Felix Writes: Question everything, but do it smartly

DigitalThoughts / Question everything, but do it smartly

It's been a few days since I learned about the lesson of the monkeys, a scientific experiment that sits up there with the Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment when it comes to horrific insights into human nature. And that made some old thoughts resurface.

Tell me, how do you feel about rules, laws and regulations? Are they a good thing by definition, to be followed at all times, no ifs and buts? Or are they pointless obstacles hobbling good people while the bad ones ignore them anyway?

The answer is neither. Rules are supposed to smooth social interactions, help prevent harm, ensure fairness and possibly more. As long as they do that, rules are a good thing. The last thing you want is to reinvent basic courtesy every time you meet somebody! But the world is ever changing, and a rule that makes sense now may become irrelevant or even harmful down the road. When that happens, you must abolish it! And even a rule that makes sense currently is not to be enforced blindly in all situations. Remember, you're not applying rules for the sake of it, but in order to achieve a certain purpose. Or did you lose sight of the goal in your zeal of "upholding the law"?

But bad rules can hurt in more ways than one. An unfair law will make people hate it even as the obey it -- remember, humans have a strong instinct for fairness. A sufficiently absurd law will even be impossible to follow and/or enforce. And then people will start losing respect for laws, thinking all of them must be equally arbitrary.

Oops, I think there was a baby in that bathwater.

The only way out of this trap is to question everything, but not the way a three-year-old does. If something makes sense now, somebody should be able to articulate why. They can't? Call shenanigans. But don't go around "doubting" proven facts unless you have solid arguments of your own. It would be an insult to anyone who has spent their precious time researching the issue.

2012-08-06