Reasoning - a way we get to the truth and make sense of the world- connected to science, rationalism and skepticism

I have always been a fan of logic and lateral thinking This page has my notes on reasoning, logic and thinking.

What is Reasoning ?
- We form a frameworkof our world and ideas
- The framework is influenced by our culture/religion
- Reasoning helps us manage our lives and solve problems
- Reasoning helps us come up with New Ideas which improve our lives

- 1. Problems with Reasoning
Why we Need to Think about Thinking .

Humans Have a Fantasy View of Life Not The Reality

- 1. Humans are genetically designed to be irrational so beings rational is difficult for us.

- 2. Our frame of reference is skewed by our culture/religion

- 3. The Fantasy Factor : People don't have realistic anticipations. No they think of the dream house, dream job, dream marriage, dream holiday, dream car.

- most people spend most of their lives deluded .. They believe in a happy Christmas when almost certainly there will be rows. They are constantly chasing dreams, big house, ideal marriage, dream vacation etc which won't make them as happy as they think... It gives them something to live for, but spend a lot of time running up the wrong path.

- 4.The Nightmare Factor : People have an over-preoccupation with negative events which are extremely unlikely : "Oh my god I am going to get cancer, the kids are going to be seized by paedophiles, I'm going to be murdered by a stranger, the country is completely falling apart."

- 5. Fear Impact is high : So it's a lot easier to spread fear than information

- 6. A high percentage of our idea of the world comes through the distorting lens of the media.
- Popular Media is the enemy of promoting good reasoning : - The drive for ratings distorts
- but other things distort also : Mainstream Films made to a formula, politicians, advertising and marketing and things that distort our frames of reference like religion. See the essay below Garbage In = Garbage Out

Garbage In = Garbage Out
Why there is So Much bad Reasoning Around
- Ideally we collect the evidence and we form the Framework or Picture of the subject we are thinking about, but if we get imperfect evidence then we end up with a distorted picture which is different from reality.

- Is there any wonder that people are confused as their evidence comes through distorting filters ? They don't see much raw evidence as most of their idea of the world comes through the Popular media, films, Politics, religion and advertising material.
- Popular media distort the evidence by choosing the most dramatic headlines and a secondary level as things which are closer to them get reported ie. stories involving London or the media get reported more frequently than things that happen to other people in other parts of the country.
- Mainstream Films are usually made to a formula like there must be beautiful people, must fit exisiting actors, there must be a love/sex interest, the big nation of the target market like Americans, Chinese, Indians etc must be the winners. Things can't be too difficult or complicated cos it has to fit into 90 minutes etc. Hence people think love is so easy. Note how in novela arguments are not settled by rational argument, but rather by load emoional entertaining drama.
- politicians shout loudest and longest about the things that suit their own agenda.
- Advertising and marketing has to sell it's product so ends up teaching people that they are not beautiful nor happy until they have the product. marketing tells us things like natural = healthy etc. Does it make us unhappy by telling us that we are being ripped off by other supermarkets ? Note how things that are more enjoyable and healthier like fruit and tap water water lose out in attention to processed products. There are no brainwashing adverts telling people to eat fruit or how to pickup things for free or second-hand.

- Frames of reference : There are 2 things the evidence itself and our frame of reference. When you think about it when any evidence comes along we also see it with reference to our own existing culture.

- Living in a Bubble - people often seem to be living in a bubble & really can't understand some elses point of view. In a debate both sides often seem to be living in different bubbles, but I do believe there is some real objective truth & both sides have reached it cos they are stuck in a bubble they have assumptions "it's obvious isn't it", which haven't been properly tested. (I not sure if this is just a different way of expressing what I just said)
- Things that effect our Frames of reference : Newspapers/media, your family friends, school, workplace, Movements like the green movement, feminist, gay, Religion etc

- Religion - And in many cultures people would be accustomed to seeing things through religion glasses.

- If it fit's our bubble we'll accept it Bertrand Russell* pointed this out many years ago: “If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.” "Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts", said Richard Feynman.

