Why did he do it? Mysteries of the Human Mind: Beyond Statistical Measures
“We only see well with the heart, the eyes do not see the essentiel.” Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
We rely too much on numerical measures; the most valuable things in human life resist quantification.
A human wrote this.
The following article recently appeared in the local press.
“The farmer from Jussy who, on June 25th, killed his young cousin, a police officer, by shooting him in the back, cannot clearly explain his actions. The "Tribune de Genève" reports that when questioned by the Attorney General, the man mentioned a sudden fear and denied any dispute with the deceased, whom he claimed to have loved greatly. He admitted to firing at least three times in his direction but denied intentionally targeting him. He stated that he had done the same for his own dog, which was also shot and killed. A psychiatric evaluation will be conducted at the request of the Prosecutor's Office. The 44-year-old defendant was an elected official in the municipality. He had recently lost his father. His 26-year-old cousin had visited him at the request of a family member to inquire about his well-being.”
I always find these articles completely overlooked. They reflect a fundamental mystery of human beings. Sometimes the cause is deep frustration that has been suppressed for a long time and suddenly comes out in an abrupt unexpected way. Sometimes the cause is some sort of spleen or “mal-être” that is difficult to define. Sometimes it is a feeling of emptiness that comes upon us for no apparent reason. Many famous authors have touched upon this theme: Dostoevsky in ‘The Gambler' or ‘Crime and Punishment’, Albert Camus in ‘The Fall’, William Styron in ‘Darkness Visible’. In ‘Crime and Punishment’, the ‘crime’ is never specifically described; the punishment is an indescribable torment that permeates the book. In ‘The Gambler’, the main character feels the need to gamble and ruin himself. In ‘The Fall’ by Camus, the main character sees a person trying to commit suicide and doesn’t intervene. He cannot explain why he didn’t react. And in ‘Darkness Visible’, Styron describes exactly what it feels like to be in a state of debilitating depression, without ever offering an explanation of how he got there.
In physical sciences, the unusual event is the one we should examine. It almost always leads to a deeper insight. However, the reactions of the human brain are a result of so many different factors, environmental and biological, that studying each case of such unexplained reactions might not permit us to draw useful conclusions. When you speak to people suffering from depression and ask them how they arrived there, you get many different answers and many different journeys. Here is where human science diverges from physical science. Studying such reactions must be motivated by openness and acceptance of others. In “The Little Prince” by Saint-Exupèry, the fox says to the prince, “we only see well with the heart, the eyes do not see the essentiel.” We must try to always keep this in mind.
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The butterfly effect is the idea that small changes in a system can have large and unpredictable consequences. The term was coined by Edward Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist, in the 1960s.
The butterfly effect is a reminder that we are all interconnected and that our actions can have far-reaching consequences. It is also a reminder that we should be careful about making assumptions about the future, as even small changes can have big impacts.1