An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments [Free]

irrelevant_authority

I know how much everyone loves to call out fallacious arguments — especially on the Internet. So here’s a book illustrating and detailing some of the better known logical fallacies. You can read it in its entirety for free at the website or buy the hardcover book.

According to the author, Ali Almossawi:

I go on two solitary walks every day. There is a small park off the Embarcadero that is tucked away in a quiet spot. It has a pleasant stream flowing through it and an unassuming bench beside that stream. I have made walking to that frail bench a ritual, and the half an hour or so spent daydreaming on it amid the cool San Francisco breeze, an article of faith.

It was on a day in October of last year when, during one of those quiet moments on that bench, I recalled my college years and how outspoken I happened to be during them, an observation only made interesting by the fact that I have since turned into the quietest of beings.

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Occupy vs. Political Parties

james j8246 (CC BY 2.0)

james j8246 (CC BY 2.0)

Via Bob Gorringe at The Daily Censored

A couple of days ago I watched a news clip of an African country in which in one of their cities a playground was being torn down and in its place a multi-million dollar development constructed. Many residents marched, and yes, had their signs (let’s remember, signs even if they’re on cardboard carry a message for all to see), and on one of those signs it was written, “Occupy Playground.”

Over a year ago I went to a party celebrating the closing of San Onofre Nuclear Plant. I met a young Japanese student who spoke faltering English and was involved in the Fukushima disaster along with his many young friends. I asked what they were doing to effect change. He thought a moment and said that they had Occupied a building in the prefecture whose responsibility it was to address the government’s interpretations of the issues surrounding Fukushima.

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Hot Career Move: From Wall Street to Porn

veronicavainHey Wall Streeters, is your job stunningly boring? Do you like porn? Are you hot? Well maybe you should consider following the career path of Paige Jennings, who News Cult reports has left the venerable Lazard Bros. investment bank on Wall Street for hornier times as a budding porn starlet:

Recent college graduate, Paige A. Jennings, left her position as an intern at Lazard Asset Management on Wall street under unknown circumstances earlier this month. Today, an anonymous source has revealed to News Cult that she has decided to make a go at porn. While she was in fact not dismissed from her job her previous superiors have yet to discover that she had been posting naked selfies of herself inside the company’s bathrooms on Lazard’s time.

An aspiring porn star, Jennings now goes by the name “Veronica Vain” since leaving Lazard and doesn’t care what her former employer thinks of it.

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Genetically Modified Mosquitoes May Be Set Loose In Florida

As if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wasn’t upsetting non-GMO activists enough already with its approvals of GM crops, it may now approve genetically modified mosquitoes from British biotech firm Oxitec. The goal is to combat the spread of the alarmingly painful and incurable chikungunya virus and dengue fever (a/k/a “break-bone fever”).

Aedes aegypti biting human.jpg

Aedes aegypti mosquito biting human skin.

 

“This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease,” said Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which is waiting to hear if the Food and Drug Administration will allow the experiment, ” reports AP.

However, as Smithsonian Magazine describes it, even putting aside the risk of the genetic modification, this is hardly a perfect solution:

…Oxitec has focused their efforts on dengue and had some success in small-scale fieldwork in Brazil and the Cayman Islands. And in April 2014, an Oxitec trial led by the Gorgas Institute in Panama released 60,000 genetically modified A.

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In praise of agnosticism

weegeebored (CC BY-ND 2.0)

weegeebored (CC BY-ND 2.0)

By Mark Beeson, University of Western Australia

Getting on for 14 billion years ago the universe suddenly sprang into life. I can’t actually do the math, as they say, but I’m happy to accept the word of those who can that the physics is unambiguously nailed down. But for all their undoubted brilliance, mathematicians and physicists don’t know what was going on before the big bang.

There are consequently two possibilities it seems to me: mysterious matter has always existed and spontaneously blows up on occasion; or there is some sort of animating force in the universe – let’s call it “God” for the sake of argument – that got the metaphorical ball rolling. I can’t work out which of these two possibilities seems the more unlikely, which is why I’m an agnostic.

