Bad arguments and how to spot them

Please give this a quick read
Patrick Fowke
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Post by Patrick Fowke » Fri Dec 19, 2008 1:33 pm

Hi Adam, thanks

adamd164 wrote: I'm curious to know what sort of independent, empirically-driven investigation you feel would be appopriate for this?


With respect I wasn't, necessarily, debating for or against the existence of ghosts but was challenging the poster's method of argument in reference to this point (he could have chosen another subject other than ghosts to make his point).

adamd164 wrote: Certainly I am highly skeptical of it, and I feel we ought to be skeptical of extraordinary claims such as these. I suppose something like lie-detector tests would be a start; however, this wouldn't at all rule out self-delusion. I'd genuinely be delighted if rigorous data could be collected on the matter though. Regardless, surely you can see that the quotation you use is simply making the point that just because so many people claim to have seen them doesn't mean that they do, as a matter of fact, exist?


I think the important thing is people who believe in God debate for His existence from a holistic point-of-view rather than just focusing one particular subject i.e the subject of ghosts (to be honest I find this subject a bit scary - and I honestly pray to be protected from any such thing - I know people who have "seen" ghosts - and no idea whether they are believers in God or not. Their testament to me was enough for me to believe more in ghosts than not.

adamd164 wrote: Whoa there! Quantum physics - we're talking about mathematically-based constructs ?


I am not an expert on maths (/ the philosophy of maths, perhaps) but the truths of Maths exist outside the natural world.

Where do the nominal truths of maths come from?

adamd164 wrote: to explain observed phenomena as being part of the natural world (because remember, regardless of whether or not we can directly experience it, no one in the physics community is claiming it to be supernatural in any sense


- you are jumping to a point I didn't make or was directly suggesting here. I was questioning the nature of scientific "evidence" - this is, with respect, irrelevant to "no one in the physics community is claiming it to be supernatural in any sense"

adamd164 wrote: it's within the physical laws of the Universe.


- My point was to suggest that "evidence" in the world of science isn't necessarily cut and dry.

And that's just the world of science. Don't forget that many scientists are / were (devout) Christians i.e Max Planck - the founder of quantum physics. Such scientists would argue that science isn't the ultimate arbitrator of reality anyway. Philosophy, the arts, human experience and so on, also, play a role.

adamd164 wrote: Religious belief is the anti-thesis of this: it celebrates blind faith as virtuous .


Faith is part of Christian belief. Faith doesn't = Christian belief. Christian belief is based on faith, experience, reflection (and more). We experience life (in every sense), reflection on it and base our faith on that. At a certain point a "leap of faith" is required. But it is NOT "blind faith". St Paul says that the Christian has to "work out his salvation".
And just as the Christian makes a "leap of faith", so does the scientist in arriving at a new theory. So does the lover in deciding whether to commit to their partner or not. We all make leaps of faith. But they are leaps of faith based on experience and reflection.

Also, most scientists wouldn't argue that science isn the ultimate arbitrator or reality. They would, also, place value in philosophy and the arts that are outside the remit of "evidence" (i.e the form in Plato for example).

Have to stop there as .. work .. to do.

Thanks.
Ygern
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Re: Bad arguments and how to spot them

Post by Ygern » Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:02 am

Patrick, two quotes for you.

"It is a great nuisance that knowledge can only be acquired by hard work." - W Somerset Maugham

"It's okay to make mistakes, of course. Everyone does. But it's best to check things out a bit first before jumping to conclusions." - Phil Plait


After reading your ignorant attack on my post I am unsure why you decided to jump into this thread, all guns blazing only to shoot yourself in the foot every step of the way.

First rule: read the thread you are about to attack very carefully before you open your mouth. This helps prevent you from saying stuff that is immensely stupid.

Second rule: do not refer to me as a guy or dude. I am neither. It will take you approximately 2 seconds to verify this. You made an assumption based on (well, who knows? Imagination? Lack of research?) and turned out to be quite a lot wrong. Imagine it to be a little lesson in the way the real world works.

Anyway, on to your weird and wacky world of non-science.

Your argument in favour of ghosts says:
Thousands of people believe in ghosts because they have SEEN (as opposed to just having a gut belief in) ghosts. You can question the validity of 'seen'.


How did you manage to fall hook, line & sinker into this trap? Thank you for proving the point about fallacious argument from mass consensus.

Point the first: I do indeed question the validity of ‘seen’. Anyone ought to. If you doubt me, you might want to talk to your local friendly policeman or perhaps a local friendly public prosecutor. Eye-witness accounts are notoriously unreliable and very often completely wrong for a number of reasons: sometimes they are genuinely mistaken, sometimes their emotional at the time (fear, surprise, shock) can cloud their judgement, sometimes they lie, sometimes they see what they want to see.

Point the second of this logical fallacy is that claiming to have seen something is not proof. A thousand people making such claims is still not proof. In the very next paragraph:
I wrote:The best you can claim for a plethora of anecdotes seeming to support an argument is that it might be grounds for genuine investigation of the facts.

Did you not see this sentence?
Perhaps a better question would be; how did you not see this sentence?

So your very first objection is a fraud based on the fact that you didn’t bother to read what you decided to attack. Interestingly, you’ve also provided a good example of showing just how unreliable claims of having seen something are. (I’m assuming, based on the evidence of your quote-mining and posting, that you did ‘see’ the thread before you decided to respond to it.)

Actually, a great number of people have gone to great lengths to investigate and research paranormal claims. I would recommend that you familiarise yourself with some or all of the following:

Captain Disillusion http://www.youtube.com/user/CaptainDisillusion
Yes, they are aimed at kids, but you have to start somewhere.
Try Gas Station Ghost http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyR_WHEm ... annel_page
And Mirror ghost girl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3te1wBjb ... annel_page

James Randi http://www.youtube.com/user/JamesRandiFoundation
(do a search for ‘ghost’)
Afterwards, be sure to express your scorn here http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/com ... tpage.html

Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe http://www.theskepticsguide.org/
Download episodes 7, 66 & 71 just for starters and then make sure to show your disdain here: http://skepchick.org/skepticsguide/

E-Skeptic Read: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/ Listen: http://www.skeptic.com/podcasts/

And just because I can never get enough of either of them
Psychic Spoonbender from A bit of Fry & Laurie

Your next point reads:
"Burden of proof"
- But what do you mean by "proof" let-alone "burden of".

This question is about as legitimate as my saying
“Patrick Fowkes” What do you mean by “Fowkes”? Let alone “Patrick” ?
Just because you can construct a question doesn’t mean that it is worthy of an answer - other than, for God’s sake man, get a dictionary and look it up. To paraphrase in simple everyday language, a claim cannot be regarded as factual without evidence to support it, and an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence. People making claims that are unlikely, beyond the realm of ascertainable facts and based on conjecture only have a greater burden of proof than those people who choose to remain sceptical of the validity of such claims until some data, evidence or proof can be found to bolster this claim’s validity.

But I’ll repost my paragraph so that you can re-read what you are objecting to. I’ve coloured the important sentence in green just in case you missed it, hidden as it was in a paragraph containing 4 whole sentences.
I wrote:Burden of proof
The burden of proof is not always 50/50 in competing points of view.
I believe the earth is flat carries a far higher burden of proof than I believe the earth is a sphere. This becomes even more clear when you start to hear the ‘evidence’ for a flat earth involves government conspiracies (unproven), moon-landing hoaxes (unproven) and satellite and telescope hoaxes (unproven). A theory that is based on a collection of unsubstantiated hunches and guesses and beliefs does not deserve the same credibility and plausibility as one that has a mountain of evidence to support it; and absolutely nothing that disproves it or throws doubt on it.


Because you then go on to say:
Even science doesn't necessarily require "proof".


Um. Yes it does. You really need to do a lot more homework before you start making claims like this.
The fallacy being addressed here is that an unsubstantiated and completely uncorroborated claim does not enjoy any plausibility simply because it has not been completely disproved by its opponents. People who are in the habit of putting forward such ‘theories’ tend to really hate this because it means that they are required to put forward hard evidence instead of simply making claims that appeal to their fancy.

