Monday, May 16, 2005

Crimes Against Logic, Part III

Almost done with the book Crimes against Logic. Chapter on inconsistency was really good. I never had an appreciation for "contrary" versus "contradictory" and now I do. Statements can be contrary - at least one of them is false and possibly both. Or they can be contradictory - one must be false and one must be true. The trick is to find arguments that rely on contradictory statements and show that "hey, just because you show one is false, the other isn't necessarily true!". The "Weird Ideas" section in this chapter was pretty cool (reincarnation, and other subjects are looked at)

The Equivocation chapter rang some bells for me. All about defining terms and understanding what they mean. Perhaps that is why I go to the dictionary so often, just to make sure I understand what a certain word means. Unfortunately, that does not mean the person uttering the word intended that meaning. One of the examples in the book was poverty. I have an idea what poverty is - I'm sure you do to. So when a government released a study that 35% of the child in the country lived in poverty, it sounds pretty bad. Problem was, this was Britain -- and 35% of the children were living in poverty? Well, it turned out someone had redefined poverty, they defined it as any household that made less than 60% of the national median. Not exactly how I would define poverty - but it certainly grabs your attention doesn't it. The use of Marxism as another analogy was really good (and even easier to understand) as well.

The current chapter I'm on is coincidence. Very interesting, given that coincidence seems to happen so much in our industry. The section on Coincidental Healing - it was really about "Correlation is not Causation". Nice Latin quote in there:

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

After this, therefore because of this

Shaking my head up and down vigorously during this chapter. Oh where had I heard all of this before. New favorite chapter time This one wins.

The last two chapters are "Shocking Statistics" and "Morality Fever". This is the last I'll write about this book here, but I think I can see where those two are going. Should be a nice close.

So, let me ask you - any similar book recommendations out there? I can truthfully suggest this one, a very quick read. Well said I think. Don't take anything in there personally (he speaks of government, religion, homeopathic medicine and other things that can raise some peoples ire) and read it for what it is. A different way at looking at discussions, at how people present their evidence.


Blogger jimk said....

Two books:
The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Stevn Pinker
How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker.

Neither of these have anything to do with Oracle.(or IT) If you are only going to read one then I would read How the Mind Works. Fasinating book. You don't have to have a degree in psychology to understand it. (I don't) You just have to be fairly bright. (You qualify.)


Mon May 16, 11:58:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

The Faber Book of Science

Lots of essays on all sorts of science related topics (not Oracle scientists of course!) in chronological order. There's a great bit on why painters used to obscure Adam's navel as no-one was sure if he should have one or not.

The pieces are mainly short as well so it's a great one to leave in the w/c:)


Mon May 16, 12:16:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

Well I suppose I'm going to have to take a ride up to B&N to see if they've got this book. Sounds like blood pressure medication may be needed before reading.

I suppose that if you wanted something to really make you think about the nature of truth etc. then you could do worse than the classic "GEB" -- "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid". Send the family away first though, 'cos it's one of those books that I find really demands a good "thinking environment".

Mon May 16, 12:21:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

If you want to shake your head saying "yes,yes" some more, i would suggest "Code Complete" by Steve McConnell:
(i read the 1st edition in 1996)

Lots of real-life experiences distilled and presented there to drive home the point of the Author (sounds familiar?) - experience types ranging fron the pure technical to the managerial, morale, motivation etc ones ...

Mon May 16, 12:34:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Tony said....

I recently finished Blink and found it pretty interesting. There is some interesting social implications to the information provided. Gladwell does a nice job explaining some of the mysteries of the mind. His other book, Tipping Point was good, but not as interesting as Blink was for me.

Next up in my queue is a biography on Tesla that looks promising.

Someone suggested Story
by McKee to me the other day. It details the formula in which most books use to create a story.

Mon May 16, 01:26:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

There's an interesting review (in an interesting format) of "Blink" here

Mon May 16, 01:35:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Bob B said....

The Meme Machine by Richard Dawkins and Susan Blackwell. Its about how people have evolved culturally.

The theories in the book attempt to explain the propogation of myths, habits, languages, dialects, fads, etc.

Mon May 16, 02:00:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous denni50 said....


here's another good read:
"Ecology of Commerce" by Paul Hawken

speaking of "Crimes Against Logic",
the other evening while watching the news..a segment was aired about
several states adopting new education standards teaching Intelligent Design over Evolution, this is nothing more than 'creation
science',restructured to conform to
a religious viewpoint. Very, very
scary stuff(we seem to be moving
backwards to the dark ages)

Mon May 16, 02:48:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Hobson's Choice - because it's a superbly funny tale about a portly, middleaged, intransigent, pompous man who eventually, after raging against the opinions of his family, peers and against life itself, is forced to accept the fact that both his view of the world and his own rules are not necessarily correct. The eponymous hero is named Henry; sadly, not Donald!

Mon May 16, 03:01:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

>> we seem to be moving backwards to the dark ages <<

Denni, you say that like it's a bad thing! I rather think that it's partly the point of the exercise ;)

Mon May 16, 03:03:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

a segment was aired about
several states adopting new education

yes the Washington Post had an article on this... They (the design folks) are trying to redefine the definition of Science in Kansas. Found that both interesting and deja-vu like.

Mon May 16, 03:08:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I hear the Oracle Server Concepts guide is a good read *snicker*. I've also heard that Expert One on One Oracle and Effective Oracle by Design are good reads.

Mon May 16, 03:24:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous denni50 said....

it's not just Kansas, alot of
mid-western,southern states are
also changing their science curricula. Many Science teachers that were interviewed stated they are increasingly being pressured to not teach Evolution.'s a link with an
interesting viewpoint on that subject.

Mon May 16, 03:39:00 PM EDT  

Blogger jimk said....

