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Skeptic Summary #333

By The Staff
Posted on: 6/5/2011

Buddhism, Palin, fiction, free-will, fallacies and more!

Week ending June 04, 2011 (Vol 8, #21)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Forum Highlights:
Buddhist skeptic - What do skeptics have to say about Buddism?

Palin: an insight - Into the dangers of Dominionist aspirations, that is.

They gave us their mind - Blurring the lines between fiction… and fiction.

Editor’s Choice: The Mythicist position - Now free-will versus omniscience.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Fallacy Files — One of the main tools of critical thinking is recognizing a bad argument in favor or against this or that proposition. We recognize the tell-tale signs of bad argumentation when faulty logic is used to support or knock down whatever it is that’s being discussed. We learn to recognize logical fallacies. Sometimes, we don’t have know that the fallacy has a name, but it’s easier to point out an error in logic if there is a succinct explanation that can be sourced that both names and explains why any particular bit of logic fails. And of course, it’s a two-way street. It’s not all that difficult to resort to a fallacy of logic to defend a point that you might be arguing, too. Especially if you are unaware that whatever bias you may have has just gotten the better of you. Also, bear in mind that using a logical fallacy doesn’t mean that a whole argument is incorrect or mistaken. It might mean that. But sometimes it’s an error within a better argument that actually has merit. In either case, we should be able to recognize when logical fallacies are being used, and avoid using them ourselves.

And with that out of the way, let me introduce you to Fallacy Files. Honestly and truly if not the most complete logical fallacy site on the internet (I didn’t do a numbers comparison of fallacies defined on other sites) it is by far the most entertaining and educational one that I have ever come across.

Gary N. Curtis, the founder of the site, has this to say about his site on the What are the Fallacy Files? page:
I began collecting and studying logical fallacies about twenty-five years ago, when I first became interested in logic. This collection took two forms:

A collection of named fallacies—such as “ad hominem”—that is, types of bad reasoning which someone has thought distinctive and interesting enough to name and describe. This collection took the form, primarily, of the study and acquisition of books and articles on the named fallacies, especially textbooks and reference books. You can find individual files on the named fallacies via Taxonomy of Logical Fallacies, or from the alphabetical index in the scroll bar to your left.

A collection of fallacious, or otherwise bad, arguments, that is, examples of reasoning which may commit one or more of the named fallacies under 1, or are bad in some way yet to be classified. This collection took the form of clippings from newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, photocopies of pages of books, and—in a few rare cases—entire articles or books which were rich sources of bad reasoning. I have used selections from my collection as examples in many of the files on named fallacies, and additional examples can be found in the file: Stalking the Wild Fallacy.

Some years after I began to amass these files, I wondered just what I ought eventually to do with them, how best to organize the information within them, and in what form to make them available to others interested in fallacy studies. The present hypertext web version, The Fallacy Files, was first published on March 11th, 2001, and is the result of this score of years of research and fieldwork on the fallacies.

Along with an A-to-Z list of logical fallacies there is a menu that has some surprising subjects on it including:

Here is a collection of quotes concerning logical fallacies and the importance of logical thinking in life.
An area called Fallacy Watch that includes:
Familiar Contextomies

Introduction: A contextomy is a quote that has been taken out of context in such a way as to create a misleading impression of its meaning. A “familiar contextomy” is a contextomy that finds its way repeatedly into print or conversation, usually to support a particular point…

…What you will find are accurate quotes that give a false impression when removed from their context, together with that context. Moreover, each example has been used to advance some argument, thus committing the fallacy of quoting out of context…
How to Read a Poll

Every other year, during election campaigns, the American public is polled, surveyed, and canvassed for their opinions, and the news media continuously inform us of the results. The media report polls in the same breathless way that race track announcers describe horse races: “As they round the corner of the convention, the Republican is pulling ahead on the right! Now, they’re entering the home stretch and the Democrat is pulling up on the left!” Et cetera.

