Friday, July 20, 2007

Faulty Logic

Here's a recent post from Enteng. I tried posting it two weeks ago but was prevented by a Blogspot glitch.

Math was my favorite subject. I still remember an exercise where, using theorems and postulates, you had to prove that 1+0=1. That was fun.

That’s probably why I was gravitated to a career in computer programming, which required a rigid discipline in logic. Faulty logic can prove disastrous.

Consider, for example, the following instructions for an ATM machine: “If requested amount is not less than the minimum amount or requested amount is not more than the maximum amount, then dispense cash requested.” No matter what amount you request, it will always dispense cash – probably not what the programmer intended. Think about it.

When I became active in political advocacy (which started only during the anti-Erap campaign), I realized that people easily fall prey to faulty logic, especially if it conveniently aligns with their own biases.

The classic example is the law of transitivity. A simplified application of this law works this way: If A likes B, and B likes C, then A will most probably like C. In advertising, this translates to the power of endorsements. If I like Piolo, and Piolo says he wears Bench, I will most probably consider buying Bench. Logical.

Here’s how it gets distorted: If A dislikes C, and B dislikes C, then A likes B. Let’s frame it in more real terms: Enteng dislikes GMA, and Erap dislikes GMA, therefore Enteng likes Erap. Not necessarily true. To prove the point, consider this: Enteng dislikes fish, and Hitler dislikes fish, does that mean Enteng likes Hitler? Absurd. And yet, many EDSA 2 veterans who fought for the removal of Erap have bought the palace line that anyone who criticizes GMA is pro-Erap.

The Erap camp is guilty of distorted logic as well. The more logical reading of the GO win in the last elections should be: People disliked GMA, GMA liked (and endorsed) TU, therefore people disliked and DID NOT vote for TU candidates.

But they intentionally misread it as: Erap endorsed GO candidates, people voted for GO candidates, therefore people still like Erap. Using this conclusion, they warn government that people will not take too kindly an Erap conviction. The biggest counterargument to this is the debacle of John Osmena. Erap endorsed him and he still lost badly.

People chide me for the things I do, unfortunately, based on wrong logic. Some would say: I opposed Erap, I oppose GMA, therefore I’m a communist... because that’s what communists do – oppose and attempt to topple government. Many don’t know that when we started the Heal our Land Movement in 2003, we prayed for GMA every week. It was only after the Garci scandal that I started advocating accountability from GMA.

Others taunt me for endorsing some GO senators only to decry their betrayal of the people’s mandate in the process of selecting the senate president. Well... election is the season to be partisan, and I believe that more than just voting, we should campaign for candidates whom we think can serve the people best. And if they later turn out to be deficient or deceitful, let us not tire in denouncing their misdeeds. The alternative – to sit idly by, will not do much good either.

While on the subject, I cannot fathom the logic of Villar’s unholy alliance with the Senate administration bloc. I know he had to do it to secure the senate presidency, and enter the 2010 presidential derby with an edge. But does he really think the advantage of the office can outweigh the stigma of being identified with GMA? Didn’t he learn from the last election? Or does he really believe that our people have such short memory?

Maybe it’s true – politicians are a different species altogether... the kind that’s immune to the laws of logic.

Finally, there are things we do that defy logic. Some people ask why we even bother to pursue impeachment when we don’t have the numbers in Congress. Logical question. The short and simple answer is: because it’s the right thing to do. Had we, as a people, stuck only to what is logical– EDSA 1 and 2 would never have happened.

More than logic, our actions should be guided by a sense of right and wrong. If you bothered to listen to the Garci tapes or read its transcript, you will reach only one logical conclusion: that GMA most probably cheated. In fact, very few (including the most avid supporters of GMA) will deny this.

Yet, they will not act on it and will offer you all sorts of reason to rationalize their position. Everybody cheats anyway. She would have won just the same even if she did not cheat. I’m glad she cheated- she saved us from an FPJ presidency. Who will replace her. Would you rather have Noli. The economy is doing well – why rock the boat.

It’s a long list of reasons, each with a veneer of logical infallibility that makes it seem right. But at its guts, you know it’s neither logical nor right. It’s sad to see how years of despair and disillusionment with our leaders have made our people morally callous and all too willing to accept the lesser evil rather than fighting for what is truly right.

There is an important lesson in this last election. You let cheating of the magnitude revealed in the Garci tapes go unpunished, expect the next wave to be more brazen and rampant. That is the logical progression.

For the benefit of the logically impaired amongst you, let me end this piece with a reiteration of my position on key issues today:

1. Yes, I believe GMA cheated and I will continue to ask for accountability because it is the right thing to do.

2. No, it doesn’t mean I’m pro-Erap, much less support any effort to restore him to power. I still believe we did right at EDSA 2. But it’s in the hands of the court now. And unless there are clear indications of deliberate efforts to subvert justice, we should all accept the court’s verdict, whatever it may be.

3. Yes, I agree that the constitution should be amended, but only after GMA’s term lest it be misused to extend her term of office.

4. No, I am not an obstructionist who will oppose any and all initiatives of GMA. Neither will I support everything from the opposition.

5. Yes, I can sense that the economy is doing well. But it is no excuse to condone the cheating or to be silent in the face of unabated killings, rising levels of corruption, and imposition of the anti-terror law. It’s quite possible that the economy might do even better if the issue of legitimacy is finally settled. After all, our neighbors in the region – including Vietnam, are faring much better than we are.

6. Yes, I will continue to campaign for and against candidates in future elections, even when some whom I campaigned for in the past turn out to be disappointments, ever hopeful that we will one day have the right mix of leaders who will lead the path to a better Philippines. And yes, I will probably campaign against Manny Villar in 2010 if he aligns with the administration this early.

7. YES, I will continue to pray for our country. In the end, kingdoms and nations rise and fall not by man’s wisdom or folly, but according to God’s sovereign will.

God bless the Philippines.



mschumey07 said...

I totally agree. There should never be gray areas nor choosing the lesser evil. Its all about what is right and just. We as a nation should always ask for what is best from our leaders. The destruction of our institutions and the culture of impunity had driven as to the ground. Should we remain silent and apathetic, hell no. Its time to draw the line and take a stand. Democracy should evolve, not regress as what our leaders have managed to do. We're back in the dark ages of authoritarianism.

Raul F. said...

Of course, the ATM will dispense any amount. The connective should be "and" not "or".