This is the first part of a series of discussions about why someone will fail to solve Kryptos.  This one is a double-edged sword as it affects both our logical reasoning for developing methods of solving Kryptos and our attempts at rational criticism of the efforts of others.

It’s very easy to go astray without some exposure to common errors in logical thinking.  Even if you’ve seen some of these, I tailored the examples to relate back to Kryptos so it should still be of interest.

How to fail at solving Kryptos, Part One: Logical Fallacies

Logical Fallacies

(Source: the not so free Wikipedia)

An informal fallacy is an argument whose stated premises fail to support their proposed conclusion.  The deviation in an informal fallacy often stems from a flaw in the path of reasoning that links the premises to the conclusion. In contrast to a formal fallacy, the error has to do with issues of ratiocination manifest in language used to state the propositions; the range of elements that can be symbolized by language is broader than that which the symbolism of formal logic can represent. Informal fallacies of deductive reasoning contain a fundamental disconnect between the premises and the conclusion that renders the argument invalid. This disconnect often stems from the presence of a hidden co-premise that, if presented, would validate the argument.

Inductive informal fallacies are slightly different than their deductive counterparts, as their merit rests in the inductive strength of the premise-conclusion link rather than in the presence of hidden premises. For instance, the fallacy of hasty generalization can be roughly stated as:

p) S is a P

p) S is also a Q

c) Therefore, all Ps are also Qs

If the populations of P and Q are both too large to sample completely, then the statement is inductive. In such a case, a hasty generalization occurs when the number of Ps and Qs is insufficient to represent the respective populations. It is important to distinguish between a principle of reasoning (deductive or inductive) and the premise of an argument.

Let’s examine some of the informal and formal fallacies and get some Kryptos example.  I’m not trying to include them all here.  Please look to extensive online and offline resources available on this subject.  What I attempt here is an informative, slightly tongue-in-cheek treatment of the topic to inspire folks to reassess the methods they are attempting to solve Kryptos with and the criticisms they attach to the efforts of others.  I am not above all of these mistakes and only hope to fight them in my own thinking as often as possible.

Ad hominem
These arguments attack the source of an argument – not anything within the argument itself.  Name calling by itself is not an example of ad hominem unless as a means of attacking the argument without debating its premises.
Megatron:  The fourth part of Kryptos is obviously a Polybius square that has been masked by a devious transposition technique.
Optimus Prime:  Megatron is a decepticon so we can’t trust anything he says about Kryptos.

Ad populum
An appeal to the masses by saying that if many believe it then it must be true.

It seems like everyone is using a literal application of the steps in K3 to try and find a solution to K4 so it must be the way to find an answer.

Appeal to tradition
“This is right because we’ve always done it this way”

James Angleton:
Caesar ciphers have been used for years so K4 is probably a Caesar shift substitution cipher.

Ad verecundiam
An appeal to an authority as proof of the premise
Peter Wright: Elonka says that K4 is enciphered in pig latin so I’ve been working on it for the past three years.

Ad baculum
Appeal to force (punishment)
Kim Philby
:  Anyone who disagrees with my proposed solution to Kryptos can kindly leave our online group.

Ad misericordiam
Appeal to pity

Julius Rosenberg:
What do you mean you think I’m wrong?  I’ve been working on this for years!  Do you know the blood, sweat and tears it took me to get this far?  I’ve lost two jobs and my marriage is failing and you just sit there and tell me it’s all been a waste?

Ad ignorantium
Appeal to ignorance
Mata Hari:
No one’s been able to prove that my 117 step method doesn’t work so it must be true.  I present this as the necessary starting point for a true solution to the fourth part of Kryptos.

A sort of you-too argument (a form of ad hominem)

Aldrich Ames:
It’s not like you’ve found a solution to K4 either so why should I care what you say about my methods?

Fallacy of Accident
A deductive fallacy occurring in statistical syllogisms (an argument based on a generalization) when an exception to the generalization is ignored.
Giacomo Casanova
: Kryptos is based on substituting one letter for another; examples of this can be seen in the use of Morse code and two vigenere ciphers therefore it’s likely that K4 is simply a complicated substitution cipher.

Hasty Generalization
Just what it sounds like, making an inductive generalization based on a small amount of information.
Klaus Fuchs:
I used to work with a guy who was interested in Kryptos.  He was a real nutjob.  I’m not interested in trying to solve Kryptos because I don’t like what it does to people.

Appeal to Probability
The assumption that because something could happen, then it probably did/will.

Major John Andre:
Sanborn could have easily used a combination of substitution and transposition in K4 so I’m pretty sure that’s the way to go.

