A Gut and the Nonscientific Sample of One

A gut feeling is one based on intuition. If you “have a gut feeling,” you strongly sense something about a situation and usually trust this feeling even if you don’t have all the evidence needed to prove its veracity. Gut feelings often lead to “gut responses” or “gut reactions.”

Forming a conclusion based upon a gut feeling implies that imperfect, muddled, and emotion-laden memories of events that are rattling around inside one’s brain are relied upon to make a decision. We’ve all made decisions based upon what’s “in my gut,” even though most of us know “in my gut” is just an expression, the origin of which is somewhere back in the fog of history along with that equivalent phrase, “In my heart…”

I am audacious enough to think that if you are intelligent enough to read these words, you do understand that decisions are made via the complex interactions of neurons in our brain and not by anything occurring in our chest or abdomen, and that the expressions “in my gut” and “in my heart” are simply ways of conveying that we are making a decision based upon how we are emotionally responding to some circumstance, like buying a house: “I made a list of pros and cons, and even though the cons seem to more than outweigh the pros, my gut tells me (or my heart tells me) I should buy this place.”

Another way of conveying this notion of gut or heart-based decision making is the phrase:

Decision making based upon the nonscientific sample of one.

Intelligent folks in positions of leadership, say, a high school principal, the Director of the CDC, or the CEO of General Motors, do not make decisions based solely upon their nonscientific samples of one. That is not to say that their strong personal feelings about an issue do not come into play: they do. But decisions by the three positions cited impact others in ways that will have significant consequences for students, staff and parents, citizens who might die from infectious diseases, or shareholders, employees, and customers.

Because of the wide-ranging consequences of decisions made by leaders, morally responsible leaders of schools, government agencies, or corporations, et al, will make decisions based upon and after a review of a large data sample by experts. This is done because morally responsible leaders understand that the collective wisdom of experienced authorities will allow reason and evidence to inform the inevitably limited knowledge that can be generated by an individual’s nonscientific sample of one.

Even a morally irresponsible leader who has a personal, emotion-driven agenda will review the opinions of experts, if for no other reason than to generate a rationalization of what may be, in reality, a decision based upon the leader’s nonscientific sample of one. This is usually done from the self-serving motivation of personal survival in whatever position the leader holds.

Because intelligent citizens understand that relying only upon an individual’s nonscientific sample of one can never lead to a complete understanding of the ins and outs of everything (or anything close to everything) about everything, no leader, whether s/he be moral or immoral, would ever make a statement like this:

“They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”

But wait, it may be that my nonscientific sample of one has been wrong in leading me to the gut feeling that no leader at any level of a society would ever make such a rash pronouncement. I guess I’ve failed to remember that, in my heart, I am certain that…

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

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