to conclusions isn't an Olympic event--yet
by Mad Dog
pipes weren’t Shakespeare's. Maybe they were left there by Francis
Bacon when he came over to borrow a spare quill so he could write a
play like, oh say, “Hamlet”, then forgot them because he was too
are tricky things. Day after day we take in information, chew it up,
digest it, then spit out a conclusion, hoping we don’t get mental
indigestion in the process. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes
we’re wrong. Sometimes we’re wrong but still insist we’re
right. People who do that a lot are called pigheaded. Or
politicians. Or both. Which may be redundant.
It’s easy to jump to
conclusions. For example, researchers in Pretoria, South Africa
found traces of marijuana, cocaine, and a hallucinogenic chemical in
some clay pipes that were unearthed at William Shakespeare’s old
house. They immediately assumed this meant Robert Downey, Jr. is
Shakespeare reincarnated. Also that Shakespeare did drugs.
But neither is necessarily the case.
Maybe the pipes weren’t
his. Maybe they were left there by Francis Bacon when he came over
to borrow a spare quill so he could write a play like, oh say,
“Hamlet”, then forgot them because he was too stoned. Or maybe
Shakespeare used the drugs for therapeutic reasons. They did, after
all, find traces of camphor in the pipes so it’s possible he
invented Vick’s VapoRub but hadn’t figured out the best way to
use it. Or how to patent it. Of course the one conclusion that’s
impossible to jump to—or even come to, for that matter—is why
researchers in South Africa, of all places, are so concerned about
assume from this that the Summer 2004 Olympics will feature Yahtzee,
Uno, and Go Fish. Okay, in this case you’re probably right.
In another example, Time quoted the Bureau of Labor
Statistics (motto: “All the stats, half the truth”) which found
that in 1999 workers with carpal tunnel syndrome missed an average
of 27 days of work. In the same year, people with amputations took
off only 18 days. This would naturally lead you to believe that
employers should do more to eliminate carpal tunnel syndrome by
installing proper desks, chairs, wrist rests, and robots which will
do all the work. But that would be wrong.
The true solution is to
amputate the carpal tunneled-out hands. This would reduce
absenteeism by nine days per year per person, thereby saving the
company money, lowering health care costs, increasing productivity,
and not only boosting the Gross Domestic Product but make it grosser
at the same time. Alan Greenspan could retire. The economy would
boom. Sure the glove lobby would have a fit and try to get a law
passed to stop the practice since they’d be losing customers—or
at least half the sales from those customers—but we can’t let
special interests get in the way of improving the global economy.
Then there’s the Winter
2002 Olympics (motto: “So much money, so few city officials to
give it to”). They’ve announced that the games will feature a
new demonstration competition: bridge. Not building them, pole
vaulting over them, or skiing off them, but playing the game. As in
four people sitting around a table after years of strenuous
training, agony, and injuries so they can stretch the physical
limits of the human body by playing cards. It kind of makes you long
for synchronized diving again, doesn’t it?
You might assume from this
that the Summer 2004 Olympics will feature Yahtzee, Uno, and Go
Fish. Okay, in this case you’re probably right, proving that
sometimes jumping to conclusions isn’t such a wrong thing after
This would lead most people to assume that it’s only a
matter of months before we see “Colgate—Now With Wasabi!” on
the drugstore shelves. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We’ll probably see it by next Wednesday.
Here’s another: A study by a doctor at Unitika Central Hospital in
Japan found that watching a Charlie Chaplin movie made skin welts
shrink. He also discovered that watching a Kevin Costner movie put
people to sleep. Just kidding. Actually it made them comatose. They
claim this proves that humor heals, since none of the subjects who
watched a video about the weather showed any improvement, though
they did all comment on how unrealistic Twister was—the
game which will be featured as a demonstration competition in the
Summer 2004 Olympics, not the movie.
While this might make you
assume this column has healing powers, I can’t recommend jumping
to that conclusion. At least not if I want to steer clear of the
FDA, which could accuse me of making extravagant medical claims if I
said this column “Cures
cancer!”, “Shrinks swollen hemorrhoids!”, or is
“Better than amputating your hand if you have carpal tunnel
syndrome!”, though I think the last one’s a pretty safe bet. At
least I like to think so.
This isn’t the only
recent false conclusion that has Japanese roots. Other researchers
there reported that an ingredient in wasabi, the hot green
horseradish they serve in sushi restaurants which brings tears to
your eyes and helps you forget that you’re eating raw fish, can
fight cavities. It turns out that isothiocyanates—a scientific
term for “stuff”—stops cavity-causing bacteria from growing in
your mouth. Or it might burn them alive, they’re not sure yet.
This would lead most people to assume that it’s only a matter of
months before we see “Colgate—Now With Wasabi!” on the
drugstore shelves. Nothing could be further from the truth. We’ll
probably see it by next Wednesday.
So how can we, as long-term
conclusion jumpers break this habit? First, listen carefully and
take in all available information. Next, ask questions and
investigate thoroughly. And finally, don’t worry about it. If you
think jumping to conclusions is such a bad habit then you’re just
jumping to another conclusion. It’s actually being a forward
thinker. Actually a fast forward thinker. Of course that could be a
rationalization, but we’ll save that for another discussion
©2001 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them, then jump to your own conclusion.