The Comfort of Opinion without the Discomfort of Thought.

thesis, antithesis, synthesis

If I had to sum up thought in three words, they would be thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

Opinion, on the other hand often is just thesis, unquestioned and probably a conditioned belief.

Are you familiar with the concept of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis? Maybe try it as a filter for a while.

Taking a look at an issue should include competing perspectives. If you have a closed loop on the way you look at something, if you never look at the loyal opposition perspective, maybe you’re a bit close minded.

Accusing you, my noble reader, of being close minded isn’t much of a nudge to keep reading. But I hope you will.

Some of your most obvious truths might actually have an antithesis that merits consideration. Yet if you have never been exposed to an antithesis, it is likely that you will view your thesis is an article of faith. A sacred cow. Not to be questioned. Foolish to question. “Settled science” to use today’s parlance.

Sacred cows make the best burgers.

An example:


You know it’s awful. You know it can kill people! You suspect it can kill lots of flora and fauna too.

Drink a gallon of the stuff and you will be dead. Of course, drink a gallon of my radiator’s antifreeze and you will be dead too. I use antifreeze anyway. You see, antifreeze when used as directed really won’t hurt me.

Sorta like DDT with one big difference. DDT can save hundreds of thousands of lives. My antifreeze keeps my engine at the right temperature. I just love a nice temperature gauge reading.

The 400,000 people who die every year in Africa from Malaria might not be as excited about my temperature gauge. Because, of course they are dying from malaria.

See, I don’t have that problem because DDT wiped out malaria in the United Sates before I was born. I think the only malaria we have is stored at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

Europe has not malaria. DDT has a bit to do with that too.

Why do you think DDT is bad? What do you know about DDT? I suspect not very much. Some of you may be familiar with Rachel Carson’s book in the 1970s or maybe something about the monarch butterfly and DDT. Anything else?

Did you know that we dowsed POWs from German concentration camps after World War II in DDT? None of these survivors ever had side effects reported. Same with our soldiers before we sent them in the European theater in the 40’s. Of all the stories we’ve heard from WWII, not too many movies about Johnny coming home with DDT impairments. Not exactly the Agent Orange of its time.

DDT, when used appropriately, has insignificant health risks.

And yet 400,000 people will die from malaria in Africa this year. Like last year. And the year before. And the year before.

You get my point. DDT might be as great an invention as Salk’s polio vaccine. But it has been demonized via opinion, much of which contains little thought.

Millions upon millions will be spent to get rid of malaria in Africa this year. Plenty of jeeps and nets and human capital will be deployed against malaria and 400,000 people will die. Meanwhile DDT sits on shelves, undeployed against malaria in Africa.

This is an example of the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

My overarching point is that you have conditioned beliefs. Conditioned beliefs avoid counterpoints. They avoid antitheses. Then your thoughts are controlled by others.

If you don’t think through issues, which must include exposing yourself to the loyal opposition, to the antithesis, then you become a slave to confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is SO HARD to fight. I know it works on me very much. I am in a glass house on this one. Not in a position to throw stones. Confirmation bias allows me to see one out of five milennials fit a stereotype and have that be PLENTY to prove the point.  The ability to ignore 80% of the antithetical behaviors is bizarre, yet resides in all of us.

This article has been a stream of consciousness test and I’ll go on one more tangent as I close.

You have to be silent to listen to yourself. The Stairmaster, the shower, the church pew are all great places. Don’t listen to music or watch a screen. Ask yourself questions and look to the stillness of your heart for the answers. Heart and brain should work collectively when you are asking yourself meaningful questions. Questions like, “how can I be a better Dad?” or “how can I be a better colleague”? “What do I want to accomplish this year that I am truly willing to work toward?”

You might be familiar with the Screwtape Letters. Did okay on Broadway and has sold well for decades. In it, Screwtape, a senior devil, outlines his plan to keep man from God.

Noise. Noise is his plan.

He will create so much noise that the silent voice is drowned out. Bombard with stimuli.

We live in a world increasingly dominating our senses. Even when you pull into a gas station the monitor talks to you while you pump gas. Do you know those monitors aren’t on when there are no cars at the pump? They have these motion detectors to start chatting with you as soon as you get out of your car.

Start the car, radio is already on.

Whether it is God’s voice in the silence of your heart, or your voice in its stillness, give yourself chances to think. Don’t embrace the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *