Why Academics Love to Publish Their Ideas in Books

book-pile

Because by all their narrative they try to prepare the ground for an irrational case. But, rationality, on the contrary, strips all superfluous words.

Narrated stories promote subconscious judgments. Sometimes such stories hardly bear reference to the case in question, so they hardly support the case in a rational way. They do so irrationally, though. The mechanism is like hypnosis. In hypnosis, critical thinking is turned off, which allows to fill the memory with “facts” that never were seriously scrutinized. These so infused facts on a subconscious level influence judgment, promote irrationally.

Narrated stories stray from the main case. Stories in the way the authors put them seem to support the case. However, all these little stories can be rationalized in different ways that support the opposite case. In fact, one is tempted to counter the narratives, to put the facts straight, and to make the explanation more succinct. As those stories raise additional points of contention, they work like red herrings. They provide topics a discussion can be easily locked in while keeping the main argument safe and untouched.

Examples.

Ian Morris [1] narrates stories about war. His point is always that war is terrible but the time after it is more peaceful and progressive. The question that he didn’t touch is do exist other reasons for peace and prosperity after a war? Unfortunately, after a couple of pages of lulling details only few people raise that question.

Andy McNab and Kevin Dutton [2] start their case with a story about a goatherd, an innocent young boy, who has to be killed because he accidentally watched a secret operation in order to not jeopardize the entire mission. The questions that remain unanswered in this book are was it really necessary or existed other ways to save the mission, and was the mission really worth it.

Though I admit that not all scientific novelty can be put on twitter, and some elaborate scientific theories need books to be understood, this is not true for books that support a single argument, in particular if coupled with extensive story telling.

[1] Morris, Ian. 2014. War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[2] McNab, Andy, and Kevin Dutton. 2014. The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success. Bantam Press.


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This work by Paul Netman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Fauceir theory is developed and © by Mato Nagel and available at www.fauceir.org.

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Logical Fallacies—Assets and Impediments—the Fauceir Stance

post hoc-propter hoc fallacy

Logical fallacies are a typical example of fauceirs as they clearly embrace the dualism of information and control, and as such they are not simply good for cheating or bad for rational discussions. They have evolved and carved out a niche for themselves in communication and decision making, so a rational analysis of logical fallacies has to set off advantages and drawbacks. I’m well aware about fierce protests of those who deny any usefulness in the realm of rationality, but please allow to explain my point in further detail.

As discussed before, two aspects of fauceirs may be analysed separately:
1.the impact on the signaling cascade
2.the imprecision that is added to this signaling cascade

ad 1) The impact on the signaling cascade is that the so called logical fallacies significantly reduce and improve the signaling cascade by abridging complex evaluations.
For illustration the post-hoc-propter-hoc fallacy. As our experiences show that in many cases the sequence of events also signifies causality, for some decisions, it is enough to know the sequence and not the causality. For instance, if the administration of a new medication is followed by serious complications, we would be much more careful to administer it again even if unaware about the causality.
Next illustration the appeal-to-authority fallacy. Nobody is capable to muster all the scientific evidence, so we have to rely on experts of some sort.

Ad 2) Abridging complex evaluations might be useful in some instances, but can lead to wrong conclusions elsewhere. Examples are abundant when doctrines have been used to misguide people. Some are listed here, but we have to be aware that almost every faith is misusable that way.

Finally, someone may counter that the term logical fallacy is reserved for cheating on logical discussions only. I generally agree, but my intention was to make clear that this cheating is rooted in useful developments of our thinking. Cheating is a natural by-product of every fauceir’s imprecision.

Being consistently rational

Being consistently rational includes being an atheist—right. Next, the most forceful atheists are heretics who cling to demons or aliens—plausible as this has also been propagated by theists for centuries. Therefore pagans worshipping the devil consider themselves rational, though they are the most irrational of all.

Just an other example. Rationalists favour Darwinian evolutionary theory. The most fervent proponents bitterly fight creationism and any other deviations thereby denying that some thousand years ago the idea that the world has been created was a great achievement compared to what existed before, and they also deny that Dawins’s theory already became out-dated, and in doing so they deny evolution of human thoughts and ideas—an irrational position again.

Conclusion. Being rational is the attitude to permanently question the own position in the light of new evidence and to be tolerant of other people’s believes even if they are not. It is being like Jesus has been some 2000 years ago. Oh, I know it appears to be a blaspheming position to all faithful though irrational rationalists.

The Tom Sawyer Principle

We remember Tom Sawyer had to paint a fence. He didn’t do it but for a little fee he allowed others to do it for him. The principle is to provide a framework and let others fill in the tidious work, and if you are lucky enough, you can even charge them for doing so. That principle proved its worth not only in Tom Sawyer’s but also in other success stories: Facebook, YouTube, and many others.

Now the same is being tried by biomedical companies that gather biological data and expertise. Well known examples of that type are 23andMe and Personal Genome Project. In a recent newsletter also Illumina claimed its share.

Ayn Rand’s prescience

As if Ayn Rand had foreseen it. In her ‘Anthem‘ she describes it vividly. The scholar’s response to progress. It is all the same with fauceir theory save some minute variation. Her full text is available at the Gutenberg Project.

All the heads of the Council turned to us as we entered. These great and wise of the earth did not know what to think of us, and they looked upon us with wonder and curiosity, as if we were a miracle. It is true that our tunic was torn and stained with brown stains which had been blood. We raised our right arm and we said:

“Our greeting to you, our honored brothers of the World Council of Scholars!”

Then Collective 0-0009, the oldest and wisest of the Council, spoke and asked:

“Who are you, our brother? For you do not look like a Scholar.”

