July 22, 2009
Does anyone remember the song “Back At One”, released by Brian McKnight in 1999? This was the brief period of time where R&B ruled the airwaves, right before boy bands took over. If you don’t remember, here are the lyrics to the chorus:
One, you’re like a dream come true
Two, just wanna be with you
Three, girl its plain to see that you’re the only one for me and
Four, repeat steps one through three
Five, make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I start back at one
Oh Brian McKnight, how you made the ladies swoon. I’m afraid the same cannot be said for logic enthusiasts. You see, for “step” number four, he says to repeat steps one through three. But one through three aren’t steps; they are merely statements. How do you repeat “you’re like a dream come true”? Also, if step four is repeating one through three, then how does he ever get to five? Maybe that’s his trick. Say nice things for thee steps, throw an extra step to make it seem like you’re doing more work when you’re really just repeating previous steps, and then throw in a step that requires all of the hard work, but you’ll never really get to that step.
Brian McKnight might not understand logic, but he is definitely a professor in Loveology.
July 14, 2008
There is another slightly more subtle argument related to the Appeal to Ignorance fallacy Kevin mentioned in his previous post. Under the guise of being open-minded many debaters often resort to the “possibility” argument. Basically, the debater’s rebuttal to any argument that weakens their stance is to claim that in some far-fetched, ludicrous scenario what they believe could happen.
The argument usually starts, “What if [insert absurd premise] were true?” The difference between possibility and probability is a delicate, but important division to make. Arguing what is possible quickly escalates into far-flung what-ifs instead of simple, well-supported explanations. We can’t even begin to conceive of everything that is possible. What is important is to decide and evaluate what is probable. Let’s take a look at a ridiculous example:
It’s possible there is a ninja hiding in my bathroom right now waiting to attack me on the toilet. He could be the last remaining member of a dynasty of ninjas that has survived and remained hidden for hundreds of years. And it’s possible he has a lightsaber. This sounds ridiculous, but it may be possible. I don’t know much about actual ninjas and I only have a passing knowledge of what is required to make a functional lightsaber. I wont know if the ninja is in my bathroom until I actually go in my bathroom. But guess what? I still take the dump.
Is it worth the risk? Hell yes! Because it may be possible that there is a sci-fi weapon wielding ninja waiting to assassinate me in my bathroom but it sure isn’t probable. There could be any number of crazy phenomena going on in my bathroom, but I’m certain the strangest thing in there is the smell. Too often someone arguing from a ridiculous position pulls the possibility card. This point is almost useless in a logical debate. Yes, many things are possible. No, we don’t know everything. But we have evidence, laws, theories and experience that allows us to function and make decisions daily. It’s possible the ground beneath my home turned into lava while I slept but I know it’s not probable because I’m not anywhere near a volcano and I can look out my window.
Pointing out that a person is using this method of arguing usually results in them calling you close-minded. But as skeptics we are not closed off to ANY possibility if it is supported by evidence. Ignoring evidence and logic while clinging to ridiculous possibilities because “you’d like them to be true” is what I define as truly close-minded and it’s a hallmark an illogical true believer.
July 14, 2008
Sorry for the sales pitch title, but if you’re looking to hone your logical fallacy detecting skills I highly recommend Fallacy Files. Specifically the Taxonomy page. Here you can see a great breakdown of the most common formal and informal logical fallacies.
The site is great for helping you in those moments where someone is trying to spoon-feed you a load of BS and think to yourself, “I know this guy is full of crap, but how can I best communicate that to him?” The more fallacies you learn, the better you will get at recognizing faulty logic in others and yourself.
July 4, 2008
Spend a few minutes over at Your Ghost Stories. It’s a compilation of “ghost experience” anecdotes. From a skeptic’s point of view it’s good exercise to spot the logical fallacies and gaps in reason. From an average Joe’s point of view it’s hilarious. You can find some real gems.
Check out ariessa25’s riveting tale of doing drugs and listening to Godsmack:
“One night it was just Lola, Robby, and I. We were using drugs and listening to the Godsmack C.D. I don’t know if you know who Godsmack is but most of there lyrics are Diabolic or about drug use. We all got real into the C.D. especially the song “Voo Doo”. We were talking crazy stuff and just pretty much stayed up all night.”
She then goes on to describe the actual “encounter”:
“At about 3am I woke up and could not move. This has happened to me before and my mother always told me to just pray to God and it will go away which did usually work. This time it was different. As guilty as I felt, I did pray but it didn’t work. I was sleeping on my side and was able to look at my stereo which I had left turned off but it was on and the lights were moving across and the time said 3am. I thought maybe I did leave it on but when I looked at the back it was disconnected! I panicked and screamed as loud as I could for my mom and dad but almost nothing more than a whisper came out. I must have snapped out of it and I got up and tried to open the door but it would not move! I was locked in my room. All of a sudden I felt a push throw me back on the bed. All I remember was just laying there waiting for morning. I must have fallen asleep because when I woke up it was light outside.”
Literary genius! And how does ariessa25 explain this unexplainable paranormal event?
“After this experience I quit my partying. I don’t know why but to this day I think that listening to the Godsmack C.D. is what caused this and I also don’t believe that sleep paralysis is a medical condition. I believe its something more paranormal and demonic.”
Newsflash ariessa25: you not believing that sleep paralysis is a medical condition has no bearing on whether or not it is actually a condition. And just in case you don’t know where the author stands, the title of the story is “It Was Not Sleep Paralysis.”
Don’t forget to visit the sister sites Psychic Experiences and Spiritual Experiences.