EppsNet Archive: Critical Thinking

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The notion that we have limited access to the workings of our minds is difficult to accept because, naturally, it is alien to our experience but it is true: You know far less about yourself than you feel you do.   A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.   It is the consistency of information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.   The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion — we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than… Read more →

The Gettier Problem

What does it mean to say that you “know” something is true? According to traditional philosophical thinking, you can be said to know that some proposition P is true if and only if: P is true. You believe that P is true. You are justified in believing that P is true. These three conditions jointly form the concept of justified true belief (JTB). As an example, let’s examine my claim that I know Paris is the capital of France. Unless an edict to the contrary has come down in the last few minutes, Paris is the capital of France, I believe that Paris is the capital of France, and I’m justified in believing that based on available evidence. So according to the concept of justified true belief, I know that Paris is the capital of France. Gettier Problems Here’s a thought experiment: Let’s say I wake up in the morning,… Read more →

If Everything Goes as Intended . . .

If [Affordable Care Act] implementation goes as intended and widespread utilization and automation are achieved, providers could save about $11 billion per year. — Reducing Administrative Costs and Improving the Health Care System — New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) You really can’t dispute something as vague as that but it does raise a number of questions: What does it mean for thousands of pages of legislation affecting the entire healthcare industry as well as every man, woman and child in America to go “as intended”? It’s a circular argument. If it goes as intended, we save $11 billion. If we don’t save $11 billion, it didn’t go as intended. Is “widespread utilization and automation” part of going “as intended” or is that a separate thing? Assuming that implementation does go as intended and widespread utilization and automation are achieved, the best we can say is that providers “could” save… Read more →

Jim McCarthy on Steve Jobs

He was utterly intolerant and disdainful of, and even mean spirited about, mediocrity. Not a designer himself, but a sublime critical thinker, he totally focused his life’s work on design perfection. This intensity, obsessiveness, and his total lack of compassion about others’ inferior thinking resulted – over a period of about 25 years, in five or six truly, climactically great products (the reader – as an exercise – may figure out what they were, and why they make the cut.) — Jim McCarthy Read more →

How to Be a Denialist

Allege that there’s a conspiracy. Claim that scientific consensus has arisen through collusion rather than the accumulation of evidence. Use fake experts to support your story. “Denial always starts with a cadre of pseudo-experts with some credentials that create a facade of credibility,” says Seth Kalichman of the University of Connecticut. Cherry-pick the evidence: trumpet whatever appears to support your case and ignore or rubbish the rest. Carry on trotting out supportive evidence even after it has been discredited. Create impossible standards for your opponents. Claim that the existing evidence is not good enough and demand more. If your opponent comes up with evidence you have demanded, move the goalposts. Use logical fallacies. Hitler opposed smoking, so anti-smoking measures are Nazi. Deliberately misrepresent the scientific consensus and then knock down your straw man. Manufacture doubt. Falsely portray scientists as so divided that basing policy on their advice would be premature.… Read more →