“Citizens of the democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self-defense to protect themselves from manipulation and control.” – Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions

Here you will find here a growing body of articles helping you to make strong credible decisions in your personal life and in group settings including business, government and law.

Articles will explain the highest quality decision making methods and tools, and help you identify logical fallacies, cognitive biases and high quality information.

We all make decisions every day, sometimes several times a minute: which road to take, what to eat for dinner. Most decisions are made without much thinking, others we ponder carefully conducting research and consulting with trusted friends and family. Not all our decisions are good or wise.

Making good or wise decisions is an entire field of study in Philosophy. There really is a discipline called Decision Making Theory, though it is more limited than what we discuss here.

Good decisions have three qualities. They are Fact Based, and free of Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Bias. Most importantly a good decision provides a solution with better results than most if not all other conceivable and feasible alternative decisions.

The opposite is the universally popular Blunder, defined by Prof Zachary Shore, where the solution makes a problem worse, as in “The cure is worse than the disease.”

Fact Based

Most of us would like to believe we make decisions based on facts. However, distinguishing reliable “Science based” Facts from Science Fiction seems like it should be easy, but though this problem was described more than a thousand years ago, a solution has eluded Science Philosophers for millenia. Karl Popper first named this “The Demarcation Problem” and introduced the idea of Falsifiability.

Rational means Fallacy Free

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Dogma is Never Wrong. What About Science?

“There is no room for Dogma in Science”
J Robert Oppenheimer

Dogma-Rite over-the-counter

Dogma-Rite over-the-counter

Yet, sadly, it exists.

Question: What is the difference between Science and Dogma?

Short Answer:
The simplest and clearest way to distinguish them is that Dogma declared facts are Never Wrong – by definition.

By contrast you might be surprised to learn that Science derived facts are admittedly Always Wrong; (well wrong-ish). Experiment or observationally derived facts are inherently, and always, provisional due to measuring physical reality with imperfect instruments and systematic errors.

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Requesting Definitions or Evidence Carries no Burden of Proof (and Bayesian Analysis’ Fatal Flaw)

Atlas Carrying Burden of Proof

Atlas Carrying Burden of Proof

I treasure my lifetime subscription to Skeptical Inquirer magazine. I’ve probably learned more about evaluating scientific claims from reading it over the past several decades than from any other single source.

Recently, along with the typical torrent of terrific articles it unfortunately included a column “Whose Burden of Proof?”(1, SI, May-June 2013) with several potentially misleading ideas on Burden of Proof and Bayesian Analysis that are fundamental to critical thinking.

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Doublespeak – Fact Manipulation

“Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur”
(meaning — incomprehensiblity is no reason for you to take an idea seriously)

DoubleSpeak Obscures Clear Facts: Could you rephrase that in equivocal, inaccurate, vague, self-serving terms . . .

DoubleSpeak Obscures Clear Facts: “Could you rephrase that in equivocal, inaccurate, vague, self-serving terms . . . “

Doublespeak is the use of words to misleadingly hide, disguise, inflate or reverse unpleasant meaning, or meaninglessness.

The Four Kinds of Doublespeak (courtesy of Prof. William Lutz)

1. Hiding Meaning – Words used to avoid harsh or distasteful reality. Examples: “involuntary conversion of a vehicle” meaning your car was stolen, “Biosolids” is used instead of “sewage sludge”, “anomaly” was used by NASA to dress up the deadly Space Shuttle explosion.

2. Hiding Meaninglessness – gobbledygook or academia-ese. Using many impressive sounding words in a sentence that doesn’t mean anything. “Gravitational waves from kinks in infinite cosmic strings.” (Neither Gravitational waves or cosmic strings or their kinks have ever been observed – they are all mere conjectures.)

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Logical Fallacies Do Not Require Intent

Some people mistakenly believe that a logical fallacy requires an intent to deceive. The truth is —

“The logical nature of a fallacy is independent of the intention of the party using it.”

From — “The science of logic; an inquiry into the principles of accurate thought and scientific method”, by Peter Coffey, London, New York [etc.] Longmans, Green and co., 1912, page 300

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Hyper-Certainty Principle

Hyper-Certainty Principle:

“Data quality and quantity is inversely related to advocacy certainty and ferocity.”
-David Dilworth, 2008

Hyper-certainty is a cognitive bias which arises when less or weaker data inspires stronger advocacy than more or stronger data. This is dramatically illustrated when zero data, such as opinions or beliefs (dare I say – as in religion), inspires the most powerful certainty and advocacy; massively more passion than facts.

Sometimes it appears that entire fields of interest are controlled by this concept, when alternative ideas with solid evidence are systematically suppressed or censored by actual acts, or threats, to limit or halt employment, careers, reputations, research or grants.

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