Sunday, 26 February 2012

Induction, Deduction, and the Truth

I was recently in Saskatoon, Sasketchewan for a Track meet. One of those evenings the tv was on as people did various things in our room. The movie playing was Sherlock Holmes(the first of the two more recent hollywood movies). In the movie, Holmes states something to the effect of "I merely deduced from the facts the conclusion." But there is a big problem with that statement, what Sherlock Holmes does and what people understood deduction to be are two very different things. In fact, this cultural misunderstanding of the difference between deduction and induction(something people don't really know about) is evident in the fact that the movie has Holmes stating it is deduction, when in fact it is induction. You can look up the definitions sometime if you choose, but here is the gist. In reference to logic, deduction is the process of coming to a conclusion that is NECESSARY based on the facts on which the conclusion is based. Induction is a conclusion that may logically and reasonably come from the facts, but is not necessary. Basically, supposing the underlying facts used to make a conclusion are correct, then if it is truly deduction, then the conclusion MUST be true. Otherwise it must be induction, for if the facts are true and the conclusion is false, then there is no necessary connection.

Now this brings me closer to my point for this blog. We live in a culture that highly values logical induction, but masquerades it as deduction. In fact, true deduction is something that is rather rare, for we almost never have all the necessary facts for conclusions. We can make reasonable conclusions and guesses based on the facts we can observe, but the fact remains that we don't know, see, hear, or observe everything and therefore rarely get the chance to truly use deduction. Furthermore, deduction is a rather artificial thing since we only really ever get to use it when solving logic problems or using math. Ultimately thats what deduction truly is, pretty much math. Its a logical mode of thought that puts things into a rather black and white configuration.

I have no particular problem with induction, its what we use the most when trying to think logically, but here is what bothers me. Deduction carries with it the weight that given a set of facts a conclusion MUST be true. This becomes very problematic when people make such claims when in fact their arguments are inductive, and are not NECESSARILY true. Take Evolution for example. People have observed certain facts about the world we live in. They take certain facts that corroborate their hypotheses and using those as a basis for their argument claim to deduce evolution from it. There are two major problems with this from the get-go. First is that they often completely ignore other facts(which negates any claims of deduction). Second is that they claim from these facts their conclusion must necessarily be true, using a mode of thought akin to deduction rather than induction which is what they actually are using.

Induction and Deduction are closely related, after all there is only one minute difference between the two. They are both modes of logic, an approach to understanding the world that much of Western culture has been built upon. Logic in many cases has become synonymous with reason, truth, and correctness. But it is not the only mode of understanding the world, and in itself does not DETERMINE truth. It is a method of understanding truth developed by one culture(or set of cultures) and passed on to others in a way that nowadays logic is often thought of being truth. Its just too bad that so many people are decieved into believing that logic=truth and if something isn't logical, then it must not be true. Don't get me wrong, I use logic all the time. I'm a very logical person using lateral thinking all the time. In fact, much of what I'm saying here is based on logic. I bought a magazine full of logic problems today and enjoy thinking logically. I just constantly need to remind myself that it is only a tool, and not necessarily even the best one for understanding truth and the world around us.

For His Glorious Name,

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