On Death and Being a Dick

I don’t consider myself a dick.

Sure, I’m an active skeptic and as typical in this population I don’t shy away from contentious and/or conflictual discussion. I’m ready to note a logical fallacy or some flawed reasoning wherever it pops up. But I do consider myself caring, compassionate even, on the right occasion thoughtful. I don’t get involved in so-called “flame wars”. I try to phrase my positions, when they are combative in nature, to be accommodating and open. I like discussion and I love debate, but I love more than all else, people. Even at times the rather ignorant ones. … continue reading this entry.

The Oz Fallacy Fallacy

Lisa earning multiple "educations"

A few weeks back I posted an article in which I described observations I had made regarding the attitudes of undergraduate students towards their education. Page later posted a follow up in response to some of the comments the article had received. I too noted an apparent misunderstanding of what I was proposing in the comment content, and offer the following; The Oz Fallacy Fallacy; the perception that my article on the Oz Fallacy was a suggestion that an education is a valueless or futile exercise.

My original intent was to express my concern that people were confusing the aim of higher education to be the acquisition of a degree. Yes, many probably do hope to earn a degree. I myself have collected a few thus far, and I am nowhere near ‘done’. But the aim of higher education is the acquisition of an education; a degree merely symbolically represents that some standard level of an education has been achieved. … continue reading this entry.

The Galileo Principle and Scientific Consensus

If you believe something that no one else does, you may be a spiritual descendant of this Renaissance gentleman! Or you could be nuttier than peanut butter...

When arguing with those who preach non-scientific views on subjects where my education is limited, I tend to invoke the consensus of scientific opinion.  I believe my reasoning for this is sound.  I tend to trust in the process of science.  I know that it is in the interests of scientists to be able to prove conclusively why something is or is not true, and that it’s in the interests of their colleagues to disprove what the initial scientist is saying.  Using the process of science, ideas are stringently vetted through the entire community, and if a new idea manages to make its way through that process, we can be reasonably certain that idea is an accurate reflection of reality.  The counter I receive tends to be the Galileo Principle, that Galileo was hounded on all sides by those who believed his ideas on cosmology were wrong, even though he was eventually vindicated for his heliocentric cosmos.  How do we reconcile the appeal to scientific consensus with the possibility of Galileos? … continue reading this entry.

The False Equivocation and The Mosque

"Which is the best citrus fruit? Some Americans said 'oranges' but others said 'apples.' Tonight, at eleven."

This whole Islamic Center near the World Trade Center site thing has just gotten ridiculous.  Actually, let’s revise that.  This whole Islamic Center near the World Trade Center site thing started OUT ridiculous and has just gotten absurd.  News sources all over the world, from LA to NY, from the Christian Science Monitor to CNN, just about every news source has gotten the story wrong.  Either they’ve pussy-footed around the issue, presenting the stories of those still grieving in order to bolster their non-argument with emotional pleading, or they’ve just presented insanity.  The fact of the matter is this: the Islamic religion as a whole was not responsible for the events of September 11th and acting as though a building for the study of one of the world’s largest religions should be a hot-button issue in any way is just ludicrous. And I’m not saying people don’t have a right to their emotions or something, I’m saying we shouldn’t let blind fear and hatred overwhelm our common sense.  It’s about realizing that sometimes, two points of view do not carry the same weight.  Just because someone out there believes something, that does not automatically make it a valid point of view, and the only group out there in the mainstream media that understands that is Comedy Central. … continue reading this entry.

The Fallacy of Oz

The Scarecrow, Doctor of Thinkology

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, the scarecrow, the lion and the tin man all seek something of particular value and importance from the wizard. Dorothy wishes to go home, the tin man wishes for a heart, the lion wants to be courageous and the scarecrow would like to have a brain. In the end, [and for those who haven't seen this iconic film, spoiler alert] the wizard “grants” these requests. However, in a rather dissatisfying fashion, he bestows upon everyone but Dorothy mere symbols of the virtues they desire. … continue reading this entry.

Faulty logic: Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

For the next in the series on faulty logic, we have:

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc

It’s a natural tendency for people to make connections between events. “When I do this, that happens.”

When I touch something hot, I get burned.
When I don’t water my house plants, they die.
When I eat that kind of mushroom, I get sick. … continue reading this entry.

Infinity + 1

Remember when you were a kid and you’d get into arguments with your friends that would go something like this:

“Are not!”

“Am too!”

“Are not!”

“Am too!”

And remember how, much like Godwin’s Law, sooner or later one of you would eventually pull out the old, “Are not times infinity!”

Mathematically represented as: X = AN x I

This would then quickly be followed by “Are so times infinity plus one!”

Mathematically represented as: X = AS x I + 1

…which would then lead to a lengthy cycle of each party incrementally increasing the value added to infinity by one on each pass.

Most adults outgrow this level of argumentation. But there’s a whole subsection of the populace who never do. We call them denialists. … continue reading this entry.

The ‘you haven’t read everything I’ve ever written’ fallacy

Several days ago, I came across a link to a web forum hosted by Dorothy M. Murdock, also known as D.M. Murdock, but far better known as Acharya S. For those who aren’t familiar with the name, Acharya S is an author and proponent of the Christ myth theory.

But while numerous historians share the position that Jesus was a myth, few go as far as Acharya S, who, from my understanding, believes Jesus was deliberately invented as part of a grand conspiracy. Acharya’s popularity particularly rose after she was prominently featured in the first part of the controversial Zeitgeist film, which became an instant hit among 9/11 deniers. To date, I can’t find any instances where Acharya has made any public statements regarding her own beliefs about who caused 9/11.

But all that is just background. Since I’m not a historian myself, I can’t comment with any authority on the validity of Acharya’s fringe historical claims one way or the other. That is best left up to the experts. … continue reading this entry.

Faulty logic: Appeal to Popularity

It’s been too long since I’ve written an installment of the series on faulty logic. It’s time to continue it, with…

Appeal to Popularity

There was a time when pretty much everyone thought that the Earth was flat. There was a time when anyone who thought about it was sure the sun went around the Earth. Come to mention it, there was a time when that was widely attributed to its having a ride on Apollo’s chariot. These were popular ideas.

But an idea’s popularity doesn’t make it right; it only makes it popular. … continue reading this entry.

Faulty logic: Argument ad hominem

It’s time for the next in the series on logical fallacies. This time…

Arguing ad hominem

From Latin for “to the man,” an ad hominem argument is one that attacks the speaker, rather than the issues. We all know this one; we see it all the time. We likely use it all the time ourselves, even though we try not to. “Oh, don’t listen to him; he’s a {kook | liberal | wing-nut | Nazi | moron | …}.” C’mon: tell me you’ve never said anything like that. … continue reading this entry.

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