- Fake Dreams - Partly due to culture and partly due to marketing the public don't have realistic anticipations. Instead they have dreams of perfect house, perfect marriage, perfect car, perfect holiday.
- advertising tells you the Porshe will be so much better, but it pratical use a Lada will get you to work the same way ...And you don't have to worry about the Lada being scratched or stolen.

- So instead of garbage put some INSPIRATION and ENLIGHTENMENT into your head by listening to the stuff on my Radio and Lecture podcasts page

Popular Media is the enemy of promoting good reasoning :
- The drive for ratings distorts
- A high percentage of our idea of the world comes through the distorting lens of the media.
- However the truth is just not sexy enough to get the highest ratings/profits - so the media resort to Information Porn i.e. hyping headlines and twisting the story to appeal to the emotions. -Popular News media distorts for ratings/profits

- 1. The need for a sexy headline is the root of media distortion - Stories begin with a headline - "Survey shows your life is in peril !" is always chosen over "Survey shows nothing new at all"

- 2. Focusing on the emotional angle sells, but distorts - In popular media see how the emotional tale of 1 mother counts more than a scientific analysis of a 1000 situations. Note how the two things are often balanced against each other as if they carry the same weight.

- Likewise notice how in soap operas overemotion is used all the time. "Oh, mother my whole world is falling apart"

- Films formula for profits also distorts- Mainstream Film and Movie makers conform to FORMULA : beautiful people, love interest, baddies - and thus reinforce an untrue picture of real life.
-Reality TV in a similar way provides a distorted view of reality through manipulation and editing for ratings

- modern movies usually waste my time. They can't just take an original story they have to twist it to fit a formula, they have to have a love scene, a sex scene, violence. I hate the characters Time and time I invest my time in watching a film and end feeling disappointed

- How can we deskew the market so that truth makes the most money ?

The Road to Better Reasoning

- We are always busy busy, we assume and think about things in a peripheral way, but to understand a topic we have to drop thoughts of other things and FOCUS

- Once we have focus I find we can FLOW i.e. build up a framework of the topic joint by joint and use this framework to build things and solve problems

Critical Thinking and Scientific Method Method vs Rote Learning

- Critical thinking is scientific thinking as pointed out in the essay AN INTRODUCTION TO CRITICAL THINKINGbySteven D. Schafersman
and justified true belief is the same thing
evidence based vs science based is different as pointed out by SGU's Steven Novella
- Rote learning is the enemy good thinking - it teaches people to believe everything authority says, so it comes unstuck the moment authority gets it wrong whereas with critical thinking the arguments are retested by every individual so mistakes are not so easily carried forward.

- teaching raw maths can be seen as rote learning ..applying it is critical thinking

- Good ideas often come from not thinking about the subject actively, but actually out of sudden inspiration

- not finished the analysis of this essay

Magic is a key to promoting reasoning skills
-Teaching Kids Magic teaches good reasoning skills - It teaches kids to say "OK it seems that X has happened, but maybe there is another explanation which also explains the situation without the need for something mysterious and magical."
- see "I can Derren Brown's trick"
- Magicians like Derren Brown, Richard Wiseman and writers like Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Vonnegut who constantly come up with alternative thinking in their writing really contribute to promoting thinks skills.

Humour is the 2nd key to promoting reasoning skills
-clever jokes cause people to exercise their minds as to alternative ways of thinking.

- 2. Reasoning Techniques - Rational and Scientific

Reasoning Techniques : What is Good what is bad
INTRO - With good reasoning practices we can make better decisions. There are a few common bad thinking practices which lead to counterproductive and wasteful solutions ...

Good Reasoning Techniques

  • Good Decision Making is based on truth (provable facts) & logic
    this can be called the Scientific Method or Critical Thinking.
    - Relying on dogma and rote learning is the opposite see the section below
  • open mind
  • gather your info .. as much as you can not just newspapers
  • challenge your info : remove garbage & superstition
  • Credibility : Check your sources, back to the root. But even it comes from a vested interests it doesn't mean it's wrong; it's the facts not the speaker.
  • take your time/ don't rush it
  • seek opinions
  • look for different angles
  • identify the real issue/problem. It's not always what you first think it is
  • Be skeptical if it sounds too good to be true then it's not true
  • Be careful about assumptions
  • be skeptical
  • Test and prove - if it works all the time it's probably a good theory.
  • It's the action that's Important - Climate Change Believers & CC skeptics might agree about reducing consumption - so don't get hung up on taking sides
  • Don't have an argument : have a discussion instead and be prepared to move towards better truth rather than trying to "win"

Bad Reasoning Techniques

In reasoning people are quite correctly using logic, but then they do other things which skew their results.

