Wednesday, May 30, 2012

And the Darwin award goes to...

In a stunning example of nature beating nurture I read today of a "flamboyant" Virginian pentecostal pastor "Mack" Wolford who organised an outdoor service for a group of his followers and as was his habit he also laid on a bit of snake handling, no doubt to add gravitas to the proceedings. Unfortunately for Mr Wolford the yellow timber rattle snake hadn't read the script and bit him, he stopped the show and retired to a friends house to recover (apparently he's been bitten before) unluckily for him and even more tragically for his family he didn't recover and after a frantic call for "prayer" on Facebook when it was realised that he was in trouble died that same evening.

So, what should we learn from this Christian tale?

Firstly don't mess with poisonous snakes, evolution has sculpted them that way for a purpose and it clearly wasn't to test the strength of another species belief in the supernatural (just ask a mouse). Second, praying doesn't work, never has, never will so if you get bitten by a poisonous critter then get your righteous backside down to A&E for a shot of anti-venom as fast as your demon fearing, tongue twisting, laying on of hands, poison popping legs can carry you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fibbing for Jesus

John Sentamu has been caught out telling porkies, in a statement explaining his position on same sex marriage in the Guardian he said

We [the bishops in the House of Lords] supported civil partnerships, because we believe that friendships are good for everybody.

No they didn't!

Professor of Politics at Oxford, Iain McLean pointed out that,

During the main Lords debate on the Civil Partnership Bill in June 2004 the then Bishop of Oxford Richard Harris did indeed signal support for civil partnerships however it was contradicted by 5 conservative Bishops, they voted 6/1 against. Six Bishops voted for a successful wrecking amendment in the name of Lady O'Cathain, only the Commons' insistence on rejecting this amendment made it possible to enact this bill.

In the eyes of many people Sentamu's patronising and long-winded writing is a mere cloak to disguise his backward and offensive views. He’d have saved a lot of time if he’d simply written ‘all couples are equal, but some are more equal than others, and that’s just the way it is’.

As Bishops are fond of claiming, life is indeed a mystery, and biggest mystery of all is why the British public put up with unelected bigots like John Sentamu in it's Government.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nosferatu poked me

I've always wondered what combination of character attributes and circumstance lead to the totally disproportionate distribution of success and material wealth on our little lump of spinning rock. I'd always thought it was about being at the right place at the right time with the right idea, then having a personality and education capable of recognising and exploiting that fact. Of course all this genetic and circumstantial fortuitousness needs to be mixed with a healthy dollop of raw luck and just the right kind of relationships with just the right kind of people who can help and support your efforts. Clearly a rare combination of things.

My world-view has now been shattered. I've found proof positive that certain people are destined to live an immortal life, an eternal ground-hog day where they can ensure by virtue of millennia of practice that they are indeed at the right place at the right time. Yes good people, ready your pitch forks and wooden stakes, vampires really EXIST!!!

Don't believe me, take a look below -

I rest my case.

Retiring royalty

An 84-year-old Windsor woman who has worked for 60 years may have to continue working into her nineties because her son is ‘an absolutely useless twat’, according to Age UK.

‘Her son should be taking over her job,’ said an Age UK spokeswoman, ‘and letting his old mother put her feet up in her declining years, but he’s more interested in talking to lilies than helping her. I’m afraid he’s typical of the younger generation. He’s completely homeopathic, of course – and a twat.’

The woman, who is often described as ‘marvellous’ or ‘amazing’ for her age by people who have met her at garden parties, is said to be resigned to dying on the job, the odour of fresh paint in her nostrils and a pair of silver scissors in her hand.

‘It’s heartbreaking to see her still struggling to cut tapes at garden fetes or receive bouquets of flowers from toddlers,’ said one woman who claims to have shaken the Windsor woman’s hand sometime back in 1946.

‘Women like her deserve some kind of recognition,’ she added.

