Miracles and Shoddy Thinking in Business

Have you ever seen this graphic?


You problemably have. It's attached to this excellent post (be sure to read the full article) about shoddy thinking in economics.

Someone desperate to demonstrate their position, but stymied by a gap in their argument, invokes a "then a miracle occurs" step, from which their supposed "proof" can continue.

Such miracle steps, upon which the validity of the arguments depend, sneak in logical errors, or invoking them would not have been necessary. Of course, few people (especially those already committed to the same position) pay enough attention to recognize and expose these flaws, which are usually further covered by the misdirection of focusing most of the discussion on the steps that can actually be defended (and ad hominem attacks on those who dare to notice and object).

Of course this never happens to you, because you are open minded. (It never happens to me either… at least not for the last 5 or 6 posts). And of course, there are many things you know so well and are so sure of that you don't need to question them**. But even though you and I don't make these mistakes, businesspersons of lesser abilities do it all the time.

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It all goes back to that idea that our brains are wired to help us believe what we want to believe. That's a very nice feature that helps us avoid the pain and heartache of the truth. Combine the desire to believe what we want with the abililty to invoke miracles steps; add a staff of yes-men and voila! you have the ability to make business decisions that are in no way connected to an underlying reality. And at that point, the stock analysts will usually give you a "strong buy" recommendation.

**that's a tip on where to look

  • Yeah and then we have a a business strategy like the “underpants gnomes
    ” from South Park.

  • Steve

    Most people aren’t swayed by logic, but emotion. Ad hominem attacks work. That’s why people learn to use them, whether they realize it or not. If I can make you think someone is a bad person, their argument doesn’t matter any more even if it is correct.

  • Brock

    Drug companies are working on drugs to improve our memories. Maybe while they’re at it they can whip up something for this too.

    I prefer the truth.

  • Pooja P

    Along with this one.. i also managed to read Paranoid About Perception -Trust me perceptively i relate to this fuLLy ..
    How can i join this stuff.. ? is there a way ??
    bye take care

  • Pooja P

    Just realised this stuff seems more like a blog!
    Well incase u read up these comments.. n wanna catch up..

  • FYI, that cartoon is by Sid Harris, who has drawn hundreds (if not thousands) of cartoons for Scientific American and similar publications. He has an online gallery at http://www.sciencecartoonsplus.com/gallery.htm

    The caption on the cartoon originally read “I think you should be more explicit here in step two.” This is one of his best-known drawings.