You then launch into a couple of paragraphs where you throw the word “science” around rather liberally. However, just about everything you have written suggests to me you know absolutely nothing about science or the scientific method. What you have said amounts to pseudoscientific gibberish. Just a quick hint here:
experimentalists have nothing to do with your "metaphysical peace and joy" experiences. There is a bit of a clue in the word ‘experimental’: experiment - it means test, examine the validity of.
In both cases of theoretical and experimental science, whatever ideas or hunches a scientist may come up with, no matter how much she or he may strongly feel that they are right; if they or a colleague do not come up with testable, repeatable evidence then the theory is regarded as possible, but certainly not as scientific fact.

If you actually would like to learn something about science so that you can start using the term theoretical physics correctly, try these links:

Discussion with Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg
http://richarddawkins.net/article,2868, ... David-Buss

Public lectures from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/Outrea ... _Lectures/

If you are at all interested in a two short experimentalists vs. theorists essays, you might check out what a couple of scientists over at CERN have to say:
http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/Peo ... rs-en.html

Proof, or evidence is in fact what science relies on to ‘judge reality’.
This is the reality of the situation, and your denying it or pretending otherwise won’t change the facts.

Regarding your Straw Man attack (so many logical fallacies, you truly are a gift):
you appear to reject subjects where "proof" is, also, absent i.e Philosophy and the Arts

Take a look at the very first paragraph of the thread to see what it was actually about. We’re not discussing Philosophy or Art, as it happens. We weren’t in fact even discussing science. We were discussing logical fallacies - or really bad arguments and how to avoid making them.
Congratulations, anyway, on managing to use yet another really fallacious approach to arguing. Are you doing it on purpose?
For the record, rather a lot of people here are exceedingly well versed in Philosophy and the Arts, and we regard both highly. (Please note the Sub-Forum titled Philosophy & Art - its real, not an optical illusion)

With regards to your completely off-topic questions about where the laws of physics and mathematics reside (interesting questions but nothing to do with fallacious arguments) I can highly recommend Michael Shermer’s excellent book Why people believe weird things http://www.michaelshermer.com/weird-things/ Pay especial attention to p28 in the paperback edition, p29 in the hardcover edition where he patiently explains Pirsig’s Paradox (his name for your question) in detail. If you really want to debate the existence laws of physics and math, please create a new topic in the Science/ Scepticism sub-forum or perhaps even the Philosophy & Arts sub-forum which is where they belong.

But I’d really recommend you do some proper homework before you start so that you don’t convict yourself of stupidity quite so quickly as you did here.

Here’s a final quote:

Arrogance only works when you’re right.
The universe is huge and old, and rare things happen all the time ~ Lawrence Krauss
Cork Skeptics
bipedalhumanoid
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Re: Bad arguments and how to spot them

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Mon Jan 05, 2009 12:40 pm

<Golf Clap> @ Ygern

Very well said. I'm all for the socratic method but you know it has been taken too far when you get to "what do you mean by 'burden of'".

This is one of two routes I've been sent down when debating Christians with some knowledge of philosophy. The other is to resort of solipcism and claim we don't really know anything and therefore all beliefs are faith based. The intended implication, of course, being that beliefs based on evidence are as valid as those not based on evidence.

I just wish I had your patience.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
ctr
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Re: Bad arguments and how to spot them

Post by ctr » Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:41 pm

pwned!

excellent :D
Each of us is here on earth for a reason, and each of us has a special mission to carry out - Maria Shriver
Colin
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Re:

Post by Colin » Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:09 pm

Patrick Fowke wrote:Thousands of people believe in ghosts because they have SEEN (as opposed to just having a gut belief in) ghosts. You can question the validity of 'seen'. Nevertheless there is a big difference between just 'believe' and jumping from this to 'must exist'.
Secondly, leading on from 'seen', the fact that many people claim to have seen 'ghosts' makes the subject, at least, worthy of some level of investigation / exploration as opposed to flat out rejection.
It is called pareidolia and apophenia. We are conditioned to see faces in face-like arrangements and order in random things.
Image
bipedalhumanoid
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Re: Re:

