Tag Archives: fallacy

Fastest Way to Shut Christians Up

At least with regards to the existence of Jesus, I always point out that we simply have no objective evidence whatsoever that Jesus ever actually lived.  We have no forensic evidence, we have no contemporary eyewitness accounts, everything we have is myth and hearsay.  Christians don’t like that. Often, they will claim that if we reject the life of Jesus, we have to equally question the lives of other figures in antiquity like Socrates.

And I’m fine with that and it pisses them off.  What they’re really pulling is the logical fallacy called the argument  from consequences.  They push an irrational narrative that they expect you to allow because if you don’t, it might cause negative consequences.  Too bad.  Instead of saying “I have no evidence, but here’s what will happen if you argue with me”, they ought to just say “I have no evidence” and be done with it.  But that just doesn’t happen.

See, if I shrug and say I don’t care if Socrates existed, what difference does it make?  Anything attributed to Socrates still stands, even if the man who supposedly said it fades into myth and legend.  Christians can’t do that with Jesus though.  If Jesus never existed, their entire religion falls apart.  They have nothing if Jesus wasn’t real.  Whereas I have no real horse in the race with Socrates riding it, Christians absolutely cannot ever question the existence of Jesus and maintain their religious views.  They’re so used to the idea that anyone they debate with will roll over because they want to keep Socrates around that they don’t know what to do with themselves when you say you don’t care.  Their plans fail and they silently retreat to the sidelines because they have no other arguments and sure have no evidence to support their claims.

So the next time someone pulls this on you, say you don’t care. It doesn’t matter.  Watch them squirm and then run for the hills.  They have nothing better to say after this fallacious claim.  It won’t change their minds but it certainly will shut them up for a little while.

Why People Believe What They Believe Part 1

IRRATIONALI talk a lot about stupid and irrational beliefs, about people who believe things for bad reasons, who refuse to think critically or rationally about the things they allow into their heads, but it’s relatively rare that I look at the actual causes of these bad beliefs.  There are actually a lot of reasons why people give credence to these ideas and I thought it was high time I took an extended look at many of them.  There’s an article over on Business Insider, 57 Behavioral Biases that Make Us Think Irrationally.  There isn’t much detail there so I’m going to actually address all of them over a series of 6 posts, one for the next 6 Mondays, and try to spell out some of the problems and why it’s important that we, as rational human beings, need to be aware of them and know how to avoid falling into the trap.

Attention Bias – Attention bias refers to our tendency to continue to pay close attention to things that we already think are important.  This is true of everyone, myself included.  Just to use myself as an example, I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about religious horrors, due to the Religious Horror Show, therefore I tend to pay closer attention to such things than someone who doesn’t find the subject matter interesting.  Now that doesn’t mean that religious horrors are somehow overblown, just because I pay attention to them, clearly they exist in great quantities

Availability Heuristic – This refers to the reliance on easily recalled examples, assuming that because we can remember something, it must be important.  This has the side effect of people placing more importance on recent events that are fresh in our minds, just because they are more easily recalled.  This changes a perceived view of statistical averages, what you can more easily recall becomes viewed as the norm, which simply may not be the case.

Backfire Effect – The Backfire Effect is a specific form of Confirmation Bias which is viewed especially strongly in the religious, although it applies to any strongly held belief, such as strong political beliefs.  The Backfire Effect takes place when a believer is presented with evidence that strongly refutes their beliefs, yet instead of adapting their beliefs to the new data, they will reject the new data and strengthen their resolve to continue believing their previous belief even stronger than before.

Bandwagon Effect – The Bandwagon Effect refers to the belief that a position is more likely to be true based on how many people already accept it.  It is a variation on the argumentum ad populum fallacy and comes from a desire to be socially acceptable by holding similar beliefs to your neighbors.  In fact, this is really why we have so many people claiming to be religious, they think it makes them look better to the people around them, whether or not they actually hold those beliefs.  I’ve labeled these people “social Christians” for that reason.  The Bandwagon Effect can come either from within or without, it can be imposed on people due to social pressure, or it can be individuals trying to fit in with the group.

