What Is Inductive Reasoning?

If you’ve ever watched any media that has depicted Arthur Conan Doyle’s ever-popular detective, Sherlock Holmes, you’ve probably heard the term ‘deductive reasoning’ mentioned at least once. It’s what Holmes uses to solve his mysteries, like a sort of Victorian superpower that reveals knowledge to its user. Few of us bother to look into it more than that, anymore than Trekkies tend to look into what this logic thing that Spock guy keeps talking about is, but perhaps we ought to.

Deductive reasoning is a logical method that guarantees its conclusions are true — undeniably, absolutely true — if its procedure is correct and its assumptions are correct. Since procedure is verifiable, this makes deductive reasoning useful for sorting out the world, as if our conclusions turn out not to be in accordance with reality we know that our assumptions must be wrong somewhere. The classic example of deductive reasoning is that of the chain “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal.”  That’s a simplistic example, but it easily extends to more complicated things.

So what’s inductive reasoning? Inductive reasoning is, in many ways, the logical partner to deductive reasoning. Whereas deductive reasoning guarantees its conclusions to be true if its assumptions are true, inductive reasoning can only guarantee its conclusions will be probably true, even if its assumptions are entirely true. Well, I hear you say, what use is that? The use of inductive reasoning is that it deals with uncertainty and probability; inductive reasoning tells us that, since the Sun has risen every day before now, it will probably rise tomorrow. Or that since spring has come every year before this one it will probably come again. One can imagine how this information would be of some use.

Indeed, we use inductive reasoning every day to inform our decisions about the future. In fact, inductive reasoning is the only reasoning we can use to deal with our future, because the future inherently has a lot of uncertainty involved. When we drive our cars to work instead of biking, we are using inductive reasoning to conclude that taking the car will probably be faster than biking, even though it is possible to be stuck in the worst traffic of the century. Inductive reasoning allows us to make decisions despite a lack of knowledge; it allows us to function in a world where we just don’t know.

In many ways, this illustrates the difference between inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning deals with things that are set in stone. Inductive reasoning deals with things that could change. Deductive reasoning deals with things that have already happened. Inductive reasoning deals with things that could happen. Deductive reasoning helps us discover truths. Inductive reasoning helps us make decisions. Deductive reasoning is deemed valid. Inductive reasoning isn’t.

It’s no surprise, of course, that inductive reasoning is hammered by the media, if not under its own name. Inductive reasoning involves pattern recognition, decision-making, and uncertainties, all things anathema to the current establishment. It’s why the supposed slippery slope is vilified. We are told that because we can’t know for sure that things will happen — that our logic cannot guarantee some conclusion — it would be immoral to take actions based on that conclusion (or, more accurately, actions that are not the actions leftist rulers would like us to take).

When we conclude that, should “gay marriage” become recognized by the state, new drives against new oppressions will take the place of the struggle for homosexuals, we are using inductive reasoning. When some in our societies concluded that universal suffrage would lead to more accusations of sexism rather than less, they were using inductive reasoning. When visionaries predicted that abolishing race as a criteria for immigration would lead to huge changes in demographics (the kind that Ted Kennedy promised us would not happen under his, therefore unneeded, immigration act), they were using inductive reasoning. When anti-socialists predict that implementing leftist socialism will lead to the same results it has given everywhere else, they are using inductive reasoning. When we conclude that letting in vast numbers of Muslims will lead to more terrorist attacks, we are using inductive reasoning.

It is not hard to see why the powers that be do not like this. To socialists it is almost a sort of mental kryptonite when the 0% success rate of socialism is pointed out to be indicative of future performance. To others it is merely dangerous. Dangerous because it may lead us astray from the path they have set out for us; dangerous because it may let us off the leash. Thus, we are told that using inductive reasoning is immoral. That we can’t know for sure that Henry from Guatemala will become a rapist, that Mr. Emaneul the Jew will agitate and work for white extinction, that Abdul from Somalia will be a murderer, that Muhammad will blow himself up in a town square somewhere, or that Seung-Hui will shoot up his college. That we don’t know that letting vast numbers of nonwhites into the country will guarantee Democrats electoral victory, or that after a few generations the folk with sacred brownness won’t be as conservative and American as apple pie.

Technically speaking, this is, of course, true. We can’t know for sure, but this isn’t the point. They’re predictions about the future; the future is unwritten. We can never know for sure, but we can make some pretty good guesses. Indeed, if we were to take this logic to heart we would never be able to do anything. When I save money in the bank, I don’t know for sure that the money won’t be worthless the next year. When Zoe gets her gender studies and lesbian politics degree, she doesn’t know for sure that that will get her employment in an NGO. When Joe drives his car he doesn’t know he won’t end up a steaming mass of offal amidst a fiery wreck. These are all calculated risks. We don’t know the future, but we make predictions and act upon them, and we always will.

Trying to smear inductive reasoning this way as soon as it’s applied to politics (but only in select areas, just see the numerous claims that immigration will help the “economy”) is merely another tactic to disarm the Right. It has hitherto been an effective one, but it is ceasing to be as the lives of our predictions grow ever shorter. After all, it’s a lot easier to dismiss inductive reasoning when the Islamic attack is two generations later, rather than two days later. The increasing practicality of statistics has also helped inductive reasoning. Nevertheless, some on the Right still balk when these accusations of non-logic (as inductive reasoning is smeared) are hurled at them, and fall into the trap of believing the Left’s lies that only deductive reasoning is valid reasoning.

We need to reject this. We need to embrace inductive reasoning, prediction, and pattern recognition as not only valid tools of decision-making but irreplaceable ones for any action not determined by the roll of a die. So long as deductive reasoning is agreed to be the One True Reasoning we will be trapped in a leftist maze, our reasoning held to be as valid and rational as the vague sentiments and fleeting urges of the intellectual underclass. We can never know for sure, but we can’t let that paralyze us, and we can’t let our disregard of it be deemed an intellectual impurity.

Inductive reasoning saves lives.


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