Goblin Valley – Boy Scout Self-Delusion

Goblin Valley State ParkThere’s a mildly interesting story in the news today about a pair of Boy Scout leaders who pushed over a boulder in Goblin Valley State Park.  The reason it’s such a big story is that the two are Boy Scout leaders and their actions are antithetical to the policy of the Scouts, which is to leave nature as it is found, “Leave no Trace”.

The two men noticed an apparently precariously perched boulder and decided it represented a threat to people who were walking nearby. They climbed up, and with some effort, managed to push the boulder over. It fell about five feet and rolled another foot or so.

What I find interesting about the situation is not the violation of scout ethics, the vandalism done to a park, but the self-delusional nature of those who did it. They have managed to convince themselves that they were saving many lives with their heroic deed.

This gives us insight into how flawed thinking can lead us to make bad decisions; that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

Goblin Valley State Park is filled with rock formations of this nature. Most hiking trails have such formations. Whenever I go on a hike I usually see a large rock perched in a fairly precarious appearing position. I always feel the temptation to push said rock over. The idea being that moving such a massive thing with my own power makes me feel stronger.

I would guess that just about everyone who has ever seen such a rock formation has had similar thoughts. What is it that kept me from pushing over the rock? Why, even as a young boy of ten or eleven, did I realize that to do so was wrong? What keeps every person who see such rock formations from behaving in such a way?

Critical thinking.

There are the two conflicting thoughts. The first is personal gratification in pushing over the rock. The momentary elation in doing so. The second is that the park is not mine. That many visitors come to the park and that by selfishly pushing over the rock I’m potentially ruining other people’s experience.

It is clear that the glory of pushing over the rock simply overwhelmed the critical thinking capacity of the two scout leaders and they justified their actions with the nonsensical rationalization that they were saving many lives. Even now they claim that they did the right thing but should have notified a ranger. That is clearly a lie established to rationalize their own behavior. It is the lie they told themselves and now repeat for all to hear.

They are convinced that they saved lives despite the fact that Goblin Valley is filled with such formations by the thousand. Here is an image search.

They assume that they are good people and good people wouldn’t do a bad thing, therefore the bad thing they did must be good.

It’s a lack of critical thinking and such irrational thoughts lead to poor decisions. Poor decisions lead to a worse life.

When presented with any decision take a moment to make a critical analysis. Have you arrived at the conclusion that you want to be true or have you come to the conclusion that is true.

It’s an important question. Get in the habit of asking yourself that question before every decision. Is buying a gallon of ice cream the correct decision? Is tailgating on the highway the correct decision?

Life is decisions, one after the next. The more correct ones you make, the better your life will be.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt (Out very soon!)

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