Insane Troll Logic

May 11, 2011

Lately, I’ve been inundated with comment trolls who have asked me why I try to spoil everyone’s fun or asking why I even care, or suggesting I’m wasting my time. So I thought it might be fun to start a new potentially reoccurring category of posts titled “Insane Troll Logic,” where I’d share some of my comments along with some hopefully entertaining responses. In this post, I’ve decided to share two recent comments.

The first one comes from someone calling themselves M.D.M., who posted a comment on one of my more popular pieces, which was about the “University of Metaphysical Science”:

Why do you care? Shouldn’t you be focusing on something positive than what you believe is negative? Posting your “beliefs” is a scam too. You have no proof to your so called findings. After all, isn’t that what science is anyway? Proof? If you cannot prove it, then take your bandwagon on a trip to solve something that can be proved. As a fellow Doctor, we are supposed to have supporting information before we claim something to be true. Otherwise, it is just an opinion. . .everybody has one.

Save the world by doing something useful, not by trying to tear down others.

Peace

I care because I care about what is true and I believe the more people that are educated in what is true and educated in how to distinguish truth from fiction, the better society will be. I am focused on a positive goal, science education. If you’re going to judge me on a single blog entry, I can just as easily accuse you of being negative based on your critical comment.

As for your claim that I have no proof for my position, you’re shifting the burden of proof. Science bases its every conclusion on falsifiable, empirical evidence. If one is charging money to teach a scientific curriculum that is not based on sufficient evidence, they are not really teaching science at all and are merely using the name of science to deceive customers into believing that what they’re teaching is science. This is false advertising and fraud. So not only do the claims of this school directly contradict proven scientific principles but it fails to provide any proof of those claims, and the burden of proof is on them. This is like claiming Santa Claus exists and charging money to teach people how to do Santa’s job, and then insisting it’s everyone else’s job to disprove the existence of Santa Claus. Science doesn’t work that way. Nor do the laws of logic. It’s always the claimant’s job to prove their claim.

Actually, I’m quite happy saving the world doing exactly what I’m doing now, regardless of whether you misinterpret it as “tearing down others.” On the contrary, all I’ve criticized is a scam. I have not torn down any person who has the misfortune of falling victim to it.

Troll 2

The next one comes from someone calling themselves Python, who posted a comment on my piece on “Quantum Jumping”, which thanks to Google, has probably become my most viewed and most commented on post ever:

Skepticism is dogmatism. It’s doubting something else because it doesn’t align with your personal truths. It is literally saying “I don’t believe in X because I believe in Y.”This is one reason I can’t trust skeptics, ever. You people don’t trust yourselves or others, and these put forward a false front. You are charlatans, in your mind and in your lives. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one truly happy skeptic, ever. That doubt creeps through their lives spreading fear, pride and resentment. They can’t just relax because they are on edge, ready to defend all attacks on their beliefs, both real and imagined threats, mostly imagined.

In the end, skeptics can’t be dealt with. They are so stubborn and insistent. If you try and tell them your view, they argue with it, or demand proof. If you ask them to prove their own view they get upset and start spouting off nonsensical words like “burden of proof” and “reasonable doubt”. No one has to prove anything, there’s no law saying you need to prove what you know to a complete stranger. It would get silly if everything you did required some burden of proof. Every time you buy bread “Prove to me that this bread really is made of flour! I don’t believe it is!” Every time you fill up with gas “Prove to me how the four stroke engine works! I don’t believe that cars work this way!” Burden of proof and reasonable doubt are legal terms for court cases, not for inquiries into the human experience.

Skeptics doubt everything except their own beliefs, and that’s the first thing that should be doubted. It’s a wonderful and complex universe out there, no one really knows what is and what is not possible. Being open to the possibilities and being curious is the path to truth, not skepticism and doubt.

Well, no. What you’re describing is denialism. I’m also not talking about “philosophical skepticism,” the idea that it’s impossible to know whether we actually know the things that we know.

Scientific skepticism is the exact opposite of dogmatism; it means specifically aligning one’s beliefs with the best available evidence. And the mission of Skeptical activism is simply to further the role of reason and evidence in our society.

To quote Steven Novella:
“A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient, and therefore rigorously and openly applies the methods of science and reason to all empirical claims, especially their own. A skeptic provisionally proportions acceptance of any claim to valid logic and a fair and thorough assessment of available evidence, and studies the pitfalls of human reason and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or themselves. Skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.”

