Lack of time, knowledge or just sloppy thinking?

Lee Tilson lee.tilson at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 1 16:01:44 UTC 2013


The same human tendencies that are strengths are weaknesses.  The same
human tendencies that enable progress also account for mistakes.

If this was not true, then Darwinian evolution would have eliminated those
tendencies.


Example:   The human tendency of *"ignoring details"* is essential in order
to* recognize new patterns* in the world.

It also leads to a lot of mistakes.

Is "ignoring details" good or bad? I think it is both, depending on how it
is being used.


In order to recognize new patterns of facts in the world, new categories of
physical processes, new abstract entities, new kinds of diseases, new kinds
of mechanisms, we have to ignore a lot of details.  Our ability to generate
new categories (e.g. physicians look at patterns of patients and invent new
disease concepts)  that we use for analyzing circumstances is essential to
medicine.


How do we generate new categories? To generate a new category requires that
we focus on essential similarities and ignore non-essential details. We
look at a group of similar patients and see patterns. Details that do not
fit the pattern have to be ignored.


Our ability to focus on similarities and ignore some details enables the
creation of new disease concepts. We cannot make progress in medicine
without training ourselves to ignore some details.


This same ability to focus on essential similarities and to ignore some
details can cause mistakes.

My favorite philosopher says that the most interesting thing about logical
fallacies is not that they are wrong, but that they are seductive.
Understanding why and how we are seduced into error is very complicated.

Or, as Walt Kelly used to say in Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Lee Tilson







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