June 3, 2011

Logic Lessons: Just the Facts


What do Anthony Weiner, my friend Neil, a KKK rally and Norman the Paranoid Troll all have in common? Insufficient Evidence.

This article presents one difficulty for me: My sense of humor. People who know me are well aware of my fondness for plays on words, and I could have a field day with the current scandal of Anthony Weiner. It will be hard difficult, but I should be able to refrain from indulging in too many tacky puns. Also, I intend to stay on my topic without expressing my political opinions.

The first part of this article could be outdated within hours, but the lesson for the moment is still valid. One thing that people just love to do is believe that they know (or pretend that they know) something when they do not have enough facts for an accurate judgment. Too often, these stem from an emotional basis or bias.

From the information that I have right now, Anthony Weiner is accused of using his Twitter account to send a picture of his covered but distinct naughty bits to a woman. I have heard some interesting comments that Weiner is a scumbag weasel, and must be lying. Well, maybe he is a dreadful person, but so what? Yes, he acts like a liar covering up when asked simple yes or no questions. Yes, he got hostile. Yes, he gets rude. What do you know? Nothing has been proven. "Everyone knows" that he is guilty, but that is based on circumstantial evidence and emotion, not on actual facts, Frankie. Addendum: He admitted some of this, but the point is still valid: Nobody had actual knowledge, just surmise.

I've mentioned Neil in the past, and the huge multi-million-dollar soulless corporation that employs him. They are prone to hire "managers" that are, bluntly, poor thinkers. Not only are they hired to manage areas or departments when they have little or no knowledge of the processes involved, but some "managers" in a different city and state (corporate headquarters) have Neil all figured out — based on rumor and hearsay, not on having met or even spoken with him. That is no way to act  in supervisory and management positions! Get the facts, Felicity.

Some time in the 1990s, my curiosity got overwhelming and I had the opportunity to attend a Ku Klux Klan rally in Michigan. I think they wanted to try to set up a local office there, I do not remember now. What I do remember is that they were articulate, soft-spoken and gracious. They were well within their rights, and did not say anything directly hateful, nor did they incite violence.

However, the crowd was unruly, loud, obscene and obnoxious, shouting down the speakers. (I did not get too close, I stayed near the police on horseback and learned some things from them.) When the KKK passed out their literature, people snatched it away, destroyed it, attempted to eat it and acted like jerks. Now be honest. If you were there and did not know anything about the KKK, would you have felt that they were persecuted victims? You would not have been able to make an informed decision about the KKK until you had the facts, Ferdinand.

Norman the troll will make outrageous accusations about me, God, Jesus, the Bible, Christians and so on. There are two things that immediately come to mind. First, I posted some Christian song lyrics in the comments area of a Weblog post. He said that I posted them so I could feel better about myself, or something ridiculous like that. In addition, he makes claims that I am "afraid" that other people will learn "the truth", because I am constantly lying. Riiiight. I have low tolerance for hateful personal attacks, let alone, those without evidence. Lord, I need help with patience...

He is like many other Internet atheists that I have encountered. They attempt to belittle and intimidate instead of deal with the subject at hand. One trick is to make accusations (often as diversions from the topic under discussion) where they pretend know your heart and soul. When attempting to have a rational discussion, there is no place for foolish lies and guesswork about someone's motivation. If there is a way to substantiate such assertions, however, there is a chance that your opponent's clouded judgment is germane to the discussion (similar to "discrediting the witness"). Otherwise, guess what? Your libelous lamentations are going to be a conversation killer. Stick to the facts, Flossie.

Discussions on certain subjects often cause emotional reactions by their very nature. People cannot be clinically objective all the time, and their thinking can be clouded by their emotions. We can help matters by pointing out that speculations based on emotion or bias are irrelevant (but say this in a pleasant manner), and that we need to be concerned with the facts. Being aware of what is happening is a step in the right direction.

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