  • wanting to believe
  • Refusing to listen or "thought stopping" as taught by cults
  • refusing to say "I don't know": The vacuum of understanding - it sucks in Woo woo
  • Wanting simple easy solutions
  • ignoring the data if contradicts above.
  • 2 big words
    - context - is the use right in this circumstance ?
    - perspective - is it a big thing or a small thing ?
  • getting your info from newspapers - lack perspective cos 1. they sensationalise 2. unfull picture i.e. focus on cute children or London etc
  • running in the wrong direction : going on a "stop the war demo" doesn't change the world but, stopping reflecting negative vibes onto other people, shouting at kids or spouse etc does.
  • playing safe .. fear of being wrong so sticking with the crowd
  • romantising
  • false info like : fake traditions - Santa Claus, kilts

    we are hearing a lot of this kind of thinking

    A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, "Lets smash the can open with a rock." The chemist says, "Lets build a fire and heat the can first." The economist says, "Lets assume that we have a can-opener..."

Notes of Detecting bad arguments

- Carl Sagan's "Baloney Detection Kit"

- Coffin's list of how to argue

- I analysed a book about logical fallacies, but it turned out to be written by a creationist who twisted the idea of fallacies to suit his argument details here... So I compiled my own list :

Argument Fallacies Checklist by me

1. Bad Facts, if it sounds incredible, then it's not credible until until it comes from many sources
2. Anecdotal evidence , sorry it doesn't count for much.. scientific and statistical evidence please.. i.e real not pseudo
3. False cause and effect, maybe X causes Y or maybe coincidence or maybe Y causes X (see 8 and 9 in skeptoid list)
4. Of Course - no you need proof for eveything no assumptions. "Of course there's a God, who created the Earth ?"
5. Everyone Says or There's a consensus ... well the world has 1.4billion "Muslims", but that doesn't prove there's a god who wrote the Koran. Each major world religion has many billions of members yet they contradict each other
Theres probably 2 billion smokers .. Still it's a stupid thing
A million doctors said stress causes ulcers until 1 doctor proved it's bacteria.
Everyone Says - Following the crowd is not logic. Everyone goes there so it must be great. Everyone watches that so it must be interesting. Everyone eats it so I must be tasty. No , I make my own decisions.
6. False Dichotomy - splitting the world in 2 whereas more that 2 views exist. e.g. "You are with us or against us." Bush Jr . No, you can respect X and have a different opinion from them ie. think that X's own actions are not in it's own best interests.
7. Ad hominem - attacking the man not the argument with the exception of challenging hypocrisy
8. Strawman fallacy - instead of attacking your "opponents real arguments" you misrepresent their argument and attack that instead
8a - Anti-enemy - "this idea, comes from the enemy, so it must be wrong. Them & Us mentality. No even terrorists agree that child abuse is wrong !
- A common example is : Blaming "the Americans" for everything. Stupid cos by saying this you are falsely dividing the world in two
8b- Black and white world magnitude fallacy - "My maths teacher, my local park keeper : He's a Nazi". No he's not : Setting a bit of extra homework is not the same as rounding up everybody of a certain race and seeking to exterminate them. The real world is complicated and technicolour, so dividing it into simple black and white is a fallacy of magnitude.
9. fallacy - false respect for authority / not the facts
10. fallacy - I'm sure there's another, but I forgot
11. False Anology
12. Special Pleading - Ah but this is a special exception ..blah blah the following is a variation
13. Disaster Special - "Ah this time it's an emergency so we haven't got time to argue"
14. Overconfidence in Authoritylike relying on the historian Tim Flannery as an expert on Climate.
- "Yes, but if you say 99% of scientists believe X", that's not a proof, but it certainly adds a lot of weight.
- surely a lot of arguments are like this, where a 100% proof is not possible so weight counts ?
15. Language Tricks

16. Confirmation Bias - This is a very common fallacy. It's like false cause and effect. You note the events when it confirms your pet theory but ignore the times it doesn't.
e.g. When Yuri Geller is on the TV and the lights flicker . People say "Yuri made the lights flicker", but the fact is normally they don't look for strange effects so the hundreds of times the lights flickered when Yuri wasn't on TV they weren't thinking about it.

