Many think statistics can be used to illegitimately defend even the most absurd positions. Is this true? Only among the statistically illiterate. Those who understand statistics are led into rigorous conclusions that may significantly differ from what they want to conclude. Those who don’t understand statistics, instead of blaming their own statistical illiteracy and modifying their positions, will dismiss the most rigorous statistical studies by suggesting statistics are some kind of mathematical trickery, and of the same evidential weight as anecdotes and emotional appeals.

Recently, there has appeared the same attitude towards logic. Ever hear someone say “Well, that’s just YOUR logic” as if logic were as subjective as your choice in socks? In this US election cycle, logic is being treated as something that is malleable and accommodating of nearly every position…and is not that important anyway. Logical arguments have been replaced by unfounded accusations by those hoping to poison the opposition’s well, and attempt to justify this behavior through the childish retort “Well, THEY started it”. And since logic requires focus and fidelity and an honest positioning of conclusions to the actual facts, logic seems far too troublesome and restrictive. Far fewer voices are ashamed of their intentional illogic. This is not a good thing.

Emotional intensity has replaced logic as the measure of a good argument. And this is only accelerating the recent dismissal of logic in the public forum to a point at which minds no longer have access to even the logic necessary to comprehend their illogic.

# Statistical and logical illiteracy

Advertisements