Tag Archives: Fallacy

Debunked: Questions No Atheist Can Answer

Debunked: The Ouija Board

Organic Farming is Bad for the Environment

By vie NeuroLogica Blog

Marketing sometimes involves the science of making you believe something that is not true, with the specific goal of selling you something (a product, service, or even ideology). The organic lobby, for example, has done a great job of creating a health halo and environmentally friendly halo for organic produce, while simultaneously demonizing their competition (recently focusing on GMOs).

These claims are all demonstrably wrong, however. Organic food is no more healthful or nutritious than conventional food. Further, GMO technology is safe and there are no health concerns with the GMO products currently on the market.

There is an even more stark difference, however, between beliefs about the effects of organic farming on the environment and reality.  In fact organic farming is worse for the environment than conventional farming in terms of the impact vs the amount of food produced.

First, organic farming may use pesticides. They just have to be “natural” pesticides, which means the ones they use are not chosen based upon their properties. Ideally choice of pesticide and the strategy in using them would be evidence-based and optimized for best effect, minimal impact on health and the environment, cost effectiveness, and convenience.   Organic farming, however, does not make evidence-based outcome choices. Their primary criterion is that the pesticides must be “natural”, even if they are worse in every material aspect. This represents ideology trumping evidence. It is based on the “appeal to nature” fallacy, an unwarranted assumption that something “natural” will be magically better than anything manufactured.

In fact my main complaint against the organic label is that it represents an ideological false dichotomy. Each farming practice should be judged on its own merits, rather than having a bunch of practices ideologically lumped under one brand. I don’t care if a practice is considered organic or not, all that matters is the outcome.

Continue Reading @ NeuroLogica Blog – – –

The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate (…Know Thy Logical Fallacies)

via Relatively Interesting

argue_250pxLooking for an edge so you can win your next big argument?

Learn the 10 Commandments of Rational Debate and use them against your enemy as you obliterate their argument point by point (rationally, of course).  Knowing your logical fallacies and how the brain can deceive even the brightest of minds is the first step towards winning an argument.

These are 10 of the more popular logical fallacies, but there are many others you need to learn in order to master the art of debate…

ten 10 commandments_600px

1. Though shall not attack the person’s character, but the argument itself. (“Ad hominem”)

Example:  Dave listens to Marilyn Manson, therefore his arguments against certain parts of religion are worthless. After all, would you trust someone who listens to that devil worshiper?

2. Though shall not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack. (“Straw Man Fallacy”)

Example:  After Jimmy said that we should put more money into health and education, Steve responded by saying that he was surprised that Jimmy hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenceless by cutting military spending.

3. Though shall not use small numbers to represent the whole. (“Hasty Generalization”)

Example:  Climate Change Deniers take a small sample set of data to demonstrate that the Earth is cooling, not warming. They do this by zooming in on 10 years of data, ignoring the trend that is present in the entire data set which spans a century.

4. Though shall not argue thy position by assuming one of its premises is true. (“Begging the Question”)

Example:

Sheldon: “God must exist.”
Wilbert: “How do you know?”
Sheldon: “Because the Bible says so.”
Wilbert: “Why should I believe the Bible?”
Sheldon: “Because the Bible was written by God.”
Wilbert: “WTF?”

Here, Sheldon is making the assumption that the Bible is true, therefore his premise – that God exists – is also true.

5. Though shall not claim that because something occurred before, but must be the cause. (“Post Hoc/False Cause”).

This can also be read as “correlation does not imply causation”.

Example:  There were 3 murders in Dallas this week and on each day, it was raining. Therefore, murders occur on rainy days.

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How to improve your odds at the casino by understanding the Gambler’s Fallacy

Via RelativelyInteresting.com

gamblers_fallacy
Imagine you are at a Las Vegas casino and you’re approaching the roulette table.  You notice that the last eight numbers were black… so you think to yourself, “Holy smokes, what are the odds of that!” and you bet on red, thinking that the odds of another black number coming up are really small.  In fact, you might think that the odds of another black coming up are:

0.5*0.5*0.5*0.5*0.5*0.5*0.5*0.5*0.5 = 0.00195 (a very tiny number)

Or are they?

casino_rouletteThe problem is that a roulette table – if fairly constructed – has no “memory”.  That is, one outcome does not depend on the previous outcome’s result, and so the odds for a red number or black number are just about equal (actually, just shy of 50% each, since there is one or two green spaces on a roulette table depending on American or European versions).

Keeping with our example, if you bet on either red or black for each spin, this type of outside bet pays 1 to 1 and covers 18 of the 38 possible combinations (or 0.474).  A far cry from the 0.00195 number above (a miscalculation that is roughly 243 times too small).  Now your odds of a red coming up aren’t so good anymore…

This fallacy is called the Gambler’s Fallacy, and it’s what the city of Las Vegas is built on.

Random events produce clusters like “8 black numbers in a row”, but in the long term, the probability of red or black will even out to its natural average.

The key to your success at the casino?  Understand that every individual spin (or “event”) has its own probability which never changes.  In this case, 18 in 38.

So the next time you’re at a casino and you see a string of the same color coming up, remember that the odds of that color coming up again are exactly the same as the other color… it might save you a few bucks so you can play a bit longer.

