It was irksome when those atheists put up their "Let Reason Prevail" billboard right next to that Illinois State Capitol Nativity Scene - that much was immediately apparent. But putting my finger on just why it was irksome required more effort. Of course, I immediately shouldered the task. Was it the presumption, by the sign's authors, that they held a monopoly on "reason?" Partly. Was it the crassness of plunking it next to the Nativity Scene, as though it, too, offered a message of hope? Closer. In fact, I prematurely declared, that was IT!
However, you don't necessarily express your innermost fears on the internet, to be pawed over by all and sundry. In truth I was anything but convinced that my answer was IT. Something was still missing. I've tossed and turned each night since.
Until now. For now I see clearly what was lacking: scientific indication! We all know today that one ought not think anything without first checking with scientists, yet I had done exactly that! Well....no more! Diligently consulting tomes of research, I came across an experiment that blew that silly "Let Reason Prevail" slogan sky-high. Reason cannot prevail among humans. We're not capable of it. We can muster a fair effort when distractions are few. But add in any significant stress, and human reasoning ability goes right to hell. It's hard to come to any other conclusion after pondering the cake-fruit experiment of a few years back. Alas, it's received only the publicity of light fluff news. It deserves more, as it holds unsettling implications for any future based on the veneration of reason.
The cake-fruit experiment unfolded thus: (as discussed on NPR Morning Edition) In 1999, Stanford University professor Baba Shiv enrolled a few dozen undergraduates and gave each a number to memorize. Then, one at a time, they were to leave the room and walk down a corridor to another room, where someone would be waiting to take their number. That's what they were told, anyhow.
On the way down, however, participants were approached by a friendly woman carrying a tray. 'To show our thanks for taking part in our study,' she said, 'we'd like to offer you a snack. You have a choice of two. A nice piece of chocolate cake. Or a delicious fruit salad. Which would you like?'
Now, unbeknownst to each participant, some had been given two-digit numbers to memorize, and some had been given seven-digit numbers. When Shiv tallied up the choices made (for that was the object of the experiment) he found that those students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as those given two digits! Two digits - you choose fruit. Seven digits - you choose cake. What could possibly account for that?
The reason, Shiv theorized, is that once you weed out the occasional oddball, we all like cake more than fruit. It tastes better. But we also all know that fruit is better for us, for cake makes us fat and promotes tooth decay. This is a rational assessment that almost all of us would make. But if our minds are taxed with trying to retain 7 digits instead of a no-brainer 2, rationality goes right out the window, and the emotional "yummy, cake!" wins out! 'The astounding thing here,' said the Wall Street Journal's Jonah Lehrer, reviewing the experiment, 'is not simply that sometimes emotion wins over reason. Its how easily it wins.'
Now, this experiment was not taken very seriously by anyone. When the media covered it at all, they treated it as fluff - a transitional piece going in to or out of more serious news. "Oh, so that's why I pig out after a hard day at work here," giggling HappyNews people would tell each other on TV. But plainly, the experiment holds deeper significance. Aren't world leaders also susceptible to emotion trumping rationality? Daily they grapple to solve the woes afflicting us all. Meanwhile, opponents seek to undermine them and media outlets try dig up dirt on them. If it takes only five extra digits for emotion to overpower reason, do you really think there is the slightest chance that "reason will prevail" among the world's policymakers, immersed in matters much more vexing (and urgent) than choosing between cake and fruit? Has it up till now?
THAT'S what's so irksome about the "Let Reason Prevail." slogan. Reason cannot prevail among imperfect humans! It can occur, but it cannot prevail. Humans are not capable of it. Five digits is all it takes for our rational facade to crumble!
Now, if there is one thing Jehovah's Witnesses are known for, it's their insistence that humans do not have the ability to govern themselves. Everyone else (among Christendom) accepts the present setup of squabbling nations as a given and prays for God to somehow bless the leaders running it - usually with the proviso that whatever country they're in emerge on top (or at least intact). Doesn't matter too much, though, since said religionists are all heavenbound! Just passing through, you understand. So while one might not like staying in a crummy hotel, you can at least console yourself that it's only for a night or two.
Not so Jehovah's Witnesses. Earth is where God meant us to be, so that is where we focus. Like the psalm says: (115:16) "As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men." And our view that humans are incapable of governing the earth is no more than acknowledging the words of Jeremiah: "I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." (Jer 10:23) And: "The wise ones have become ashamed. They have become terrified and will be caught. Look! They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?" (Jer 8:9) In other words, today's calamitous conditions aren't really a surprise to those who've immersed themselves in Bible instruction. It's what they've always expected. They're not stuck with the pathetic hope that voting out the incumbents will somehow bring in a more amenable bunch of politicians among whom "reason can prevail." It's human rule itself that's at fault.
You could almost view it that God himself is conducting an experiment, just like Baba Shiv. Not that it was his purpose, but when humans insisted on setting their own standards of "good and bad," rejecting his sovereignty, he said "Go ahead.....for such-and-such an amount of time see if you can make good on your claim of self-government. When the times runs out, then.....we'll see." Isn't this the meaning of those early Genesis chapters? Isn't the grand experiment of human self-rule ending exactly as the Bible foretold it would? And doesn't it show, as any novice JW will tell you.....sometimes a bit parrotlike, but true nonetheless, that "it just goes to show we need the Kingdom." Announcing this Kingdom, so that people may align themselves with it, is the purpose of the Witnesses' public ministry.....................see also here