I mention this because religious beliefs and “faith” remain surprisingly important despite the remarkable advances of science and – as we’ve seen yet again this week – a potential source of, and justification for, casually inflicted carnage on the innocent.… Read the rest

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Building Moral Robots, With Whose Morals?

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants. Credit Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants.
Credit Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center

I certainly wouldn’t trust the politicians or corporate money-mongers. Heather Goldstone proposes three sources: The Geneva Convention, Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, and/or The Ten Commandments. Whose morals would you want AI to model?

Via at WCAI:

Giving robots morals may sound like a good idea, but it’s a pursuit fraught with its own moral dilemmas. Like, whose morals?

Stop and look around you right now. You’re sitting in front of a computer and, chances are, there’s a phone or some other “smart” device in your vicinity. As our devices get more capable, and we become more reliant on them, there’s increasing hand-wringing over whether our relationships with technology have gone awry.

In some circles, the conversation has a particular urgency to it – because they’re talking about whether or not robots could – or should – be entrusted with life and death decisions, and whether such robots could ever be conferred with anything comparable to our morals.

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The Triumph of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Ashton Carter’s predecessor, greets Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, at right in the blue and red ties, respectively. Photo via Wikipedia

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Ashton Carter’s predecessor, greets Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John McCain, at right in the blue and red ties, respectively. Photo via Wikipedia

Via Ben Cohen & Winslow Wheeler at Medium:

In his farewell address in January 1961, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower famously cautioned the American public to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Today it’s routine for critics of wasteful military spending to cite Eisenhower’s warning. Unfortunately, Eisenhower did not warn us that the military-industrial complex would become increasingly malignant as it morphed into less obvious forms.

The “complex” is no longer just “military” and “industrial,” and it has extended far beyond just its congressional branch, which Eisenhower also intended to include.

It’s now deeply embedded in the fiber of the American political system, academia, the civilian leadership of the Defense Department and—increasingly—the White House itself.

• • •

The military-industrial-complex was on display—but passed without wide notice—on Dec.

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A Guide to Skinner’s Genealogy of Liberty

delacroix_liberty

This was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

What does it mean to be free? Liberty is the most important concept in modern political theory. That’s an overstatement, of course. There are other important concepts — equality? well-being? — and somebody could no doubt make the case for them. Still, liberty is very important, particularly to those who have temerity to call themselves “liberal”. It would help if they had some more detailed conception of liberty.

The traditional philosophical approach to this is to provide a conceptual analysis of what it means to be at liberty. The philosopher, from their privileged position in a comfortable armchair, thinks deeply about the nature of freedom. They propose a definition — a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for the application of the predicate “liberty” — and then they defend this analysis from a range of counterexamples and counterarguments, some proposed by themselves, some proposed by their philosophical friends and enemies.… Read the rest

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The Gympie-Gympie Tree Has an Insanely Painful Sting

Have you ever known anyone stung by the Gympie-Gympie tree? It sounds horrifying — the pain can last for up to several months with reocurrences for years afterwards.

Sumitra writes at Oddity Central:

‘Gympie-Gympie’ is hardly the name you’d expect for a stinging-tree. It looks quite harmless too, but in reality, the Gympie-Gympie is one of the most venomous plants in the world. Commonly found in the rainforest areas of north-eastern Australia, the Moluccas and Indonesia, it is known to grow up to one to two meters in height.

In fact, the Gympie-Gympie sting is so dangerous that it has been known to kill dogs, horses and humans alike. If you’re lucky enough to survive, you  only feel excruciating pain that can last several months and reoccur for years. Even a dry specimen can inflict pain, almost a hundred years after being picked!

With the exception of its roots, every single part of the deadly tree – its heart shaped leaves, its stem and its pink/purple fruit – is covered with tiny stinging hairs shaped like hypodermic needles.

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