Introduction: Finding and Fighting Everyday Lies
A Znet Instructional by Justin Podur
Have you ever heard an argument that made you sick to your stomach, but that you couldn't explain why? Have you ever been intimidated by obscure language or diverted by clever argumentative tricks? Have you ever wondered how to tell when someone was using statistics to pull the wool over your eyes?
The battle to bring about a sane and just world takes place in two places. In the streets, where organization, cohesion, courage, and unity are key; and in people's minds, where care, objectivity, doubt, and independence are most important. To fight the latter battle is to try to uncover with others the truth about the world. This is difficult enough. But we are awash in lies. So a big part of the task of getting at the truth is uncovering and exposing those lies.
How can this be done? For one, by having an adequate supply of facts. But facts are not enough. Facts aren't all. Facts can be hidden, misinterpreted, misrepresented, or lied about. And there are ways to spot these things.
This course aims to teach the basic skills required for spotting lies. First, an understanding of how arguments work-- logic. Second, one of the best methods of lying and obfuscation ever invented-- statistics. The emphasis will be in the logic section on recognizing sound and unsound arguments, looking for implicit and explicit assumptions, and common tricks used to cover up unsound reasoning. In the second section, basic ideas of statistics will be taught, and with them the many ways this interesting tool is used to deceive. Real examples and choice bits of propaganda will be used and dissected. The emphasis is on practical reasoning and statistics, and the underlying ideas. References will be provided for students more interested in technical details.
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Table of Contents
Section I: Logic
Section II: Statistics