Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The M&M Analogy and the Failure to Grasp It (Slightly Re-edited)

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POST: Someone just told me that the M&M analogy contains two logical fallacies: Appeal to Emotion and the Fallacy of Composition. For those who haven't heard it yet, here's an off-the-top-of-my-head version of the M&M analogy.
Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned, but you have no way of knowing which are and which are not. Do you eat them?  
Now, imagine that 90% of the Syrian Refugees are not terrorists, but 10% are and you have no way of determining who is and who isn't. Do you let them in the country?
I don't see anything the least bit emotionally evocative--maybe it's me, but I don't have to feel any sort of emotion to play the odds; to notice that one plus one equals two, to form an opinion about it and to respond accordingly. YMMV.

As for the Fallacy of Composition:
The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part)
In the analogy, it is not implied, but explicitly stated for both groups that the something in question is not true of 90% the rest of each group, so the Fallacy of Composition is out.

What IS implied is that if the observer had a way of separating the 90% from the 10%, he/she would accept the majority and exclude the minority. But he/she CANNOT do so, so it's logical to reject the whole group.

Action or inaction supporting continuous breathing is logical, Spock.

These implications contain the lesson that many, many people fail to receive--to infer--from the analogy, including, IMO, the person who tried to apply the logical fallacies. Any inference otherwise is in the mind of the observer. My personal name for this: failed mind-reading.

Ignore the actual inference also makes moral superiority and preening easier.

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