Problems in Logic
You have probably noticed that, in many episodes of “Star Trek,” Mr. Spock will sometimes say to Commander Shatner, “That’s not logical.” More often than not, he says this to the angry doctor-guy because almost everything “Bones” has ever said or done is “not logical.” During a lull in my sophomore English class years ago, our professor informed us that the Star Fleet doctor is usually wrong because he works from raw emotion, and they call him “Bones” because he feels ideas in his bones, rather than using pure logic, as Spock does.
So when we chose teammates that year for our debate club, I formed a group call Star Fleet, and wouldn’t you know it, during the finals we faced off with the Romulans. Any time one of those guys from the other team would attempt to make a point, I would simply raise my left eyebrow, turn to the moderator, and say, “Fascinating, Captain.” Everyone in the room knew that I had nailed those bastards, because my simple comment implied that the Romulans were not being logical, or more to the point, had their heads up their asses. It’s a phrase that everyone who appreciates logic instantly understands.
Granted, now and then Spock would describe something as “fascinating,” and yet he wasn’t being ironic or trying to piss off Bones. We don’t really know what Spock meant in those cases, because he was the inscrutable Vulcan. In fact, all Vulcans are inscrutable; how else does one explain the haircut? In any event, Spock inspires all of us to use logic, and this is as good a time as any to offer some tips, because people usually struggle with deductions and get everything wrong.
To begin with, I’m not referring to those lame logic puzzles that have a series of statements that you determine are true or false just to solve some murder mystery. They have nothing to do with classic deductive reasoning, and they don’t work anyway, because all statements in a murder mystery are false. Watch “Columbo” or Death On the Nile or Gosford Park. Rich people always have something to lie about, even if they haven’t killed anyone yet. What I’m talking about is this sort of thing:
All cats are gray.
Therefore, I’m a cat.
You can see the problem with that deduction right away: I’m not gray! I’m sort of a peachy, flesh color. The point here is that people not accustomed to rigorous deduction can reach all sorts of false conclusions. That’s dangerous, because a good con artist could have you thinking that he really is a cat, or any other kind of creature.
Here’s another example of faulty logic:
All women are liars.
Carol is a woman.
Therefore Carol is a liar.
Actually, that’s a terrible example of faulty logic, because it’s an absolutely flawless deduction based on solid research. Let’s try another:
My girlfriend Carol goes to school on Wednesdays.
Tomorrow is Wednesday.
Therefore my girlfriend will go to school tomorrow.
Apart from the fact that semesters eventually end, another huge flaw in this reasoning is that my girlfriend merely said that “school” was what she was doing on Wednesdays. When she claimed that she couldn’t remember her instructor’s name, I simply replied, “Fascinating, Captain.”
Another way to remain consistently logical is to learn the difference between inverse and converse. The converse of “All Vulcans are inscrutable beings” is “all inscrutable beings are Vulcans.” Avoid this pitfall. Think about it; if a certain being is all that damn inscrutable, we can’t know if it’s a Vulcan or not. It could be tricking us.
As for inverse, think of it as the opposite. For example, the other day we were talking about how it’s a good thing that “Star Trek” is available on DVD, and in a witty moment I said to my friend “And as you know, good is the opposite of bad.” My friend replied, “Well, no, I don’t know that good is the opposite of bad. Seems like the opposite of bad would be ‘not bad.’”
“Fascinating,” I parried. “But wouldn’t ‘not bad’ be the negation of bad?”
We went on like that for several hours, until my friend decided to have the opposite of a debate and left the room. Actually, his departure instigated the negation of a debate, as the opposite of a debate is an agreement-fest, not unlike the conversations we have when any of the district managers are in town for our sales meetings.
Perhaps good is not the opposite of bad anymore than cat is the opposite of dog. Rather than being the inverse, maybe cat is the reverse of dog, but there again, the reverse of dog is either “God” or “a dog walking backwards.” I don’t even know how we could verify that.
You can see how logic is a troubling affair. As some of the ancient Zen masters often pointed out, we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway. Yet there is no “converse” gear on our vehicles, merely a reverse. I’m told that the new Hummer has an inverse gear that somehow alters liability in the event of a collision, but that gets us into the “all car salesman are liars—all sales are final” conditional statements that are notoriously difficult to deduce.
Nonetheless, it still feels like bad is the opposite of good, just as it feels like all car salesmen are liars. But that’s working with intuition, which is what Bones and many women use to sort out the world. Your ex-wife may “feel” like you’ve been driving past the old house during the wee hours, but until her investigator provides some surveillance evidence, there’s no logical deduction there. Of course, it’s only human to rely on intuition, and as illogical as it sounds, all women are human. Vulcan chicks, on the other hand, always use logic, which may explain why they are so hot.