Results tagged “logical” from onegoodmove



Definition: The same word is used with two different meanings.

related: P.Z. Myers on the Davies piece, Faith is not a prerequisite for science Taking Science on Faith
SCIENCE, we are repeatedly told, is the most reliable form of knowledge about the world because it is based on testable hypotheses. Religion, by contrast, is based on faith. The term “doubting Thomas” well illustrates the difference. In science, a healthy skepticism is a professional necessity, whereas in religion, having belief without evidence is regarded as a virtue.
(tip to phidippides)

Reason Makes Demands In Two Directions

I recently watched the Christopher Hitchens - Dinesh D'Souza debate the arguments were not new. Hitchens relied on his stock answers and it lacked the passion and combativeness that I've come to enjoy. Although he answered the question that D'Souza posed namely that since we can't prove without a doubt that God does not exist we have to accept the possibility, I don't think he did it justice. Of course we have to accept the possibility as we have to accept the possibility of other unlikely events eg. standing at the edge of a cliff and believing that if we take the step off we will not fall, that the laws of physics will be suspended, even though we know as certainly as anyone can that we will certainly die, even the religious will accept that premise. But when the immediate stakes are not so high even though the principle is the same they will accept that the physical laws will somehow be suspended and have been suspended in the past. The 'holy books' are replete with examples, the so-called miracles. I'm currently reading Philosphers Without Gods, a collection of essays. The following is from an essay by Louise Antony that I particularly enjoyed, and addresses the question that I believe Hitchens slighted.

Looking back on my development from devout Catholic girl to adamant atheist, I think that it was its bottom-line dogmatism that drove me away from the Church, and indeed, from the very possibility of religious faith. "Faith" presents a paradox: if a doctrine can be defended on rational grounds, then it needn't be taken on faith. But if it cannot be defended on rational grounds, why should you believe it?

Continue reading "Reason Makes Demands In Two Directions" »

Links With Your Coffee - Thursday


The Broken Window Fallacy

Fox News commentator maintains network's high standards. What a dolt Stuart Varney is, " that's not 10 Billion dollars worth of losses... It's called the reverse hurricane effect", no you dumb fuck it's called the Broken Window Fallacy Why do we have to listen to this crap everytime there is a natural disaster, will they never get a clue. We had this conversation just a year ago when Ivan and company were the stars of the show. It makes you wonder if these idiots are simply unteachable?

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Take A Chance

Yes, according to probability theory, a group of monkeys pounding on typewriters really will, given enough time, produce "Hamlet." Aczel gives you the odds. The trick is that in this case, "long enough" is sometime off beyond the death of the universe.— Lady Luck's Deep, Dark Secret By Lloyd Rose

I'm a sucker for science for the layman books. I'm at times intellectually lazy and these books fill the gap when I lack energy but not curiosity. A fact that explains why I'm attracted to books like Amir D. Aczel Chance: A Guide to Gambling, Love, the Stock Market and Just About Everything Else. It is about probability theory which I find fascinating because things are not always what they seem to be. Probability theory has real practical benefits. Perhaps you've heard the phrase "the dice have no memory," that simply means that if you've rolled a seven ten times in a row the odds that you'll roll another seven are exactly the same as they were on the first roll. They are independent trials. Another example would be in the case of flipping a fair coin. If you flip heads ten times in a row once again the odds of flipping a heads on your next attempt is still fifty-fifty. This is important because a failure to understand this elementary fact can lead to serious mistakes in our thinking about all kinds of subjects. This faulty thinking is a result of what is called the Gamblers Fallacy a good discussion of which you'll find in this article in Julian Baggini's excellent series on logical fallacies.

It's Just A Theory

I found this great post at Fallacy Files Weblog a site everyone should have bookmarked. The post explains the different definitions of theory and why it's important in the discussion of Evolution and Creationism.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

A suburban Atlanta county has adopted a sticker that is placed on public school textbooks which deal with evolution. A lawyer for the county says that the sticker "provides a unique opportunity for critical thinking." Indeed, the sticker itself provides the first such opportunity.