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambler’s_fallacy


[END] RelativelyInteresting.com

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The Curious Case of Correlation ≠ Causation

CorrelationCausation_web
By marwanayache via Sensitive Context Blog

In my last post, I wrote about how not having enough contextual data can outright boggle the mind. Today, we’re going to read about something else that similarly boggles the mind, albeit not really related to any linguistic phenomena. It’s an interesting little logical fallacy in the field of statistics known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc, or more commonly, ‘correlation does not prove causation’.  Here, we define correlation as ‘when two things happen at the same time’, and causation as ‘when one thing causes the other’.

correlation causationThis logical fallacy is great at showing the glaring inaccuracies caused by lack of data on a specific subject, and how this lack can cause us to reach blindly for (often incorrect) conclusions in the proverbial fogginess of our mind. Additionally, the comedic factor here is amplified if you forego the law of parsimony (also known as Occam’s razor), which states that of all the possible solutions to a question or problem, the simplest one is most likely the truth.

Have you ever been in a recording booth or a really quiet place? If you’re in there for a long time your mind begins to create its own sounds. Essentially, you begin to hallucinate due to a lack of external stimuli. This is basically what goes on in the aforementioned logical fallacy: you end up compensating for a lack of data by drawing a perceived (and often inaccurate) connection between the sole items of data you have.

What does this have to do with a language blog? Essentially, it’s a great way of showing how a lack of the background information required for comprehension can yield wildly inaccurate knowledge. Dig this:

comparefeetDid you know that children with bigger feet are statistically better at spelling?  This is statistically true. Without additional contextual information, I could hypothesize that having larger foot-size means the children would perform better at sports and have better balance while carrying large and cumbersome schoolbags, making them less prone to falling over in bustling school hallways, making them less likely targets for bullies, leading to an inevitable increase in confidence, leading to better scholastic performance, and thereby, better spelling skills!

The truth is, it’s actually because children with larger feet are probably a lot older than children with smaller feet. Duh.

Did you know that you are more likely to get cancer if you always wear a seat-belt?

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Pragmatic Fallacy

Via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

pragmaticThe pragmatic fallacy is committed when one argues that something is true because it works and where ‘works’ means something like “I’m satisfied with it,” “I feel better,” “I find it beneficial, meaningful, or significant,” or “It explains things for me.” For example, many people claim that astrology works, acupuncture works, chiropractic works, homeopathy works, numerology works, palmistry works, therapeutic touch works. What ‘works’ means here is vague and ambiguous. At the least, it means that one perceives some practical benefit in believing that it is true, despite the fact that the utility of a belief is independent of its truth-value.

The pragmatic fallacy is common in “alternative” health claims and is often based on post hoc reasoning. For example, one has a sore back, wears the new magnetic or takionic belt, finds relief soon afterwards, and declares that the magic belt caused the pain to go away. How does one know this? Because it works! There is also some equivocation going on in the alternative health claims that fall under the heading of “energy medicine,” such as acupuncture and therapeutic touch. The evidence pointed to often uses ‘works’ in the sense of ‘the customer is satisfied’ or ‘the patient improves,’ but the conclusion drawn is that ‘chi was unblocked’ or ‘energy was transferred.’

There is a common retort to the skeptic who points out that customer satisfaction is irrelevant to whether the device, medicine, or therapy in question really is a significant causal factor in some outcome. Who cares why it works as long as it works? You can argue about the theory as to why it works, but you can’t argue about the customer satisfaction or the fact that measurable improvements can be made. That’s all that matters.

It isn’t all that matters. Testimonials are not a substitute for scientific studies, which are done to make sure that we are not deceiving ourselves about what appears to be true. It is especially necessary to . . .

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Why calling someone a shill betrays the weakness of your position, and your inability to defend it.

Via Bad Skeptic

photo by aisletwentytwo on flickr. (CC).

photo by aisletwentytwo on flickr. (CC).

Running common among luddites, conspiracy theorists, and anti-science culture is the quick-draw to cry “shill!” That is, to accuse someone of taking a cash payment to espouse views that are not their own. Any statement made by the crier o’ shill’s opponent must be invalid, because they’re in the pay of the imaginary demons (big whatever, Monsanto, the Government, reptile aliens) who are trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. How is this proven? By the fact that they oppose the crier o’ shill, of course.

I wonder sometimes if criers o’ shill even know why they’re reaching for this tautology as a conceptual shield. It may seem like a strong tactic to the person using it, because it feels useful to knock down any argument against them. But it’s merely a paradox–an unfalsifiable loop.

  1. Now that the cryer o’ shill has invalidated anything the ‘shill’ says, that person can no longer defend themselves, because they could be lying about not being a shill. Why do they lie? Because they’re a shill.
  2. The “evidence” for the person being a shill is the fact that they have a stance against the crier o’ shill. Calling someone a shill with no proof to back it up, is the logical equivalent of saying, “You are wrong, because I am never wrong.

Not only is the shill argument empty and sad, it’s one of the most common mistakes made by people in any argument. It’s a logical fallacy, known as an ad hominem. (Against the person.) The crier o’ shill is attacking the person making a statement in an attempt to render that target’s argument invalid, rather than demonstrating any falsehood in the argument through attacking the argument itself.

Of course you would say there’s no scientific proof that GMOs are dangerous! You’re getting paid by Monsanto!

Not only is the crier o’ shill . . .

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