As I’ve said repeatedly in this comment thread, if you can present sufficient empirical evidence for a claim and it survives the peer review of experts in the relevant fields, I will happily change my mind and admit I was wrong. See, I don’t have any problem admitting when I’m wrong. I was wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. What separates me from a dogmatist is that I can admit when I’m wrong and change my mind when presented with new evidence. That’s called critical thinking.

On the contrary, if these ad hominem attacks on my character and straw men arguments against a position I do not actually hold are any indication, it seems like it’s YOU who cannot tolerate differences in opinion, not me. If I appear stubborn, it’s because I haven’t been given sufficient reason to change my mind, not that I’m unwilling to change my mind even when presented with a good reason to do so.

The one thing you said that does hold some legitimacy is you said I don’t trust myself or others. To that accusation, I say guilty as charged. As a student of human psychology, I recognize the flaws of human perception and the mechanisms of deception so as to avoid being deceived by others or even myself. Again, as Novella said in the quote posted above, “skepticism values method over any particular conclusion.”

If you haven’t studied logic maybe you should better educate yourself before concluding that terms like “burden of proof” are “nonsensical.” Burden of proof is a well established law of basic logic and it’s recognized in just about every court room in the world for a very good reason. If you don’t think it applies outside of a courtroom, why doesn’t it?

As for no one needing to prove anything, if they are charging money for a service, then they very well better be able to prove they can indeed perform that service or else this is a crime known as fraud. Your bread analogy is a false one in that the existence of bread is not an extraordinary claim. But yes, if someone on the street promises that if you pay them now, they will mail you a loaf of bread, you have sufficient reason to be skeptical that you will get your bread. Pretending that there’s no distinction in plausibility between any claim is utterly absurd. If I said I went to Starbucks yesterday, I might be lying or confusing one day with another, but you have no reason to doubt that claim because it’s rather unremarkable. Whereas if I said I was abducted by space aliens yesterday and they let me fly their flying saucer around the Earth, given the extraordinary nature of the claim, you’d have good reason to suspect that I was either lying or delusional. At that point, it would be quite reasonable for you to demand evidence. And if instead, I came up with a host of excuses, while that wouldn’t prove my experience didn’t happen, you’d have good reason to not believe it. And the responsibility would not be yours to prove it didn’t happen but rather, it’d be on me to prove I did fly a alien ship. Your car analogy actually works against you because we understand exactly how cars work. If I believed they worked by magic and someone wanted to convince me that it was actually scientific principles at work, I can read books and learn precisely how a car works. But because cars are anything but extraordinary in our modern world and I at least have a vague understanding of how they work, I have no reason to doubt “every time I fill up with gas.” You on the other hand seem to prefer to believe in magic rather than educate yourself about how the world really works. And you’re free to do so. Just like I’m free to ridicule you for your fuzzy, superstitious thinking.

But since you are such a critic of close-mindedness, tell me, what would change YOUR mind?

Troll 3

Actually, this one came first chronologically, but it was also posted on my ever-so-popular “Quantum Jumping” piece by commenter CallMeNutz:

you are sound like a person with a very bleak outlook on life. Am I wrong? here are a couple of suggestions, Live a little, Maybe instead of trying to tell people how wrong they are, you should be be out there making the best of your life. It’s pretty short you know. Maybe you’ll be able to live to 100 years but after that you’re dead to this Earth. If people want to believe quantum jumping then they can do that, they seem to be doing something with their lives instead of telling people how stupid they are. I agree with the fact that this Burt guy is obviously ripping people off but if they want to to that follow that, that’s their choice. I know one thing in life, you sure can’t control humans.The best you can do is make suggestions. Do you really feel happy mr.jr, on the web, trolling? Science can’t explain everything. It really can’t. Einstein and other scientist were just people, you can’t base all your beliefs on people. We’re too unreliable. I may seem like a mother scolding you via the inter web but I just couldn’t let this go by. Have a good life, and lighten up, big guy! Haven’t you heard? “Don’t take life so seriously, no one gets out alive anyway”.(If you want, ignore this comment. I know you probably will anyway :D)

Sincerely, That Laid back follower of God.

You’re wrong. I’m actually quite jolly. Glad to hear your wonderful solution to the world’s problems is to throw up your hands and say, “Ain’t my problem,” and then completely ignore it.

“Science can’t explain everything. It really can’t.”
Prove it. Bonus points if you do so without using science.

‘Einstein and other scientist were just people, you can’t base all your beliefs on people.”
This is Peter Pan, isn’t it? Are you commenting while flying through Never Never Land?