Belief Bias – People are naturally biased to accept evidence, based on the conclusion being plausible or desirable.  I see this all the time in religion, where Christians, say, will accept claimed evidence of personal experiences with their God, while rejecting the exact same evidence of personal experiences with other gods, just because they want their belief in God to be true.  So long as the conclusion is either desirable or sounds reasonable, people tend not to pay much attention to the evidence that is claimed in support of it, they just want the conclusion to be true, whether it’s actually well supported or not.

Bias Blind Spots – This may be one  of the most important biases and one that most people suffer from unless they are very careful.  It refers to blind spots that many, perhaps most people suffer from because of their own inherent internal biases.  It requires one to be constantly introspective of what you believe and why you believe it and be willing to test all beliefs in light of new information.  It’s a never-ending process and one that I’ve spoken about before because it is so important.

Choice-Supportive Bias – Choice-Supportive Bias is the tendency to go back and assign positive characteristics to something that you’ve already selected, a choice that you’ve already made and now want to make look better to those around you.  It is a form of confirmation bias and cognitive bias.  For example, if a person buys an Apple iPhone instead of a comparable Android product, they are more likely to ignore or forgive any faults with the Apple product and instead, build up and overstate the positive aspects while ignoring or downplaying the positive aspects of the Android product.  How we remember the choices we make is influenced by our internal desire to have made the correct decision and we tend to remember, or invent, the best consequences from our choices and ignore the worst consequences.

Clustering Illusion – Humans inherently seek patterns, the Clustering Illusion is our tendency to give those patterns meaning, even if they are nothing more than a random set of data.  We may see patterns in a random string of numbers or points on a graph and we think that these patterns, which are almost always illusory, have some significance that they do not, in reality, have.  We already recognize such pattern-recognition errors as pareidolia and apophenia, this is an overall internal bias that is related.

Confirmation Bias – Confirmation bias is extremely common, it is the tendency for people to only accept information that confirms what they already believe and reject any other data out of hand because it doesn’t support their preconceived position.  The more strongly the belief is held, the more emotional the issue is, the more likely that Confirmation Bias will take place.  There are several reasons suggested for Confirmation Bias, including wishful thinking, the tendency for people to examine their beliefs only from a self-indulgent perspective and the consideration of the social and personal costs of being wrong in a belief.  Many people are so adverse to being open to public humiliation and embarrassment if their strongly held belief is shown to be wrong, that they’d rather continue to believe a false position than admit that they were ever wrong in the first place.

Conservatism Bias – This is the tendency of humans to over-emphasize the importance or relevance of past events and the status quo while under-estimating the importance of new events and ideas.  This has the effect of slowing the change of ideas and opinions based on new evidence, even when the new evidence is compelling.  There is a reverse of this bias, where people will vastly over-estimate the importance of new data, just because it is new. It doesn’t allow for people to judge the importance or effect of the new data, or the weight of the old data, they just leap from conclusion to conclusion because of the hottest new thing on the block.

Please come back in a week to see the next ten cognitive biases that we, as rational people, need to be aware of.  If we hope to be intellectual, rational and critical thinking, we cannot allow ourselves to fall victim to any of these problems.  Far too many people do, unfortunately, and maybe by making people aware that these biases do exist, they can help to override the problems that our brains may cause.


Yet Another Failed Apologetic Tactic

apologetics are badBy the time anyone reads this, Roger, our single Christian troll, could be long gone.  While he is laughable, he’s also a good example of a failed apologetic tactic.  I haven’t come up with a good name for it, although I am certainly open to suggestions.  Essentially, the tactic is to continually ask for more and more and more evidence for a claim and when, inevitably, no more evidence can be given, the theist simply declares that because science can’t prove their claims, they don’t even have to try.  The fact remains that science has given a ton of evidence and religion has given absolutely none.

And yes, Roger, if you’re reading this, we’ve all known that you’re engaging in fallacious debate tactics all along.  You’re not fooling anyone.