The whole evolution vs creationism is akin to Galeleo's discovery of a heliocentric solar system. The American Association of Physics Teachers put out a rather nice statement:

Gee, it sounds a lot like Evidence based learning vs appeal to authority based learning. (smirk) Seriosly, the problem is the disengenius use of "facts" to support a political point of view. I really despise that. Both sides of the political spectrum exhibt that behavior and it is sickening.

Mon May 16, 03:54:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

Few books...

"The Code Book"
"Fermat's Last Theorem"

both by Simon Singh. A non-mathematical look at codes/code breaking and one of the biggest mathematical challenges of the last few hundred years.

"The Ice Master"...true story of an ill-fated exploration of the North Pole at the turn of the century...hard going - make's you glad that you chose I.T instead of North Pole exploration :-)

Mon May 16, 07:39:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Doug Burns said....

I like The Pattern on the Stone by Danny Hillis. I often suggest it to people with only a vague interest in computers as a fairly easy but thought provoking read.

While I'm not convinced by everything in The User Illusion, I think it's a fascinating read and always sparks new ideas every time I have a flick back through it.

As for Godel, Escher and Bach, that's sitting on a bookshelf waiting for me to get up the courage!

Mon May 16, 08:24:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Doug Porter said....

Check out The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki.

Kathy Sierra (co-creator of the Head First series of books) has a brief synopsis of the basic concepts from a talk she heard Mr. Surowiecki give at ETech on her blog here

Mon May 16, 10:14:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Sorry for offtopic, but I hope you have fixed this

Mon May 16, 10:29:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Niall said....

Connor beat me to the punch with the two Simon Singh books - the Code Book contains exercises - they are both good.

If biography appeals then the story of Erdos as told by Paul Hoffman in The Man Who Loved Only Numbers is excellent.

If you like ideas and understanding how we think then I think that Sophie's World is a must have. Possibly only a Norwegian could decide to tell the history of philosophy as a Novel and make it both compelling and educational

and finally more Maths, this time a tour through some of the ideas that have shaped mathematics and thus our understanding of the world in The Magical Maze which is the book form of 1997's Royal Institutions Christmas Lectures.If you don't know about the Royal Institution and the Christmas Lectures I suggest you take a look, I'm unaware of any comparable event anywhere in the world.

Bill Brysons A Short History of Nearly Everything is almost as good as its title as well.

Tue May 17, 04:03:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Paul said....

... Britain -- and 35% of the children were living in poverty?

Tom - you do realise that 95% of all statistics are made up don't you?

Tue May 17, 05:20:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Sorry for offtopic

patch was already applied :)

Tue May 17, 07:05:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Bill Brysons....

Yes, I read that one. It was good -- right level/depth I thought.

thanks all for the book recommendations -- my list just got longer...

Tue May 17, 07:06:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Tom said....

"Chaos" - James of the most fascinating books I've ever read. You start seeing chaotic patterns everywhere...

Tue May 17, 07:44:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Ian Murphy said....

May I also take this moment to recommend the Hyperion/Endymion series of books by Dan Simmons:

Fall of Hyperion
Rise of Endymion

Science-fiction books but with an interesting angle - lots of nods towards current society. Oh, and absolutely beautiful.



Tue May 17, 08:27:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Bob B said....

Innumeracy : Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Social Consequences, Beyond Numeracy, and I Think, Therefore I Laugh: The Flip Side of Philosophy all by John Allen Paulos.

These books are about everyday math. One of my favorite examples is when he suggests a richter scale be used for risk assessment. If the risk factor is 6, then you have a 1/1,000,000 chance of dying. After establishing the system, he assigns risk factors to several risks ... earthquakes, flying commercial planes, driving a car, etc.

Tue May 17, 08:39:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Bill S. said....

Two of my favorites are:

Arthur C. CLark - Childhood's End

Dan Brown - Digital Fortress

Currently about 1/3 of the way through Digital Fortress, like it even more than Da Vinci's Code.

Tue May 17, 10:48:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Mark from NY said....

Hi Tom,

Looks like you've already got quite a suggestion list, but I'm going to heartily recommend Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World". I think you'll particularly enjoy the "baloney detection kit" section, wherein Sagan describes many common logical fallacies... Latin names to boot. :)


Tue May 17, 06:30:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

thanks all for the list -- I started with my favorite genre, scifi.

Just ordered the Dan Simmons series...

Wed May 18, 11:03:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Vlado said....

Well if use like Sci-Fi you have probably read the Foundation series by Asimov. If you liked it I recommedn you read the second FOundation series see

Also, check out the Uplift Saga by David Brin...

Fri May 20, 02:48:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Ian Murphy said....


Let me know what you thought of the Dan Simmons books, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.



Sat May 21, 06:38:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Stewart Bryson said....

"The View from Nowhere" by Thomas Nagel. I did my Philosophy Master's Thesis mostly on Nagel's philosophy. He's more of a normative philosopher in the vein of Kant, but his general crux of where disagreement arises in discussions will delight most of you. He considers the subjective and objective perspectives of reality and claims that most confusion in philosophy comes from one of those perspectives trying to subsume the other. A good example... do we have free will? From the objective perspective (or the View from Nowhere, or the God's Eye view, or the view of science) we cannot have free will... there's just to much causation in the world. But from the internal perspective ("through our eyes"), we know we do. Neither perspective of reality is right or wrong, just different. It's like a hardware and software thing...

Mon May 23, 05:35:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Chris said....

Fermat's Last Theorem has some interesting non-technical chapters on mathematical rigour and lack of precision. He talks of Bertrand Russell's strive to rebuild the entirety of Maths from a simple set of axioms

and then Godel coming along and spoiling it...

Mon May 30, 04:33:00 AM EDT  


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