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The selfishness of anti-vaxxers and why they suck at game theory

April 26, 2010

Today, Orac posted a story about an upcoming PBS show called The Vaccine War that promises to look at “both sides” of the “controversy” surrounding vaccines. Now so far it looks like it will be weighted more on the side of the medical experts despite the false balance between experts and celebrities.

But what really got my attention was a video clip of the show that Orac embedded in his article. Unfortunately, I was unable to embed it here. So I will refer people to Orac’s piece (click the link above) to watch it.

What disturbs me about the mothers featured in the video (other than the complete lack of, you know, fathers because the idea that anyone would want to hear the opinions of male parents is just madness!) is the complete inability of the mothers in the clip to recognize the blatant, inherent flaws in their own logic and their solipsistic inability to see the big picture. According to these mothers, while vaccines may benefit the health of the society as a whole, their only concern is for the welfare of their specific child and fuck everyone else.

Now first of all, vaccines are the safest form of medical prevention mankind has ever produced and the benefits far outweigh the risks. So we’re dealing with a false choice here. It’s not a protect the individual versus protecting the group scenario. That’s silly.

The second problem I have with their position the interviewer tries to address, though his facts are just flat-out dismissed because the women say they just don’t believe it. Apparently, reality is shaped by what these few scientifically illiterate mothers consider to be believable. Anyway, my second problem with their position is this naive false dichotomy that vaccines either work 100% or 0% without any room in between. If I were the interviewer, I’d have asked if they thought condoms were either 100% safe and effective or 0% effective. Then I’d ask them if cars crash 100% of the time or 0% of the time. Then maybe I’d hold up a yellow card and ask them whether the card is red or blue.

But my main problem is that they’re clearly being told  in that segment the fact that whether they choose to vaccinate their kids or not does in fact affect the health and safety of others, including infants too young for the vaccines, those with specific medical conditions preventing them being vaccinated, and of course those just like the children of these women who go against their own interests by simply choosing not to vaccinate their kids when they otherwise could.

So if we follow their logic to its inevitable conclusion, they’re encouraging other parents to be just as negligent as them, and in doing so actually INCREASE the likelihood of their own kids’ deaths. Not only are they not vaccinating their kids in the name of protecting the individual over the group while relying on the vaccinations of others to protect them, but in the process, they are encouraging fewer people to vaccinate, in effect diminishing the very herd immunity their children and others take for granted and lean on for protection. A comparable example is drunk driving.  One could apply the same flimsy arguments to the personal freedom to drive drunk.

These women are like the Gungans from The Phantom Menace only at least the Gungans were smart enough to eventually recognize that they live in an interconnected world where sometimes what’s best for the individual is doing what’s in the best interest of the group. This is a lesson that even chimpanzees and thousands of other species on the planet have figured out, and yet these morons can’t seem to grasp the concept.

The problem is they can’t see beyond themselves. What they lack is even a basic understanding of game theory.  A Nash equilibrium is created when the players make the best decisions they can, taking into account the decisions of the others. It’s that taking the other players’ decisions into account part that’s the important part. Now Nash’s equilibrium doesn’t necessarily guarantee every individual involved will ultimately benefit but it does improve the likelihood of success.

A classic hypothetical used to test Nash’s equilibrium is the Prisoner’s Dilemma:

Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies (defects from the other) for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent (cooperates with the other), the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act?

In the case of vaccines, it’s a little different. If everyone plays defect, the result is essentially an execution for all. This is a terrible strategy, one that could potentially kill us all.

A variation on the Prisoner’s Dilemma is featured in the film The Dark Knight:


Gore Vidal Named Honorary President of American Humanist Association

April 21, 2009

Gore Vidal has been named Honorary President of the American Humanist Association.

When asked in the following video to respond to Immanuel Kant’s statement that without an afterlife morality couldn’t survive, Vidal responded:

“God is blackmailer. God is warden of the prison. He created us all in his image — probably a mistake — and then allows us to run wild and punishes us or rewards us with his beaming vision of himself. This is no god I really want to have any traffic with at all. I mean, the idea that good behavior only depends upon your fear of what will happen to you after you die, that you will be punished excludes all of philosophy. It excludes Plato, it excludes the mystery cults of Greece, it excludes the Roman idea of what is a good man. There goes Marcus Aurelius, there goes Epictetus, there go the stoics. These are all better thinkers than anything that the Christian church has come up with in 2,000 years.”

Congrats Gore!


Circular Reasoning Fox News Style

April 15, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Circular Reasoning Fox News Style“, posted with vodpod

So let me get this straight. The argument is:  Obama’s a fascist BECAUSE Obama’s a fascist! (Translation: I have no idea what the word “fascism” actually means).

