Justify Your Answer

I have over a number of decades been exposed to examination papers both school and university. People can be asked to answer a question and then to justify that answer usually within the confines of some syllabus or other. They are tested on the retention and use of a demarcated set of knowledge as agreed by the exam boards and the quality assurance dudes. As a consequence, people are in the habit of justifying.

There is a lot of justifying in conversation. You might justify breaking covid regulations to snog your aide because of starry eyed adolescent love. People justify their choice of holiday destination, spouse, house and Christmas present. That justification is often externalised internal dialogue. Much conversation is by way of pre-emptive defence. There is some bizarre urge to explain.

In science journals one can have introduction, method, results & discussion and of course the conclusion and acknowledgements. The papers are presented in a quasi-formulaic way. In principle the article should set the scene as to the current state of the art and big up the importance of the results to follow. “Recently, there have been a number of studies on X around the globe etc.”

People are accustomed, trained and programmed to think in a quaisi Pavlovian way. This is the way we do things around here {old chap}.

I don’t know how many labs actually try to reproduce the works of others. One assumes in laboratory reproducibility. It is not tested in publication and rarely is data on this presented. As an undergraduate I was trying to follow an inorganic synthesis from a lab in Russia. It was done at “room temperature”. I could not for the life of me get it to work. I looked at the address and then checked the summer temperatures in that region ~30˚C! By warming my reaction mixture to this, it worked a treat. I had a left-field moment.

The other thing people are hung up on is precedence. It underpins western jurisprudence. A precedent in American law can be a turning point for defence or prosecution. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) has now been downgraded by a court filled with political choices. The consequences of that are starting to effect.

People forget that all these things are decisions made by people, they are socio-political decisions and are subject to the vagaries of fashion. When I was a Ph.D. student, I met a young Irish woman and her friend in a night club. She was in the UK to get an abortion {I listen well}. It was a bit sad. There will be more abortion related travel in the USA. People once got chemically castrated because they liked a bit of sodomy. Now hetero and homo sodomy is all the rage.

The justification of banning abortion “thou shalt not kill” is bizarre in a country with mass shootings in schools. Is that not a weird from of post-partum abortion?

People can use justifications to enable them to do things which they know are dodgy. By developing a mass of justificatory reasons, excuses and defences they can silence their conscience.

“I want to kill Saddam Hussein.”

“I know let’s pretend he has weapons of mass destruction. Then I can spend X billion dollars to kill him and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people as well, collateral damage.”

“Look we done good. We got Saddam…”

Washington lectures Moscow…really…

People use justifications to try to make the unpleasant, the corrupt and the heinous seem somehow less bad.

Look I have set of bullet points to show that it is not that bad after all….

I have justified my actions…

All is good…

There is nothing to see here…

Move on…

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