(courtesy of NewsBuscuit)

I can't help feeling completely underwhelmed about the upcoming jubilee, not being a great fan of royalty generally and an atheist to boot the whole thing seems to be a mash up of many things I feel are unnecessary in our lives these days. Of course having an extra day off work to contemplate such ethical dilemmas never goes amiss, if nothing else it never hurts to be a practically minded subject.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Distant relatives

An interesting story on the BBC nature site the other day about research into our closest relatives, chimpanzees and Orang-utans. Unsurprisingly the conclusion of the scientific research discussed in the article was that chimps in particular have very similar personality dimensions to humans. The reason I say its unsurprising is that since humans shared a common ancestor with chimps only 4-6 million years ago you would intuitively think that since we are so close genetically and our brains are made of exactly the same "stuff", there must be more similarities than differences between us, which is what observation confirms. The particular dimensions in question are neuroticism, extroversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness, only three of which are observed in Orang-utans, an animal with which we share a common ancestor much further back in time than chimps.

It had always been suspected that human observers of these animals were susceptible to bias since humans just love to anthropomorphize and project their perceptions onto other animals and even inanimate objects and phenomenon (like the Bishop of Carlisle blaming flooding on gay people) This research has tried to eliminate this bias and seems to have shown that chimps do indeed have very similar (if not the same) personality traits as humans.

Maybe it's about time that we started giving the great apes some of the same legal "rights" protections as humans enjoy, we treat them pretty shabbily for distant cousins.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Oh what a Conn'er

In a recent address at Leicester's Anglican Cathedral the former leader of UK Catholics Cardinal O'Conner claimed that "secular values" were responsible for the violence in the totalitarian states of the 20th century. Why Catholics (and Anglicans for that matter) allow this buffoon to speak in public is beyond me, it must be deeply embarrassing for educated Christians to listen to such ignorant dogma. Any historian worth their salt would point out that it was TOTALITARIAN (the clue is in the name) systems of government with psychopathic leaders that were the problem with the Nazis, Pol Pot and Stalin et al, not just the separation of church and state, not to mention how he would explain WW1? Such a simplistic "re-telling" of our (shared) bloody past betrays a blatant attempt to reassert Catholic influence in a world where it's clearly in decline. In a strange way I'm reminded of the pathetic assertions of longevity that Muammar Gaddafi made in the dying days of his regime; with support waning and universal condemnation over the paedophilia scandal does the Catholic church feel like it's making a final stand before it sinks into oblivion like every overly confident religion before it?

I would like to remind Murphy O'Conner that his organisation and him personally oversaw the covering up of the most horrific crimes of child abuse in the 20th century a sin for which he has mysteriously never been brought to account. If you are thinking that the photo above isn't of O'Conner then you would be right, it's Father Michael Hill the priest now serving a prison sentence for abusing children (including handicapped children). O'Conner (the then Bishop of Hill's diocese) knew that this man was a paedophile and yet failed to do the right thing and report him to the authorities, he was allowed to continue exploiting vulnerable kids.

How anyone can take any assertion about morality from O'Conner seriously is beyond the wisdom of any saint, Catholic or otherwise.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Network omnipotency

The Christian God put out an unexpected press release today confirming that rather than being completely omnipotent, holy coverage is actually around 99.3%. This has been attributed to reception black-spots in some of England’s more sceptical backwaters, including Starbucks coffee shops (the ones with free WiFi), most Universities, households with above average income, everyone under 35 and Swindon. There were also reception compatibility issues in Southall, Tower Hamlets and some parts of the West Midlands.

Commentators were quick to note that this percentage puts Yahweh behind both T-Mobile and O2 – meaning in many places, if you want your prayers answered, you’re better off sending a text.

Shine on

The sun is out in South East England today and for once it feels like Summer might at long last be starting for us!

To celebrate this fact but also in recognition that regardless of how much we whine about the rain it's not that bad; here's a picture of a sunset on Mars snapped by NASA’s “Spirit” rover on 19 May 2005. For Martians the sun seems awfully far away, brrrr, looks chilly, I wonder how much they moan about the weather over there?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Infested with Christianity

Some religious apologists like to argue that Biblical and Koranic literalism is a fringe point of view, they try to downplay, even ridicule efforts by secularists and atheists to point out examples of superstition being passed off as literal "truth" in our educational and governmental institutions. And yet still it continues, like some kind of bad £20 note that pops back into circulation for a while and short changes a few thousand people before we wake up and realise that these are naive solipsistic ideas that have been explored for centuries and found wanting over and over again.