As for the second dude, he needs to learn a bit more about history. Lincoln was also accused by critics of being a tyrant who supported strong federal government. In fact, I seem to remember some unpleasant business about half the country LEAVING THE REPUBLIC because they opposed his “big government” ideas. Lincoln’s assassin even cried out “Sic semper tyrannis!” or “Thus always to tyrants” upon delivering the fatal blow. So even Lincoln had to deal with morons who didn’t understand what terms like “fascist” or “tyrant” actually mean.

But I guess it should have been obvious these douches weren’t big in the brains department when they decided to call themselves “Teabaggers“, right? LOL

Take your pick on favorite definition:

teabagger-  1) one who carries large bags of packaged tea for shipment. 2) a man that squats on top of a womens face and lowers his genitals into her mouth during sex, known as “teabagging” 3) one who has a job or talent that is low in social status 4) a person who is unaware that they have said or done something foolish, childlike, noobish, lame, or inconvenient. 5) also see “fagbag”, “lamer”, “noob”

. . .

n. A man that dips his scrotum and testicles into the mouth of another person. (as if dipping a tea bag into hot water)


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.23.08

September 24, 2008

Call Jenny 867-5309 – No, not that Jenny. I mean Jenny McCarthy, The Witless Witch of the West. She’ll be on the Oprah Woo Woo Show and is going to be available live for a web chat tomorrow evening at 7 PM CDT. If you intend to call think very carefully about the question. Commenters on Orac’s much more popular blog linked to above are posting question suggestions. Here are 3 super uncritical clips from that show airing tomorrow available at anti-vaccinationist Kim Stagliano’s blog. Jim Carey’s final line in the 3 clip couldn’t be more apt to his situation: “Love can kill you if you make the wrong choices.”

Sam Harris rips Sarah Palin a new one in Newsweek

Islamic assault on human rights

Jewish ‘ultras’ defend morals with menace

Gianna Jessen survived an abortion attempt and is now a pro-life advocate shamelessly attacking Barack Obama – As to why this constitutes as news on Faux News is even more shameless:

Sometimes the harm done because of magical thinking is done to the pseudoscientists themselves – “Biologist-turned- nutty-parapsychologist Rupert Sheldrake was stabbed in the leg earlier this year by Kazuki Hirano, a Japanese day laborer who had been stalking Sheldrake after believing he was the victim of mind control experiments.”

CREATIONIST NEWS:

A review of Christopher Hitchens’ most recent theist-crushing – Hitchens debated against Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a physicist, theologian, and author of God at the Ritz: Attraction to Infinity. And it seems that unsurprisingly he kicked his Albacete’s ass. I expect the debate will probably make it to YouTube soon enough.

Last week, I mentioned that creationist Bill Lucas was going to be speaking at Virginia Tech. Well he gave his talk and guess what? It turns out he’s at best totally full of it and at worst, crazy.

New excavation reveals Stonehenge was once a miracle healing destination – Not surprisingly, no real healing actually seems to have taken place there.

UK Cathedral seminar to equip clerics to deal with Dawkins

Atheists reading holy tests out loud for charity

Cleanliness is far from godliness – A little dirt is a good thing

Did Neanderthals Pray? part 2

Will anyone buy Expelled on DVD? Anyone? Anyone? – That’s right, the little creationist propaganda film that proved that Ben Stein doesn’t use “Clear Eyes” that nobody saw is coming to DVD. Jimmy cracked corn and I don’t care. But I figured I use this as yet another opportunity to plug the website that totally debunks the claims in the film, ExpelledExposed.com

EPIC FAIL:

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway’s logical fallacy in The Wall Street Journal – Hemingway’s idea of a logical argument is to cite a Baylor University study that vaguely suggests religious people are less likely to believe in other pseudosciences or paranormal claims to make her case that skeptics and atheists do more harm than good by trying to teach people how to think critically. Of course it doesn’t seem to occur to her that the reason the religious tend not to believe in other forms of pseudoscience or paranormal claims is because often the specific beliefs of the religion demand mutually exclusivity. For instance, fundamental Christians must reject psychics as at best charlatans and at worst devil worshipers. Religions are very good at keeping their parishioners away from the competition.

NEWS I SHOULD HAVE MENTIONED BEFORE NOW:

James “The Amazing” Randi is giving a talk in NYC – I will definitely be there with bells on (I haven’t decided whether these are to be literal or figurative bells yet). If you can come, this is not to be missed. There’s a reason they call him “The Amazing.” Oh, and it’s FREE.

