When your intuitive mind senses a pattern and begins to search for the completion of that pattern, we call this, “curiosity”.
But sometimes our searching for the completion of a pattern goes sideways, takes a shortcut, gets it wrong. The false logic that springs to mind as a result of this wrong turn is so common that it has a Latin name, “Post Hoc, ergo Propter Hoc.”
Blame Isaac Newton.
Newton taught us to think of cause and effect as sequential: a pool cue strikes a ball, which strikes another ball. As a result of our trust in Newtonian physics, the often-wrong logic of Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc is almost irresistibly seductive because it begins with the observation that two events occurred in sequence.
Remember a TV show called The West Wing?
Jed Bartlet: C.J., on your tombstone it’s going to say Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc.
C.J.: Okay, but none of my visitors are going to be able to understand my tombstone.
Jed Bartlet: It means, “One thing follows the other, therefore it was caused by the other.” But it’s not always true. In fact, it’s hardly ever true. We did not lose Texas because of the hat joke. Do you know when we lost Texas?
C.J.: When you learned to speak Latin?
Do you remember The Big Bang Theory? In a 2009 episode, Sheldon Cooper was speaking to his mother on the phone:
“The Arctic expedition was a remarkable success, I’m all but certain there’s a Nobel prize in my future. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. I’m entirely certain… (audience laughter) No, Mother, I could not feel your church group praying for my safety… (audience laughter) The fact that I’m home safe does not prove that it worked. That logic is Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc… (audience laughter) No, I’m not sassing you in Eskimo talk.”
Similar to “Post Hoc” is the broken logic of simultaneous occurrences, Cum Hoc ergo Propter Hoc, “With this, because of this.”
“The bigger a child’s shoe size, the better the child’s handwriting. Therefore, having big feet makes it easier to write.”
The mental sleight-of-hand of “Post Hoc” and “Cum Hoc” are what make advertising – and conspiracy theories – so easy to believe.
“The trouble with conspiracy theories is that a lack of evidence is taken as proof that the conspiracy is everywhere. This is like thinking that the reason you never see elephants hiding up in treetops is because they’re good at it.”
Seeing patterns where they don’t exist can be costly and dangerous. But still, I am wildly in favor of curiosity.
Zora Neale Hurston wrote,
“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”
Albert Einstein said,
“Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
“When we enter a conversation with curiosity, we allow ourselves to see things differently and to be surprised by what we discover.”
“Curiosity, especially intellectual inquisitiveness, is what separates the truly alive from those who are merely going through the motions.”
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
And none other than Daniel Boone – yes, THAT Daniel Boone – said,
“Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections.”
Like I said, I am wildly in favor of curiosity. If I could, I would inject it into your arm with a needle. Curiosity will take you on trips like no other drug.
Roy H. Williams
PS from Indy Beagle – The rabbit hole has 17 pages today.
You’ll understand why just before I give you the BeagleSword… F.S. + J.I.
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