The Tools of Reason

Chapter 9 of Rationality (2021) brings us to the 7th and final of Pinker’s tools of reason – Correlation and Causation.  The tools of reason explored in chapters 3-9 are not the “master’s tools” – they’re everyone’s, despite leftist’s complaints to the contrary.  Next week, we’ll move to the conclusion on why so many minds today are irrational (it’s because of myside bias).  That will springboard us into 3 more books that are essential to understanding what’s wrong with people these days.

The most helpful book review of Rationality on Amazon is titled:

Pinker < Galef, Rauch

We’ll get to both Jonathan Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge (2021) and Julia Galef’s The Scout Mindset but Pinker’s work should not be overlooked.  And Keith Stanovich’s The Bias That Divides Us (2021) is the cognitive crown jewel for knowing why so many people with advanced degrees are wrong and irrational.  Pinker cites Stanovich often in his book.  Maybe the Amazon reviewer’s title should be:

Pinker < Galef, Rauch < Stanovich

Pinker’s contribution to the issue is that he’s a good teacher, patiently explaining complex concepts on an intuitive level.  For example, the imagery of rubber bands, tacks and rods on pg. 249 makes the concept of regression easy to grasp.  He begins his chapter on correlation and causation with a Thomas Sowell quote:

One of the first things taught in introductory statistics textbooks is that correlation is not causation.  It is also one of the first things forgotten.

I studied ‘but for’ causation in law school and thought I understood it.  Reading pg. 256-281 reminds me that causation is a much more complicated (and uncertain) thing than most realize.  Pinker’s closing comic strip succinctly concludes the chapter.

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