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Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Destructive Effects of Ideology on Thought

Check out this crazy thread.

So, what I did in this post was to state an absolutely standard, but somewhat surprising, finding in probability theory. I did not think or claim I was making some novel breakthrough: I was just reporting. In fact, even the dart thought experiment was not my own: I got it from my old boss, Randy Nelson, who got his math PhD with a specialization in probability theory, and who writes textbooks on the subject.

But the commenters in Wenzel's thread went crazy. Their reasoning seemed to be, "Although I know nothing about probablity theory, I know that ex-libertarians are the worst sort of idiots... so let me jump in abuot how stupid Callahan's post is." One poster actually declared that my "infinitely fine-pointed dart" would pass through... the real number line! As though thicker darts would stick right in the reals! Several pointed out my "Keynesian reasoning," or how I must be cut out for politics because of my sophistical thought. Another guy wrote, "The reasoning will work well at amazing intellectual wannabes with low mathematical skills, but its rather stupid." (Perhaps he meant, "Flummoxing intellectual wannabes with low mathematical skills.")

Now, imagine that, say, David Friedman, whose politics they like, had posted the same thing. These exact same people would have fallen all over themselves praising how clever and deep Friedman's insight was... still, of course, without comprehending the mathematics involved in the least.

8 comments:

  1. Eh, I gave it a shot. I do admit that I don't know a damned thing about probability theory, but as somebody who is more literal-minded I do tend to miss certain things (e.g. jokes). However, I don't think that my response to Bob has anything to do with ideology or the belief that ex-libertarians are idiots. If that were the case I wouldn't give you my time.

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    1. But of course, Joseph, you didn't respond in the ways I noted above, did you?

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    2. No, I did not. While I have been (in the past) and can certainly be an asshole, it isn't my day job. I am usually pretty cognizant of what I do and what I don't know, so unless I know a subject very well, I won't typically pull the whole "I know more than you" route (at least I try not to).

      As for Bob, well, I like the guy and agree with him 90% of the time. But, yeah, it is pretty clear that he's not a big fan of yours. In fact, I have found this to be true of a lot of libertarians with the exception of Walter Block (who is an all around nice guy) and possibly David Gordon; almost all of the online "groupies" seem to think you're a traitor of sorts.

      Anyhow, I give everybody a chance until they give me a good reason otherwise. Having a different set of beliefs doesn't qualify as a good reason otherwise in my mind.

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  2. "still, of course, without comprehending the mathematics involved in the least."

    Pi r NOT square, pi r round. CORNBREAD r square!

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  3. Your post collapsed at the very end, Gene. The typical commenter at Wenzel's blog would despise David Friedman who was not a Rothbardian anarchist. You are really tone deaf sometimes.

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  4. Slim darts passing through the reals!

    PRICELESS

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  5. The cake is a lie! You're all just a deck of cards! There's no place like home!

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