Questions On Induction
from Clear Thinking by R W Jepson

1. Construct an inductive argument to prove that some article of food, or some habit, is beneficial or injurious to you.

2. You read somewhere that illegible handwriting is no criterion of greatness. You say to yourself: "Well, it may not be a criterion of greatness, but at any rate most great men seem to write illegibly." How would you proceed to test the truth of your view?

3. You discover that more crimes were committed in 1934 in the U.S.A. than in the United Kingdom. What other figures or information will you require before you can estimate the comparative prevalence of crime in the two countries?

4. A lecturer, addressing a large meeting of children, said: "The average number of children in a family is 8. This can be verified at any large representative gathering." He then issued slips of paper on which the children wrote down the total number of children (including themselves) in their own family. The average was 3.4. How do you explain the result?

5. What truth is there in the statement that statistics can be made to prove anything?

6. Mention some uses to which (a) the results of the Census and (b) the Registrar-General's returns can be put?

7. "Many people make figures bear the interpretation they want to put on them, and will choose the cause or effect they want and eliminate the others." Comment on this, and illustrate your answer by referring to different interpretations put on General Election or By-Election results.

8. An airman attributed the successful completion of a hazardous flight to the mascot he was carrying. What information must the rational person be supplied with before he can abandon his opinion that the connection between the mascot and success is only accidental?

9. Give some examples of people's credulity in attributing causes and suggesting remedies.

10. "Some people see in every incident a manifestation of their own pet theory." Explain and illustrate.

11. " Every age sees history through its own glasses."— "Once you begin to generalise about history, your prejudices must make themselves evident."
How far do you agree with these dicta?

12. Criticise the following arguments:

(a)Our Common Law and our Jury System cannot be due to Protestantism because they began to develop long before England became Protestant. Therefore they must be due to Roman Catholicism.
(b)"There, what did I say? Imprisonment never deters people from crime. More than half the prisoners at the recent assizes were old lags. Once a criminal, always a criminal."
(c)Mr Bernard Shaw writes such good plays because he is a vegetarian.
(d)It will be a hard winter, because holly-berries are abundant.
(e)During the last war there was a marked reduction in the amount of crime in the U.K. This goes to prove that war is a great moral tonic.
(f)A. " Negroes are incapable of intellectual development."
B."But what about Booker Washington and Paul Robeson?"
C."Yes, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule."
(g)Britain's national debt has grown as her prosperity increased. It looks therefore as if it pays you to live beyond your income.
(h)The lunatic asylums contain many highly educated people. Education therefore is one of the causes of mental abnormality.
(i)Ministers in parliament are justified in withholding information on the same principle on which doctors refuse to divulge information about their patients which they have gained in the course of professional attendance.
(j)The British Empire is rapidly breaking up. Everything that grows must also decay. The British, like all the empires of antiquity, must fall a victim to the laws of time.
(j)Carlyle supports his objection to the parliamentary system of government by representation on the ground that a ship could never be taken round Cape Horn if the crew were consulted every time the captain proposed to alter the course.
(l)These ruthless amputations of coal and transport are not going to improve the national circulation.
(m)If you are going to suppress high speed on the road on the ground that it is dangerous, you might as well also suppress religion, science, gas-cookers, circular saws, alcohol, and cup-ties.
(n)If we can spend 15 million pounds a day during the war surely to goodness we can spend a few hundred thousand on endowing a National Theatre.
(o)There's some hope for the Ministry of Labour now we've got an ex-trade-union official at the head of it.

13. A self-made successful business man, protesting against the raising of the school-leaving age, says: "I left school at thirteen, and look at me." Construct a suitable reply.

14. Look back at Chapter Two. What methods were used by the medical officer in (a) discovering and (b) verifying the cause of the scarlet-fever epidemic?

15. An analyst is entrusted with the task of finding out whether arsenic is present in a substance submitted to him. The reagents generally used are zinc and sulphuric acid, both of which substances are liable to contain traces of arsenic. What precautions therefore must he take?

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