physically abusing a former student. Chuck Norstadt, the boy preparing to go to the military academy, confronts McLeod, wanting to know if the accusation is true.
McLeod doesn’t answer him. Instead he tells him to “Think, Norstadt, reason! Have I ever abused you? Did I ever lay a hand on you of anything but friendship? Could I? Could you imagine me ever doing so?”
Norstadt replies, “Just tell me you didn’t do it, I’ll believe you.”
McLeod refuses: “No, no sir! I didn’t spend all summer so you could cheat on this question.”
Reason, logic, looking at the deeper truths, putting all the information you’ve gathered and experienced together and forming a reasonable conclusion: that’s what McLeod had been teaching Norstadt. To think. The young boy assumed he was being tutored just to learn information he could regurgitate on a test, but that wasn’t McLeod’s goal. He knew Norstadt needed more, not just to pass the test, but to succeed in life. He needed to think with a reasoned and informed mind.
Data Can’t Think For You
Insightful and intuitive, McLeod knew life isn’t about living by so-called proofs or simply trusting authorities—the “experts.” Our journey in this world isn’t one solely of scientific inquiry with technocrats dictating the rules. “Just the facts, Ma’am,” isn’t sufficient. Life is, in a very real way, an act of faith—but not an irrational faith driven by feelings. It is, or should be, a reasoned faith based on a moral and rational foundation deeply rooted in human nature.
McLeod wasn’t going to let Norstadt cheat on the test of life, because it was only through using his own mind, factoring in all that he had personally observed, reading between the lines, if you will, that he would know the truth. Norstadt wanted to take the easy route. He didn’t want to think. McLeod wasn’t going to let him get away with that, even when his own reputation was on the line.
Our modern society is made up of too many Chuck Norstadts. People don’t want to think. They want some expert with a “scientific” study to tell them what to believe. If only they find the right person with the acceptable expertise, they will believe what they’re told; they’ll know the truth. They want the “facts,” and they have little patience with gathering all the information available to them—including their own common sense—and reasoning it through to form a sound conclusion. They just want to plug something into the search engine, sift through the results until they find something, anything, that backs up their presuppositions, and then they spit it back out as “proof.” They even proudly call this a healthy skepticism.
Google Can’t Think For You
The problem with “facts” and “proofs” in the information age is that they’re not as reliable as we’d like them to be. We think we’re noble and independently minded when we say we’re not simply going to take someone at their word, or that we’re not going to embrace tradition just because “it’s always been this way.” “After all,” we say, “we have the Internet, don’t we? We can Google anything and find out whether it is true or not.” This is certainly the mindset of the Millennial generation. They aren’t going to take something on face value—they have a massive amount of information at their fingertips to provide all the answers they need, and they’re going to use it.
That can be a good thing, when people are forced to back up claims with facts. The problem is that facts aren’t enough. The prove-it-to-me generation relies too much on data, stats, studies, and reports (which are packaged by the Google overlords). They’re awash with information—so much so that if you want to “prove” something, you can find a study anywhere on the planet to back it up. Try it. Take any position on any issue, and Google it. You can find some study, blog post, or website to back up your position.
The problem is that information on the Web is not always reliable, studies are terribly flawed (even “good” ones), opinions are stated as facts, soft sciences are treated as if they’re hard, and propaganda is disseminated as fact. We can only sort this tangled web and discern fact from fiction, when we employ our minds—when we think!
For Example: The Anti-Father Bias
Too often, though, we are just gathering and regurgitating information to support our biases, prejudices, and opinions. We aren’t building from a moral and rational foundation (i.e., our consciences and our innate reason) and sorting through contradictory “evidence” and our own agendas to discover the truth. We have abandoned the moral and rational foundations from which we reason, and have replaced them with politically correct “consensus” and shortsighted studies.
An example of this can be found in a response to a post I wrote about the importance of biological parents in raising children. My post agreed with findings that two parents are better than one, especially in terms of economics. But, when it comes to what is best for the child—what is optimal—it’s not just a matter of two people raising a child. Biology matters, and there is more to thriving as a human being than just having our economic and educational needs met. The best arrangement for children, I argued, is to be raised by their biological parents.
While few studies have examined the fundamental importance of a mother (because it’s assumed), there have been studies on the importance of a biological father—not just because he puts another body in the home (so that there are two parents instead of one), but because he is the father. I cited these studies in my post, but I also appealed to everyday experience and common sense.
I shared testimonies and quoted art and literature in a parabolic fashion—an effective tool to help people reason through an issue, especially when there are contradictory “facts” and studies as there often are in the social sciences. Never did I present these testimonies or common-sense appeals as “proofs.” I simply presented them alongside studies that supported the importance of biology in parenting in order to make a broader case.
The critical response to my post came in the form of an open letter in which I was accused of targeting gay parenting and ignoring studies that show that gay parenting can be successful because two adults are in the home. I was then accused of presenting testimonies of donor kids of single moms and literature and everyday observations of the centrality of biology in our lives as “proofs.” I was also oddly accused of wanting to use state power to enforce an agenda—something I never once advocated. The critic wondered why I wrote my piece and assumed I just don’t like gay coupling.
Quick, Robin: To the Google Cave!
I found in this response a failure to employ logic even when analyzing my article. Assumptions were made and then the writer seemed to have hurried to his search engine to find proofs to back up his premise—which I wasn’t really disagreeing with as far as two parents being more effective than one, at least for some measures. Clearly, he had an agenda—not surprising because the website is about an agenda—and he imposed that bias onto my article (and onto me) instead of reasoning through what I was saying.
