Spock: Brilliant at Logic, but Really Bad at Applying It

His Vulcan mind was usually wrong when he made predictions, says author Julia Galef
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2021 8:00 AM CDT
Spock Got Things Wrong More Than You'd Think
This undated file photo shows actors in the TV series "Star Trek," from left, Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock, William Shatner as Captain Kirk, DeForest Kelley as Doctor McCoy, and James Doohan as Commander Scott.   (AP Photo/Paramount Television ,File)

Spock may have had a superior Vulcan mind, but he got things wrong a lot. And podcaster and author Julia Galef can prove it after poring over transcripts from Star Trek, reports Wired. Perhaps the most jarring stat is that whenever Spock described something as being "impossible," he ended up being wrong 83% of the time. Galef lays this out in her podcast Geek's Guide to the Galaxy and her book The Scout Mindset, explaining that she went through all the shows and movies and took note of when Spock used words such as "odds," "probability," "chance," "definitely," "probably," etc., per syfy.com. Turns out, his predictions were off most of the time. What's more, when he was positive about something, the more likely he was to be wrong, and vice versa.

“The more confident he says he is that something will happen—that the ship will crash, or that they will find survivors—the less likely it is to happen, and the less confident he is in something, the more likely it is to happen," says Galef. Though he is held up as a paradigm of logical thinking, the results show that Spock is more like "a weak caricature—a straw man—of reason and rationality, because he keeps making all these dumb mistakes,” Galef says. “That’s the show’s way of proving that, ‘Aha! Logic and reason and rationality aren’t actually all that great.'” What's particularly strange to Galef is that Spock, as smart as he is, doesn't seem able to learn from his mistakes after his interactions with non-Vulcans and calibrate his predictions accordingly. (Spock portrayer Leonard Nimoy died in 2015.)

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