There are a lot of dumb posts on
After much pondering, I think I have discovered the answer. It is based on a profile that identifies the typical
1. University educated
3. Computer programmer
Points 1 and 2 are fairly obvious. University students tend to be idealists, and intelligent people are often good at rationalization, which is the misapplication of logic. But the "computer programmer" factor adds an additional factor that I hadn't noticed until recently: Boolean logic.
Computer programmers are used to dealing almost exclusively with Boolean logic. That is, after all, the way that computers work... digital, binary, precise. So I guess it should come as no surprise that many programmers have trouble debating real world issues, which tend to involve fuzzy logic, statistics, and shades of gray. (Actually, it comes as a little bit of surprise to me, since *I* am a computer programmer and *I* prefer statistical reasoning to Boolean logic.) This is not to say that members of the general public are likely to know anything about statistics, but I have higher expectations for someone who is educated in math and the sciences.
Perhaps the disctinction between the techniques is not clear to you, but it makes a big difference. Consider the following logical argument:
1. A || B
Translated into real world terms, "We have to choose either A or B. A is bad, so we had better choose B." This exhibits several characteristics of black and white thinking. Ignoring the possibility of a 3rd option C, this immediately assumes that you have to choose either A or B and not a compromise between the two. The second error is in assuming that just because A is bad, it can't be preferrable to B. Sometimes you have to choose between the lesser of two evils.
Try applying the above logic to any of the common arguments
Here's another one:
1. There exists some x:A such that A=>B
Translated into plain English, "B is possible, therefore B is true." Here is another example where Boolean logic differs from statistical reasoning. To a statistician, one piece of anecdotal evidence doesn't prove anything, but in Boolean logic it proves that B is possible. For example, if one open source company out of 1,000,000 makes a profit, a Boolean logician will say that it is possible to make money selling open source software and a statistician will say that it isn't.
So what am I saying here... That now that we have recognized our differences we should celebrate our diversity? No, of course not. Boolean logic may apply to the limited field of computer programming, but it should not be used to decide social issues... So stop it already!
This has been another entry in my ongoing series of journal entries that critique the many false arguments you read every day on