The sticker claims that evolution is not a fact, but a theory. This is the error, frequently made by creationists, of confusing two different meanings of "theory". One is the colloquial meaning, and the other is scientific. In the colloquial sense of "theory", the words "theory" and "fact" are contrary, that is, both cannot be simultaneously true of an idea. So, in this sense, the "theory" of evolution cannot be a fact. However, in the scientific sense of "theory", "theory" and "fact" are not contrary. The scientific "theory" of evolution is both theory and fact.

Let me recommend you listen 32'58 to an Interview of Richard Dawkins on his new book The Ancestors Tale - A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution from NPR's Talk of the Nation Science Friday.

Now this just in from Gallup two thirds of Americans are ignoramouses.

Third of Americans Say Evidence Has Supported Darwin's Evolution Theory Almost half of Americans believe God created humans 10,000 years ago Only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence, while just as many say that it is just one of many theories and has not been supported by the evidence. The rest say they don't know enough to say. Forty-five percent of Americans also believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago. A third of Americans are biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.


Further reading on topic:
A design for life Spiked Online

Slippery Slopes

"An Arab Fable, " by Lydia Howard Sigourney, in Gleanings , 1860:

Once in his shop a workman wrought
With languid hand, and listless thought,
When through the open window's space
Behold!-a Camel thrust his face.
"My nose is cold," he meekly cried,
"Oh, let me warm it by thy side."
Since no denial word was said,
In came the nose,- in came the head,
As sure as sermon follows text
The long, excursive neck came next,
And then, as falls the threatening storm
In leap'd the whole ungainly form

Aghast the owner gazed around,
And on the rude invader frown'd,
Convinc'd as closer still he prest,
There was no room for such a guest,
Yet more astonish'd, heard him say,
"If incommoded, go your way,
For in this place I choose to stay."
Oh, youthful hearts, to gladness born,
Treat not this Arab lore with scorn.
To evil habit's earliest wile
Lend neither ear, nor glance, nor smile,
Choke the dark fountain ere it flows,
Nor even admit the Camel's Nose.

Geoff Nunberg writes on the slippery slope. We are according to Geoffrey seven times more likely to see mention of it in the press than a mere twenty years ago. No one it seems is immune to its charms from the Democrats complaining of the Administrations fast track to privatization of Medicare to the recent overturning of the Texas sodomy law leading to Rick Santorum's worst fears being realized, any day now.

But the real problem with slippery slope arguments isn't their logic, but the rhetorical games people play with them -- they're a way of turning every decision into an unprecedented step into the void. In theory, you could use Scalia's logic to run the metaphor uphill -- you could just as easily say that refusing to overturn the Texas statute would open the way to laws restricting nose rings, public dancing, or other things that voters might find morally unacceptable. But nobody ever brings up the slippery slope to argue for a change in law or policy -- it's always an argument for maintaining the status quo. The English legal scholar Glanville Williams once called the slippery slope "the trump card of the traditionalist, because no proposal for reform is immune to [it]." 6

That comes from the metaphor itself, with its image of stepping off the edge of a slope. But law and policy decisions are rarely that dramatic -- it's more like carving our way along a hillside, making small adjustments as we go. Or to switch metaphors, we all agree that we want to keep the camel's nose and haunches inside the tent and leave his nether parts out in the desert -- the question always comes down to where we want to put the hump.

You can read Geoff's entire article here

Logical Fallacies

I recently found this series of articles on logical fallacies by Jose A. Carillo that serve as a great introduction to the subject. The articles are accessible, entertaining, and fairly comprehensive.

The conquest of political ignorance
Some definitions, false causes, false dilemmas, false analogy, generalizations both hasty and misapplied and more and all from one email warning the author of a computer virus.

The lure of contradictory and circular notions

This covers contradictory premises, circular reasoning, insufficient or surpressed evidence

The straw man and other deceptions
This includes a number of fallacies of relevance. These include arguments based solely on emotion as well as other diversions.

Pulling our emotional heartstrings

some additional fallacies that play on our emotions

Horsing around with words

These are the fallacies that have to do with clarity in language which is dedicated to Matt. Gotcha!

Verbal fallacies nearer home

Ambiguity and such. This is the one we use with our wives and never get away with.

Begging The Question

Dr. Ink has misused the pharase "begs the question" here I'll let him tell you all about it, and at the same time you will learn about a very common fallacy.

Begging the Question

Please do Dr. Ink a favor. Please stop using the phrase "begs the question." Why? Because you are using it incorrectly. How does Doc know? Because he's been using it incorrectly for years.
Logical arguments comprise premises and conclusions. If your conclusion is hiding in your premise, then you have begged the question. You have stated as fact the thing you are trying to prove.

Here are some formal definitions and examples a comprehensive definition with examples and a shorter version

Slippery Slopes

Down with the 'slippery slope' argument

Do you realise that if you give your child a parental smack today, it could lead to you going wild and cracking her head open tomorrow? That is the latest version of the 'slippery slope' argument, an irrational notion that now crops up in British debates about everything from childcare to genetic science...

Would you like to learn more about this fallacy.

Definitions and Examples the short version

Definitions and Examples a longer version with additional links.

Quoting out of Context

I recently took the right to task for quoting out of context here though some of those same right-wingers refused to accept the fact that they were guilty of such action. I normally leave it to the right to point out such errors on the left and they do but I do notice them and find them just as objectional as when I see them from the right. They sometimes totally destroy the argument being made and other times they simply provide a distraction from the arguments being made. Both outcomes are bad so in the interest of fair play here is one from the left.

Maureen Dowd made some good points in this article and then spoiled it all by quoting out of context. It was unecessary, it added nothing to the point she was making, and all it did was provide ammunition for such as Andrew Sullivan who exposed the error and used it to discount the argument she was making, It didn't change the fact that the Administration was implying that we were somehow safer from such attacks was problematical. From the article:

Members of the U.S. intelligence community bragged to reporters that the terrorist band was crippled, noting that it hadn't attacked during the assault on Iraq.
"This was the big game for them - you put up or shut up, and they have failed," Cofer Black, who heads the State Department's counterterrorism office, told The Washington Post last week.

From Andrew Sullivan:

Busy chasing off Saddam, the president and vice president had told us that Al Qaeda was spent. "Al Qaeda is on the run," President Bush said last week. "That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated... They're not a problem anymore."

Here's what Bush actually said:

Al Qaeda is on the run. That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly, but surely being decimated. Right now, about half of all the top al Qaeda operatives are either jailed or dead. In either case, they're not a problem anymore.

It's perfectly clear that the president is referring, sardonically, only to those members of al Qaeda who are "either jailed or dead," not to the group as a whole. Everything we know about this president tells us that he has always warned of the permanent danger of groups like al Qaeda, has always talked of a long war, and would never say the words that Dowd puts in his mouth. So this is a wilful fabrication. Will they run a correction? Don't count on it.

Update: this from Spinsanity Dowd spawns Bush media myth

Oil Or Rocks?

In responding to criticism of the United States protecting Iraq's Oil Ministry and not their National Museum one blogger said "what is more valuable to a country rebuilding? Oil, or rocks?" The argument he is making is that forced to make a choice it makes sense to protect the oil. The problem is that he has created a false dilemma. By all accounts this wasn't an either or question since both tasks could have been accomplished. Although it has nothing to do with the argument one wonders why anyone would show such contempt for a countries cultural heritage and priceless artifacts by referring to them as rocks.

This Evening

Julian Baggini's latest Bad Moves column is an excellent one. It is about selective quotation which is perhaps more commonly known as quoting out of context. This particular quotation is one I saw repeated over and over again on the pro-war sites. They often used it as a springboard for a little French Bashing. The problem is they were quoting out of context they were leaving out two little words. Were they important words? You be the judge. The two words were "this evening" Chirac was talking about their position that evening. Now go and read it, and if you're one of those that misquoted Mr. Chirac head back to your blog and print a retraction and an apology, or do what you usually do and dismiss it as not important. Place whatever spin on it you like. Nobody will be surprised.

Bad Moves: Selective quotation By Julian Baggini

"My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote 'no'."
Jacques Chirac, President of France, 10 March 2003

What he actually said, in full, was: "My position is that, regardless of the circumstances, France will vote 'no' because she considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to achieve the goal we have set ourselves, i.e. to disarm Iraq."

Indeed, Chirac explicitly does not rule out the eventual use of force. "France isn't a pacifist country," he said, and it "doesn't refuse war on principle. France considers that war is the final stage of a process."

More Bad Moves

Bad Moves: Dubious advantages

via Butterflies & Wheels

By Julian Baggini

"We do not generally employ people who have spent a career doing something else and who have turned to executive search as a second career. We want our people to be the best at hiring great management. … To do this well you need to get the kind of commitment you have in a first career, not a second one."
Armstrong International advertisement, 2003 campaign (Source: The Economist, 29 March 2003)

The comic alter ego of Graham Fellows, the hapless singer-songwriter John Shuttleworth, had a wonderful line in his stage show when he evangelised to the audience over the merits of a well-known sports drink. "It's isotonic," he said, "it cares for the environment."

As with so much of the Shuttleworth act, behind the banality lies an astute observation. Like many of us, Shuttleworth is easily impressed by the claims made by manufacturers and advertisers for their products, even when he doesn't understand what these claims mean. The mere fact that something is presented as an advantage is enough to win him over.

This is a version of the wider problem that if a claim is made with sufficient strength, conviction or authority, it tends to be accepted whatever its merits. The sub-species of "dubious advantages", however, works this trick in a slightly more sophisticated way. It works by presenting a claim which is factually correct, but in such a way as to make it appear like an advantage.

The classic version of this comes with the many foodstuffs which are advertised as "95% fat free" or similar. There is nothing at all factually incorrect about this. But the way that the claim is splashed over the packaging makes it evident that this fact is supposed to describe an advantage. What could this advantage be? Many consumers will assume that it means the product is healthier, or is a better option if they are trying to lose weight. But many such low-fat cakes, for example, are loaded with sugar and a serving can contain just as many calories as other regular-fat alternatives. In short, the fact that something is 95% fat free isn't necessarily an advantage, even though it is being sold to you as one.

Once you become alert to this, examples leap off the supermarket shelves and the advertising billboards. Why is it good that something contains Guarana if the amount it contains is less than that required for it to have any effect, assuming it has a desirable effect anyway? Why is it better that something comes in a new, bigger size, if the price has increased proportionally? Why should we rejoice that a cereal now comes in a foil bag when it was perfectly crispy in the old plastic one?

What makes the Armstrong International advertisement particularly interesting is that by spelling out so clearly why recruiting people starting their first career is supposed to be an advantage, they are being more open than those who merely imply their dubious advantages, but they also thereby make the questionable nature of this advantage clearer. For it just doesn't seem at all evident that people are more committed when on their first career than their second. Indeed, many people just drift into their first career, and the move to a second one often requires more commitment. And people on their second career have more experience, including that concerning which kinds of people makes great managers. Prima facie, then, the claim that this feature of their recruitment practices is an advantage is questionable and it seems unlikely that any empirical evidence exists to back it up.

The presentation of dubious advantages probably works because we are cognitive misers who will always make as few judgements as possible to get by. We prefer "that's true" or "that's false" to "the factual part of that claim is true but its implied advantages are not real." The latter requires us to distinguish the factual content from the evaluative implication of a claim and when we're glancing at advertisements or product packaging, that can be a cognitive task too many. It's not that we're stupid, it's just that we are already bombarded by commercial messages and we're doing all we can to filter them out. Also, there aren't many of us who are at our mentally sharpest when doing the shopping.

Julian Baggini is editor of The Philosophers' Magazine.

Additional Bad Moves Columns

Critical Thinking On The Web

Tim van Gelder's Critical Thinking On The Web is probably the best site of its kind. It is overflowing with great information. One of the great things about this site are the links to related sites. Critical Reflections is the weblog section of the site. His latest entry is about common mistakes made in thinking about the Iraq problem, including an old favorite black-or-white reasoning.

The whole Iraq debate provides yet another tragic illustration of the inadequacy of our cognitive equipment (comprised of both our minds and our external tools) relative to what is needed for rational deliberation over complex real-world issues.

That said, even without fundamental change to our thinking equipment, thinking could be improved. Here are some of the most basic mistakes people are making all the time:

1. Black and white thinking. E.g., invading Iraq is either terribly wrong or a moral imperative. The idea that it is a moral "close call" due to multiple conflicting considerations pointing in different directions is rarely considered. B&W thinking crops up in myriad different forms. It is a kind of flight from complexity and shades of grey.

2. Gut-driven thinking. People's minds are made up for them in advance by their "gut" or intuition. All the rest is post hoc rationalization.

3. Tunnel vision. It is almost impossible to comprehend and synthesize all the relevant considerations. Most people don't even try; they focus on those which support their position (see 2) and ignore the rest.

4. Know nothing? No problem. Most people feel entitled to an opinion with very little background knowledge and without doing even the most minimal research. Spot quiz: how many people are executed each month by Saddam's regime?

Bad Moves

"Butterflies and Wheels (fighting fashionable nonsense)": fighting fashionable nonsense is an excellent site for those interested in all aspects of Philosophy. Articles, book reviews, news, and a section I found both useful and fascinating called Bad Moves. This is a weekly column by Philosopher Julian Baggini on bad argumentative moves and how to detect them. Here is an example and a timely that is right on target.
Bad Moves: Absence and evidence By Julian Baggini "It depends on Saddam. If he co-operates with the inspectors in allowing them not just access but telling them what material he has and allowing them to shut it down and make Iraq safe and free of weapons of mass destruction then the issue is over, but he is not doing that at the moment." Tony Blair, 26 January 2003 (Source: the Guardian, 27 January 2003) The British and American governments have consistently claimed that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. But they have not helped their case by rigging the rules by which their claim is tested. Here's the problem.
"continued here":

The Regression Fallacy

If you don't understand the idea of regression to the mean you are much more likely to make thinking errors that will cause you great difficulties. Here are some links to definitions and some examples that will make it all clear. regression and the regressive fallacy
The regressive fallacy is the failure to take into account natural and inevitable fluctuations of things when ascribing causes to them (Gilovich 1993, 26). Things like stock market prices, golf scores, and chronic back pain inevitably fluctuate. Periods of low prices, low scores, and little or no pain are eventually followed by periods of higher prices, scores, pain, etc. To ignore these natural fluctuations and tendencies leads to self-deception regarding their causes and to post hoc reasoning. For example, a professional golfer with chronic back pain or arthritis might try a copper bracelet on his wrist or magnetic insoles in his shoes. He is likely to try such gizmos when he is not playing or feeling well. He notices that his scores are improving and his pain is diminishing or gone. He concludes that the copper bracelet or the magnetic insole is the cause. It never dawns on him that the scores and the pain are probably improving due to natural and expected fluctuations. Nor does it occur to him that he could check a record of all his golf scores before he used the gizmo and see if the same kind of pattern has occurred frequently in the past. If he takes his average score as a base, most likely he would find that after a very low score he tended to shoot not a lower score but a higher score in the direction of his average. Likewise, he would find that after a very high score, he did not tend to shoot a higher score but rather would shoot a lower score in the direction of his average.

Continue reading "The Regression Fallacy" »

Ad Hominem

It's funny, no it's not it's annoying how often when Israel is attacked for its policies even those policies that are not supported by many in Israel, the cry of anti-Semitism is heard. It is a cry often used to accomplish nothing more than to deflect honest criticism. There is another related tactic that has become the darling of the right, the others are much much worse Israel is picked on, be nice don't criticize, your a bad bad person if you criticize Israel why don't you pick someone else to criticize. These arguments are simply ad hominem attacks. They are directed against the messenger not the argument. In fact they often concede that Israel is guilty of this or that but if you fail to point out all the other evils in the world you have no right to criticize Israel. This is simply wrong of course. Whether Israel is wrong or right is independent of the question as to whether others are. I recently ran across a new weblog. The poor fellow, it appears, is doing it all by hand amazing in light of the fine tools available Movable Type to name just one. It certainly doesn't distract from his writing, which is excellent. So check out his essay on this subject. Here is a link to What's Left his homepage.

Duty of Government

On Monday Night's Crossfire Tucker Carlson, the darling of the right, demonstrates that he sees everything as either Black or White, often a logical fallacy This time it is the cost of meeting the Iraqi threat.

CARLSON: Ralph, I know, as you do, that Bianca Jagger has gone over to Iraq. And I find that compelling, too. Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, they move my heart as well. But the fact is, there is a real threat from Iraq, and it is the duty of government, no matter how much it costs, to protect its citizens from threats. And if you think Iraq is a threat it doesn't matter how much it costs. [Emphasis mine] (APPLAUSE)

Interesting isn't it how the Tucker's of the world are the first to shout cost benefit analysis if it comes to Health-Care for example but not when it is war in Iraq. Discovering you have cancer is just as much a threat to life as any threat from Saddam. If we follow Tucker's logic then the Government has a responsiblity to protect Americans from such threats no matter how much it costs.

Of course the threat from Iraq is not the simple question Tucker contends. As Ralph Nader pointed out

NADER: Well, you know, General Zinni head of the Marine Corps, retired, doesn't think this is a wise thing to do, along with most of his fellow retired officers, according to an October report in "The Washington Post." I hear that even George Bush's father is very, very concerned about going to war. That's one reason why he didn't topple Saddam Hussein in 1991, because of the aftermath.

Superstition, For The Birds

An excellent article from the Gaurdian illustrating This Fallacy

There is good evidence, says Vyse, that anxiety makes people feel out of control, and that superstition provides a sense of control - if an illusory one. "To the extent that these are anxious times - here in the US things have become more anxious since last year's terrorist attacks - an increase in superstition is to be expected," he says...

But it was in 1947 that a dozen pigeons gave researchers at the University of Indiana what was to prove the most fundamental insight into the roots of superstition and magic - even, many would argue, of religion itself. These birds were put on restricted rations, so that before long their body weight had fallen by 25% and they were permanently hungry. When each bird had, in the words of Professor Burrhus Frederic Skinner, been "brought to a stable state of hunger", it found itself spending several minutes every day in a special cage. At one end of the cage was an automatic food hopper, linked to a timer so that it would swing into place every 15 seconds, and remain in place for five seconds before disappearing.

Crucial to the set-up was the fact that, no matter what the pigeon did, the food came and went at set intervals. For the purpose of the experiment was to observe what effect its comings and goings had on the pigeons. And, sad to say, it made them - and, by extension, us - look somewhat foolish.

Before long, one of the pigeons had begun making strange counterclockwise turns in the intervals between the hopper's arrival. Others indulged in repetitive head movements, while two birds developed a complicated pendulum motion of the head and body. By the end of the experiment, six of the eight subjects were performing elaborate routines, clearly with the intention of hastening the return of the food. In each case, the routine grew out of some action that the bird had just happened to be performing when the hopper appeared.

Describing what is now regarded as a classic experiment, Skinner was in no doubt as to the mechanism involved: "The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behaviour and the presentation of food, although such a relation is lacking," he wrote.