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July 25, 2002

Some Basic Principles of Logic

It never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to be completely oblivious to the most basic principles of logic. I'll see a debate where someone makes a statement, something to the effect of "'A' is a fact". And someone will come along and show how "A" can't be conclusively proven to be true, so therefore their statement is invalid, since there's no way of proving if it's true. The first person will inevitably come back with the claim, that unless it's proven false, it must be accepted as true. No reason is given why it must be accepted as true, only the demand that it be. And this is seen by the first person and a concrete, undeniable argument. Where do people learn this?

I think part of the problem may come from a source most people wouldn't suspect. Most scientists I know, were in part inspired to get into their field through science fiction. Face it most of today's scientists were yesterday's nerds. And nerds love science fiction. But one thing that's fairly common in science fiction is that where modern technology ends, science fiction authors use imagination, conjecture and wishful thinking. They learn enough science to make sure they don't look stupid, but learn quickly how to bluff their way around speculation of future technology. But to do this they have to substitute imagination for fact. Many times forcing their readers to suspend their own reasoning in order to accept implausible events. Science fiction is built on wishful thinking, and it seems much of today's science, as well as science education is as well. They aren't satisfied with the here and now, they want to extrapolate the then and there, and too many times that means ignoring salient facts.

Look at our space program. How many billions of dollars have we spent on it, all for the supposedly lofty goal of "exploration", yet the realistic goal of exploiting space technology for our immediate benefit is looked upon as filthy capitalist greed. So we wind up with an incredibly expensive space program that more than likely would have been paying for itself long ago had we simply applied to practicality to it. But if you look through the most popular science fiction authors you see the beginnings of space exploration done by government for "purely humanitarian" reasons (as if governments are always selfless benevolent entities). And you see capitalism treated as some sort of soiled, corrupt evil that occasionally infects the universe. The fact that capitalism has brought about more humanitarian benefit than any other economic approach is ignored. That suspension of logic, that blindness to reality, has been the foundation of the production of our modern day scientists and educators since the 50's.

And now we see the results in people that can't comprehend simple logic. From those who claim there are no absolutes (the claim itself is an assertion of an absolute) to those who adamantly claim their pet theory of origins must be fact, and get offended when it's pointed out that by doing so they've made it a religion.


Posted by Jack Lewis at July 25, 2002 05:43 PM