What Seemed Like Perfect Reasoning Utterly Failed

Does warm water sometimes freeze faster than cold water when placed in the same conditions? "Absolutely no way," I said, a mere minute after I heard the claim. "People sometimes claim that NASA faked the moon landing too," I thought to myself. I pointed out why this claim is impossible. As warm water cools it must eventually reach the same temperature that the cool water started at. From that point on, the warm water will behave just like the cool water, but it will have taken the warm water a ...
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Accepting Your Error Rate

No matter how intelligent, rational, or knowledgeable you may be, you are going to be wrong pretty regularly. And you'll be wrong far more often than pretty regularly when dealing with complex topics like politics, people or philosophy. Even if you've freed yourself from thinking in terms of true and false dichotomies, and made the effort to convert your beliefs to probabilities or degrees of belief, you'll still be wrong by way of assigning high probabilities to false propositions. Most pe...
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Finding Our False Beliefs

By definition, we believe that each of our beliefs is true. And yet, simultaneously, we must admit that some of our beliefs must be wrong. We can't possibly have gotten absolutely everything right. This becomes especially obvious when we consider the huge number of beliefs we have, the complexity of the world we live in, and the number of people who disagree with us. The trouble though is that we don't know which of our many beliefs are wrong. If we knew that, we should have stopped believing th...
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Keeping Ideas at a Distance Using Probability

We often talk about ideas by using phrases like "I believe X." But what do we mean when we say that we "believe" in an idea? Do we mean that we have 100% confidence that the idea is true? Let's hope not. Even statements that we all would say we very strongly believe, like "tomorrow the sun will rise", and "I am not a robot" we should not assign 100% probability to. While we can be very, very, very certain that the sun will rise tomorrow and that our brains are not computers, we cannot be abso...
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