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Crimes Against Logic

Posted by Ninjacat 
Crimes Against Logic
January 06, 2006 12:12AM
Anyone read this book?
Re: Crimes Against Logic
January 06, 2006 01:36PM
No, so I won't recommend or pan this book. I've enclosed , however, some opinions from people that have laboured through the rather exhaustive 176 page epic. A positive review describing the book as "short, smart, and fun to read," had me wondering if this so called ' wonderful commentary on American culture' might, in reality , be an anecdotally flippant, glorified USA Today Newspaper desguised as a witty mish- mash of a papaerback. But a lot of people that reviewed the book seem to appreciate the author's ability to present and analyze efficiently, in only 176 pages, logic and reasoning, poilitics, social engineering, God, evolution, medicare, and the study of media power and its duping effect on the American public. My bet is that the book is presented USA Today style,which throws a lot of small , visually "fun to read" stories out at you, giving the reader an impression there is a lot of useful information contained therein. In reality, these 'stories' are so short that they resemble print versions of news bite tickers-nothing new really, even to casual newsreaders. God forbid, don't publish a story that a reader might have to actually think about or spend time reflecting on. Never delve into anything substantive, investigative, or of all things. revelatory, wouldn't be short and sweet ,or familiar enough I suppose.

1.We could use more books like this - short, smart, and fun to read.

2.Rating: - Preachy, angry, contradictory, disappointing
Since Jamie Whyte does not acknowledge the validity of "opinion," I suppose he doesn't recognize book reviews. But, with apologies to him, I'll launch into this anyway. I preface this by proposing that contraditions should not be found in a book on logic. Whyte, on one page, says that, in his "literal sense, nothing is a matter of opinion." Then, on the very next page, citing his mother's contention that Brussels sprouts are "good" and his assertion that they are not (seemingly a difference of opinion, no?), he asserts "rather, we should conclude only that I don't like them and she does and that is all there is to it."
Sounds like something is a matter of opinion after all, doesn't it? He dismisses completely the notions of the unknown or the unknowable. That, coupled with his constantly carpingly aetheistic tone, suggests he may suffer from a bit of a narcissistic "God complex." His cynicism tends to grow weary after a few chapters. He belittles the concept of "mystery" when it comes to theology, but he invokes it elsewhere by saying "some mystery, however, is universal," adding, as an example, "what happened in the first few nanoseconds after the Big Bang, if indeed the universe started with a bang, is a mystery to everyone." (Ironically, the Big Bang was a theory first proposed in 1927 by Georges LemaƮtre, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest!)
While Whyte is certainly glib and has a good command of the language, I think he needs to do some reading himslef before he next pens a book. Maybe he should reread Aristotle. And, I recommend he pick up a copy of Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica. It will hone his sense of objectivity, Aristotilian logic/argument and, perhaps, calm his incessant slamming of theology. He narrowly acknowledges nothing he cannot see or comprehend. A treatise on logic should be objective and informed.

3.Rating: - A Crime Against Logic
Sadly, Mr. Whyte fails to address in his own writing the sort of failures in reasoning which in other people's opinions he claims to have been the motive for writing this book in the first place. In the preface, Mr. Whyte laments "Errors in reasoning. Fallacies. Muddled thinking." (page ix). His book "aims to help fill the gap left by the education system" and "covers those errors in reasoning commonly encountered." Mr. Whyte illustrates his book with what "passes for" "reasoned debate" among those whom he apparently finds less fortunate than himself.(page xi). One example is sufficient to demonstrate Mr. Whyte's personal "Muddled thinking" (page ix) and raise doubts about what Mr. Whyte's qualifications to pass judgment on what should pass for reasoned debate.

Mr. Whyte, in a chapter dedicated to Prejudice as a logical fallacy, offers a critique of Pascal's Wager.(pages 37-39). Mr. Whyte's critique turns on two points. The first is that Pascal's wager is insufficient to prove the existence of any god. This point implies that without such proof the question of whether to believe in any religion based on any god is moot.

The second point that Mr. Whyte makes is that Pascal's Wager "does not work on its own terms." (page 38). Mr. Whyte uses an argument from absurdity to prove his point. Even if we grant Pascal's conclusion that while a Christain has at least a chance of going to heaven if God exists, the athiest can only go to hell if he is wrong and receives no heavenly benefit if he is right, Pascal's argument applies equally well to any religion that proposes an alternative of heaven and hell. Since there is no reason to exclude any religion that can fit the category, any religion, "real" or imagined, must be included in the count of possible religions. Thus, as Pascal's Wager becomes a choice between atheism and some one of an infinite number of religions lacking any rational means of being distinguished one from the other, the person accepting the wager gains only an infintesimal chance of benefit.