He might still have come to a different conclusion even if he had actually dealt with the points I was making, but when you read the piece, you see an appeal to “facts” that are based on short-sighted studies and consensus, and you see a reaction against common sense and applications of art, tradition, historical understanding of human nature (philosophy), moral presuppositions, and experience as if they don’t matter, as if they have no part to play in our quest for truth. The writer seemed to be only able to think in terms of scientific “proofs,” not sound, reasoned arguments.
At the end, the writer asked why I wrote my post. Even in that question, he could only see in terms of his agenda. Since he assumed that my post was anti-gay parenting (which it clearly wasn’t because I praised gay couples who adopt), he concluded that I was simply opposed to gay marriage. That’s ironic because I don’t care what kind of civic contracts gay people engage in. I think it’s better for a child to be in a home with a loving gay couple than bouncing from one foster home to another.
I also think that Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald would have made a lovely couple if Grindelwald’s evil quest for world domination in the name of the “greater good” hadn’t gotten in the way (you have to read his post to get that one). But Dumbledore’s homosexuality and kindness to Harry does nothing to negate the reality that Harry needed to know his biological parents to really know himself. Again, this is not a proof, merely a parabolic example to reveal something we know as a species about human nature—the longing to “know ourselves.”
On Intentionally Harming Children
To answer the writer’s question, the reason I wrote my post is that I really do care about what’s best for children—and purposely and intentionally birthing children who will never know one or even both of their parents is a form of real neglect. So you see, it’s not about gay marriage at all. It’s about single people (gay or straight) or couples (gay or straight) choosing to birth children out of selfish desires instead of doing what’s best for kids.
You can say it’s better to have a life with one parent than no life at all—a point the writer made. But that is a false dilemma. The issue is what kind of life do you want your child to have—this beautiful creature you gave life to. If you want them to have a good well-developed, healthy life, then you will get married, have the child, and raise that child together. If you can’t find someone to have a child with, you can adopt a child who is already in this world and who desperately needs a home. Any other choice is ultimately about you and what you want and not what’s best for the child.
Reason alone shows that if a biological mother and a biological father, together, is best for a child (a premise strongly supported not only by studies, but also human observation, testimony, literature, history, tradition, and common sense), then a home where there is no father is not best for a child—or a home where there is no mother is not best for a child. This doesn’t mean these other arrangements can’t work out—we don’t live in a perfect world. But they are not what’s best, and to intentionally choose what is not best from the very beginning of a child’s life is selfish and hurtful.
‘Just the Facts’ Isn’t
The writer seems to have missed this point—and many points of my post—because he is part of the “just the facts” generation that seems incapable and even hostile to thinking through the larger implications of life, the complexities of human nature, the importance of historical contexts, and the rational constructs that oppose equating “two unrelated people raising kids” with “a biological mother and a biological father raising their children.”
He fails to see that when you say two women with a donor child are just as effective at raising a fully developed child with an intact self-identity than a biological mom and dad, then you are basically giving the father the finger and telling him he doesn’t matter. You’re also giving the child the finger and telling her that her daddy isn’t important, and when she feels that longing to know her dad’s love, she just needs to buck up and deal with it because dad is irrelevant. Is this reasonable? Is this right? Is this unquestionably backed up by science? Is this supported by human experience and common sense?
The writer doesn’t seem to want to push his own premises to their logical conclusions. Many people in our “just the facts” world don’t.
This isn’t surprising when we have an educational system more focused on testing for the assimilation of facts than teaching children to think and reason and giving them the moral and rational foundations necessary to form proper premises and come to sound conclusions. The truly independent mind isn’t one that cites studies built on consensus. The truly independent mind thinks, untangles contradictions with reason, and embraces conclusions even if they oppose traditions, personal desires, or politically correct ideals.
From Sensing to Thinking
It is interesting, as a curious aside, that an overwhelming majority of the personality types that make up this prove-it-to-me society rely on sensing (five senses, observation) rather than intuiting (deeper thought) to come to conclusions—approximately 73 percent! Most of America is naturally part of the “give me the facts” crowd.
Sensing people rely on facts and direct experience to inform their logic. Intuitive people trust their sixth sense, they read between the lines, they spot patterns, and they’re more theoretical. One isn’t better than the other. These are simply two different personality types that see the world differently. When they work together, society is a better place.
But how does this pan out in an age when we’re overloaded with unreliable and propagandized information and unsupported “facts”? Propaganda is the norm today, not truth in media. Even studies that are supposed to be “scientific” are drenched in ideology and driven by agendas. They are often rejected and debunked after just a few years.
Is it a good thing that a majority of Americans are sensing types in these times—in an age when disordered and false information is king? Could a case be made that we need the deeper thought of the intuitive people to bring balance to the information age? Shouldn’t we listen to the intuitive types with their gut instincts, deep insights, and sound reasoning just as much, if not more so, than the experts and “consultants” with their clipboards and polls?
Come and Let Us Reason Together
Too often today, we talk past each other. We cite our studies, we find our facts wherever they can be gathered on the Internet, and we prop up our prejudices and biases. We don’t “come and reason together.” We don’t slow down, take our time, and think through what we hear and what we see. We don’t listen. We don’t peer into the shadows and look for form. We don’t trust our guts, and we silence our consciences. We proudly claim not to take things on face value as we run to the Internet for evidence, but are we really on a quest for truth? Or are we just looking for affirmation and assurance? Are we, like Chuck Norstadt, looking to the powers that be and saying, “Just tell me. I’ll believe it”?
We need to be better. We need to trust the power of our own minds. We need to think more deeply—especially since so much of what we hear can’t be trusted. There is always someone at some blog or website or even a peer-reviewed scientific study that is ready and willing to tell us what we want to hear. We need to become truly independent thinkers—we need to not only open our minds in our quest for truth, we need to actually use them.
In the words of Justin McLeod: “Think, America. Reason!”