Fake moral lessons

Many facebook discussions start with some quotable quote or a story. Fake moral stories are on the rise as well. Consider the following interesting discussion on facebook based upon a fake story (names and some discussion removed for brevity and to protect the innocent)

Eagle siting on a tree doing nothing. Rabit thought to do the same & sat on ground. A wolf came & ate it. Lesson: To sit & do nothing, you need to be on top!!

Another friend replied to this with another similar story:

WELL SAID, I heard an other story i mean not related to this but funny;

A turkey was chatting with a bull. ‘I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree’ sighed the turkey, ‘but I haven’t got the energy.”Well, why don’t you nibble on some of my droppings?’ replied the bull. They’re packed with nutrients.’The turkey pecked at a … See Morelump of dung, and found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree.The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch.

Finally after a fourth night, the turkey was proudly perched at the top of the tree.He was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot him out of the tree.

Moral Bull Shitt might get you to the top, but it won’t keep you there.

I replied with:

I think that both these stories also demonstrate a critical flaw of logic; you can prove anything with logic using an appropriately constructed story involving humans, animals, plants, stars etc.

There are three problems with stories like this:

  1. These stories are obviously fake. No one was sitting with those animals and recording their “thinking” for the story.
  2. We can make animals do whatever we want to according to our planned outcome.
  3. Even if the above two things were right somehow, we are still generalizing from one example which is surely a wrong thing to do. (See http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing_from_one_example/)

There are better ways to teach and I shall be writing about some of these in future.

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