Crime of passifying Bertrand Russell* pointed this out many years ago: “If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.” "Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts", said Richard Feynman.

Is there a standard fallacy list ? has a good podcast on Fallacies
- He uses different names to me, I think my list is better

Part 1
1 - Strawman
2 - Attack the man
3 - Appeal to Authority
4 - Special Pleading - e.g. you can't understand God
5 - Anecdotal evidence
6 - Observational selection = surely same as confirmation bias
7 - Appeal to Ignorance - saying that lack of evidence proves the negative
8 - Non-Sequitur - assigning a false cause and effect
9 - Post Hoc - assigning cause and effect just cos 1 thing happened it doesn't mean it caused the change
10 - Slipperly slope - suggesting an action will cause extreme disaster this also false cause and effect

Part 2
1 - Excluded middle - he means false dichotomy as the truth isn't always the middle
2 - Small sample size - he means evidence should come from scientific method
3 - Weasel words - ie loaded terms like "intelligent design" - yes but lets see beyond the names WRONG : they're words like "may" or "might" etc that allow you to claim anything while retaining an escape route in case you're wrong.
4 - loaded question - surely this is false dichotomy "this the first time you killed someone ?"
5 - Red Herring - irrelevant fact
6 - Proof by Verbosity - dazzlle by weight.
7 - Poisoning the wells - again a language trick.
8 - Bandwagon fallacy - I call this "everyone says"'


Jamie Whyte wrote some good sounding books,but when I checked he turns out to be a rightwing NZ philosopher - his own arguments are full of fallacies

- ZWOOP : German decision making system I saw demonstrated in Panama

- Being Skeptical i.e. not taking things at face value is an intrinsic part of good reasoning. See the the Science , the Humanism and the, Opinion Blog Index pages
- also Ideas page, Betterworld Ideas, Future Culture Ideas, Champion Things in life page

ADBUSTERS Adbusters the campaign against advertising & consumption
though at last look their website was quite shallow and not to their own principles

- Oz site about argument maps

85semler2.htm 7 Day Weekend By: Ricardo Semler 2003 owner of a Brazilian company Semco came up with a completely new system of management ..empower and trust your workers,great

- 60 The philosophy gym : 25 short adventures in thinking by Law, Stephen. Also v good The Philosophy Files

BOOK6HAT.htm 6 Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

My essays on reasoning and Thinking
also see the Ideas and Essays Index and the Opinion Blog Index

- We Always get a Distorted view of Truth - 04/11/07
- Michael Stermer on Skepticality why people like simple mystical answers instead of complex truth
- Positive discrimination can't work there isn't a magic dichotomy between advantaged/disadvantaged
- Notes from Malaysia Creative Thinking Festival

Negative Thinking, why I think it's important :
- The power of negative thinking : People say don't be negative think positive ..this is stupid and simplistic. An architect /engineer has think negative e.g. what if there is an earthquake etc. so he can design a building safely. I agree with E de B you put on your positive hat and look for the good things, then you put on your negative hat and look for possible problems.

