Re: The "Package Deal" Fallacy (was Religion Bashing)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Fri, 22 Oct 1999 15:44:18 -0700 (PDT)

>> Of course when new evidence arrives, a rational person embraces it
>> and discards old misconceptions that he might previously have relied
>> upon, but that doesn't mean it was necessarily irrational to have
>> relied upon them earlier.

> Yes, it does. Accidents happen. Let's say I take the long way to school
> every day because I believe something good will happen if I do. After 7
> years of walking to school the long way I find a $20 bill laying on the
> sidewalk. I could say it is because I held on to my irrational faith of
> walking the long way so it must be rational, but then I would be committing
> the post hoc fallacy.

You would be making a fallacious argument /at that point/, but that's not what I was talking about. To use your example, suppose you had some reason for taking the long path; it was wider, cleaner, more scenic, whatever. You got to work in plenty of time, and enjoyed the trip. Now, new evidence comes in, and it's real falsifying evidence not confirming anecdotes like your $20 bill. People start getting mugged on the long path. Your friends who get to work earlier start getting raises. In the face of this new evidence, you can either stubbornly cling to your traditions, or your can change. Even if you change, though, that doesn't mean that you /were/ necessarily irrational to have done it your way. You'd done it for years, it worked well for you, and you had no evidence of a better way, so it was perfectly rational for you to continue. Even if you just suspected there was a better way, it may not have been rational for you to invest time and energy discovering it. Ignorance can be rational when knowledge has costs.

Confirming anecdotes like your $20 bill are not proof, and shouldn't be relied upon. But when you try something 1000 times and it "accidentally" produces the same result all 1000, it's perfectly rational to bet that it will continue to happen until something changes. There is nothing to philosophically justify induction except induction, but if you want to bet that the sun will fail to rise tomorrow, I'll be happy to take that bet. I'll even give you good odds.

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