Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Logical fallacies and rationalizations, cont.

I recently came across this post, which reminded me of the logical fallacies and rationalizations discussion. The post discusses a vicious murder, but also touches on the very core of the subject we discussed, with a bit on "affecting change" and getting set in your ways, traditions and taboos.

Now, disengaging from the act of murdering three girls for "free will", which naturally, is difficult to do (as if we don't, it will hijack the discussion immediately)--this post has a very interesting first paragraph:
"Whenever you hear someone defend an action with the excuse that "it is our custom," "it is traditional," "we've always done it that way," "it is written so in our sacred texts," or variants thereof, slap 'em down and spit in their eye. Those are not excuses for anything but the perpetuation of bad old dogma rather than taking the useful step of actually thinking about causes and consequences fallacious shortcut that allows ancient evils to thrive."
Affecting change and getting movement in groups is a special interest of mine. The examples given above are the illiterate answers someone may give as to why they should or shouldn't do something (except for the "because it's written" which is a whole other unrelated concept).

More literate answers do exist when you speak with intelligent people, and then there can be several reasons why they hold to their beliefs, legitimately. These taboos came from somewhere and some of them were even a Very Good Idea™ at the time. Noticing things we know to be evil no longer are is difficult. Further, our beliefs are still what in many cases defines any group and shouldn't always be abandoned just because they are not necessarily reflecting reality.

Example from my life in computer security:
Sharing virus (computer) samples is considered "evil" and irresponsible by the Anti Virus industry, for reasons ranging from fear of spreading them to helping the criminals, or giving them feedback on what we know (not to mention losing a competitive edge).

And yet the landscape changed, these are everywhere nowadays so the criminals don't need "our" samples, while many defenders do--desperately--and have no "legal" means to get the same information. Yet, is it wrong for professional anti virus researchers to view such sharing as evil?

Getting set in your ways as well as following established taboos are quite fascinating in how they form and how they can be broken. Usual annoying disclaimer: nothing is ever black and white... blah blah.

The rationalizations mentioned, however, are another facet of the same thing we discussed earlier, I think?


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