So far as the argument goes so far, I am willing to grant it. Unfortunately, at the very point where Mr. Whyte in good conscience must state the result of his argument, he misstates his conclusion. Mr. Whyte states "And, an infintesimal chance is no chance at all." In fact, "no chance at all" clearly means a chance equal to zero, zero chance. An "infintesimal chance" might be very, very small, but that chance remains greater than zero.

Sound reasoning and good faith require Mr. Whyte to admit that his argument from absurdity failed. Instead of granting the obvious conclusion that Pascal had survived the test and proven some tiny probability that the Christain might be vindicated in his belief, Mr. Whyte redefines "infintesimal" as "zero" and moves on to other topics. (page 39).

This is, in my opinion, a stunning failure of logic in any person, but is blatent intellectual dishonesty in person who has nominated himself to write " the logical equivalent of a troubleshooting guide... aimed at everday users and consumers of reasoning." (page ix).

The reader of this criticism of Mr. Whytes book might want to know that I am an ordained Southern Baptist Minister and believe myself to be a Christain. Additionally, I am called to the ministry of Christain Apologetics. Thus, I might be susceptible to the intellectual prejudice that Mr. Whyte's chapter was intended to expose.

4.Rating: - The Cover Shot (and the Work) Without a Face
This book reeled me in at the Prologue. Whyte begins his book with an hillarious admission: "I write letters to the editor," and I must make my own, in addition to writing my own missives to various editorial boards (hence my hook, line and sinker skewering by Whyte), and despite the ridicule of my wife, I read the prologues, introductions, and prefaces in every book (though I recently regretted that commitment when mired in the THREE prefatory chapters of "Three Nights in August"winking smiley.

Whyte's admission is the introduction to a humorous and enjoyably readable prologue that - unfortunately - is the highlight of the book.

The premise is a good one, and the topic is a worthy one, but the style is needlessly argumentative and the chapter organization could benefit from some more explanation before being thrust into the complex single-sided assumption-loaded arguments that each consists of.

The book's main problem is that it assumes logic sufficient for governance in all life. Certainly this is not the case, we all must behave illogically, and often we do so correctly. For example, the strict logical reaction to being told that a loved one is terminally ill and their comfort until death can be assured only with very expensive treatment is to refuse such treatment and conserve resources that would be squandered without logic. No one would agree that such a course of action is correct.

Further, Whyte's arguments progress by virtue of his assumed line of illogical responses to the chapter topics. The assumptions he makes and faux illogical arguments he creates to juxtapose with his logical conclusions are often too basic and absent a realism associated with the motives responsible for the thinking that he indicts in practice.

Overall, the book is a tagline. Whyte struggled mightily to avoid writing an argumentative anecdotal rant, instead he just winds up with an argumentative rant - and leaves the reader longing for some anecdotes to ground the theory of the work.


But I say... Some Never Even Plant yet want to Reap,
If you run, be careful, try to look before you leap;
Took a little walk from my Vineyard...
Now I'm on my own
Now I'm left alone..
Re: Crimes Against Logic
January 06, 2006 04:51PM
just the opposite. The author shows through common sense how most of us tend to argue. Then proceeds to show us how are arguements tend to have nothing to do with logic at all. The author is a philosopher, meaning he take little to nothing for granted. Statements like "but still" are shown to be a logiacal fallacy. They just show that the person using the phrase wants nothing to do with the truth, but would rather just keep continuing to believe what they do. that is just one example. It oes on and on, he just happens to be funny. Humor is not the focus of the book. He tends to go after politicians and news media people who tend to look to peoples motivations for saying something and not whether waht they are saying is logically sound. For instance, Bush is just saying that we are safer for invading Iraq because he doesn't want to admit he was wrong. Exposing the motive has nothing to do with wherther or not we are safer. We either are or we are not regardless of Bush's motive. You don't need to know anyone's motive to know if what they are saying is correct, UNLESS you must simply rely on their word and there is no evidence either way. A very good book.
Re: Crimes Against Logic
January 06, 2006 08:58PM
"..Then proceeds to show us how are arguements tend to have nothing to do with logic at all..."

Funny, but a similar 'discussion' with my spouse this morning had nothing to do with logic either.

What you say is interesting and plausible; I'll read the book next time I'm in a bookstore; before my 2 or 3 book Chomsky fix.

But I say... Some Never Even Plant yet want to Reap,
If you run, be careful, try to look before you leap;
Took a little walk from my Vineyard...
Now I'm on my own
Now I'm left alone..
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