- Is there a clear link between happiness and intelligence ? ie the more intelligent a person is the unhappier they will be

- If you have scientific facts then you can make planning and good decisions, if you don't you can't just rely on the newspapers. e.g. If you ingest a kilo of cyanide then you will die 100% guaranteed. In other cases it's much more difficult e.g. smoke a packet of cigarettes a day you'll probably die early, you have a hell of a time working out the probabilities. Now we know it's. definitely not a good idea to smoke a packet a day, but 1 or 2 cigs in your life time isn't going to make a great difference

Alternatives to logic : Gut Thinking and fractals : Dec 2008
- Pure Logic is not all cracked up to be - Stuff I have come across recently seems to show thinking about thinking is moving to the next level. What we are hearing about is biology evolved steps. Principly what I heard from a Gird Gigerenzer lecture pc454t about how gut thinking really works, because some of the instincts come from things that evolved to stay in our brains hardwiring cos they work. This ties in with what De Bono says about 6 Thinking shoes .. there are many thinking techniques

- Also on the same page pc441 the forecasting expert said how fractal patterns often produced better lines than mathematical models.
- seems to me the bottom line is : logic is king, but test all techniques to see if they work. Techniques which work, but don't appear at first to be logical will turn out to have logic behind them

- Also see the Opinion blog on selling and persuassion pc440 , pc441

The works of Edward de Bono and Tony Buzan Are very important to me.

- Edward de Bono - "invented the term lateral thinking", which puts into words the importance of looking at things from different angles.

- De Bono's thoughts on education are enlightening : "why do people think education is about big buildings like universities, when actually it's about aquiring new skills - he the professor of Harvard and Cambridge then goes on to criticise universities -
- 1. they give education in a single dose for life, instead of life long learning.
- 2. they are situated outside real life ie not in industry and even on the edge of towns
- 3. They are elitist etc

- My own feeling is if you want to learn about something then do it.

Travel and Challenging peoples values

- There are always two sides to every argument and consistently I find both are wrong, when you use true facts and logic.

- Furthermore travel teaches us to challenge our own values. These days in every country many things accepted as normal to me are irrational. But I think I often annoy some people cos many people including travelers don't like to have their values challenged. If you respect people you tell them the truth.

Interesting Teaching Idea

- ask pupils for answer, but instead of saying "yes you are right/wrong" ask again 6 people and then discuss, that gets them thinking.

Loss is more important than Gain - Another flaw in Human Logic
- I already gave 2 examples of why humans are not rational : 1. The Fantasy Factor (over positive) 2. The Nightmare Factor (dwell on unlikely disasters)

- 1. Humans are genetically designed to be irrational so beings rational is difficult for us.

- The idea that loss and disappointment are more important than gain and new- having something something and then losing it hurts much more than not having the thing in the first place
- (Superfreakanomics) As women's income has gone up their happiness has gone down.
- When men get married they are £15K happier, but lose £65K happiness in divorce or £350K if their partner dies (The Independent 17/11/09)

- does this make humans risk averse ? Win the car rally and you might not have to work for 5 years, but well you can't enjoy anything if you are dead.

- You might be afraid of your business not succeeding, but you might have 5 failures and then you found a company like Apple


- Schlomo Sands the invention of the Jewish people - This historian shows in his book that idea of the Jewish nation is just as false as the idea of the Geman nation. Around 100 years ago when Germans were beginning to come up with mythical ideas on the beginning of the German race the Jews there also came up with a foundation myth i.e. that the Jews had been expelled en masse from Israel by the Romans. This idea had not existed before and Sands concludes that up until 400AD the Jews had been very sucessful in evangilising the Jewish religion and that's why Judaism were spread across the globe and most of the members were not genetically related to people born in Israel.

- Such books as Freakonomics and Supercrunchers show that by analysisng data you come up with ideas which are contrary to popular assumptions like that lower crime in the the US states corresponds to whether they have legalised abortion or not.

- Thinking and Ideas Podcasts - certain progs focus on depth and not taking the obvious : The Forum, Start the week and midweek other focus on more depth in the ideas : In Our Time, BBC FOOC, see also science podcasts

- Thinking as connected to alternative ideas

- Alternatives to reasoning- Trying things out and working towards a better solution and looking at alternate perspectives

- Precautionary Principle some one had a good argument against it. You can't always stick with the precautionary principle : risk of doing something has to balanced with the risks of not doing something..

The Wall of Wisdom
- if you want to learn then do (don't study)
- if you want to understand and remember then teach it !
Professor of work Russel Aycalf

- It's a lot easier to spread fear than information

- wisdom is knowing you know nothing - Aristotle

- Tags : Thinking, Reasoning, Logic

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