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Memories of the 28th Century

The Joy of False Premises

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A couple of days ago I was involved in an excellent example of the problem with false premises. If one selects the premises of an argument properly, then one can prove any argument using pseudo-logical methods. That is why using false premises is a logical fallacy.

I was just trying to provide some interesting small talk and mentioned how I had again found a phishing site that was using one of my books as bait for people to leave their credit card information. I recounted informing the feds and how this was the third time when I had found such a site. Then I mentioned how in the search that found hat site was a result leading to a letter to the editor I had written a few years ago. The letter was about what a foolish idea reparations for slavery was, and it ended with 'but if it is decided to hand out reparations, then remember that some of my ancestors were slaves also, so I should also get reparations. The person I was talking with was set off by that. She asserted that my ancestor's slavery was different, and I couldn't put it in the same category, etc. When I asked why, she couldn't find any reason, except that I wasn't one of the kind of people to whom she wanted to give extra benefits.

Maybe I'm missing something, but if two people have a characteristic in common, then they are the same in that way. She seems to think that skin color makes us different, which is racism, but she took that as one of her premises.

It seems odd that the people who want reparations for slavery aren't the people who were slaves, and the people who they expect to pay the reparations aren't the people who benefitted from slavery. People of the Ashanti tribe have admitted that their tribe would be much poorer, if their ancestors hadn't sold some of their neighbors to traders who sold some of those to Arabs and others to Atlantic slave traders, who sold them in the West Indies. But there are no demands for the Ashanti to pay the descendants of those they had enslaved. I wonder why.

The woman with whom I was speaking insisted that regardless of who profited that I should be made to pay for the slavery, without bothering to explain how the people who had been enslaved would benefit from that.

I tried to point out that her opinions seemed to be based on false premises, but that didn't seem to make any impression. Then today I was having lunch with some acquaintances, and there was a person who is known to be delusional nearby, and we commented about how sad that is.

I later reflected that the second person's delusions about mind control were no wilder than the delusions I heard a few days ago about reparations for slavery. The difference was in the subject matter and how it was expressed. I was originally going to write again how tailoring one's premise to the situation can be advantageous, until I realized that that would give validity to delusions and conspiracies. While not all delusions are of equal significance, al delusions are based on false premises. I expect that everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and sometimes the evidence can be ambiguous, but the universe is fundamentally logical: events follow logically from prior causes, and when one can tease out the exact causes of one event, then one might be able to predict a future event from that.

While that is fundamentally true, the culture of humans is such that people are unwilling to accept the logical and sane matter of cause and effect. Peculiar religious and just weird ideas are afforded the same respect as facts, and recently here in the U.S.A. operating from false premises has been given almost official recognition, since Trump's delusional reasoning is running parts of the U.S. government. There usually is a reaction to such extremes, so we may have a few sane presidents, and, if we are especially lucky, we may even have one who believes in logic.

Reflecting on these matters of logic has made me want to do something that will encourage people to think a little more rationally, even if it hurts. Another thing I did earlier was to point out that human actions are determined, because everything results from causes that came before. That was met with some disagreement, even though it is factual.

I will continue to do something every day to encourage logical thought, and I hope that my readers will also. But it just now occurred to me that it might be that facts and logic are not desirable in human culture.