GUEST POST from Don – The Panglossian Trap


To over-simplify the idea (which is what the trap is).

Few things are simple.  You, for example.

Point the First.  

So many reduce their lives into a single mantra: “Live, Laugh, Love,” for example.  It doesn’t work when your transmission fails or Aunt Phoebe dies.  “Good to the last drop” is a great slogan, but I’ve had that coffee and the last drop tastes the same as the last drop of any coffee, cold and bitter.

I was reading Romans chapter 4 just a couple weeks ago and realized that I had heard only about half of it before.  Oh, I have read it many times, but never dug deep into it.  (Romans 4 is not the issue here.)  The problem was that almost every commentator on the chapter had reduced it to a few core ideas.  However, as I was reading it this time I saw that there was so much more there than a few “ideas.”  Too many had fallen into the trap.

Let me stop right here…  I am as guilty of this as anyone.  In order to understand something I break it down into its logical parts, simplify, and state the problem in two sentences.  (It makes my wife irritated because I almost always miss her “heart” on a matter.)  EVEN THIS POST is overly simplified.  Thus, “logic” tends to fall into this trap easily.  So does “science,” at least the “science” that most non-scientists believe in.  It is the realm of “politics.”  I have no problem placing “religion” in the same trap, too.  

“Logic,” “science,” “politics,” and “religion” all easily fall for this trap for exactly the same reason … it makes their belief systems easier to understand, deal with, and spew.  All you need are a few “proofs” and voila!  (Note: the “proofs” are cherry-picked in every case.)  You, even you, have been guilty of this, I would guess.

Point the Second.  

The trap is sometimes SOUGHT FOR.  We desire simplicity.  We will go to great lengths to make sense of the complicated world in which we live.  So, “defund the police” sounds so simple…and is.  It is too wretchedly simple.  And it fails to accomplish the goals for that reason.  It doesn’t take into account (even a little) that some criminals will be criminals even if no one is watching.

Who or what is Pangloss?  To overly simplify:  Pangloss was Voltaire’s philosophy tutor who opined that the world was the way it was because it was the only way it could be.  Simple (in the true sense of the word).  We now know Pangloss’ idea was wrong.  Some of world’s problems CAN be improved (sometimes solved) through careful thought and actions.  However, in some ways Pangloss was deadly accurate.  Leaders can mislead because they are (simple word here, but accurate) EVIL.  How else does  one explain Hitler and other horrible leaders that killed millions of their own people?  So, yes!  We do have a force in this world called evil.  Therefore, we have to account for that, too, when we are thinking and planning for positive change.  We also have to admit that evil will always win unless we resist it.

Example:  Thus, when we see the anti-Semite protests on college campuses we know one thing…they are being led by those who want to USE them for their own evil purposes.  Reporters have interviewed hundreds of protesters.  Over and over the protesters can’t even locate on a map where Israel sits, or explain what happened on October 7, 2023.  They don’t know the language of the people who live in Gaza.  They don’t know why they are chanting “Death to America.”  Most of the protesters are “somethingite” simpletons.  That is, they think that doing something is better than doing nothing, even if it is the wrong something.  Oversimplified useful idiots!

Point the Third: Avoiding the Trap.  

OK, back to the issue.  This is far from easy.  It takes diligence and thoughtfulness.  It takes not automatically accepting what someone says when they are saying what you think you believe.*  It takes ASKING questions and not allowing platitudes to be the answers.  Of course, that never works for politics.  You never will get to the core of a political issue that way.  Politicians are onions covered in caramel, not apples covered in caramel.  Take a bite, you will know what I mean. (*  Hey!  Have you caught on yet that sometimes people say things that you think you believe.  However, they intentionally misuse or re-define well understood terms and are actually saying the exact opposite of what you believe.  Example “peace” to them is no longer what you think of when they say it, but it now means “we no longer make people pay for their crimes,” which is far from your long-known understanding of the word.)  

So, how to avoid the trap of over-simplification.  Demand more details, even when you are the one telling the story.  In other words, and this is absolutely HUGE, the way to avoid this trap is critical thinking.  Sounds simple and over-simplified, but few engage their minds anymore.  The majority of those rioters on college campuses haven’t.  The majority of those for Trump or for Biden haven’t  (I can assure you that even the majority of the uncommitted haven’t either.)  

You can’t do a blessed thing about those people.  They will keep stumbling from one prophet-speaker to another, from one biased news story to another, or from one political figurehead to another their entire lives.  Stupidity is the choice (and curse) of those who don’t think critically.  What you can do is change yourself.  You can choose non-stupidity.  You can CARE whether something is true or not.  You can avoid the trap of the lemmings by asking a simple question:  “Is this really true?”

Final example:  I read a story yesterday about … (actually who cares what it was about) and I noticed three times the writer made grand pronouncements but did not even take the time to list one piece of evidence to support them.  My “spidey senses” knew instantly that it COULD be hogwash.  Maybe the writer was right?  So… I did just a touch of research to answer the simple question (above) … nope!  It was only true if you accepted every premise of the biased writer.  In my estimation, then, I called it “fake.”  The research took less than 7 minutes.

To avoid the trap, here’s that simple question which you must ask before swallowing any  pronouncement:  “Is this really true?”

I have two creative writings I will be sharing.  In June a short-short called “The Winner.”  

In July I have one I am writing for Independence Day.  I like to invite others to share their creativity from time to time.  If you have a poem, artwork, or a writing which fits Independence Day please submit it to Owly’s email (label it for “July 4.”)  She has some standards for submissions.  I am not in charge of her site, I’m merely a guest.  

[PLEASE NOTE that Don is always open to discussing the thoughts and opinions he shares here and welcomes comments as shared in the comment section. He doesn’t use other social media platforms and won’t see whatever you’d like to share with him if you post it elsewhere.
ALSO, Don is always open to offer his thoughts on various topics. If you have a specific request, you can let him know in a comment; he reads – and replies to – them all. ~ Sherry]

See more GUEST POSTS from Don!

2 thoughts on “GUEST POST from Don – The Panglossian Trap

  1. Hope you all (meaning certain all) had a happy mother’s day!

    In this era it seems we can oversimplify even the term “mother.”

Leave a Reply

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