Certain forms of Christianity are popping up in places that are yet to learn the lessons of the enlightenment, the people in these places seem to be falling for the same old debunked mythologies that have long since been abandoned by sophisticated theologians and societies in the developed world. Korea is one such place. I read today that pressure has come from Christians there to remove the subject of Evolution from school text books, apparently they are having some success. Presumably good science is being replaced by ignorance i.e. creationism or "intelligent design" which is simply creationism by another name; this is a corruption of science teaching, a lie, a fabrication and will potentially deny access to school children of hard won knowledge and hugely valuable insights into the real world they live in. I hope that secularists and atheist groups in Korea (if there are any?) combat these moves, they have to as I don't see many moderate religious people being much bothered about such things.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Final fallacy

The final instalment in my fallacy series today, hopefully you have found it as thought provoking as I have. The slippery slope is so common that it has entered into common language and is often used as a warning, "don't smoke, it's a slippery slope to much harder drugs". To finish I've selected perhaps the most telling fallacy, i.e. just because something is a fallacy it still doesn't prove that it's not true, the only way to discover that in any kind of satisfying way is by examining the evidence and using reason.

SLIPPERY SLOPE - Asserting that if we allow A to happen, then Z will consequently happen too, therefore A should not happen.

The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to baseless extreme hypotheticals. The merits of the original argument are then tainted by unsubstantiated conjecture. Colin Closet asserts that if we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we’ll be allowing people to marry their parents, their cars and Bonobo monkeys.

FALLACY FALLACY - Presuming that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has been made, that it is necessarily wrong.

There are few things more frustrating than watching someone poorly argue a position one holds. Much of the time a debate is won not because the victor is right, but because s/he is better at debating than their opponent. Recognising that Amanda had committed a fallacy in arguing that we should eat healthy food because it was popular, Alyse resolved to eat bacon double cheeseburgers every day.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Daily Mail search engine..

Internet giant Google has teamed up with the Daily Mail to develop a unique version of the online search engine which will confirm the enquirer’s ill-informed prejudices.

"Google-ThoughtAsMuch" (TM) will effectively censor alternative views and second opinions. ‘Designed for the busy opinionate who hasn't got time to think about things, Google-ThoughtAsMuch will make sure that your preconceptions are never challenged,’ says the press release today.

Larry Page, CEO of Google, added, ‘ With a single mouse click you can confirm your preconceived opinions are shared by hundreds of other websites’. One of the beta testers, Sarah Palin, had a chance to use the programme yesterday to test her suspicion that Obama was a Muslim terrorist. She found her opinion to be perfectly corroborated by dozens of high-traffic websites.

Through deployment of psychic algorithms (TM), Google works out the source of your fears, and matches them to the appropriate comforting version of events. The blogosphere and online forums will be heuristically searched for credible sources of anonymous postings.

(brilliant - Newsbiscuit)

Questions, questions

A brace of question oriented fallacies today, both very common if you know what you're looking for.The first one is the staple of Biblical and Koranic literalists everywhere, as in, Q) "how do you know the Bible is true" A) "because its the word of God", Q) "how do you know it's the word of God" A) "because it says so in the Bible. The second one is the staple of sales people everywhere, the dreaded cold calling closed question, "would you be interested in saving money?". The thought of it sends a shiver down my spine.

BEGGING THE QUESTION - A circular argument in which the conclusion is included in the premise.

This logically incoherent argument often arises in situations where people have an assumption that is very ingrained, and therefore taken in their minds as a given. Circular reasoning is bad mostly because it’s not very good. The word of Zorbo the Great is flawless and perfect. We know this because it says so in The Great and Infallible Book of Zorbo’s Best and Most Truest Things that are Definitely True and Should Not Ever Be Questioned.

LOADED QUESTION - Asking a question that has an assumption built into it so that it can’t be answered without appearing guilty.

Loaded question fallacies are particularly effective at derailing rational debates because of their inflammatory nature - the recipient of the loaded question is compelled to defend themselves and may appear flustered or on the back foot. Grace and Helen were both romantically interested in Brad. One day, with Brad sitting within earshot, Grace asked in an inquisitive tone whether Helen was having any problems with a drug habit.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Don't talk to me about life...

