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Jesuits, Teens, Romance, Statistics and Frontal Lobe Development

By David Grant

In 1552, St. Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Jesuits, sailed to China in an effort to convert souls to Christianity.

He never made it to the mainland, but others would soon follow who would have vast impact in China and on world technology exchange. The same efforts were undertaken at about the same time in South America.

The campaigns were eminently successful. At the peak of Jesuit prominence in China, several Jesuit Priests served in the emperor’s court and enjoyed thousands of converts to Christianity.

In Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, the Jesuits set up a unique society, successful by almost any measure, that lasted for 130 years. It took the martyrdom of the priests to finally end what many considered heaven on earth.

These amazing priests, armed with education and the conviction that what they were to accomplish was divinely appointed, impacted the world in profound ways. The priests were armed with three foundational skill sets that are virtually neglected in today’s educational system.

You have to go out of your way, and only then at the University, if you want to learn Logic, Economics and Statistics (LES). Why these are not every bit as foundational in the American education system as reading, writing and arithmetic is a travesty.

Through these foundational skills, the Jesuits were regarded as prophets in that they were able to predict crop cycles, planetary movements, tides and weather patterns. Their goodness and strict adherence to a clear and defined order made them trustworthy advisers and leaders.

The logic training they received came from the educational fare of the time, the Trivium.

Trivium learning consisted of three disciplines, Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric. Or, a thing as it is (Logic), the symbolism of the thing (Grammar), and the communication of the thing (Rhetoric). In the case of LES, Logic is the study of a thing as it is, Statistics is the study of the symbolism of the thing, and Economics is the study of the thing as it is exchanged.


Studies at Cornell University point out one thing that most parents of teens already know and at least one thing that they do not know. The already known thing is that teens have a hard time processing certain types of information.

The result is that they have difficulty recognizing future consequences resulting from current actions, choosing between good and bad actions (or better and best), overriding and suppressing unacceptable social responses, and determining similarities and differences between things or events.

What was not previously recognized by parents is, in the words of Dr. Geidd:

“…unlike infants whose brain activity is completely determined by their parents and environment, the teens may actually be able to control how their own brains are wired and sculpted.”

Kids who “exercise” their brains by learning to order their thoughts, understand abstract concepts, and control their impulses are laying the neural foundations that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Dr. Giedd says:

“This argues for doing a lot of things as a teenager. You are hard-wiring your brain in adolescence. Do you want to hard-wire it for sports and playing music and doing mathematics–or for lying on the couch in front of the television?”


Especially since the 1960s, but going back even further than that, the modern educational focus took a radical shift inward.

Instead of the student being a somewhat passive subject that stands before the wonder and awe of the world and learns as much as possible about “things,” educational theorists presumed that the real wonder was not in “things” but in one’s self.

The modern concept of self has Cartesian origins. The Cartesian epiphany, “I think therefore I am,” is not mere highbrow phraseology, but has had viral impact in all aspects of modern life.

A theorist’s check is populace consent. Said another way, to be successful, a theorist’s ideas need to be conveyed in a way that either the populace at large is convinced or the group in power is convinced.

The turn away from the world and toward self had the advantages of timing, a weakened logic core, stealth and sloth appeal. The industrial revolution seemed to provide a shortcut for everything.

Thanks to Pasteur, you could shortcut an illness. Cars allowed for time shortcuts. Shortcuts were created for everything from science to sex to religious rite.

Because shortcutting was so successful in science, production, and other areas, it was implicitly believed that all areas of life cold be shortcutted as well.

Here was their shortcut argument for education.

On average, confident people do better in school, have better relationships and make more money in life. Confidence is really self confidence. Self-confidence can be taught and learned through self emphasis.

If we teach self-emphasis (self-esteem), we can bolster self confidence and thereby get people to do better in school, have better relationships and make more money.

The argument has several fatal flaws. I will mention three.

One of the logical flaws in the argument is a Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc fallacy. The argument assumes that because confidence and well-being occur at the same time, that confidence must have caused the well-being.

The metaphysical flaw is in the assumption that there actually is a self that is somehow separate from a person. The ethical flaw in the argument is that the concept of self elevates the satisfaction of the needs of the ego as being a higher order good than the satisfaction of the needs of others.

Christians should have spotted this weakness early.

