One of my favorite lines from all of the Star Trek movies was in Star Trek 4. Spock was technically the Capitan. Kirk, then an Admiral, wanted to take command of the ship. He was tip-toeing around Spock’s feelings in even bringing up the subject. Spock responded,
“You proceed from a false assumption. I have no ego to bruise.”
I’ve always remembered that lesson from the fictional master of logic and tried to apply it in my life. Before I make something more difficult than it has to be or before I take something for granted I should make sure that all the information that I’ve used to make my decision is correct.
Suppose I was always losing my keys. If I had already accepted the premise that leprechauns exist then it would be easy for me to conclude that leprechauns were to blame every time I misplaced my keys. Accepting this solution would likely prevent me from identifying and correcting the real problem. Obviously the existence of leprechauns is a pretty far-fetched example. However, less silly examples happen all the time. People make assumptions that are based on no more proof than the evidence for existence of our little green Irish friends.
The other day I was listening to a speaker give a presentation about a new program that was available for those fighting various forms of addiction. He lost me early in his presentation because he proceeded from a false premise. He proudly announced that the program was “based on the proven effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous”. His false premise? That Alcoholics Anonymous has been proven effective. It’s very hard to objectively measure such results. It’s even more difficult when AA is very tightlipped about their effectiveness and resistant to outside studies to evaluate it. Some studies show that 95% of those who start AA end up drinking again. This makes me wonder what the rate is for those who just try to quite without AA. A recent study determined that,
“No experimental studies unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness of AA or TSF approaches for reducing alcohol dependence or problems.”
Now all this AA business aside; I have no idea how effective the program that was presented really is. I have no evidence either way. The point of this post was not to discredit that program at all. I only wished to point out the logical fallacy in the reasoning used to promote it.
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