I love this little analogy:

In the role playing game known as life, “Straight White, Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

Ambiguous anecdotes

Here are your logical fallacies for today, a couple of business standards. There's nothing like ambiguity and jargon to help mask intent. The software business is full of both. That's not to say removing ambiguity is not difficult it is, the English language (or any language) is horribly ambiguous and to articulate an unambiguous requirement for something is notoriously difficult using language alone, there are usually too many possibilities to capture so everything ends up a compromise. The anecdotal fallacy is also the stock in trade of many business people, particularly sales people in my experience, who just love to tell stories. We all love a good story as religions and politicians realised long ago and have successfully exploited over the millennia; if you can make your sales pitch sound like an engaging story (obviously with a conclusion in your favour) then the chances of winning over your audience are often significantly enhanced regardless of the gap between your conclusion and reality, in a lot of situations people seem to value the journey over the destination.

AMBIGUITY - Using double meanings or ambiguities of language to mislead or misrepresent the truth.

Politicians are often guilty of using ambiguity to mislead and will later point to how they were technically not outright lying if they come under scrutiny. It’s a particularly tricky and premeditated fallacy to commit. When the judge asked the defendant why he hadn't paid his parking fines, he said that he shouldn't have to pay them because the sign said 'Fine for parking here' and so he naturally presumed that it would be fine to park there.

ANECDOTAL - Using personal experience or an isolated example instead of a valid argument, especially to dismiss statistics.

It’s often much easier for people to believe someone’s testimony as opposed to understanding variation across a continuum. Quantitative scientific measures are almost always more accurate than individual perceptions and experiences. Jason said that that was all cool and everything, but his grandfather smoked, like, 30 cigarettes a day and lived until 97 - so don’t believe everything you read about meta analyses of sound studies showing proven causal relationships.

Water, water, everywhere'ish

Now I know there's been a lot of rain in the UK lately and I know us Brits are obsessed with the weather but I couldn't help wonder the other day just how much water there was on this planet (and why does most of it seem to end up in our office car park!). According to some creationist loony tunes like Kent Hovind there's enough water to cover the planet several miles deep, there has to be otherwise the Noah's ark story can't be true. Now I know you're thinking that surely the flood myth is just that, i.e. a myth and that anyone who thinks it's really true must be some weird fringe Christian, a bit of a nutter. I thought that too, until I learned of several teachers in my kid's school who actually tell (assertively) the children that Noah's flood is FACT, seemingly these Christians think that following a deity who would execute millions of children because their parents didn't grovel to him sufficiently is an example of morality worthy of passing onto children; I beg to differ. Anyway, I digress let's get back to the water question.

Some bright spark scientist has actually worked out an accurate answer to this question, the picture above shows what would happen if you took all the water in the oceans, seas, rivers, atmosphere and ice caps compact it into a single ball and plonk it onto the surface of the planet. There seems to be a lot less than you'd think, the ball would be roughly 860 miles in diameter, more of a big drop than a flood. I guess it's normally spread quite thin (relatively), certainly not enough to start worrying about accumulating animals two by two.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Faking it...

I read today that "TV psychic" Derek Acorah has been making claims in the press that Madeleine McCann is "probably dead". Apparently Acorah told the Sun newspaper that a "spirit medium" told him that the abducted child was no longer on this world and that she would soon be reincarnated. Most people I'm sure would read this and dismiss it as self-promoting bollocks but I can imagine that it would be hugely distressing to others from a number of points of view. The family themselves, who could probably do without it and all those close to the case who are probably nauseated by the fact that such a feckless know-nothing like Acorah can actually make money from the suffering of others in this way.