There is little drama in simply waiting until after the election to report the results. Instead, reporters use polls to add suspense to their coverage, with a leader and an underdog to root for. Moreover, every news outlet is trying to scoop the others by being the first to correctly predict the winner. Unfortunately, much of this coverage sacrifices accuracy for artificial excitement.

This article explains how a layman can read a news report of a poll without being duped by the hype. You don’t need to be a statistician to understand enough about polls to not be taken in, because the problems are often not with the polls themselves but with the way that they're reported…
And my favorite section is Taxonomy, and a fairly long page called How to Use the Taxonomy, which I won’t quote here… but hey, the link is right in front of you!

There is just so much good stuff on Fallacy Files that it’s really not just a resource, but also fun site to peruse. So begin perusing!

It is not new or surprising or puzzling to think that we don’t always love the truth.
— Ophelia Benson

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Chat was like a brontosaurus this week. It was small on one end, big in the middle, and small at the tail end. It was a good chat that lasted several hours. But there was no one there logging it. My guess is that we solved many issues of concern to skeptics. And as my memory has it, I had ribs for dinner. There was some discussion about the real meaning behind the words “atheist” and “agnostic” and where they overlap and that when broken down they sometimes mean the same thing, functionally anyhow. It’s an old debate and one not likely to go away anytime soon. And that’s about it!

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Are mobiles a health risk? There’s no answer yet

How to effect change?

The Longevity Gambit

New “Devil Worm” Is Deepest-Living Animal


Spectacular and sparkling, but what is it?

This Week in Intelligent Design

What’s New by Bob Park

Why Evolution is Difficult: An American Perspective

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.

Book of the Week:
The Duck That Won the Lottery: 100 New Experiments for the Armchair Philosopher, by Julian Baggini.

“This latest book from the pop philosophy author of The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten tackles an endlessly fascinating area of popular debate—the faulty argument. Julian Baggini provides a rapid-fire selection of short, stimulating, and entertaining quotes from a wide range of famous people in politics, the media, and entertainment, including Donald Rumsfeld, Emma Thompson, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and Chris Martin. Each entry takes as its starting point an example of highly questionable—though oddly persuasive—reasoning from a broad variety of subjects. As Baggini teases out the logic in the illogical, armchair philosophers and aficionados of the absurd will find themselves nodding their heads as they laugh out loud. The Duck That Won the Lottery is perfect fodder for any cocktail party and pure pleasure for anyone who loves a good brain twister.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Funny FAILS
  2. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  3. The Mythicist position
  4. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  5. The Supper
  6. The Battle of Tehran
  7. The next black president?
  8. They gave us their mind
  9. The Zeitgeist evidence
  10. Palin: an insight
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  3. The PQ Test
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. TAM5
  6. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  7. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  8. Miracle Thaw Tray
  9. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  10. Cold Reading
There were 7,190 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Funny FAILS
  2. The Supper
  3. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  4. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  5. The Zeitgeist evidence
  6. Evidence For Zeitgeist’s claims?
  7. Webcam, bald eagle nest
  8. The Mythicist position
  9. Osama bin Laden has been killed
  10. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  11. The Battle of Tehran
  12. Water covering the Earth
  13. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  14. DMV Senior Motorcyclist Handbook
  15. Women skeptics
  16. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  17. Presidential Facebook statement
  18. Beelzebufo ampinga
  19. ‘War on Poverty’ — Repug style?
  20. What is the physical evidence for the Holocaust?
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray
  8. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  9. TAM5
  10. Cold Reading
  11. Scientific Truth
  12. Evolution is a Lie
  13. Quantum Age Water
  14. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
  15. Skeptic Summary #331
  16. Astrology
  17. Newton’s Third Law
  18. N. 25, June 2002: Ecology vs. ecophily — being reasonable about saving the environment
  19. Calorad
  20. The Legend of the Shrinking Sun
There were 30,503 daily visitors in May, 2011.

More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2011, all rights reserved.

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