It’s obvious that these apologists don’t actually have any evidence, or even understand what evidence is, they’re just trying to get away with not backing up their claims for as long as they possibly can.  Their standard response is “but you haven’t proven…” and when it’s pointed out that they haven’t done a damn thing, they’ll say “yes, I presented this!”  Of course, what they claim to have presented has been totally falsified and discredited but they’re not that interested because they think that holding out against the overwhelming mountains of evidence on the science side and refusing to accept that it proves it’s case somehow makes their entire lack of evidence justified.

But here’s the reality.  Even if science doesn’t prove it’s case, that doesn’t mean that religion is any more justified.  If science can’t prove, to your satisfaction, that the Big Bang happened, that doesn’t provide any more validation for creationism at all.  The only way the religious case gets made is to actually make it and back it up with objective evidence.  In that, this fallacy falls close to the “false dichotomy”.

The whole concept of “prove it to me! Prove it to me!  Prove it to me!  I’m not convinced, therefore I have no need to prove anything to you, I win!” is absurd but it’s also common among Christian apologists.  We see it all the time and that’s one reason Christian apologetics are so absurd on their face.  They pretend that they want fair treatment and equal time, yet they can’t bring equal evidence to the table.  They can’t bring anything to the table other than blind faith and logical fallacy, yet they expect that to be enough and they’re wrong.

I think it all goes back to my 30-second debate technique.  We can prove that nature exists.  When are the theists going to prove that the supernatural exists?  Hey Roger, if you want me to prove nature is real, come on over here and I’ll beat you over the head with a baseball bat until you either admit nature exists in the form of that bat, or you lose consciousness due to blunt force trauma.  I can prove reality, now you prove the supernatural, using any technique of your liking that produces comparable results.  Let us know when you can do that because until then, we’re not going to take your religious blabbering seriously.

And you shouldn’t take it seriously either, but we know you’ve got some problems upstairs.

Expanding my “Stupid People Are Stupid” Fallacy

stupid-people-postersA long time ago, I suggested a new logical fallacy, a reverse, if you will, on the argumentum ad populum fallacy, in which ideas are rejected solely because they are unpopular.  I’ve seen many people arguing this recently and I thought I ought to expand and expound on my ideas. Therefore, I present the “stupid people are stupid” fallacy for your approval.

Ultimately, the heart of this fallacy, and it applies specifically to human behavior, is that the individual will reject any idea as inherently unworkable in any social situation because “stupid people are stupid”, or, that people make foolish decisions and therefore, holding anyone accountable to any standard which they might not choose themselves, is useless.

Where this came about was in a discussion over divorce and someone came along and said the divorce rate could be blamed on American women being money-grubbing  bitches, out to sponge off of men, etc.  So I pointed out that I’ve been married to the same wonderful woman for more than 20 years, my parents were married once, at least until my father died, for more than 35 years and my wife’s parents have been together for more than 50 years so far, in fact, I don’t know a single married conservative couple that hasn’t been in a solid, lifetime committed relationship.  Not a one.  In fact, the only person I know that’s gotten divorced was my sister to her first husband and that’s because he was a child with no ambition and she didn’t want to live with his parents.  It was a bad decision, made in haste, but her second marriage, she did things right and they’ve been together for more than 10 years now and still going strong.

This is an argument that is used a lot by liberals when it comes to having any kind of personal responsibility or expectations.  I see it a lot with regard to the poor.  Oh no, the poor can’t be expected to live responsible lives! Far too many of them just won’t do it, therefore we shouldn’t expect anyone to!  Here’s a news flash for you people, the refusal to do the right thing doesn’t stop it from being the right thing.  The refusal to be responsible doesn’t stop responsibility from being the most workable and effective means.  No matter how big the group of stupid, irresponsible, irrational people are, that doesn’t address the argument that people ought to be intelligent, rational and responsible at all.  All in all, this is little more than a pathetic liberal whine “but we don’t wanna!”

Fuck you.

