The good news is: I understand your thinking…

Yesterday, I caught a very brief segment on talk radio where a well-intentioned gentleman was explaining a solution that reduced energy consumption by turning off more lights at night. As a good interviewer does, Jerry Agar asked questions about the rationale for this endeavour. I was impressed at how quickly the guest (who I could not find on the site!) explained the connections that he was making, The train of thought is this:

  • If people trust each other, they are more comfortable in the dark.
  • One way to know that it is dark is that you can see stars (He actually said “the milky way.”)
  • So, the ability to see the milky way is a great indicator of how much people trust each other.
  • Let’s turn off the lights and start trusting!

Making connections between indicators and such fuzzy concepts as “degree of trust,” is a worthwhile, yet very difficult task. The impressive part of his explanation was not the logical connections, but the comfort that he had in telling another person how he had put it together.

My professional network contains some experts in philosophy who I will consult for a more technical critique of this reasoning than “Huh?!” In my humble opinion, this gentleman made a horrible argument, but I can’t stress enough the effectiveness of his clarity and willingness to reveal his thinking. A clearly explained whacky argument is easier for everyone to address than an obfuscated description that you have to untangle. The former, we know to ignore or, if we like the guy, give some very blunt critique. The latter takes much more time and energy before we get anywhere.

So, full marks for clarity. Let’s work on the logic,