Science and Other Drugs

….maybe a little less wrong….

Tag Archives: Language

learning the words: wisdom

Guest post over on Defeating the Dragons about the meaning of “wisdom”.

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The atheist’s crutch: Misusing probability

When it becomes apparent that Christians like myself are depending primarily on history for empirical evidence of God’s involvement in history (imagine that!), atheists quite often appeal to probabilities….specifically, Bayesian probability.

Now, Bayesian probability is a complicated subject, but the relevant point here is that the probability of a particular event (or of a particular explanation being true) depends on its prior probability: the base rate of that particular event within the general population of events. Simply put, if a particular event is already known to be extremely rare, this “rareness” needs to be included in evaluating evidence for that event.

Bayes’ Theorem (image by mattbuck)

This becomes particularly important when we’re comparing competing explanations. Even if the evidence seems to point more toward one explanation, that explanation might not be the most probable if it was already very unlikely. For example, hearing a loud thunderous roar outside is good evidence that there’s a thunderstorm….unless, of course, you live in the desert outside Baghdad, where thunderstorms are vanishingly rare and roadside bombs are much more frequent. Read more of this post

Precisely simple

Definitions can be tricky things. Words have wildly divergent meanings depending on who is using them and why. So nailing down concrete definitions is a good thing to do any time you get the chance.

sunset

I’m sure I’m appropriating this from somewhere, but oh well.

Atheist: a person who finds it improbable that an agent cause brought about our reality.

Theist: a person who finds it probable that an agent cause brought about our reality.

Agnostic: anybody else.

This is the bottom line. All other definitions are just rhetorical posturing.

Logical Fallacies: The argument from silence

One of the principal reasons I moved away from fundamentalism was the overwhelming presence of fallacies. As a good Fundamentalist Homeschooler, I was taught to hunt down and identify fallacies as efficiently and ruthlessly as the heat-seeking missile shown below.

The AIM-9 Sidewinder missile uses an infrared heat-seeking module and a warhead that expands into a jagged spinning ring of metal death on impact. Image courtesy USAF.

Unfortunately, fundamentalism is home to some pretty egregious fallacies in its own right, ones that became rapidly apparent as I turned my abilities back on my own indoctrinated beliefs. Wait, why do we believe such-and-such? No good reason at all? Interesting.

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I sat down to write a post about Easter, then came across this….which happened to be the exact same post I was going to write, except with more research. I love this approach to skepticism and criticism.

The Belle Jar

If there is one thing that drives me absolutely bananas, it’s people spreading misinformation via social media under the guise of “educating”. I’ve seen this happen in several ways – through infographics that twist data in ways that support a conclusion that is ultimately false, or else through “meaningful” quotes falsely attributed to various celebrities, or by cobbling together a few actual facts with statements that are patently untrue to create something that seems plausible on the surface but is, in fact, full of crap.

Yesterday, the official Facebook page of (noted misogynistandeugenicsenthusiast) Richard Dawkins’ Foundation for Reason and Science shared the following image to their 637,000 fans:

Naturally, their fans lapped this shit up; after all, this is the kind of thing they absolutely live for. Religious people! Being hypocritical! And crazy! And wrong! The 2,000+ comments were chock-full of smug remarks…

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Fundamentalism and biblical inerrancy

Note: this is the properly edited release of an earlier attempt at reblogging….something that WordPress really doesn’t do all that well.

Came across this post by John Zande over at the superstitious naked ape and had to reblog it.

Thank gawd for the fine folk over at The Reason Project, and the ever brilliant, devilishly witty Arbourist at Dead Wild Roses for this gem. Behold, the complete list of bible contradictions. Click on it for the full picture.

The bars that run along the bottom represent the 1189 chapters of the bible with the length of each bar corresponding to the number of verses in each chapter. White bars represent the Old Testament and grey bars represent the New Testament. Each arc indicates a contradiction.

Of course, I’ve seen this before, but it’s still amusing. And naturally, I can’t help but wonder if this is really the complete list. I mean, don’t they have a few more they can come up with? Read more of this post

Linguistic snobbery, elitism, and slavery

Confession: I’m rather elitist.

(I haven’t blogged in a while, so I’m not sure whether it’s generally bad form or simply cliché to start out a post with “Confession: Something-Moderately-But-Excusably-Bad-About-Myself.” It’s accurate, though, so it’ll have to do for now.)

If you’ve ever tried to get help finding something at a supermarket in the less prosperous area of a city, you’ll be well aware that “American English” is hardly a clear, homogenous language, perfectly able to communicate abstract ideas between any two fluent speakers. That is to say, people from a slightly different subculture likely have a terrible time trying to understand what most of us would see as normal speech.

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Wait, I’m actually a parent?

Parents are other people who have multiple children of at least preschool age. Parenting is the practice of dealing with difficult questions asked by inquisitive six-year-olds.

There is no way I’m a parent. Other people are parents, not me.

At least, that’s been the subconscious train of thought running through my head ever since I found out we were expecting last year. So much so that when I created this blog a few days ago, it didn’t even remotely occur to me that I might be writing about parenting issues in the near future. But apparently (no pun intended), I am.

With parenthood comes a new and novel set of decisions that have to be made. Suddenly, I am completely responsible for another human being, and my decisions will directly determine his fate. Making good decisions becomes even more important….which begs the question: how do we know what constitutes a good decision? What’s the proper process for decision-making?

Online:

Don’t take vaccines! I believe that God created everything we would ever need for every illness out there because He is all knowing and knew what diseases would be a result from sin entering the world. For instance, using Elderberry prevents the flu. Also there are so many remedies if you do get sick with various diseases. Media paints horror stories about diseases and how they kill people! Those stories are taken from 3rd world countries that people are left untreated. Don’t ever believe the media and their majorly twisted stories!

I’m sure this kind of malformed rambling is what every pediatrician thinks of when a parent expresses misgivings about vaccination schedules. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least. Nonetheless, we won’t be giving our kid the CDC recommended schedule of vaccinations, regardless of our pediatrician’s protests.

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Sexism and specificity

Image courtesy NASA

This photo of the Crab Nebula shows a brilliant pulsar at the center. A tightly packed sphere of subatomic particles heavier than the Sun but smaller in size than New York City, it rotates thirty times each second, sweeping Earth with a beam of x-rays like clockwork. Initially, pulsars like this were thought to be communication from aliens due to the regularity of their pulses.

I’m a flight attendant; don’t call me a stewardess.

I’ll be the last person (okay, maybe not the last, but pretty far down on the list) to complain that people are too worked up over political correctness. But I was amused on my way to work today when I heard the radio DJ (who, apparently, ought to be referred to as a “radio personality”) talking about different names for different professions, and what tends to offend people. The dental hygienest who called in insisted on not being called a “dental assistant”; a nurse called in who was tired of the nurse/male nurse distinction; a lady firefighter complained about being called a “fireman”. It was a fairly substantial list.

And then one of the other guys in the studio who said he was a part-time server complained about being called a “waiter”.

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