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Tue Jan 06, 2009 9:52 am

Colin wrote:
Patrick Fowke wrote:Thousands of people believe in ghosts because they have SEEN (as opposed to just having a gut belief in) ghosts. You can question the validity of 'seen'. Nevertheless there is a big difference between just 'believe' and jumping from this to 'must exist'.
Secondly, leading on from 'seen', the fact that many people claim to have seen 'ghosts' makes the subject, at least, worthy of some level of investigation / exploration as opposed to flat out rejection.
It is called pareidolia and apophenia. We are conditioned to see faces in face-like arrangements and order in random things.


Don't forget sleep paralysis. I have known two different people who have experienced this and both report pretty much exactly the same experience. They wake up in the morning to be greeted by a floating head above their bed. Meanwhile they are completely paralysed. Can't move their arms/legs/head. They also cannot talk. All they can do is lay there terrified as this severed ghost head hovers above them.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
FXR
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Re: Bad arguments and how to spot them

Post by FXR » Wed Jan 07, 2009 3:50 am

At least this thread has potentially provided the heretics with a handy short hand term for logical fallacies:

we can now use shorthand and say " Thats PF_UT"
(Patrick Fowked Up Thinking).
Human communication is a very rickety rope bridge between minds. Its too narrow to allow but a few thoughts to cross at a time. Many are lost in the chasms of noise, suspicion, misinterpretation and shooting the message through dislike of the messenger.
Patrick Fowke
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Re: Bad arguments and how to spot them

Post by Patrick Fowke » Thu Jan 08, 2009 5:53 pm

Ygern

I certainly didn't intend any offence (I assure you - and by way, I never refered to you as "guy" / "dude" - where did you get that from ?). I apologize for writing to you in a way that did cause offence (it was meant to be constructive / in good faith - I don't like the other approach i.e walking on egg-shells which can be patronizing to say the least - and the other alternative is not to try engage with atheists / with people who have very different views to myself, at all, which would be even worse I think).
Last edited by Patrick Fowke on Thu Jan 08, 2009 8:54 pm, edited 4 times in total.
Patrick Fowke
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Re: Bad arguments and how to spot them

Post by Patrick Fowke » Thu Jan 08, 2009 6:31 pm

bipedalhumanoid wrote:<Golf Clap> @ Ygern

Very well said. I'm all for the socratic method but you know it has been taken too far when you get to "what do you mean by 'burden of'".

This is one of two routes I've been sent down when debating Christians with some knowledge of philosophy. The other is to resort of solipcism and claim we don't really know anything and therefore all beliefs are faith based. The intended implication, of course, being that beliefs based on evidence are as valid as those not based on evidence.

I just wish I had your patience.


Bipedalhumanoid,

Don't forget that solipsism goes pretty much against the gist of Aristotlean philosophy, and Christian theology is heavily rooted in the philosophy of Aristotle (in particular that of Thomas Aquinas).

Christians are, by personal nature, as well as by the nature of their faith, as much empiricist as rationalist (in the philisophical sense of the word). I mention rationalism because solipsism is more connected to rationalism than empiricism.

Since solipsism can lead to being inward-looking (in a derogative sense / in a very detached sort of a way from other people), it is, in my view, inherently non-Christian (not forgetting that Christianity is very much about other people, i.e the Church or community - "LOVE thy neighbour", "OUR father" and so on.

I know that a crucial part of my belief in God is empirically-based (empirical in the philisophical sense of the word i.e experience of life - i.e the beauty / magic in the world around me, above all, in other people), the work and thoughts of other people (the arts, philosophy, theology) - not just rationalist (in philisophical sense of word - and, hopefully, in the more ordinary use of word ...).

Certainly not, solipsistic, I hope ..
CatHerder
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Re: Bad arguments and how to spot them

Post by CatHerder » Sat Jan 10, 2009 6:39 pm

I've split this discussion for going off topic, Patricks discussion is now here viewtopic.php?f=13&t=1950 If anyone is going to respond to this thread here, please stay on topic Bad arguments and how to spot them
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