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Avoiding superstitiousness and religiosity
Illogic is avoidable. Though there are innumerable mistakes that can be made in logic, and very many which result in superstitiousness and religiosity, here are some of the most common, and how to avoid them:
1. Misunderstanding significance.
Just because things happen does not mean that they are meaningful. This mistake in logic results in illogical behavior. The cause for this error is due to the human tendency to observe things symbolically, and to also observe repeating patterns. Symbolism is necessary for daily life (each of these letters is a symbol which is interpreted to convey sounds and thought, for example), and even can be used to comprehend complex abstract concepts (such as time, energy, force, etc.). However, in observing everything as a significant symbol, we can come to wrong understanding. Observation of repetition is also a human nature, and is usually useful. However, in observing extreme long-term or short-term trends, there is an increasing risk that the coincidence of the repeated events are unrelated. Avoiding both errors is accomplished by studying the repetition of symbol: if the repetition occurs within a statistical margin of error, there is no likely significance to them.
2. Seeking non-randomness.
Randomness is a fact of reality. This is not to suggest that things happen without cause or effect, but that sometimes things happen without discernible cause, or without discernible effect. Or that things happen due to so many interrelated causes and effects that understanding the significance (see mistake #1) is impossible to calculate. Concluding the cause or effect of an apparently random event without sufficient information will result in an error of logic, and illogical behavior. Consequently, a degree of certainty should be obtained before making a conclusion of non-randomness: this certainty should be conservative for events with many repetitions (much data), and can be more liberal for unusual events (which are fertile for speculation).
3. Insufficient data, too much data.
Sometimes, we are more conservative than we should be in coming to conclusions - or too liberal. Understanding whether we have enough data to come to a conclusion about non-randomness (see mistake #2) is very important. This is accomplished by analyzing the data for predictable patterns. If additional data would significantly improve our ability to predict future repetitions, then more data is required. If more data would not result in significant improvement, then more data is not required. If the majority of the data cannot be predicted by a hypothesis and more data will not significantly improve our understanding, a re-evaluation of the logical premise that there is, in fact, any repetition or significance to the data is required (see mistake #1).
4. Ignoring extreme examples in trying to understand standard examples.
The truth of interdependence of all phenomenon requires us to understand extreme examples in any sample of repeating phenomenon as examples of interconnectedness, when minor factors are permitted by random chance (see mistake #2) to become significant (see mistake #1). While they are atypical examples, it does permit a fuller understanding of the various factors impacting the standard example. While there is an inclination to ignore these as being not significantly improving our understanding of a typical example (see mistake #3), these extreme data should not be discarded from the sample and ignored. It is a mistake to discard any data of the repeating phenomenon studied.
5. Coincidence does not mean causality.
Just because two things happen with significant predictability (without mistakes #1, #2, #3 or #4) does not mean they are causal in nature. Meaningless coincidence does occur. Understanding how things work by examining all the factors involved in the repetition (avoiding mistake #4) will permit the avoidance of this mistake: if we understand that there is no causal relationship between the birds singing outside our window near our birdfeeder and our choice of breakfast yesterday, we can also understand that if we share our breakfast with the birds a causal relationship might be developed.
6. Causality as one-directional.
All causality is interdependent, and creates feedback loops. Ignoring the shared relationship between cause and effect (mistake #5), we ignore that effect can provoke subsequent cause. When we ignore that the effect can provoke the cause - just as easily as the cause can provoke the effect - our ignorance results in profoundly irrational behavior. Our observations result in the observations made.
7. Mistaking hypothesis for theory, theory for truth.
The principle danger to religious or superstitious behavior is the wrong action which occurs through the illogicality. This wrong action is possible only because there is a tendency to accept things which are sometimes true as always true. This is an attachment. Such materialism results in belief. Beliefs can - and should - be let go of.