Saturday, May 14, 2005

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 :)



Anonymous Paul said....

... must get hold of that server concepts manual. It sounds compelling ...

Sat May 14, 01:25:00 PM EDT  

Blogger DaPi said....

"must get hold of that server concepts manual. It sounds compelling" It must be something, if it's better than "OS/360 System Control Blocks" - better as a cure for insomnia that is.

Sat May 14, 04:33:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Tom Best said....

"since the new Server Concepts manual came out (that, that was a joke)"

I'm disappointed that you would joke about that. I remember reading this posting the day it appeared:

I saw it a few days before going to an Oracle class out of town, so I printed the Concepts Manual, and read the thing on the plane and in the hotel room. And now you joke? It's still good! :-)

Sat May 14, 07:29:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I'm disappointed that you would joke

what I meant was -- this is a good BOOK.

the concepts manual, is a manual. It is interesting, I learn something new from it everytime it comes out. But it is not a funny, tongue in cheek, serious, but humorous read...

(i really do read that concepts guide, but it is not a "compelling" read - informative, yes. crucial, yes. But I don't recall laughing out loud at something in it)

Sat May 14, 07:43:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Kevin said....

Don't BE jokin' about the Concepts manual. As it says in Chapter 1, verses 123-125, 'For optimal performance, the entire SGA should be as large as possible (while still fitting in real memory) to store as much data in memory as possible and to minimize disk I/O.'
Words to live by, my man; words to live by...

Sat May 14, 11:48:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....

I'd be hoping that the 'Tis evident' chapter explores one of the things that really bugged me about my high school maths teacher (great guy called Q) and others since, he, and they would set out an argument - in his case mathematical proof - and at the key point would write

"clearly" followed by something that was of course entirely opaque and unproven. folk do this all the time, wittingly or otherwise, you've followed an argument through and it isn't till afterwards that you realize a great leap was made surreptitiously by inviting you to agree with a statement that sounds obvious, but is either unproven or irrelevant "disk IO is 10,000 time faster than memory io" for example.

Sun May 15, 10:19:00 AM EDT  

Blogger scubajim said....

Tom, you need to read a C++ technical guide. My best laugh was :
Friends are not inherited
This was over a decade ago and I was on the commuter train from NY to Ct. I did get a lot of strange looks on the train. (unwritten rule is no noise on the commuter train)

Sun May 15, 11:58:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Scot from Jacksonville said....

Hey Tom, just curious, and without trying to take or even discuss one side or the other (politics), are the media examples (and examples in general) balanced between the "two" sides?

I've found that pretty much all media is biased in one way or the other, and likewise many books are as well in the examples they choose. How does this one do?

Mon May 16, 09:07:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

balanced between the "two" sides?

Well, the examples are all case studies used to demonstrate how twisting the words, or not saying something leads you to believe something.

but I do think it is mostly well balanced. For example, he used a Tony Blair example on hunting and fishing versus fox hunting. He exposed the flaws in Blair's presentation of why he was OK with hunting and fishing but not fox hunting. But did go on to say that there could be mitigating factors and what they were -- that would make Blair's stance on the subject better than good. Meaning -- the author is not trying to get you to think one way or the other -- only to recognize the holes in arguments.

But, yes, it is clear which way he leans ;)

Mon May 16, 11:40:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Looks like a good read.

Wed May 25, 12:29:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous said....

I haven't met anynone who is willing to admit to being illogical. They will admit to ignorance but not to lack of logic in their convictions and beliefs. I got my education of the misue/abuse of logic from the characters in Ayn Rand's stories. Did you read Ayn Rand? You can also understand the motive behind the crimes against logic from her stories.

Fri Jun 03, 02:23:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I haven't met anynone who is willing to admit to being illogical.

I haven't read the A.R. books yet -- been meaning too though.

I'd admit to being illogical when being "overly passionate about something". But only after the fact :) Emotion definitely clouds judgement.

Fri Jun 03, 02:57:00 PM EDT  


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