What a wonderful world

May 5, 2008

Whatever you think about the state of the world today, it’s a good bet that we’re living in a golden age of dishonesty. Assuming that you’d rather not be deceived, I want to share the smartest thing I’ve read all month. It’s from the NeuroLogica Blog by Dr. Steven Novella:

Beware simple answers to complex problems, or easy methods for accomplishing difficult goals. If you combine this maxim with the advice to be skeptical of any claims that are being made in order to sell you something—then ironically you have a simple method (perhaps I should call it an “elegant” method) for protecting yourself from most scams and cons.

That’s some incredibly useful advice right there. Now, the doctor indulges his love of precision when he goes on to say:

Actually the application of this combination of maxims can be complex, but what it does do is trigger doubt and skeptical analysis. (And to be clear I am not saying that all simple solutions must be wrong – you should just beware them, meaning your skeptical senses should be tingling.)

I notice that he isn’t telling anybody what to believe, like the people do who he often argues against. He’s just saying be careful, give things a little thought.