Hard brain, soft brain
Peter Atkins makes the case for hard thinking
Rational is the hard way, where explanations and understanding have to be chipped laboriously from the stern rock of truth. Irrational is the soft way, where false-footed sink into the feigned comfort of fraudulent explanations and self-deception masquerading as an understanding. One is the rock; the other the mire. With the rational, there is always the test of verification, where the substance of explanation can be passed through the sieve of nature. Nowhere is the technique more grandly expressed than in the natural sciences, which are the apotheosis of the rational. With the irrational, there is no hope of verification, except transitorily by the dangerous glitter of the will'o-the-wisp of misleading confidence. The scientific method, with its dispassionate yet deeply passionate seeking after truth delivers understanding that transcends the cosmic pettiness of national boundaries and cultures. The truly rational is transnational and transcultural, for truth is an arch that spreads over the ultimate triviality of the historical and geographical accidents that have pocked the face of society.
Fear may indeed accompany the outcome of rational, unprejudiced enquiry, for the rational may conflict with expectation, prejudice, habit, and hope. That fear includes the groundless terror of realising that one is here without purpose on a cosmic scale and the terror of coming to terms with the inconsequence of one's own annihilation. Fear also commonly accompanies the outcome of irrational speculation, for the irrational has not boundaries and no rules other than those imposed capriciously, much like ruling bodies impose the rules of sport.
But for the rational, counterbalancing gloriously this fear is a joy of a deep, pervasive, and satisfying kind. Above all, there is the deep joy of the realisation that the human brain is of such power that it can make light of darkness, that its beam can cut to the heart of the great questions of existence, and that - when employed rationally - it has an unsurpassed ability to illuminate where the idle adipose misusers of their brains, the indulgers in the irrational, fruitlessly and too often perniciously speculate.