Disasters in logic

Scott Adams should probably revisit his assumptions if he wants to play with logic:

After reading the replies to my prior post, I am forced to administer this logic test to the believers among us. Find the error in either the assumptions or the line of reasoning.

1. Ordinary people can be convinced to believe almost any ridiculous thing.

2. I am an ordinary person.

3. Therefore, it is POSSIBLE that I have already been convinced to believe something ridiculous.

1. DEPENDS. Every individual, ordinary or extraordinary, CAN theoretically be convinced to believe ridiculous things. However, there is no shortage of examples demonstrating how ordinary people cannot be convinced to believe things that are both non-ridiculous and demonstrably true, even if the aforementioned thing is not complex and require no formal scientific training beyond the ability to read or listen.

I would have agreed with this statement: “Every human being is capable of believing information that is factually incorrect.”

2. FALSE. This depends on the precise definition of ordinary, of course, but if we apply Ockham’s razor and assume the most common definition, I have numerous pieces of paper as well as copious statistical evidence that this is not the case. Moreover, even the most ordinary person is extraordinary in some way; I imagine that convincing people that they are ordinary would be harder than “rounding off the edges” of what Mr. Adams considers to be their misplaced beliefs.

3. FALSE. The assumptions are flawed, ergo the conclusion fails even though I strongly agree with it on other grounds.

Scott’s bigger problem is that many believers are already inured to pure reason by faith. For example, every Christian knows that he is incapable of grasping God’s wisdom, moreover, most Christians have witnessed this sort of shoddy logic, or worse, outright fraud and factual ignorance, used for similar purposes. Having seen the sociologists, psychologists, archeologists and historians repeatedly embarrass themselves in incompetent attempts to attack the bases of Christian belief, most intellectually inclined Christians are more likely to roll their eyes than experience a crisis of doubt when presented with yet another nominally reason-based assault on their faith.

I think anyone who doesn’t fully grasp the current state of quantum mechanics and world politics is foolish to even attempt to play at this game. Such a tiny minority have even the smallest understanding of the verities of the natural world that it is insane to expect anyone to be capable of comprehending the supernatural.

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