The Fallacy of Oversimplification
Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.Albert Einstein
Lately, I've been pondering about the world, particularly the tech world. I even wrote an article on the topic, which I've been researching for a few weeks now. All this reflection made me think about how we perceive the world and how sometimes, in an attempt to save time, we oversimplify things. This trend, which is becoming more and more widespread, thanks to the lack of time we often experience, creates a severe problem. Namely, we fall victim to the fallacy of oversimplification. Oversimplification often leads to a bunch of other fallacies as it distorts our view of the facts and results in bizarre inferences.
The world is complex, and when it comes to the human-related parts of it, it's also complicated. As we develop our minds and enable more sophisticated thoughts and designs, we inevitably change our environment in similar patterns. The problem is that sometimes this sophistication gets out of hand, leading to overly complex structures, such as a country's economy, the urban ecosystem, and even the way we interact socially. Attempting to understand all this, we tend to simplify what we observe, a process that is in itself a complicated matter. As a result, not everyone simplifies things the same way. This difference in simplification leads to several oversimplifications, where the result is something almost trivial and highly controversial.
Recently I came across an online poll on a different social medium. This poll was about how social media should be structured in terms of the primary value they should have. For the latter, the poll gave two options, oversimplifying the matter immensely. Naturally, all this makes people more divided as the two options provided tend to be quite different from each other (otherwise, no one would bother to take the poll seriously).
Oversimplification also exists in other scenarios, particularly these days. People hear some "experts" saying that a vaccine for Covid-19 is bound to save all of our pandemic-related problems and they either accept this at face value or are labeled as "anti-science" people by those who do. Very few people bother to look into the matter and examine its various subtleties, such as the efficacy of this vaccine (and vaccines in general), the effect that it can deliver (in this case just make the symptoms milder), and whether it has any side effects (most vaccines need several years of testing before their side effects are discovered and mitigated, though even then they are not 100% safe).
Interestingly, those who are quick to label any dissenting views are heretic or anti-science aren't very scientific themselves. How many people do you know who have done their own research on the topic they are so adamant about? Even scientists tend to be on the fence on something they investigate until they have sufficient evidence on it. Yet, those people who are so "pro-science" have rarely looked beyond the surface, as they've put their trust on this or the other authority, which more often than not, doesn't have any real scientific standing (unless you can call the messy models based on a bunch of simulations actual science).
Perhaps we ought to step back and examine the evidence before we make our minds about this or any other matter. After all, with sufficient observations, the chances of bias are smaller. Doing proper research takes time, and often the conclusions are not as clear-cut as the heading of a newspaper article. However, that's the price of proper research work. The latter can simplify things, enough to make them somewhat comprehensible, but it doesn't oversimplify them to catchy soundbites and mottos. Cheers!
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