Whenever somebody says “Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world”, I cringe. My sense of logic feels under attack by this sentence – and by similar outrageous statements.
I am not saying that Usain Bolt could not be the fastest man in the world, but I am saying that we can’t know. And I am not even thinking of jet fighter pilots or astronauts falling back to earth. My objection remains valid if I restrict it to people walking or running.
There are 7 billion people in the world, half of them men, and – at a very low estimate – again at least half of them able to run. That’s 1.75 billion people.
Anyone who makes the claim that Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world would need to know for sure that none of these other 1,750,000,000 people runs faster. How could anybody know?? There could be faster runners who never bothered to compete in races. There could be faster runners who couldn’t afford to compete. There could be faster runners who prefer to keep their talent a secret. If I could run as fast, I still wouldn’t want to come to the Olympics because I don’t like big crowds, for example.
Yes, these are the kind of logical fallacies that irritate me like hell me when listening to the news.