Crimes against logic

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CRIMES AGAINST LOGIC

Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders

Jamie Whyte

Contents Preface 1 – The Right to Your Opinion The Irrelevant Right Rights and Duties Opinion Duties 2 – Motives

Political Motives Spotting the Motive Fallacy 3 – Authority The People Matters of Opinion Victims Celebrities 4 – Prejudice in Fancy Dress MysteryFaith Odds On Weird Science But Still ’Tis Evident 5 – Shut Up! Shut Up—You’re Not Allowed to Speak Shut Up—You’re Boring Shut Up—You Sound Like Hitler 6 – Empty Words Jargon Weasel Words Hooray Words Quotation Marks 7 – Inconsistency Implied Generalizations Weird Ideas

Real Contradictions 8 – Equivocation Poverty and Poverty Exploitation, Mexploitation Verbal Solutions 9 – Begging theQuestion Tolerance Intolerance Begging Political Questions Disguised Assumptions 10 – Coincidence What You’d Expect Coincidental Healing Thank You Lord for Making Me Likely 11 – Shocking Statistics British Poverty Switching Banks and Other Lies Dope with Dad? Anorexia and Other Big Small Numbers 12 – Morality Fever What’s Wicked Is False What’s Beneficial Is True The Meek Shall Inherit the Truth BeSerious Footnotes Publication Information

About Crimes Against Logic Copyright Notice eBook Version Notes

Preface

p. ix All self-help books should begin with a confession. Here is mine: I write letters to the editor. “Outraged of London,” that’s me. I am getting better, though. I often don’t send the letters, and sometimes I don’t even write them. If I had a therapist, he would be pleased bymy progress.

But I must also confess that there has been no deep reform of my character. I still want to write those letters. It’s just that what gets me so riled doesn’t seem to be of the least interest to the editor of the London Times. Nor to my increasingly fewer friends, who yawn and roll their eyes as I explain my concerns—or “rant,” as the less kind among them say.

What bothers me somuch?

Errors in reasoning. Fallacies. Muddled thinking. Call it what you like; you know the kind of thing I mean.

Because you have chosen to read a book with the title Crimes Against Logic, you may be more sympathetic than my friends and p. x the editor of the Times. And sympathy is called for. The modern world is a noxious environment for those of us bothered by logical error. People mayhave become no worse at reasoning, but they now have so many more opportunities to show off how bad they are. If anyone cared about our suffering, talk radio and op-ed pages would be censored. Even Congress is now broadcast, as if no torment were too great.

Why are we protesters so lonely? Why don’t the other consumers of all this defective thinking complain to the supplier, and to whoever elsewill listen, as they would if their washing machines leaked or their cars wouldn’t start?

The simple answer is that most people don’t notice the problem. When a car breaks down, anyone can see that it has even if he knows nothing about how cars work. Reasoning is different. Unless you know how reasoning can go wrong, you can’t see that it has. The talking doesn’t stop, no steam emerges fromthe ears, the eyes don’t flash red. Perhaps one day someone will design a device whereby logical errors set off some such alarm, and no politician, journalist, or businessperson will be allowed to speak without having the device applied. Until that happy day, however, we must all rely on our own ability to spot errors in reasoning.

Alas, most know next to nothing about the ways reasoning can gowrong. Schools and universities pack their minds with invaluable pieces of information—about the nitrogen cycle, the causes of World War II, iambic pentameter, and trigonometry—but leave them incapable of identifying even basic errors of logic. Which makes for a nation of suckers, unable to resist the bogus reasonp. xiing of those who want something from them, such as votes or money or devotion....
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