(It is Jesus who taught and exemplified the opposite. In an attempt to lull the Christians, some clever religionists found what was thought to be justification for radical self-regard in the passage “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”)

(A deeper look into the injunction shows that Jesus is quoting Leviticus 19:18, and in the original Hebrew, there is no reflexive like there is in English. Careful study of the passage will yield a different conclusion than, “therefore, I have to love myself before I can love my others.”).


Fatherhood and my ecclesiastical assignments put me into the path of raging adolescents. Their uniqueness is dwarfed by their commonality and predictability. I am finding that there are fewer surprises and many more common experiences.

The adolescents having difficulty all suffer from the same LES malady. They confront the world as a thing to be dominated, with an underdeveloped frontal lobe and with no logical, statistical or economic check and balance against dysfunction.

Their statistical mistake is that they believe they are exceptional, that probabilities, actuarial tables, and data do not apply to them.

They take risks that have enormous possibility to destroy with dubious gains in momentary satisfaction. Their economic mistake is that they trade time, money, health, psychological health, true, lasting friendships and solid grounding for social currency that promises to yield some combination of the three P’s: power, pleasure, popularity.

Their logical mistakes are legion.

In a previous blog I wrote about the anecdotal fallacy. Here is the example I used.

The fallacy is the Anecdotal Fallacy. Basically, the fallacy is committed when immediate or more emotional evidence is given greater weight in an argument than what may be mountainous evidence supporting the opposite or another position.

The famous description used is the Volvo versus Saab dilemma. Suppose that you need a new car and after weeks of research, you have narrowed your choice down to either a Saab or a Volvo. After more methodical study, the Volvo is the clear choice.

You have read hundreds of magazine and customer reviews and nearly all of them indicate that the Volvo is the better choice. You decide to buy a Volvo the next day. That night, you attend a social gathering and you excitedly tell a friend of the family about your decision and your research.

The friend says, “Oh, NO! Don’t buy the Volvo. My sister bought a Volvo and it was nothing but trouble. She ended up selling it for parts after three years of ownership.” In the morning, you ignore the mountain of evidence, and because of hearing your friend’s experience, you go to the Saab dealership and buy the Saab.

The ‘Twilight‘ Anecdotal Fallacy

For most abuse situations, there was ample evidence that abuse was statistically probable long before there was any commitment or involvement between the victim and the perpetrator. A friend recently told me of her aunt who was getting involved with a man who had a history of abusing women.

When confronted about the statistical likelihood that she would become a victim of abuse, her aunt said, “He would never do that to me. It’s different between us.”

As you read this, ask yourself how this is going to end for the aunt. Let me add some more evidence. The man was incarcerated for abuse in the past, and he has shoved some of the female relatives of the aunt.

If you conclude from the evidence that there is a high statistical probability that the aunt will be abused, you are correct. Mountains of evidence point to a high probability of abuse, yet the aunt is sure that she is can escape high statistical probabilities.

Everyone thinks they are the exception. The affliction of supposed clairvoyance born of emotional connection is hardly a teenage-only malady.

Bella and Edward

Here is Bella’s evidence: Edward has killed humans in the past. The taste of human blood is the only thing that really satisfies. Her blood is beyond delicious and Edward has said that he may not be able to stop himself if he gets a taste. He has warned her to stay away from him. He has told her that he is dangerous. He is exciting.

At one point in the dialogue between the two she is asked, “Are you afraid?” Her response is, “No.” Somehow, in spite of the evidence that she should be afraid, the only evidence that mattered was, “He is exciting.”

It’s a story. Who really cares?

In the bedroom of one of my friend’s daughters (she’s 13) hangs a poster of Edward over her headboard. If the light from her window hits the poster just right, you can see several good-night kiss marks on Edward’s face.

Edward will come along someday. He always does. The dangerous thing for my friend’s daughter is that Edward, true to form, will be problematic.

He may be violent, addicted to substances or media or have multiple other vices, and he will be exciting. When he comes along, she will recognize him as Edward and will respond like Bella, “I’m not afraid. He wouldn’t hurt me; I just know it.”

The modern educational curriculum is incapable of delivering the kind of education that safely guide teens through their brain challenged years. It must be done by parents and mentors.


davidgrant-150x175-customDavid B. Grant is the founder of Summa Logica Productions, which promotes formal logic training, particularly among youth, and helps you become a better thinker, reader, and writer. He is the author of Joseph Spider and the Fallacy Farm.

David holds degrees in Philosophy (BA) and Business (MBA) from Brigham Young University. He teaches Entrepreneurship and Operations at Southern Utah University.

He resides in Cedar City, Utah with his wife and five children.


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