Friday, November 14, 2008

How to spot an idiot

Following my comments a few days ago on the monumental stupidity and ignorant prejudice of many of those who have managed to be considered authorities in Universities in the supposedly advanced countries of the world, I offer a few of the more common symptoms, mostly, but not all, errors of logic and reasoning, none of which seem to bother them or their adulators. One of the things I have learnt about truth is that it does not matter to those who like power, even to those who claim to live by the truth. It is obvious that politics does not attract lovers of the truth, but it would be a better world if journalists, for example, had some understanding of the importance of the truth they claim to defend. Even many of those who seek intellectual authority have nothing but contempt for reason and truth. So here are some of the clear signs of this contempt, or of simple stupidity in many cases:

- There is usually no attempt to justify the original premises, they are just stated baldly as fact that cannot be denied.

- There is often no logical justification for the steps that supposedly make up an argument.

- There is often no recognition that there need be any connection between the steps of an argument, other than the will of the speaker that it be so.

- The meaning of words is so fluid that they are frequently used in different senses when this immediately invalidates the relation between two ideas which they are trying to establish. They never seem to notice this.

- The meaning of words is so vague that a term can be understood in such of wide range of ways that it is impossible to say precisely what a sentence is supposed to say. They are usually slightly unusual or deliberately obscure words. This is not a complaint about the use of technical terms, which have a very precise meaning in a given context within a given discipline, though this may be obscure to the non-expert. These people use words so vaguely that they can, when they attempt to use the sentence to show something else, be interpreted in whatever way seems useful.

- They frequently use pairs of words, separated by a stroke, and if possible with some phonetic similarity, to suggest some relation between them which they cannot in fact express any other way, much less justify. They are much addicted to this, in fact, and it is infallibly a sign of one who does not think.

- Arguments, when they can be said to have any kind of logic or coherence at all, are frequently circlular, and say nothing but what can be concluded immediately from the (usually implicit) definitions of the terms.

- Abuse, refined and often disguised, is carefully and pre-emptively directed at anyone who might question what is said.

- Sources, such as they are, are hidden, and there is no transparency in any of the alleged research.

This list is far from complete, and there may even be more important things than these. I would appreciate remarks, preferably intelligent, informed ones, but anyone who has anything to say will be welcomed.

There will be examples of the stupidity and prejudice of those named in future posts.

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