Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New logical fallicy: Argument ad Linguistics

One thing I keep seeing pop up in internet debates that is incredibly stupid is the use of linguistics to make a larger point where it is totally irrelevant. For example at Pandagon there was a debate over abortion (who woulda thunk it). In any case in the course of the argument at one point went to if pregnancy was active or passive and someone named Dan wrote this gem:

If pregnancy were an action, it’d be a verb, not a noun.

Now as someone pointed out this is especially stupid because the verb gestate works just as well in this context, but this is a prime example of using artifacts of language as points in an argument. Language is a pretty handy thing, and linguistics is interesting, but these types of arguments basically are useless in every way. Making a point based on the part of speech (or the etymology) is not giving evidence, or even a logical argument, it's just an extra bit of useless information that is intended to muddy the debate. So I guess it's not really a new logical fallacy, it's just a red herring, but it's a particularly annoying type of red herring. I'm not sure if people using these sorts of arguments actually believe them or not, but they must either be pretty dumb to not see how stupid they are, or incredibly disingenuous and desperate. It's also pretty common, seeming to come up at Language Log all the time.

Actually it reminds me of an attitude that I was hearing this morning driving to work, I was listening to NPR and they were reporting on the whole immigration bill debate. The main argument used against the "amnesty" provisions were that we would be rewarding people who have broken the law, ignoring the fact that everybody has broken the law. I break the law every day by speeding (and I don't drive particularly fast), and I know very few people who didn't drink while they were underage. It's not about laws, it's about racism. The whole argument, like the linguistic ones, is based on a petty legalism used to make cheap points at the expense of real argument.

Friday, May 18, 2007

food friday

so I was at Pandagon and saw this hilarious video:

I'll have to eat Kitten Mcnuggets instead.

Monday, May 14, 2007


So Daniel Davies at crooked timber is defending cheap American beer. Specifically Budweiser.

It is not the worst beer available, it's drinkable and bland, and that's really the main problem: like other big name American beers it has no flavor. Bland is OK, the whole point of lagers is that they are a bit on the bland side, but there is a big difference between subtle flavor and no flavor, and beers like Budweiser tend to come closer to the no flavor side of things. On the other hand it's really cheap, and is refreshing on a hot day. I just don't really drink enough to really justify the savings (plus for about the same price, in philly I can get Yuengling, which is much better).

Another thought: I just recently tried brooklyn brewery's Monster Ale. It has a good, strong flavor, not the kind of beer you drink a bunch of, but one is very enjoyable. Also: I had one after lunch, and was surprised how strong it was, but that is to be expected since it's about 3 times stronger than regular beer.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My only post on religion

I am an atheist, but I don't want this to turn into an "atheist blog". I'd rather it be a science, music, or even technology blog because those are things that interest me, and so this is the only post I shall ever make regarding my views on religion (though I reserve the right to mock it at any point in time, for any reason).

The whole problem of religion is that there are many things people mean by the word "god", I can think of at least 3 that seem to cover most cases:

  1. Abrahamanic style god: this is what most people in America believe in. He (noticeably is usually a he) is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, but likes to take part in some mass genocide from time to time.

  2. The philosopher's god: this is what is believed by everything from deists to pantheists (those that aren't atheists anyways). This entity is kind of fuzzy and ill defined, and is totally untestable with science, but doesn't cause miracles or care about what goes on in your underpants, and as a matter of fact does just about nothing by design.

  3. Pagan gods: for example the greek gods, or shinto gods or the goddess of the wiccans. These are really just beings fantastically more powerful than us, but not perfect, or all knowing (much less all powerful: considering how much they fight they would have done serious damage)

Gods in the sense of 2 are totally untestable, and while I'm technically an agnostic when it comes to these ideas, I find them totally unmoving and useless, but I can't prove that they don't exist. Gods in the sense of 3, I don't think we have ever seen any evidence of, but they aren't out of the question, there could be a race of aliens so powerful so as to be like gods to us (the whole stargate movie and tv show are based on this idea), but I can say pretty confidently that we've never run into them. Gods in the sense of 1 though, the sense most common in much of the world, I think are proven to not exist (we would expect a very different world from the one we see if a giant guy in the sky was in charge of everything), and as a matter of fact are probably a logical contradiction.

Religions based off of gods in the first sense I think are absolutely harmful to humanity (I think the examples usually given aren't the best, sure the crusades and basically the whole history of the middle east kind of suck, but people always find an excuse to kill each other, the fundamental area where religion has hurt people has been in the field of women's rights). Religions based around 3 are similar to those based around 1, but tend to be less virulently bad. And there are no real religions based on 2, mostly because they are an intellectual exercise meant to keep the person believing in them able to call themselves a theist, while cutting down on the cognitive dissonance from the blatant disagreement with science.

To summarize: I'm a strong atheist in the sense of 1, and agnostic in the sense of 2, and a weak atheist (we just haven't seen them) in the sense of 3.