46 THK INTFLLIGENT SOLUTION OF PROBLEMS A very useful exercise in training yourself to recognize color words and to be on your guard lest you be influenced by them is the analysis of newspaper articles, radio addresses, sermons, political speeches, etc., to discover what color words are used. Then try to discover from these color words what the author or speaker wants you to think, and, if possible, locate information concerning him in order to determine why he wants you to think in that way. Try removing all of the color words and see what content there is left. 6. Incautious Conclusions Are Typical of Crooked Thinking. It is very easy to arrive at extreme conclusions not justified by the available data. Any writer or speaker lays himself open to criticism. Skillful debaters sometimes seek to drive their opponents to defend more extreme positions than they intended to by contradicting their moderate statements. Many good cases and deserving causes are lost because their proponents were incautious enough to make overstatements. 7. Compromise Is Often Expedient, but Not Necessarily Straight, Thinking. A frequent device to win support for a given cause is to assert that it is a compromise between two extreme positions which keeps all of the good and none of the bad of these extremes. Many people decide a course of action only after studying what other people do under similar circumstances and then try to steer a middle course. Such a procedure avoids argument, but it does not represent an honest attempt to arrive at the truth. Suppose that one person says that two and two make four, while another person says that two and two make ten. Obviously a compromise between these views, namely, that two and two make seven, would not represent the truth. 8. "Either-or" Thinking Is Usually Very Crooked Thinking. Nature cannot be pigeon-holed. There is no sharp line which divides plants from animals, men from women, white from black, hot from cold, winter from summer, etc. No person is wholly sane or insane, good or bad, intelligent or unintelligent, conservative or radical. Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap which uses "either-or" for the bait, because it is almost certain to lead you to unsound conclusions. On the other hand one must not get the idea that differences do not exist because there are no sharp boundaries. 9. Reasoning by Authority Is a Good Tool Wrongly Used by Crooked Thinkers. From the time of the great advances in knowledge made by the Greeks down through a thousand years or more to the Renaissance, most of the reasoning was based on premises established by authority rather than experience.
STRAIGHT THINKING 47 Today no one can hope to be able to check all data experimentally. It is very important, therefore, that you should learn how to select data based on adequate experimental evidence. People pay more attention to what authorities think or say than to why they think what they do. Some of our very best authorities in special fields have been sought after for statements concerning almost everything under the sun, with the result that they have even come to regard themselves as authorities. Your first lesson in seeking authorities is to beware of the person, regardless of how great his reputation is, if he considers himself to be an authority. Your second lesson is to look for the reasons for the statements made by the authorities. Real authorities seldom make statements without outlining the evidence upon which they are based. A real authority should know his subject well enough so that he can present it clearly to nontechnical listeners. When you do not understand a technical statement, ask to have it made clear to you. If this request meets with a loss of temper, ridicule, or another flood of technical jargon, either set down the speaker as an uneducated specialist or a quack. In neither case can he be of use to you. 10. Inconsequential Arguments Abound in Crooked Thinking. Carelessness, thoughtlessness, and laziness often cause people to believe or state conclusions which are not justified by the reasons given to support them. A certain lubricating oil for automobiles is advertised to "last longer" and reduce knocks. The inference that one is supposed to reach is that this oil would be the best lubricant available for the engine. Actually, emery powder would last longer, and lead tetraethyl would be better for reducing knocks, but neither would serve as a lubricant. The remedy for this kind of crooked thinking is to ask yourself or others to make clear just how one fact or idea proves that the second one is true. 11. Reasoning by Analogy May Easily Become Crooked. One can predict as successfully whether a motor is good, bad, or absent, by examining the hood as he can tell whether the individual is a genius, lunatic, or imbecile by examining the skull. — Moss. Many people reason by analogy that, if a person has a strong jaw, he has a strong character or is quite determined. A broad or high forehead is frequently thought to be a sure indicator of broad understanding or high intelligence. One must use analogies with caution, because they tend to cause people to arrive at conclusions without checking the data upon which they are based.