Acorah was fired from the TV show "most haunted" when it was proved that he was faking his psychic abilities and simply embellishing conversations he'd overheard, any rational person could have saved them a bunch of time and money i.e. repeat after me... there's no such thing as a psychic! (I bet you knew I was going to say that)

Divide and criticise

Two very common fallacies today, I hear the first one quite a lot in business particularly when emotions are high and evidence and reason are short, A says, "you missed the deadline!", and B responds with "so what, you missed a deadline last month!" a particularly fruitless form of debate. The second one is also quite common, particularly in the software business, it's related to the "mythical man month" fallacy and is usually perpetrated by people who don't actually understand the "detail" of what is being done and yet have some kind of vested interest in it, i.e. marketing people, sales people or managers etc. the misunderstanding  is perfectly illustrated with the example that such a person might superficially believe if it takes one woman 9 months to have a baby it should take 9 women one month to do the same.

TU QUOQUE - Avoiding having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser - answering criticism with criticism.

Literally translating as ‘you too’ this fallacy is commonly employed as an e ective red herring because it takes the heat o the accused having to defend themselves and shifts the focus back onto the accuser themselves. The blue candidate accused the red candidate of committing the tu quoque fallacy. The red candidate responded by accusing the blue candidate of the same, after which ensued an hour of back and forth criticism with not much progress.

COMPOSITION/DIVISION - Assuming that what’s true about one part of something has to be applied to all, or other, parts of it.

Often when something is true for the part it does also apply to the whole, but because this isn’t always the case it can’t be presumed to be true. We must show evidence for why a consistency will exist. Daniel was a precocious child and had a liking for logic. He reasoned that atoms are invisible, and that he was made of atoms and therefore invisible too. Unfortunately, despite his thinky skills, he lost the game of hide and go seek.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Natural genetics

Back to work today and for once it's raining on Monday rather than Sunday! Anyway here's a couple of biological (kinda) fallacies that I hear from time to time. The appeal to nature is one of my favourites, you can usually tell if someone has any kind of grounding in science or not if they use this one. I did have a friend try to convince me once that "natural drugs" were superior to "man-made drugs" because, being "natural" they are less harmful on your body. Even as a rule of thumb this definition doesn't work very well, it's trivial to think of many natural substances that have a devastating effect on the human body. Digitalis (Foxglove) for example can be lethal (even water in a vase containing foxgloves can be lethal!) however after a little "processing" by humans it yields a pretty useful heart drug.

GENETIC - Judging something good or bad on the basis of where it comes from, or from whom it comes.

To appeal to prejudices surrounding something’s origin is another red herring fallacy. This fallacy has the same function as an ad hominem, but applies instead to perceptions surrounding something’s source or context. Accused on the 6 o’clock news of corruption and taking bribes, the senator said that we should all be very wary of the things we hear in the media, because we all know how very unreliable the media can be.

APPEAL TO NATURE - Making the argument that because something is ‘natural’ it is therefore valid, justified, inevitable, or ideal.

Just because something is natural doesn‘t mean it’s good. For instance murder is natural, but most of us agree that we don't think it's a very good thing to be doing, nor does its 'naturalness' constitute any kind of justification for it. The medicine man rolled into town on his bandwagon offering various natural remedies, such as very special plain water. He said that it was only natural that people should be wary of ‘artificial’ medicines such as antibiotics.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Feeling lucky?

Here are a couple of fallacies that more or less drive two whole industries (gambling and religion). They represent examples of where human intuition, which has been sculpted over millions of years by natural selection, completely fails us in the face of a basic grasp of the mathematics of probability.

Our evolutionary heritage has pre-wired us (homo-sapiens) to look for causality in things, it's a really handy behaviour to have, for example associating a rustle in the bush with a hiding predator or dark clouds on the horizon with an approaching storm are useful survival rules of thumb. However we don't live on the plains of Africa any more and yet we still all feel this desire to find causation, who hasn't had something bad happen to them and thought "why me, what have I done?" or something good and felt there was some benevolent force looking after them, we're causality addicts!

THE GAMBLERS FALLACY - Believing that ‘runs’ occur to statistically independent phenomena such as roulette wheel spins.

This commonly believed fallacy can be fairly said to have created an entire city in the desert of Nevada USA. Though the overall odds of a ‘big run’ happening may be low, each spin of the wheel is itself entirely independent from the last. Red had come up six times in a row on the roulette wheel, so Greg knew that it was close to certain that black would be next up. Suffering a kind of economic form of natural selection with this thinking, he soon lost all of his savings.