New skeptical-friendly show, The Mentalist, coming to CBS – The main character is a guy who uses his keen observational skills to solve crimes. He used to make money pretending to be a psychic but then went straight. Sounds a little like the show Psych. Though it’s also received lots of comparisons to House.

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

New Optics Technology To Study Alien Worlds – “NASA Goddard scientist Rick Lyon has been working on potential missions and technologies to find planets around other stars (called exoplanets or extrasolar planets) since the late 1980s. Only recently has he begun to believe that NASA may actually fly a planet-finding mission in his lifetime.”

Why Chemo Works For Some People And Not Others – “MIT researchers have shown that cells from different people don’t all react the same way when exposed to the same DNA-damaging agent — a finding that could help clinicians predict how patients will respond to chemotherapy.”

Primordial Fish Had Rudimentary Fingers – “Tetrapods, the first four-legged land animals, are regarded as the first organisms that had fingers and toes. Now researchers at Uppsala University can show that this is wrong. Using medical x-rays, they found rudiments of fingers in the fins in fossil Panderichthys, the “transitional animal,” which indicates that rudimentary fingers developed considerably earlier than was previously thought.”


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.14.08

September 15, 2008

RELIGION NEWS:

Church of England finally apologizes to Charles Darwin . . . a mere 126 years after his death. Take that Galileo! It took a whole 360 years for them to pardon you.

The god formerly known as Yahweh

“. . . songs will be edited to remove the word “Yahweh” — a name of God that the Vatican has ruled must not “be used or pronounced” in songs and prayers during Catholic Masses.”

And in related news, Sean Combs has chosen to change his name to Yahweh, since the name’s now up for grabs.

Christian couple staying together for the sake of God

Apparently selling legal porn to adults in a porn store is illegal


Your Faith On Rice – See the percentage of the world’s population belong to which religious religious denomination and how many atheists there are represented by rice.

Explaining inductive reasoning to creationists

Proof Christians will believe ANYTHING:

On European Islamisation:

Being a list of songs relating to the switching on of the LHC – The Large Hadron Collider gets its own soundtrack.

There’s never been a more perfect association between a film’s title and the casting of its co-star:

And not since Nicole Kidman played the ex-wife of an space alien in “Invasion” has an actress been more aptly cast.

And I’ve got no interesting science news for today.


News From Around The Blogosphere 9.11.08

September 12, 2008

Before evolution came prevolution -Exploring the question of how life began.

Quadrature – My favorite new word of the day. And it leads into an interesting blog on CAM.

And speaking of CAM, I’ve talked about Ayurveda before but Yahoo News had an interesting article on this nasty bit crap-based medicine.

Are Catholic Apologists stealing the atheists’ Scarlet Letter symbol? – Sorry guys, the Scarlet Letter traditionally represents the persecuted and otherwise marginalized positions of society like adulteress, abolitionist, abortionist, and atheist. When you’re part of the ruling class you don’t get to use it. Contrary to their rhetoric, Catholic Apologists wouldn’t know real persecution if it was right in front of them.

Jesus Water – What is it about water that people feel the need to always ascribe magic properties to it? IT’S FREAKIN’ WATER!

But here’s a product I would like to own:

You put in a copy of The Passion of the Christ and it converts it into The Golden Compass. If only.

Matt Damon on Sarah Palin. I couldn’t say it better myself:

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

Flies, Too, Feel The Influence Of Their Peers – “We all know that people can be influenced in complex ways by their peers. But two new studies in the September 11th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, reveal that the same can also be said of fruit flies.”

DNA Study Reveals Evolution Of Beer Yeasts – “Lager lovers convinced that their beer of choice stands alone should prepare to drink their words this Oktoberfest. New research by geneticists at the Stanford University School of Medicine indicates that the brew, which accounts for the majority of commercial beer production worldwide, owes its existence to an unlikely pairing between two species of yeast – one of which has been used for thousands of years to make ale.”

Immaturity Of The Brain May Cause Schizophrenia – “The underdevelopment of a specific region in the brain may lead to schizophrenia in individuals. According to research published today in BioMed Central’s open access journal Molecular Brain, dentate gyrus, which is located in the hippocampus in the brain and thought to be responsible for working memory and mood regulation, remained immature in an animal model of schizophrenia.”

Brightest Gamma-ray Burst Was Aimed At Earth – “Astronomers from around the world combined data from ground- and space-based telescopes to paint a detailed portrait of the brightest explosion ever seen. The observations reveal that the jets of the gamma-ray burst called GRB 080319B were aimed almost directly at the Earth.”