Man's physical universe



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.


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


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.

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