The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Too Much Book Learning?


The “scientific method” is the process of making decisions by identifying each hypothesis and carefully testing it before determining if something is true.  Originally developed for use in science, it is taught extensively in business education as well.  It is a way-of-thinking that has worked well.

One weakness of this technique is the strict delineation between form and substance.  You know, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be duck.  Maybe not!  If a person says one thing, does he mean another?  What is the truth of what I’m seeing and hearing?

The classic example has been rituals.  Some social groups like the Masons and others have strict rituals that seem to be important to them.  For example, should the flag be 6 or 8 steps from the podium?  Organized religion has been noted many times as being too much form and too little substance.  I confess to being quite indifferent to religious ritual.

Recently, I was invited to attend some very orthodox religious ceremonies.  Sitting there, feeling very educated in my smugness, I realized something entirely illogical was happening.  Everybody was joyous??  How could empty rituals make so many people so happy?  They were looking through the form at the actual substance.  Being blind to that, I didn’t understand and still don’t, but I endorse anything innocuous that makes people happy . . . indeed, joyous.  Go for it!

Hypothesis:  Rituals and hollow ceremonies make people happy?  Tested and confirmed!


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