Argument from fallacy
If an argument for a conclusion is shown to be false then the conclusion is false.

Nathan Hale:
Kryptosfan thinks the keywords are hidden in the Morse code but when he tried transposition, it didn’t work so we can conclude that the keywords for K1 and K2 are not in the Morse Code.

Bare Assertion fallacy
Premise in an argument is assumed to be true because it claims to be.

Belle Boyd:
I read in a Sanborn interview that Kryptos acts like a giant key.

Base rate fallacy
This involves using weak evidence to make a probability judgment without taking into account known empirical statistics about the probability.

Donald Maclean:
My program calculates there are 100 possible correct orientations of the characters according to my method and one million possible incorrect orientations.  If it reads a correct orientation it will indicate it about 99% of the time and will incorrectly indicate one of the incorrect orientations 1% of the time.  With this failure rate, the chances of pursuing an incorrect orientation of the K4 text are 1 in 100 so we can be 99% sure that this program will give us a correct orientation.

Conjunction fallacy
This is the assumption that an outcome simultaneously satisfying multiple conditions is more probable than an outcome satisfying a single one of them.

Richard Sorge:
Any possible correct K4 interpretation is likely to involve at least two substitutions, four transpositions and nine masking techniques.  There’s no way it would be just one masking technique paired with a known ciphering method.

Correlative based fallacies
A fallacy based on correlative conjunctions where one statement must be true and the other false.
False Correlative
Here something which is not a correlative is treated as a correlative, excluding some other possibility.

Fritz Duquesne:
James Sanborn’s mother was a pianist so K4 utilizes music in the cipher instead of traditional cryptographic methods.
Denying the Correlative
Where an attempt is made to introduce another option into a true correlative.

Yevno Azef:
Either the keywords are in the Morse code or they’re in the individual parts of Kryptos plaintext.
Suppressed Correlative
Where the definitions of a correlative are changed so that one of the options includes the other, making one option impossible.

Eddie Chapman:
Kryptos uses standard cryptologic methods to disguise messages.
Anna Sage:
But Jim Sanborn was an artist and used subjective interpretation in his other sculptures.
Mordechai Vanunu:
Kryptos is art in the end and all art is open to subjective interpretation so the methods used to decipher it are purely subjective and therefore an individual answer is obtainable for every searcher.

Fallacy of Necessity
A syllogism fallacy where unwarranted necessity is placed on the conclusion.
Elia Kazan: Analog codes decryptions involve a key and cipher algorithm pairing.  The keys to Kryptos have never been found therefore Kryptos can never be solved.

False Dilemma
An either-or fallacy that neglects other possibilities
Emeline Pigott
:  K4 is either a substitution cipher or a transposition cipher.

If by whiskey
Supporting both sides of an argument simultaneously

Antonia Ford:
If you argue that the Morse Code contains the clues we need to solve Kryptos then I would be inclined to agree but if you’re trying to say that someone would need these clues to solve Kryptos then I would have to disagree.

Ignoratio elenchi
Presenting an argument that may be valid but does not address the issue.

Brenda Priddy:
You want help solving the masking technique overlaying the K4 ciphering?  Well I can tell you that K1 and K2 use a similar method, K3 is different and Sanborn states that K4 uses a different encryption method.

Masked Man fallacy
A fallacy of formal logic in which substitution of identical designators in a true statement can lead to a false one.

Sydney Reilly:
I know how common cryptographic methods work but I don’t know how K4 is deciphered so it must not be by common cryptographic methods.

Nirvana fallacy
Because it’s not perfect, it can’t be right.
Anthony Blunt: They had to add a “Q” to get the K3 transposition to work so it can’t be the real solution.

Negative Proof fallacy
If you can’t prove my premise is wrong then I’m right or if you can’t prove it’s right then it’s wrong

Guy Burgess:
If you can’t show me a successful solution to K4 that works without my idea of inserting the word “antidisestablishmentarianism” then you can’t tell me it’s wrong.  You can’t prove that the keywords can be retrieved so you must be wrong in thinking they can be retrieved.

Burden of proof
Where A must be true since B cannot be proved under the extensive conditions for acceptance required of it.

Robert Hanssen:
I still like my idea and if you’re thinking of trying to convince me to adopt yours then I must warn you that I need certified plaintext that has been approved by James Sanborn, a clear method utilizing only the best techniques and tacit approval by the CIA in all of the major news sources if you think I’ll believe you.

Correlation does not imply causation
A correlation between two variables does not mean that one causes the other.

James Bond:
Kryptos is cut into copper and copper is used in pennies therefore Kryptos is made of recycled pennies.