Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ten simple mistakes

Ten simple mistakes

There are some simple mistakes that people can make that might have far-reaching and potentially disastrous consequences for them or for other people.

1) Never mistake erudition for intelligence. Some of the most erudite people are like those rural jug bands. Able to make a hell of a lot of noise (some which sounds fairly musical, too) but when you examine it close to, it is just, after all, an empty vessel and so much hot air.

2) Just because someone has an education does not mean that they are intelligent or more clever than you or anyone else. For when all is said and done, if you take a stupid person and give them an education you will only ever get what you started with. You will merely end up with a stupid person with an education! As the old saying goes, you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

3) Just because someone reaches the right conclusion does not mean that their methods to reach the conclusion were correct. For example, a racist person might tell you that a black man is a thief. Suppose that he is right, and that the man is a thief? But what if he reached that conclusion based on the false idea that ALL black people are thieves? Sometimes people are right by accident.

4) Just because person A might believe they are right, dos not make them right, automatically.

5) Do not confuse sophistry with valid, reasoned argument or debate. Sophistry means an argument that is misleading or fallacious. Some people use sophistry deliberately whilst others get caught up in their own verbosity and employ sophistry almost by accident.

6) Some people believe that something is wrong merely because they are too stupid to understand the arguments involved. Ignorance is not bliss. A bunny on a railway line is ignorant and will remain in bliss. Right up until the moment of impact.

7) Substituting quotes for debate or reasoned argument or intelligent debate merely indicates that the person spouting the quotes lacks any real depth in their arguments.

8) Some people employ circular reasoning. “I do not agree with what you say, because I am much more clever than you. And because I am much more clever than you, I do not agree with what you say.”

9) Failure to understand or wilful misapplication of Occam’s Razor. (I am indebted to Scott Adams for pointing this out in “The Joy of Work”) Scott Adams points out that Occam’s Razor “says the simplest explanation is usually right.” I will cite the erroneous application of Occam’s Razor that Scott Adams uses: “The simplest explanation for the moon landings is that they were hoxes.”

10) Scott Adams also points out that some people ignore anecdotal evidence with no good reason. “Example: I always get hives immediately after eating strawberries But without a scientifically controlled experiment, it’s not reliable data. So I continue to eat strawberries every day, since I can’t tell if they cause hives.”

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