Re: New Age Angst

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 6 Jun 1997 00:58:14 -0700 (PDT)

> I quite agree regarding the value of critical thinking skills. But
> note that logic is only the first of such skills to learn. Next is
> statistics (esp. Bayesian stat.). And then game theory. And you
> can't really have good critical skills without learning the equivalent
> of an intro course in 20 major subjects.

Children today aren't even taught the basics to enable them to learn
such things--first things first. For example, there is a progression
of decision-making disciplines. The first is microeconomics: only the
actions of one are considered, complete knowledge of choices and their
resulting payoffs is assumed. Then macroecomics: more than one actor,
complete information. Then decision theory (such as Bayesian analysis)
where there is one actor, but incomplete information. Finally, game
theory with multiple actors and incomplete information. Orthogonal
to those are basic skills like epistemology, mathematics, language
(and not just the ability to speak one--I mean really understanding
what language is about and speaking at least two, plus signing).
But all of these are just advanced studies based on the same logic.

If one has a firm grasp of the most vital knowledge--language,
epistemology, mathematics, basic biology, and moral direction--
all the rest falls into place easily. Why should a 4-year-old not
be able to understand something as simple as supply and demand?
Why should a first-grader not be able to spot a "post hoc" fallacy
or argument from authority? A 9-year-old should be able to point
out an ambiguity or hidden implication in a sentence, or tell a
correlation from causation.

That so many adults are incapable of these simple things is all
the more disastrous. I'm all for those of us who have already
mastered the basics to move on into game theory and politics; but
let's get the rest of the world at walkin before we lament that
they cannot run.

Lee Daniel Crocker <>  <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC