What I Believe - Blog

calendargrumpyBiotechnology

Dec 14, 2012 (4 years and 6 months ago)

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and, More Importantly, What I Don’t

What should I look for?


Plausibility


Falsifiability


Evidence


Sound Reasoning

Logical Fallacies


Appeal to Nature


Claiming that since a thing is natural, it is
therefore desirable or good.


Claiming that unnatural things are bad.


A subset of Hume’s is
-
ought problem.



Example:


“Genetic engineering is unnatural, so you
should eat only organic food.”

Logical Fallacies


Affirming the Consequent


A converse error which assumes that the
premises of a condition are true if the
conclusion is true.



Example:


“If it is raining, the sidewalk is wet. Since the
sidewalk is wet, it must be raining.”

Logical Fallacies


Fallacy of the Perfect Solution


Claiming that a solution to a problem ought
to be rejected because it is imperfect or will
not solve all instances of the problem.



Example:


“You shouldn’t use chemotherapy to treat
your cancer, because the therapy is toxic
and some people die even after being
treated.”

Logical Fallacies


Straw Man


Mischaracterising

an opponent’s position to
make it easier to attack.


This is
very popular
.



Example:


“If evolution were true, we’d see cats giving
birth to dogs. Since we don’t, evolution is
false!”

Logical Fallacies


Begging the Question


Also called circular reasoning.


Demonstrating that a conclusion is true by
means of premises that assume the
conclusion is true.



Example:


“God exists, because he inspired those who
wrote the Bible, and the Bible testifies to his
greatness.”

Logical Fallacies


Argumentum ad Hominem


Literally “to the man”.


Attacking the person, rather than the
argument he or she is making.



Example:


“You shouldn’t listen to what Darwin had to
say because he was a racist.”

Logical Fallacies


Tu

Quoque


Literally “you too”.


Appealing to your opponent’s hypocrisy in
failing to act in accordance to his or her own
position.


A subset of the ad hominem.



Example:


“Climate change isn’t real, because Al Gore
has a huge mansion and drives a big car.”

Logical Fallacies


Argumentum ad
Populum


Literally “to the people”.


Arguing that a proposition is true on the
basis that many (or most) believe it to be
true.



Example:


“200,000 Canadians can’t be wrong! Q
-
Ray.
Find out what they know!”

Logical Fallacies


Argumentum ad
Consequentiam


Literally “to the consequences”.


Argues that a proposition is true or false
based upon the whether accepting the
proposition leads to desirable or undesirable
consequences.



Example:


“If God did not exist, life would have no
ultimate meaning.”

Confirmation Bias


Our propensity to:


favour

information that confirms positions
that we already hold;


ignore evidence contrary to our own opinion.


Often results in one
-
sided hypothesis
testing.

Selective Recall


A subset of confirmation bias.


Our propensity to remember the hits and
forget the misses.


Relied upon by psychics and snake
-
oil
salesmen.

Inattentional

Blindness


The inability to perceive things that are
in plain sight as a result of distraction or
focus elsewhere.

Change

Blindness


Failure

to detect major changes in a
scene due to visual disruption (saccade,
obstruction, etc.).

Falsifiability


The logical possibility that a proposition
could be shown to be false.


This is a very important principle in
science and philosophy.


Falsifiable
does not
mean false.


Only one of these statements is
falsifiable:


“All humans live forever.”


“No human lives forever.”

Falsifiability


Let’s compare these statements:


“I have a teapot in my home.”


“Between the Earth and Mars there is a
china teapot revolving about the sun in an
elliptical orbit.”

Falsifiability


What about these two statements?


“The gods abide at the summit of Mount
Olympus.”


“God dwells
extradimensionally
, outside of
space and time, and cannot be observed
save by His direct permission.”

Jesus is Magic


Can the “God Question” be addressed
by skepticism?


Let’s check our work:


Plausibility


Falsifiability


Evidence


Sound Reasoning

The Burden of Proof


Two possible default positions:


believe every proposition until proven false;


withhold belief until propositions are proven
true.


Given the proposition, “There is a dead
body in the trunk of my car,” which
works better? Do you assume that’s true
until proven otherwise?

The Burden of Proof


Main problem with believing a
proposition until it’s proven false:


It is logically inconsistent.


Example:


Proposition 1: “Leprechauns place a pot of
gold at the end of every rainbow.”


Proposition 2: “Leprechauns do not exist.”


With no evidence either way, you are
forced to accept both propositions.


The Burden of Proof


If you make an assertion, it is
your
responsibility

to provide evidence.


It is common practice to shift the burden
of proof:


“Prove to me that God
doesn’t

exist!”

Story Time!


The Celebrations Encounter


The Mansion on Wellington Crescent


The
Valour

Road Mystery

Story Time!


When I ask, “Do you believe me?” what
does that mean?


Let’s check our work:


Plausibility


Falsifiability


Evidence


Sound Reasoning

Plausibility


Questions:


How do the spirit and brain communicate?


Doesn’t the brain make the spirit redundant?


How could a spirit perceive the world?


How could a spirit affect the world?


Why isn’t Ghost Carl Sagan still contributing
to scientific research and public outreach
efforts?

Why Skepticism?


What’s the harm in believing?


Go to
www.whatstheharm.net
.


They’re anecdotes. But they’re
good

anecdotes.


We can all be duped.


Skepticism isn’t a cure. It’s more like a
vaccine. It doesn’t work for everyone,
but there’s hope that one day we can
achieve herd immunity.

It

is

easy

for

anyone

to

be

overwhelmed

by

an

organized

campaign

of

misinformation
.

I

know

very

bright

people

who

were

blown

away

by

Loose

Change

when

they

first

saw

it
.

I

know

otherwise

intelligent

people

who

just

cannot

handle

the

systematic

lies

and

distortions

of

the

creationists



they

don’t

have

the

background

and

the

volumes

of

information

it

would

take

to

tackle

each

false

claim

and

logical

fallacy
.


The

same

is

true

of

the

alternative

medicine

and

anti
-
vaccine

movement



they

have

a

highly

developed

package

of

propaganda,

misinformation,

and

subtle

distortions



wrapped

in

a

feel
-
good

and

empowering

philosophy,

that

can

easily

overwhelm

even

an

intelligent

person
.



Dr. Steven Novella

All

men

are

fools,

and

he

who

does

not

wish

to

see

them

must

remain

in

his

chamber

and

break

his

looking
-
glass
.


Marquis de Sade

Advice


Remember to check your work:


Plausibility


Falsifiability


Evidence


Sound Reasoning

Advice


Ray Hyman's Categorical
Imperitive
:


Don't try to explain a phenomenon until
you've determined that it actually exists.


Example:


King
Tut’s

“Curse”

Advice


Let no question remain unasked
because it is deemed impolite.


Freedom of expression is terribly
important: this is how the best ideas rise
to the top.

Advice


Skepticism is
not

about being closed
-
minded.


It's about being open to having your
mind changed.


It's about evaluating evidence and using
that evidence as the basis for your
beliefs.

Startling Things


…that I don’t believe in:


Souls and Spirits


Free Will


Objectivism


Solipsism


Postmodernism


Cultural Relativism (Mostly)


The “Singularity”

The Winnipeg Skeptics
Meetup

Page

www.meetup.com/WinnipegSkeptics


The Official Winnipeg Skeptics Blog

winnipegskeptics.wordpress.com


Startled Disbelief Blog

www.startleddisbelief.com