What a scoop!

Lyssa Beyer

For those who have dealt with children, you are probably familiar with the phrase “just because” or some similar variance. This is the excuse children will give if their behavior that has no rational basis, which is quite often. Why did you hit your little brother? “Because.” Why did you clog up the toilet with Play-doh? “I don’t know.” Why don’t you just eat your green beans so you can go outside? “I don’t want to.” Doing something without a basis in reason is foolish, but children can be forgiven for this because they are young and don’t know the world requires rationality for actions.

Well, at least that’s the plan. More and more I’m seeing friends, family and news commentators alike, succumbing to a new plague, which I call the “just because” epidemic. It comes up when discussing movies or music, where people will say they don’t like something “just because” they didn’t like it, giving no examples or evidence. Nothing is as frustrating as talking to people who can’t defend their beliefs; if you can’t explain your opinions, why do you even hold them? This would be fine if this “just because” phenomena was contained to useless topics such as the best quarterback or band, but I’ve seen this underdeveloped level of reason in discussions about politics and ethics as well. Believing in something “just because” you believe in it is not acceptable in the adult world where irrationality oppresses and kills people on a daily basis.

For an example of the “just because” affliction in adults, look no further than a discussion with the average movie fan. If a person, for instance, tells me he or she didn’t like the movie “Children of Men,” I would press that person for a reason. If the person suffers from the “just because” disease, the response might be “I don’t know, I just didn’t.” Certainly, there has to be a reason behind your dislike? “I just didn’t like it, OK?” The person in question here might have a legitimate reason for not liking the movie, but are unable to put it into words, which says something of their reasoning skills if nothing else.

Of course, we adults are generally a tad more articulate than children, so our “just because” excuses go beyond those two words for the most part. Sticking with the movie example, a person might say a movie is bad because it’s boring, which is a fair criticism to make of a film. But why is it boring, I might ask the person? What stretch of film did you find yourself losing interest during? A “just because” person wouldn’t be able to give you any examples; rather, the person would go back to saying “It was just boring, OK?” “Just because” people usually get defensive about their opinion pretty quickly, reacting to your questioning as some sort of attack on their point of view. When I ask these questions, I am simply trying to make sense of an opinion that I don’t understand, but there are some people who can’t do that for me because they don’t understand their own opinion.

The “just because” ailment is more alarmingly found in ethical and political decisions. Many people who are against gay marriage justify their stance by saying homosexuality is “just wrong.” But what is the reasoning behind this statement? The Bible can’t be used as a basis because our country is not run by religious law, so it comes down to the idea that homosexuality is unnatural or disgusting. With this in mind, why should we deny rights to a group of people just because we find what it does on its own time disgusting? Surely, anti-gay marriage advocates won’t see too much gay sex or attend too many same-sex marriage ceremonies, so the acts they find disgusting can easily be avoided. This reasoning is exposed as flawed, but still many people pertain to it “just because” they believe in it.

I’m not saying that if someone says “just because” they really have no reason to believe in what they do, but rather the real reasons behind their beliefs are ultimately flawed or they can’t put them into words. When people can’t spell out the reasoning behind their opinions, they usually have reasoning they don’t understand or know they can’t defend without sounding foolish. Jumping to a more serious example of this, do you think the majority of the racists and segregationists had well-thought out, fallacy-free reasons for discriminating against blacks? Or was it “just because” they thought blacks were inferior to whites? We have seen “just because” sufferers justify what they know to be unfair to others yet beneficial to them by falling back on the old line “that’s the way it’s always been.” People throughout history have used tradition instead of logic as reasoning, arguing to not change unfair laws “just because” that’s the way things have been done for generations before.

Though “just because” sufferers are perhaps more prevalent than they should be in a society as advanced as ours, the means to defeating them is simple – ask questions. Just as I described earlier, when encountering people who say “just because” or something similar as a means of explaining their opinions, keep asking them questions. Dig a little deeper into their justification for their beliefs, prodding them until they can give solid reasons to support their opinions. This isn’t to say you have to convince them of your line of thinking, but rather to help them understand the way they think. Going back to the movie example, the person could finally come to the conclusion that they didn’t like the ending of “Children of Men” because it didn’t answer enough questions, which is a fair opinion to hold. You’ve enlightened yourself and that person by examining the reason behind their belief.

If we all took a step back to examine the essence of our opinions, we would probably end up modifying some of them. Perhaps if people could see how illogical it is to deny someone equal rights because they find their lifestyle disgusting or to believe they are naturally superior to that type of person, then they might be pressed to change their beliefs. Not all “just because” people are sinister, close-minded people, but the act of skipping justification for your beliefs is a wholly detrimental practice. The cures to the “just because” epidemic are the same ones that would solve much of the world’s problem – asking questions and listening to others.

Langton is a senior print journalism major and editorial editor of The Spectator. “What a Scoop!” appears every Thursday.