The Narrative Fallacy inThe Black Swan': An Exploration of Belief and Reasoning


 Posted in 2008
 Catagories: πŸ“š Books

Understanding Inductive Reasoning and Its Impact on Religion

I am in the middle of reading a book written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb called the Black Swan. The book itself is basically about the problems with inductive reasoning. In the book he parses these ideas out into several more specific fallacies.

  • The Narrative fallacy: creating a story post-hoc to create an identifiable cause for a given event.
  • The Ludic fallacy: believing that the structured randomness found in games resembles the unstructured randomness found in life
  • The Statistical regress fallacy: believing that the probability of future events is predictable by examining occurrences of past events.

The fallacy I want to concentrate on is the narrative fallacy. What fascinates me the most about this is that religions use Narrative to communicate their ideas. Christianity, the religion I feel is true, even goes to the point of stating that the only way that God communicates to people today is mediated via the Bible, a large collection of stories. When we are told to communicate the Gospel, we are told to tell a story. This story is summed up as follows: The creator of the universe entered reality as a human born of a woman in a small town at the center of the known world. He lived a short life, and then was put to death. Three days later he was alive again. When he was alive he claimed that those be swore fealty to Him as Lord would be able to give Him all the bad things they had done in life and have them killed as he was killed. They would also receive the life he received after being dead for three days.

I guess what fascinates me the most is that Taleb tells us that this narrative fallacy is one of the strongest and easiest fallacies for us to fall into. How is it that one of our weakest points in our intellectual armor is also one of the most critical. The book of Romans calls for us to renew our minds. We are called to be crafty as serpents. So we are called as Christians to be ready for this type of post-hoc fallacy.

I guess we can take this in several different directions. The first is that narrative is the mediated way God communicates, therefore it’s not wholly evil. Another direction is that narrative is definitely screwed up I wonder what it looked like before the fall. I also wonder if this fallacy is becoming more and more common as time passes.