Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Illogical Guilt

I stand accused of using cynicism as a lazy man's adaptation to a barrage of poor thinkers and liars.

Guilty.

I henceforth resolve to use the brain given to me (by God, evolution, my parents, or intelligent alien designers) to seek objective truth rather than just distrust or dismiss everything that seems fishy.

I've just been reading Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte. This is a good book, a quick read, and one everyone should pick up and absorb. Although at times logically flawed itself in its peridodic hyperbolic storytelling to make a point, it is fundamentally sound in its premise and its points.

The premise is that politicians, priests, journalists, and your friends regularly use verbal ju jitsu to avoid any direct confrontation with facts and evidence in a discussion. Whyte identifies 12 techniques that can be recognized and discounted for those who are truly interested in pursuit of truth.

He also condemns our educational system (and parents) for not teaching basic logical thinking skills to our young so that they can be equipped to deal with the many obfuscations that serve the pedantic pontificates so well.
Alas, most know next to nothing about the ways reasoning can go wrong. Schools and universities pack their minds with invaluable pieces of information...but leave them incapable of identifying even basic errors of logic. Which makes for a nation of suckers, unable to resist the bogus reasoning of those who want something from them, such as votes or money or devotion.
And he makes a point that drives it all home to me.
Many instead defend themselves with cynicism, discounting everything said by anyone in a position of power or influence. But cynicism is a poor defense, because it won't help tell good reasoning from bad. Believing nothing is just as silly as believing everything. Cynicism, like gullibility, is a symptom of underdeveloped critical faculties.


I need to work harder at thinking.

(Which, according to this article, helps me lead a longer, more productive life as a bonus...)

1 Comments:

At Monday, December 26, 2005, Blogger Jamie Sidey said...

Mike,

I'm going to need to pick up a copy of this book... sounds pretty useful. In that vein, you may want to take a look at "How to Lie With Statistics"... comes very highly rated by the Economist: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393310728

 

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