A final caution

Every true idea which discomforts you will seem to match the pattern of at least one psychological error.

Robert Pirsig said: "The world's biggest fool can say the sun is shining, but that doesn't make it dark out." If you believe someone is guilty of a psychological error, then demonstrate your competence by first demolishing their consequential factual errors. If there are no factual errors, then what matters the psychology? The temptation of psychology is that, knowing a little psychology, we can meddle in arguments where we have no technical expertise - instead sagely analyzing the psychology of the disputants.

If someone wrote a novel about an asteroid strike destroying modern civilization, then someone might criticize that novel as extreme, dystopian, apocalyptic; symptomatic of the author's naive inability to deal with a complex technological society. We should recognize this as a literary criticism, not a scientific one; it is about good or bad novels, not good or bad hypotheses. To quantify the annual probability of an asteroid strike in real life, one must study astronomy and the historical record: no amount of literary criticism can put a number on it. Garreau (2005) seems to hold that a scenario of a mind slowly increasing in capability, is more mature and sophisticated than a scenario of extremely rapid intelligence increase. But that's a technical question, not a matter of taste; no amount of psychologizing can tell you the exact slope of that curve.

It's harder to abuse heuristics and biases than psychoanalysis. Accusing someone of conjunction fallacy leads naturally into listing the specific details that you think are burdensome and drive down the joint probability. Even so, do not lose track of the real-world facts of primary interest; do not let the argument become about psychology.

Despite all dangers and temptations, it is better to know about psychological biases than to not know. Otherwise we will walk directly into the whirling helicopter blades of life. But be very careful not to have too much fun accusing others of biases. That is the road that leads to becoming a sophisticated arguer - someone who, faced with any discomforting argument, finds at once a bias in it. The one whom you must watch above all is yourself.

Jerry Cleaver said: "What does you in is not failure to apply some high-level, intricate, complicated technique. It's overlooking the basics. Not keeping your eye on the ball."

Analyses should finally center on testable real-world assertions. Do not take your eye off the ball.

Continue reading here: Conclusion

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