Crimes Against Logic, Part I
Crimes Against Logic, a book that was recommended to me recently, is starting out to be an awesomely good read. I’m about 1/3rd of the way through it but find myself nodding in violent agreement. Reading parts of it and say “yes, yes”. Seeing quotes in there and saying “I know that person”. Each chapter is better than the last.
The book starts with “The Right to Your Opinion” and shows pretty clearly how the person – when presented with irrefutable evidence – has as their only argument “Yeah, but I’m entitled to my opinion” has moved the cheese 5 miles to the left. That is – the discussion is over. Jamie Whyte (the author) claims that at that point, it would simply be rude of anyone to continue the discussion after hearing that. You might be interested in whether their opinion is true or not, but they are not.
The next chapter on Motive (the Motive Fallacy) is the argument many people make that just because someone has a motive, their argument must be discounted. This is a more subtle chapter, but I’ll be looking for examples of the Motive Fallacy more often. I’m actually a recipient of this in many cases – “You cannot accept his recommendation, he works at Oracle after all – his recommendations will always be the companies recommendations”. Never mind if they are true, correct, factual, or even unbiased (I try to be) you can ignore them because of his 'motive'. The examples in the book – using media reports are great. The example I liked the most was one from the presidential elections. John Kerry produced a report, called it a misery index, showing how not as well off many of us were as the result of the last 4 years (I’m not debating either side of this here, just stating that the report was made). The Bush campaign spokesman’s rebut to this? “John Kerry has made a calculation that if he talks down the economy, it will benefit him politically” with the implication that the report should be ignored because of his motivation for writing it. No duh, is the only correct response to that rebut -- anything the opposing camp does is because the have calculated some benefit to be had from doing it. But, what about the facts in the report – are they true or false. Lets not discount it because you think the source has some “motive” – everyone has motive, look at that facts.
The next chapter was on Authority and started with “Because I said so”. I found this one useful and could have used some of the points in there to refine some recent discussions. There are in fact two types of authority – those that have the capability to actually author the rules (son -- go to bed at 8pm, why? Because I said so and I make the rules). And those that are considered expert in the field – and hence their opinions are given more credibility even without supporting evidence. This chapter was really deep.
I’m almost finished with Prejudice in Fancy Dress. Besides loving the title, this one had me standing up saying “oh yeah, you got that right”. This one has sub-sections entitled “Mystery”, “Faith”, “Odds On”, “Weird Science” (currently my favorite one, but the further I read – the better it gets), “But Still”, and the next one (that might usurp favorite status if the title holds true) “Tis’ Evident” – I’m hoping it is the “oh, but this is so obvious we need not explore it” argument.
All in all, this book is going to help me. It is the most compelling read I’ve had since the new Server Concepts manual came out (that, that was a joke). My intention is to work on the book (second edition of Expert One on One) this afternoon and get back to this one on the porch tonight. If you are looking for a quick, insightful read – this might well be one to consider. I think everyone will pick up something from this one.
Then again, if you are one of the ones the author is writing about, it could just make you mad :)