This is really where the “stupid people are stupid” argument becomes the reverse of argumentum ad populum. Instead of a position being thought true because lots of people believe it, it’s the assertion that a position must be false because people are too stupid to go for it.  You see it in education.  Everyone ought to go to school and get educated.  Oh, but the poor are too stupid, they don’t want to go to school, waaaah!  You see it with crime and punishment.  Everyone ought to follow the law or accept the consequences thereof.  Oh, but some people don’t like the law, they want to do what they want, why not let them?  Waaaaah!  You see it with religion.  People ought to closely examine their beliefs and only believe things for which there is significant objective evidence.  Oh, but religion makes people feeeeeel better!  You can’t expect them to be rational!  Waaaaaah!

Yes I can and I do and I think society ought to do the same.  We’re headed for a major disaster on this planet when there are too many stupid people who think the world owes them a living.  They don’t have to do anything, the government will put food on the table and a big screen in the living room and all they have to do to get more is whine.  However, they’re wrong.  Stupid people are the enemy.  Lazy people are the enemy.  They ought to be scorned and looked down on, we ought to do everything we  can to wipe out stupid people.  The only way our society will survive, much less thrive, is to raise the bar and make stupid people claw their way up to it, not the other way around.

I’m tired of stupidity.  Who is with me?

The Fallacious Thinking of Libertarians

dohLogic isn’t only lost on the religious, as I’ve said before, logic also seems to be lost on many people’s political views, in this case, libertarianism.  Of course, it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of fallacious logic going on in the minds of a lot of libertarians, I’ve addressed this quite a few times in the past but it’s something that keeps coming up over and over and over again.  This isn’t yet another rant against libertarian politics because, let’s be honest, we can find the same general patterns among those supporting any party, but since this came up in a discussion with a libertarian, I’m going to let it stand as it is.

We started discussing the state of the nation and why it’s having such problems.  He immediately started arguing against the 2-party system, stating that it was both intellectually and morally  bankrupt.  Of course, not his party, no, that’s perfectly fine, if only the American people would vote in the Libertarian Party Presidential candidates, things would be much better.  He concluded that the only reason that Libertarians don’t win all the elections is that American voters have been somehow brainwashed by the 2-party system into only voting for those two parties and somehow, we have to “deprogram” them so they’ll accept the libertarian platform.  Many libertarians are supremely convinced that there’s something external keeping the majority of Americans from seeing the inherent “rightness” of their position, it can’t possibly be their fault, can it?

In short, yes.  Like it or not, the Libertarian Party platform just  does not resonate with the majority of American voters.  The same is true of all third parties.  Most people don’t vote for Green candidates.  Virtually nobody votes for Communist candidates.  It’s not because of evil mind control drugs in the water, put there by a collusion between the Democrats and Republicans, it’s because they just haven’t got a position most people support.

When I suggested that the American people get the government that they want and his problem is that he supports a minuscule minority position, he admitted that “We The People” do carry quite a bit of blame for the state of the nation, but much of that is because the 2-party system is inherently rigged.  He said:

For example, on the last 2 elections here in Florida, voters had the choice of 7 or 9 candidates (can’t remember which right now) for President, yet they rejected those other more principled choices in favor of either a black war monger or a white senile war monger.

No, they voted for the candidates they wanted to see in office, whether my libertarian friend here wanted to accept that or not.  Certainly, he’s welcome to value the different candidates as he sees fit, but to declare that any but his chosen candidate is an unprincipled choice is absurd.

The fact remains that, instead of having an intelligent debate with people who differ politically, most libertarians that I run into simply call anyone who disagrees names.  They can’t back up their claims rationally, they can’t present evidence to prove they are correct, their political position is emotional, almost religious in nature and anyone who doesn’t agree is a virtual heretic who should be made fun of publically instead of being shown to be factually wrong.

I’ve pointed out these problems time and time again, both on this blog and in guest posts on others and I’ve yet to have a single libertarian offer to produce evidence or a critical argument that shows their position is either factually correct or logically supported.  It’s all virtual faith, they’re convinced that they’re right, therefore they’re right and anyone who disagrees must be wrong.  Then engage in most of the same logical fallacies that the religious do and they get mad when I call their political ideology a religion.  It is, whether they like it or not.

I’d love to see libertarians actually back up their platform with something beyond wishful and fallacious thinking and blind faith. What do you think the chances of that are?