FALSE CAUSE - Presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.

Many people confuse correlation (things happening together or in sequence) for causation (that one thing actually causes the other to happen). Sometimes correlation is coincidental, or it may be attributable to a common cause. Pointing to a fancy chart, Roger shows how temperatures have been rising over the past few centuries, whilst at the same time the numbers of pirates have been decreasing; thus pirates cool the world and global warming is a hoax.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Asking difficult questions

Like most people I’ve been listening to the reporting of the outcome of a recent trial in Manchester of eight Pakistani and one Afghan man found guilty of sex trafficking young girls in Rochdale. The details of this crime are abhorrent to my liberal western ears and I’m sure to a majority of people, but I was interested to hear the view of one Pakistani community leader (Mohammed Shafiq) who claimed that elders (which in his community means males) were burying their heads in the sand over this issue suggesting that many (older) British Pakistani men felt that “white girls” are worthless and can be abused or even deserve to be abused. Many commentators were quick to try to distance this case from race or ethnicity. Even in the face of statistics to the contrary, Keith Vaz chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee and Labour MP denied that this problem was in any way related to race saying,

"It's totally wrong to say that it is, because you open up a Pandora's box as far as race relations is concerned and I don't think that's necessarily what we want."

I’m sure he didn’t mean that to sounds like a threat, but it could certainly be misinterpreted as one, i.e. don’t make a fuss or you won’t like the consequences. Anyway, regardless of what this comment means, I agree with Vaz, it would be very hard to show that this is a race problem. The only things I think you could say with any degree of certainty is that this is primarily a male problem and more specifically a male attitude problem.

Perhaps it would be more fruitful to look at the social factors influencing these particular men, and of all of those the elephant in the room would seem to me to be their religion. One of the guilty men was even a religious studies teacher. Whilst many would argue that Islam does not advocate sex trafficking and clearly it’s obvious to anyone that the vast majority of Muslim men and women are ordinary decent people, I can’t help wonder what effect the installation from boyhood of a dogma that advocates thinking about women as somehow less than men or that Western liberalism is somehow inferior to Islamic theocracy has on already unstable or sexually repressed minds. I think it would be safe to assume that it doesn't help.

Clearly there are some serious questions to be discussed and debated around this case and many others like it, issues such as the wisdom of religious and segregated schools (and not just Muslim ones), better community cohesion and tolerance. More generally we need to ask how accommodating we want to be of belief systems that openly run counter to hard won principals of equality and secular morality that have evolved within our country and legal system. Time will tell whether or not we are allowed to have that debate openly and freely or whether the politically correct shutters will descend shutting out the light for victims and criminals alike.

Middle pleading

I can't believe it's almost a week since my last post on fallacies, where does the time go these days! Here are a couple of whoppers, arguments I hear all the time especially the first one which seems to be a personal mantra for some people, usually people who will do anything to avoid a conflict. Special pleading is another position that's common, it's amazing what mythologies people will cling onto against all evidence either through vested interest or simple fear of the unknown.

MIDDLE GROUND - Saying that a compromise, or middle point, between two extremes is the truth.

Much of the time the truth does indeed lie between two extreme points, but this can bias our thinking: sometimes a thing is simply untrue and a compromise of it is also untrue. Half way between truth and a lie, is still a lie. Holly said that vaccinations caused autism in children, but her scientifically well-read friend Caleb said that this claim had been debunked and proven false. Their friend Alice offered a compromise that vaccinations cause some autism.

SPECIAL PLEADING - Moving the goalposts or making up exceptions when a claim is shown to be false.

Humans are funny creatures and have a foolish aversion to being wrong. Rather than appreciate the benefits of being able to change one’s mind through better understanding, many will invent ways to cling to old beliefs. Edward Johns claimed to be psychic, but when his ‘abilities’ were tested under proper scientific conditions, they magically disappeared. Edward explained this saying that one had to have faith in his abilities for them to work.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

A beer moment..