“Our name is Equality 7-2521,” we answered, “and we are a Street Sweeper of this City.”

Then it was as if a great wind had stricken the hall, for all the Scholars spoke at once, and they were angry and frightened.

“A Street Sweeper! A Street Sweeper walking in upon the World Council of Scholars! It is not to be believed! It is against all the rules and all the laws!”

But we knew how to stop them.

“Our brothers!” we said. “We matter not, nor our transgression. It is only our brother men who matter. Give no thought to us, for we are nothing, but listen to our words, for we bring you a gift such as has never been brought to men. Listen to us, for we hold the future of mankind in our hands.”

Then they listened.

We placed our glass box on the table before them. We spoke of it, and of our long quest, and of our tunnel, and of our escape from the Palace of Corrective Detention. Not a hand moved in that hall, as we spoke, nor an eye. Then we put the wires to the box, and they all bent forward and sat still, watching. And we stood still, our eyes upon the wire. And slowly, slowly as a flush of blood, a red flame trembled in the wire. Then the wire glowed.

But terror struck the men of the Council. They leapt to their feet, they ran from the table, and they stood pressed against the wall, huddled together, seeking the warmth of one another’s bodies to give them courage.

We looked upon them and we laughed and said:

“Fear nothing, our brothers. There is a great power in these wires, but this power is tamed. It is yours. We give it to you.”

Still they would not move.

“We give you the power of the sky!” we cried. “We give you the key to the earth! Take it, and let us be one of you, the humblest among you. Let us work together, and harness this power, and make it ease the toil of men. Let us throw away our candles and our torches. Let us flood our cities with light. Let us bring a new light to men!”

But they looked upon us, and suddenly we were afraid. For their eyes were still, and small, and evil.

“Our brothers!” we cried. “Have you nothing to say to us?”

Then Collective 0-0009 moved forward. They moved to the table and the others followed.

“Yes,” spoke Collective 0-0009, “we have much to say to you.”

The sound of their voice brought silence to the hall and to the beat of our heart.

“Yes,” said Collective 0-0009, “we have much to say to a wretch who have broken all the laws and who boast of their infamy! How dared you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the minds of your brothers? And if the Council had decreed that you be a Street Sweeper, how dared you think that you could be of greater use to men than in sweeping the streets?”

“How dared you, gutter cleaner,” spoke Fraternity 9-3452, “to hold yourself as one alone and with the thoughts of one and not of many?”

“You shall be burned at the stake,” said Democracy 4-6998.

“No, they shall be lashed,” said Unanimity 7-3304, “till there is nothing left under the lashes.”

“No,” said Collective 0-0009, “we cannot decide upon this, our brothers. No such crime has ever been committed, and it is not for us to judge. Nor for any small Council. We shall deliver this creature to the World Council itself and let their will be done.”

We looked upon them and we pleaded:

“Our brothers! You are right. Let the will of the Council be done upon our body. We do not care. But the light? What will you do with the light?”

Collective 0-0009 looked upon us, and they smiled.

“So you think you have found a new power,” said Collective 0-0009. “Do you think all your brothers think that?”

“No,” we answered.

“What is not thought by all men cannot be true,” said Collective 0-0009.

“You have worked on this alone?” asked International 1-5537.

“Yes,” we answered.

“What is not done collectively cannot be good,” said International 1-5537.

“Many men in the Homes of the Scholars have had strange new ideas in the past,” said Solidarity 8-1164, “but when the majority of their brother Scholars voted against them, they abandoned their ideas, as all men must.”

“This box is useless,” said Alliance 6-7349.

“Should it be what they claim of it,” said Harmony 9-2642, “then it would bring ruin to the Department of Candles. The Candle is a great boon to mankind, as approved by all men. Therefore it cannot be destroyed by the whim of one.”

“This would wreck the Plans of the World Council,” said Unanimity 2-9913, “and without the Plans of the World Council the sun cannot rise. It took fifty years to secure the approval of all the Councils for the Candle, and to decide upon the number needed, and to re-fit the Plans so as to make candles instead of torches. This touched upon thousands and thousands of men working in scores of States. We cannot alter the Plans again so soon.”

“And if this should lighten the toil of men,” said Similarity 5-0306, “then it is a great evil, for men have no cause to exist save in toiling for other men.”

Then Collective 0-0009 rose and pointed at our box.

“This thing,” they said, “must be destroyed.”

And all the others cried as one:

“It must be destroyed!”

Skepticism & Atheism

Defining atheism the following idea crossed my mind. I’m a Christian and I’m an atheist is not such a contradiction as it seems. In fact, Christianity is to variable degree atheism already. Judaism clearly is not. That is why so many Jewish atheists gather in skepticism circles, by the way. Christian atheists, by contrast, still can find a place within their faith.
This may sound rather provocative, I admit, but the core of Christianity is to worship a man who had been killed because of his peaceful struggle for a better world. Praising the merits of a human being instead of an imaginary God is atheism, isn’t it. Well one may counter, many Christians also praise God, inconsequentially.
Defining skepticism an other idea crossed my mind. Skepticism is denying the obvious, it is questioning all what is held for granted, it is leaving the box of dogmatic thoughts and profane explanations, it is challenging the dominating tenures, it is widening the horizon, and it finally results in new ideas. Skepticisms is the Mephisto principle as employed in Goethe’s Faust: the spirit to invoke evil but to cause progress. Of course, inside the cardboard walls of a religion skepticism spells atheism as the believe in God is the principal doctrine there, but in so many academic ivory towers doctrines became outdated too,  the ‘Darwinian evolutionary theory’ to name just one.