I know a man who was walking in the woods when a tree fell nearby. He now won’t walk in the woods if there’s a wind. I can’t agree with this conclusion. However, I do try to stay inside during a lightning storm. My chances of being hit by lightning are not great, but I would be a potential receptor, and people do get struck by lightning. My practice is based on my understanding of probability and frequency.
It’s human nature to attribute causation to preceding events. I got a new CPAP machine and then I got pneumonia, so the new machine must have caused pneumonia. In actuality, there’s no proof of this, and even if there were a connection, there are many other variables.
My question is, when are people taught about probability, the significance of frequency, the post hoc propter hoc fallacy, and the basic scientific process of considering and eliminating variables when evaluating results of an experiment or event? Is it in public school or only in some college classes? (I used to teach reasoning in freshman English, and I think I first learned about the scientific method in high school science, but then I’m a member of the first wave of baby boomers.) It’s important to identify when and whether reasoning is taught in our country, because our ability to be fair and to discriminate among good and bad news stories and Twitter or Facebook posts depends on our ability to reason.
I have Facebook friends who post singular and terrible incidents of injustice, and news media do this as well. Since the majority of my FB friends are African-American or liberal, the posts I’m talking about usually portray racial injustice. (I have no doubt that if the majority of my FB friends were, say Trump supporters, they would be posting their own, totally different, singular cases of injustice.) The cases posted are, many times, singular occurrences, not representative of a wave of injustice. However, as Sen. Tim Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio have testified, and I also can testify, white police do rather frequently harass young black males, pulling them over and worse. The number of young black males who were not committing crimes or even threatening the police, but who were shot by white police, may be too great to be considered unusual or an aberration. So at some level of frequency, individual injustices add up to a bigger social problem just as the frequency of lightning strikes leads to the admonition to stay in during a thunder and lightning storm.
When we listen to the news or see news on Facebook and Twitter, we really must ask ourselves if each report represents a probable concern, a concern that occurs frequently, a concern that is widespread. To get to the bottom of things or work towards a better future, we must be able to tell the difference between probable, provable causes and red herrings. If we draw premature conclusions and react to every news article or post we read, we will fan the flames of hatred and fear. But we should not close our eyes to social problems. Or go outside when there’s lightning out there.
I’ve had cats as pets all my life, starting with our Siamese, Holly, when I was four; her son, Stinky; Piño, who came with my college apartment; Pokey and Lai Fu (Mister Fu), a Siamese and Tankanese bought at a pet store when I was in college; the cats who volunteered when we lived in the country: Whiskers (intelligent orange cat #1), Patch the calico, Tabby, and Shadow (a sweet black cat who moved with us to our new house in Fort Valley); Sassy II, a fat Siamese from the Humane Society; and Willie, intelligent orange cat #2, who came to us after having been practiced on by students at the university’s vet tech department.
But my recent cats all have come from the woods. First there was Jeff, an old gray tabby who never let us pet him, who ate outside our door, and who apparently fathered a litter. From that litter, we got two of the kittens. First, Corey (“Wrong Way Corrigan”) was left behind and cried in the woods until our son rescued him by trapping him with tuna. Then mama cat returned (more interested in being fed by us this time) and nursed the rest of her litter in our yard. All disappeared except Sister. We managed to get her spayed, and she was very friendly, but she refused to come in because Willie kept smelling her behind. After Sassy and then Willie passed away, Sister deigned to come in. She is extremely loving and wants a lot of attention. She tolerated her brother Corey.
But then, mews and meows emerged from under my car that had a car cover on it. It was a tiny gray tabby. We fed her, and a neighboring cat seemed to check in on her regularly. One day when the porch door was open and Corey was calling out, she dashed inside. After much patient talking and waiting, she let me touch her, and then, of course, she had to be spayed. She had a hard time eating with the cone when she got back and was isolated on one room, so I went in there and fed her with a spoon. She would lie on my lap afterward, glad to have a friend. She gradually adapted to being a house cat, but she goes outdoors every night and sometimes in the day. She and Corey have bonded, though she jumped on him constantly when she was a kitten, thus the name Pounce.
Now, Sister is not happy. She still comes in the house, but she hisses at Pounce and sometimes at Corey, too. Still, I managed to feed them all by placing one bowl strategically away from the others. Until, . . .
Corey, who already was a nervous cat and scared of everyone but me, developed stomatitis. Luckily, Dr. Hodges, our vet, caught it early. But it required giving Corey an antibiotic and my catching him then bringing him in 12 times for laser therapy to heal his gums. He had stopped eating due to the pain caused by the sore gums resulting from an autoimmune reaction to his own tartar and plaque and had lost 8.5 pounds. The laser therapy gradually worked, except now Corey only can and will eat soft food.
Well, you can’t give tasty, fragrant canned food to only one cat. So now we have a new dance at feeding time. I’m realizing that the love they give me is more than half the time a request for more food. But Sister hisses at everyone when they are fed at the same time. This chases the others off most of the time, sometimes leading Pounce to go back outside and return later. Meanwhile, Corey is still highly suspicious that I might grab him and put him in the cat carrier again and scared of my husband, so he runs off easily. If I manage to get bowls strategically placed so all three can eat, Sister sits and looks grumpy while the others go at it. They all are messy and leave lumps of canned cat food outside their bowls.
I love these crazy kitties from the woods, but someday, I’d like to get normal domestic cats again!
Observations on the subjects of friends, family, country, cultures and nature.