Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Drawing Inferences

One of the most important aspects of reason is how we go from the specific to the general. This is called inductive reasoning. It's essential to human life, but it's something that also leads to every error (there's an example of induction for ya).

Donald Trump says that there should be a moratorium on Islamic immigration into the US. He is not suggesting that all Muslims are terrorists, but he is suggesting that there is a strong link between Islamic immigrants and terrorist attacks in the US. His enemies say that this is racist (actually, it would not be racism but bigotry). They say that to judge a huge group by a small element is wrong.

But is it? And when is it?

SARS outbreaks means pay special attention to people arriving in Pearson from Hong Kong. Ebola, same, though with people from West Africa.

Liberals don't want Trump suggesting a link between terrorism and Islam nor drugs and unemployment benefits and Mexicans.

And yet, racism and the NRA, violence and the NRA is fine.

Bigotry and a lack of learning and Christianity is fine.

Political conservatism and selfishness is fine, although studies have shown that conservatives give more to charities than liberals.

Liberals are nice and funny and easy-going, while conservatives are stiff and humorless, at least this is what Hollywood would have us believe.

As I said, induction is essential. It keeps us alive. Although it is not true that all raw chicken is infected with salmonella, it makes sense to always wash your hands after you handle it.

It's not always logically sound, though, but that's not the point. It comes down to a cost-benefit calculation. Washing your hands costs you very little and the potential benefit is huge.

Apparently like 500 TSA agents have been arrested since 9/11 and no terrorists caught by them. None. How much did that cost? But the TSA is a deterrent too, so although it seems like a massive failure, that might be too simplistic a conclusion.

The pill is carcinogenic. Abortion is too. Smoking cigarettes is bad for you, but not all smokers die of lung cancer. Marijuana is bad for you too, but it's oh so cool, apparently.

Black people steal more than white people per capita. Women take more sick days than men and complain about getting paid less.

Politics, it seems to me, is all about the kinds of inductions you allow yourself to draw. I suppose it's about the ones that serve your a priori beliefs.

What if the California shooters had been white supremacists? It wouldn't make those 14 people any more or less dead. But it would have made liberals happy. Yes, happy.

White, black, brown and yellow people can kill and have killed. They have done it with guns, knives, peanut butter and wires (but probably not all in conjunction), but only specific scenarios serve the narrative we spin and believe in.

The fact is, I don't know what the optimal tax rate is for a healthy economy - but neither does anyone else. And yet, we are quick to point to stereotypes of the tax-dodging tycoon or the welfare-abuser when it serves our purpose, as if we know what the solution is to society's woes.

Stereotypes are powerful political metaphors. Politics is not about reason, but feeling.

Pope Francis seems quite unintelligible to thinking theologians in the West. Why? Because he is reacting to his own boogeymen. He sees the Church filled with hateful Pharisees. He couldn't be statistically more incorrect, as Pope Benedict's phrase, the "dictatorship of relativism" makes clear. So where did he get this idea from? From the peculiar case of South America, where the Church had been dominated by a wealthy elite, who was very often in collusion with the dictatorial regimes in those countries.

The pope's betes noire (did I pluralize that correctly?), he has to realize, do not control much of anything. Are the Catholic universities in the West controlled by Pharisees or by relativists? And how's Germany working for ya? A bastion of fidelity?

We are all fighting the manifestations that our a priori beliefs have foisted upon us. It seems to me that a reasonable thing to do is to see how far these actually, or do not actually, correspond to reality.

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