Rapping To The Ladies, Wishful Thinking

by Kevin Burton

   I love the Doobie Brothers, but I have a complaint.
   Let’s engage in a little wishful thinking, shall we? I wish Michael McDonald would enunciate.

   Wishful thinking is “the attribution of reality to what one wishes to be true or the tenuous justification of what one wants to believe,” according to Merriam-Webster. 

   A related term, confirmation bias, has gotten a lot of play lately because Americans are so partisan they have ceased to reason and become completely averse to nuance. 

   Merriam-Webster has never heard of confirmation bias, so I had to turn to Britannica, which said it is, “the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs.”

   Google says this is the difference:

   “Wishful thinking says that wishes may lead to an unjustified belief that the wish is, or will become, true. In contrast, confirmation bias highlights a tendency for beliefs to be unreasonably self-reinforcing.”

   Some sources say confirmation bias is just a more formal way of talking about wishful thinking. 

      There are some learn-ed people saying learn-ed things about wishful thinking. 

   “What people desire, hope, fear or wishfully think can influence how they perceive visually ambiguous stimuli, according to a new study by Cornell psychologist David Dunning and graduate student Emily Balcetis,” is a message from the Cornell website.

   “Whether thinking ‘I can change him/her’ about a rocky relationship or the more benign ‘those clouds will blow over’ when at a picnic, people’s desires seem to color their beliefs. However, such an explanation presupposes a direct link between his desires and beliefs, a link that is currently absent in normative behavioral models and current Theory of Mind (ToM) models,” reads a passage on the MIT website.

   That MIT piece goes on a bit. But you signed up to talk some Doobie Brothers and they are the guys who really know what they’re talking about.  

   However. There is this Doobies song, “What A Fool Believes.” Co-written by Michael McDonald of the Doobies and Kenny Loggins, it want to number one inApril of 1979. Some background.

   “Michael McDonald’s concept for the lyric was a scenario where two people met in a restaurant – two people who had a passionate relationship long ago,” according to Songfacts. “To the man, the affair was the best thing in his life; to the woman it was fun, but it was time to move on.”

   “In the conversation, the man makes a complete fool of himself. When the woman excuses herself to leave, he doesn’t get the message, believing he still has a shot and that their affair was much more meaningful than it actually was.”

   “Love makes a man a fool and even a wise one can’t reason it away.”

   So here’s my beef. The key part of the chorus reads “what a fool believes he sees, no wise man has the power to reason away.”

    OK, now go back, listen to the song and tell me if I am crazy or not. 

   I did not hear McDonald to sing “no wise man has the power…” I heard him say “the wise man has the power.”

    Play the song! I do not hear a long O sound there before the words “wise man,” I hear a schwa. It sounds like he’s saying “the” without the long E, or “thu.”

   I am serious here.  I’m not happy.

   Hearing “The wise man has the power…” I have always thought there was some Beatle-esque wisdom in the lyrics.

   A fool believes something, he buys it. But the wise man has the power to think it through and reason it away. 

   So is the “wise man” outsmarting himself and is the fool really the smart one, as in Paul McCartney’s “Fool On A Hill?”

   But with the lyrics as “no wise man has the power…” all we really have is a fool believes what he believes and won’t listen to reason.  That’s true, but not remarkable. That’s not front-page news.

   That’s Simon and Garfunkel singing “Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest” in “The Boxer.”

   Or that’s my wife saying “you see what you want to see.” True enough, but old news.

   Tell you what, I haven’t been this angry since I learned that Elton John was NOT singing about “electric boobs” in “Benny and The Jets.” My way makes much more sense.

   “Philosophers note that humans have difficulty processing information in a rational, unbiased manner once they have developed an opinion about the issue,” writes Britannica on its website. “Humans are better able to rationally process information, giving equal weight to multiple viewpoints, if they are emotionally distant from the issue.”

   Let’s just move on from this. Sorry I brought it up.

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