I’m Having a Little Fun with the PhDs

All else equal, someone having a PhD makes me less likely to trust their judgment.

Why do I trust their judgment less? (All else equal, remember…)

They thought it was a valuable investment of their life to join the ranks of the cabal that is currently destroying the world.

Some do it innocently. Most do not.

I love education. For that reason, I have little respect for that which commonly goes by the name.

An Objection From a Dear Friend:

Okay, two can play at that game. What if, by that same logic, I said the same about people who have social media accounts?!

“All else equal, someone having a social media account makes me less likely to trust their judgment. Why? They thought it was a valuable investment of their life to join the ranks of the cabal that is currently destroying the world. Some do it innocently. Most do not.”

Or maybe this is just a fallacy of composition. ;-)

Cute. But you’ll need to review the books, my PhD friend.

First, review the difference between the fallacy of composition and the hasty generalization.

The nice thing about a PhD is that I can expect you to think clearly.

You do know that what we did above was not a fallacy at all, right? It wasn’t a hasty generalization (and certainly not a fallacy of composition).

The original version and the attempted parody are both valid reasoning for handling guesses based on limited data.

It’s not the fallacy of composition in this case, because we are not talking about making a factual claim. We are making an estimate of likelihood (admittedly, based only on a single data point) from past experience of others who fit that same data point.

This is proper to do — if we have no access to any other data and if we are in a position to have to make a decision — especially if we acknowledge that we do not actually have knowledge of the instance, and especially if we use the qualification “all else equal.”

The moment we begin to interact with a specific person, we begin collecting other data, and “all else” is no longer equal.

Not to put too fine a point on the question, but all else equal, I would rather find that a random woman has walked into my house than a random man.

If that is all the data I have, one is clearly a more dangerous situation than the other.

In light of the explanation I gave, let me repeat:

The nice thing about a PhD is that I can expect you to think clearly.

In other words, if you fail to understand such matters, there is little excuse.


If you enjoyed the above, you may also like this — some thoughts on hasty generalizing and when it is and is not a fallacy: