Tag Archive | Reason

Project Logicality | The Non Sequitur Fallacy

What’s going on when the reasons we give to support or refute a statement have no relation to it at all? What is the fundamental error of reasoning underpinning almost all logical fallacies, and when does this represent special cases?

Here we discuss the general fallacy of the Non Sequitur, Latin for does not follow.

This can generally refer to any sort of logical fallacy, any argument where a logical connection between premises is implied that just isn’t there.

This fallacy is often found with other forms of invalid reasoning in the very same statement. Here’s a couple of handy examples of the most common form:

Our cult shall be feared by all, for Azathoth is freakin’ scary when annoyed.

Human-caused global warming is impossible, because it’s cyclical, the ozone hole over the antarctic is closing, cow farts, and Mars is warming too, not just the earth.

But there are more specific named forms of this fallacy as well:

The Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle:

In which a conclusion is incorrectly drawn from two given or assumed premises, and takes the form of:

All Xs are Cs.

A is a C.

So, A is an X.

An obviously ridiculous example would be:

All birds generate their own body heat.

My cats generate their own body heat.

My cats are birds.

There is…

…Denying the Antecedent:

Which takes the form of:

If C is true, then D is true.

C is false.

So, D is also false.

A good example would be:

If I am in ancient Athens, I’m in Greece.

I’m not in ancient Athens.

So, I’m not in Greece.

This is absurd, as there are many locations and times in Greece other than Athens or the Ancient period. There is also…

…Affirming the Consequent:

which takes the form:

If C is true then D is true.

D is true.

So C is true.

An example:

If my Senior Technician intends to transfer me to another project, she’ll have a talk with the Program Director.

My Senior Technician is going to talk with the Program Director.

She wants to get me transferred to another project.

This last is clearly an example of invalid reasoning because the Senior Tech could be seeing the Program Director for entirely different reasons than those given.

One problem people sometimes have with this fallacy is that it can be subtle, and they are often too proud to speak out when they cannot see how an argument follows, or are too polite to point out its lack of relevance to the speaker.

It’s important to more specifically pick out what is being said even as a less general sort of fallacy, including the non sequitur’s aforementioned variants.

So be careful that what facts you bring to an argument are actually relevant to the point you’re trying to make. Otherwise, it may just fail the application of the “so what” test!

Tf. Tk. Tts.

(Fully Updated, Retitled, Broken Links Removed on 2017.06.06)

Ubi Dubium… | The Three Faces of Skepticism

Rather than go into a single definition of what modern skepticism is, already done in great detail on this blog’s Media Guide to Skepticism page by Sharon Hill, I’d like to discuss those aspects, those three faces, that to my understanding make it up.
What are those faces of skepticism? They are:
  1. Skepticism is a set of values, both intellectual and ethical: Skepticism favors intellectual honesty, sincerity, integrity, and a high value on the truth of whatever matter we look into. It is to have little patience with those who deceive, save those ‘honest liars,’ professional conjurors who are forthright about the inherently deceptive nature of their trade. Those who knowingly defraud, harm, or manipulate others are fair game for skeptical scrutiny and critiquing. Skepticism acknowledges and respects the limits of human perception, understanding and reasoning. It tells us about and arms us against our biases. It tells us that “I don’t know,” is a better answer to a question than an answer that is not only demonstrably false, but isn’t even worthy of being wrong. If a skeptic is in error, or is knowingly dishonest, they can be and ought to be be corrected, or exposed, by others who are not. Whatever their personal inclinations, if they are not honest, other skeptics will be, and they will be found out.
  2. Skepticism is a set of methods, a way of evaluating arguments and evidence to determine the likely factual status of claims. These are the methods of science, empiricism, and rational inquiry. Skepticism lets us know when someone’s trying to put us on, or putting others on, and that’s the first step to exposing them. Skepticism lets us distinguish sound claims from unsound and good argument from bad. It lets us know, when we are careful, when our prejudices are being pandered to, giving us the first line of defense against fraud and chicanery. These methods assume scientific literacy, scientific thinking, and an understanding of how we deceive ourselves and others through biases and motivated reasoning.
  3. The values and methods of skepticism assume a particular approach to reality. It assumes that there are such things as facts and truth. It assumes the world is knowable and that it is possible to tell truth from falsehood. It assumes that the world is real, regardless of the nature of that reality, it exists, and that it must for anything at all to be meaningfully true, false, or even possible. It assumes that the methods of science, empiricism, and rational inquiry are valid, useful, and powerful ways of knowing reality. It assumes in its methods that solid, reliable and effective ways of knowing are preferable to those that not only lead to error, but are neither self-correcting nor concerned with the actual truth of a matter. While it doesn’t necessarily assume philosophical naturalism, it does assume naturalistic methods, and so eschews resorting to unobservable or unfalsifiable ‘explanations’ for phenomena. But it has no trouble investigating anything that is knowably real and open to objective inquiry.
These are the three faces and together they form the core of my understanding of skepticism as an endeavor, whatever the state of organized skepticism at any time.

MetaCognitions | Biases, Leanings & Inclinations


We are all biased to varying degrees no matter our relative sanity or intelligence.

In fact, a sure sign of bias is to believe ourselves to be unbiased, to see only the biases of who disagree with us.

Our biases can be insidious, blinding us to themselves, and we have them merely by virtue of having perfectly ordinary if individually quirky human brains that work the way they happen to do.

Hence the need for scientific skepticism, to know of, understand, and to varying degrees bypass the problems of our own biases.

So, here are my biases, my leanings, those I’m aware of, minus the neuroscience jargon, and some of my resulting ideological views and values.

First, my politics; they are somewhat left of center.

I believe in a strong central government with checks and balances concerned with social welfare, equal treatment under the law, civil liberties and the common good with efficient spending and effective taxation.

I’m for a strong but lean and efficient military capable of effectively defending the state and national interests from threats to peace and the general welfare.

I favor a strong wall of separation between church and state maintained vigilantly against the efforts of fanatics and theocrats. There currently seems to be a considerable erosion of this by a major political party and special interests in my country. Needless to say, I find this a disturbing sign.

I favor reason and rationality, not gut thinking, as effective ways of reaching reliable conclusions and clear decision-making.

I place little stock in believing things on faith without prior reasons. I take people at their word when it is rational to do so, if and when they are generally reasonable and given to making reliable claims.

I value science as a fallible but powerful and reliable way of understanding the natural world.

I consider blind faith irrational and dangerous, but allow for a sort of faith in those things whose rational denial would be self-refuting—science, reason, evidence, objective facts—and whose irrational denial would be incoherent nonsense.

I consider dogmatism and authoritarian claims to knowledge unreliable and profoundly dangerous; contrary authorities and dogmas are always to be found, and they cannot possibly all be correct.

I’m technically an atheist, not a strong anti-theist, and I subscribe to humanist ethical values, preferring the labels non-theist, humanist, rationalist, or skeptic.

I’ve little interest in certainty or absolutes regarding matters of fact, value, or opinion. Certainty is a feeling, not knowledge, so certainty is not worth much to me.

Not all biases are bad—that would be prejudice—and some of them are often downright useful. It is possible to be ideologically biased in favor of reality and in wanting to have more true beliefs than false ones.

So rather than deny my biases, I try to understand and sometimes sidestep them, sometimes make use of them. That seems to me the better path.