I tried one of these the other day, reading the label on the back I thought it was going to be a completely pretentious load of old fizz but I was wrong, I really liked it. Enormously fruity, great nose with an old fashioned bitter finish, its expensive but memorable. This IPA is certainly on a par with some of the other tasty IPA's you can get in supermarkets these days (for example Bath Ales Wild Hare and Jaipur from Thornbridge) it's just a shame the bottles are so small though 330ml instead of the normal Pint/500ml size, it just makes carrying them in a shopping basket a pain.

If you're interested what the back label says here it is...

Something visual

I haven't posted a picture for a while, to remedy this here's an amusing little cartoon I came across today...

Thursdays fallacies have far to go

So, Thursday already, doesn't time fly when you're having fun. I've got a couple of examples of long distance fallacies today (from me at least!) both really common and very effective on the unwary.

NO TRUE SCOTSMAN - Making what could be called an appeal to purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws of an argument.

In this form of faulty reasoning one’s belief is rendered unfalsifiable because no matter how compelling the evidence is, one simply shifts the goalposts so that it wouldn’t apply to a supposedly ‘true’ example. Angus declares that Scotsmen do not put sugar on their porridge, to which Lachlan points out that he is a Scotsman and puts sugar on his porridge. Furious, like a true Scot, Angus yells that no true Scotsman sugars his porridge.

THE TEXAS SHARPSHOOTER - Cherry-picking data clusters to suit an argument, or finding a pattern to fit a presumption.

This ‘false cause’ fallacy is coined after a marksman shooting at barns and then painting bullseye targets around the spot where the most bullet holes appear. Clusters naturally appear by chance, and don’t necessarily indicate causation. The makers of Sugarette Candy Drinks point to research showing that of the five countries where Sugarette drinks sell the most units, three of them are in the top ten healthiest countries on Earth, therefore Sugarette drinks are healthy.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wednesdays fallacies are full of woe

A couple more fallacies for Wednesday, both are really common in business and everyday life. I even had an example of the black or white fallacy yesterday, it happened when I was talking to someone about a new logo that we're designing for my company. They presented an option which I didn't like, they responded emotionally by saying "well if you don't like that you probably won't like anything I come up with". Presenting me with the black and white choice of either like x or like nothing. Obviously this argument doesn't take into account that I might absolutely love option y or option z, I'm sure most people have used that one often in conjunction with an appeal to emotion (I certainly have!)

APPEAL TO EMOTION - Manipulating an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument.

Appeals to emotion include appeals to fear, envy, hatred, pity, pride, and more. Though a valid argument may sometimes have an emotional aspect, one must be careful that emotion doesn’t replace sensible logic. Luke didn’t want to eat his sheep’s brains with chopped liver and brussel sprouts, but his father told him to think about the poor, starving children in a third world country who weren’t fortunate enough to have any food at all.

BLACK OR WHITE - Where two alternative states are presented as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist.

Also known as the false dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is presented. Whilst rallying support for his plan to fundamentally undermine citizens’ rights, the Supreme Leader told the people they were either on his side, or on the side of the enemy.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Tuesdays fallacies are full of grace

As predicted here are two more fallacies that you'll see quite often, particularly when our religiously inclined brothers and sisters attempt to reason about their unreasonable beliefs. They're also pretty common in the business world, especially the first one which I hear all the time, for example, "you don't know for sure that I wouldn't be more productive if I had a mac instead of a PC, therefore I think you should give me the benefit of the doubt and buy me one" or as I call it the "you never know" argument.

BURDEN OF PROOF - Saying that the burden of proof lies not with the person making the claim, but with someone else to disprove.

The burden of proof lies with someone who is making a claim, and is not upon anyone else to disprove. The inability, or disinclination, to disprove a claim does not make it valid. Bertrand declares that a teapot is, at this very moment, in orbit around the Sun between the Earth and Mars, and that because no one can prove him wrong his claim is therefore a valid one.

PERSONAL INCREDULITY - Saying that because one finds something difficult to understand that it’s therefore not true.

Complex subjects like biological evolution through natural selection require some amount of understanding of how they work before one is able to properly grasp them; this fallacy is usually used in place of that understanding. Kirk drew a picture of a fish and a human and with elusive disdain asked Richard if he really thought we were stupid enough to believe that a fish somehow turned into a human through just, like, random things happening over time.

Same time tomorrow?