Cleveland Comhrá: Makes Sense if You Don’t Think About It!
By Bob Carney
A while back, a colleague and I were discussing something that happened in the shop, I asked him how one of our co-workers could posssibly have arrived at the decision he made. My colleague said he understood, stating, “It makes sense if you don’t think about it.” That phrases has stuck with me over the years; I think it can be applied in many instances.
Last month I had a great time researching Bram Stoker and his book “Dracula.” Stoker was involved in the theater most of his life and probably learned a bit about marketing. When he published the book, he attempted to have it printed as non-fiction, claiming it to be a true story and a warning to all.
This was at a time when stories of vampires were all the rage in London and horror literature was abundant. Possibly, he thought this might give his book an edge when it came to sales, after all, sometimes a small element of the truth or what passes as the truth is enough to convince some that it must be true. “Makes sense if you don’t think about it.”
Cryptozoology is what is commonly refered to as a fringe science, it attempts to prove the existence of creatures from legend or folklore, such as the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot. In the case of Bigfoot, many cultures have stories of ape-like men who live elusive lives in the wilderness.
In the U.S., the name Bigfoot was coined by a newspaper columnist who was telling the story of loggers who had come across very large footprints in the woods of California. Never mind that the footprints were proven to be a hoax, people are still presenting “evidence,” pushing the study of Bigfoot into some type of pseudoscience.
There are even TV shows about chasing Bigfoot! There has never been any tangible evidence supporting the existence of the creature, but to believers the lack of proof is the proof. Astrology, psychics and fortune-tellers are all considered pseudosciences, and all have a following.
These pseudosciences are mostly harmless and sometimes quite entertaining. The problems arise when they are applied to our health and interactions with our fellow man.
One of the most interesting definitions of science that I’ve heard is that it is magic explained. In man’s early times the sun was worshipped as a god. Later when Galilleo proposed that the earth revolved around the sun, not only was he rebuked by his peers, but he drew the wrath of the Catholic Church. Today anyone that refutes that fact is considered strange at the very least.
True science changes. When a theory is presented it can be either proved or disproved. In the scientific community, there is a greater amount of notoriety for someone who disproves a theory than one who develops the experiment that proves it. Without the constant scrutiny, progress would be stifled as we tried to build on something that was false in the first place.
The more something is studied by different scientists, the more it will evolve, and that means change. Because of those changes, people can easily be lead to fringe thinking, grasping onto what supports what they already think, even when that part is debunked, just like Bigfoot.
Bruce Lee the Philosopher
Most of us remember Bruce Lee as a martial artist and actor, but he was first and foremost a philosopher, he said, “Do not start from a conclusion. To understand, surely, there must be a state of choiceless awareness in which there is no sense of comparison or condemnation, no waiting for further development of the thing we are talking about in ordrer to agree or disagree. Don’t start from a conclusion above all.”
In the early seventies, I was becoming aware of the problems of pollution and it’s effects on our environment. There was a commercial that was being shown that at the time I thought was great. It was informing others of an issue that was and has remained very important to me.
It showed an Indian in native dress, paddling down a river with smokestacks in the background, billowing black smoke into the sky. The camera panned down and we saw the garbage and the oil floating in the water. When he brought his canoe to the bank and climbed out, we saw him standing at the side of a highway; a car passing by tosses trash out the window, which landed at his feet. The final shot showed a tear running down his cheek.
It was a very moving depiction. At first, many environmental groups supported the commercial, but when they started to distance themselves from the ad. You had to wonder why?
At the time, consumer advocate groups were in the process of trying to get bottle laws passed in every state of the union, which included a mandatory deposit and reimbursement on return – good for the environment. But bottling companies were already working with the oil and plastic companies and did not want the extra expense of picking up, cleaning and reusing any type of containers.
So a deflection campaign was started; an Italian-American actor played the part of the crying Indian, and a narrator told us that it was up to us to stop the pollution, we were the cause and the solution. They were not the first and won’t be the last to use these tactics.
The NRA with it’s “Guns Don’t Kill People” slogan, have convinced many that we have the right to own military type guns, whose only purpose is to kill people. I am not anti-gun, without controlled hunting we would have another environmental issue and I strongly respect the tradition of hunting in many families.The tobaco companies used similar methods to convince us smoking was safe, even using doctors to assure us their brand was the healthy choice.
My grandfather had many colorful sayings that have stuck with me over the years, including, “Just because you’ve got a pipewrench doesn’t make you a plumber.” We need to be wary of experts that are being trotted out to inform us; remember the doctor who claimed the vaccine made us magnetic?
There is an old saying, “What do you call someone who graduates last in medical school? Doctor!” It is becoming more and more difficult to obtain the information we need to make informed decisions.
If we start with the conclusion we are doomed! When I was young, I was told to question everything, there is always something deeper. Now I try to follow the money behind what is being presented to me, many times it can be very enlightening.
*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class at PJ McItyre’s every Tuesday. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhound and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Morrighán and Rían and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org