Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are you right more than 50% of the time?

Do you find the following conversation familiar to you?

"I think that [something] works [that way]", A claims.

"No, you're wrong. Don't you see that [an example of that something] works [the other way]?", B protests.

Besides math and logic, no theory in this world is absolute. Newton claimed that F = ma but it doesn't hold true when force approaches infinity, according to Einstein's theory of relativity. Hack, Heisenberg's uncertainly principle claims that we can never know the exact position and momentum of a particle simultaneously.

If Physics, a well-defined branch of science, is not so certain all the time, the day-to-day claims made by average people of course are even cruder.

So what makes a claim worth any value? From a probabilistic point of view, if the claim isn't true more than 50% of the time, we shouldn't believe it.

When one person makes a claim, instead of thinking of counter examples to protest it (which is easy to do), one should ask him/herself this question:

"Is this claim correct more than 50% of the time?"

To answer this question, one should think objectively and examine all the relevant cases s/he has experienced before. If most of the cases agree with the claim, the claim is true, in a probabilistic sense, and there is no point to argue.

People usually fall into one mind trap: when some counter examples are so personal or close to them, they'll use them as evidence and object to the claim strongly. (For example, I claim that "Most women know how to cook" and unfortunately your wife is an exception so you say "NO, that's NOT true!")

No no no.... Remember, we're not talking about math here.
  • In math, one counter example can prove a theory wrong
  • In reality, one counter example doesn't prove a claim wrong
You need more than 50% of counter examples to prove a claim wrong. And, even in that case, the claim is still worth something since by reversing it, you get a new claim that's right more than half of the times.

What're the the most useless claims then? You bet, those claims that are correct exactly 50% of the times. That's why I hate answers like "Maybe", "Probably", "It depends" so much.

Come on, claim you thoughts guys. Even they're wrong, it still worths more than those "It depends"'s :P

One more thought: If you think about it, how can a claim be right exactly 50% of the time?? It's obvious that people who give "It depends" as an answer haven't really use their brains to analyze the claim...