Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments

My good buddy Gary sent over a link to a great little book by Ali Almosawwi that is available for free online: The Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments. Here’s a peek at a few of the entries.

False Dilemma

You might remember this one being used by Bush in the selling of the Iraq war.

false_dilemma

False Dilemma
A false dilemma is an argument that presents a set of two possible categories and assumes that everything in the scope of that which is being discussed must be an element of that set. If one of those categories is rejected, then one has to accept the other. For example, In the war on fanaticism, there are no sidelines; you are either with us or with the fanatics. In reality, there is a third option, one could very well be neutral; and a fourth option, one may be against both; and even a fifth option, one may empathize with elements of both.
In The Strangest Man, it is mentioned that physicist Ernest Rutherford once told his colleague Niels Bohr a parable about a man who bought a parrot from a store only to return it because it didn’t talk. After several such visits, the store manager eventually says: “Oh, that’s right! You wanted a parrot that talks. Please forgive me. I gave you the parrot that thinks.” Now clearly, Rutherford was using the parable to illustrate the genius of the silent Dirac, though one can imagine how someone might use such a line of reasoning to suggest that a person is either silent and a thinker or talkative and an imbecile.

 

Appeal to Fear

There would not be a Fox News or conservative hate radio without use of Appeal to Fear. Almost every argument used by the right to rail against the policies of President Obama makes use of some form of this logical fallacy. (e.g. Obamacare’s death panels!!!)

appeal_to_fear


The fallacy plays on the fears of an audience by imagining a scary future that would be of their making if some proposition were accepted. Rather than provide evidence to show that a conclusion follows from a set of premisses, which may provide a legitimate cause for fear, such arguments rely on rhetoric, threats or outright lies. For example, I ask all employees to vote for my chosen candidate in the upcoming elections. If the other candidate wins, he will raise taxes and many of you will lose your jobs.
An appeal to fear may proceed to describe a set of terrifying events that would occur as a result of accepting a proposition, which has no clear causal links, making it reminiscent of a slippery slope. It may also provide one and only one alternative to the proposition being attacked, that of the attacker, in which case it would be reminiscent of a false dilemma.

Straw Man

This fallacy (along with just about every other logical fallacy known to man) is a favorite used by creationists to argue against evolution.

Intentionally caricaturing a person's argument with the aim of attacking the caricature rather than the actual argument is what is meant by “putting up a straw man.” Misrepresenting, misquoting, misconstruing and oversimplifying are all means by which one commits this fallacy. A straw man argument is usually one that is more absurd than the actual argument, making it an easier target to attack and possibly luring a person towards defending the more ridiculous argument rather than the original one. For example, My opponent is trying to convince you that we evolved from monkeys who were swinging from trees; a truly ludicrous claim. This is clearly a misrepresentation of what evolutionary biology claims, which is the idea that humans and apes shared a common ancestor several million years ago. Misrepresenting the idea is much easier than refuting the evidence for it.


Intentionally caricaturing a person’s argument with the aim of attacking the caricature rather than the actual argument is what is meant by “putting up a straw man.” Misrepresenting, misquoting, misconstruing and oversimplifying are all means by which one commits this fallacy. A straw man argument is usually one that is more absurd than the actual argument, making it an easier target to attack and possibly luring a person towards defending the more ridiculous argument rather than the original one.
For example, My opponent is trying to convince you that we evolved from monkeys who were swinging from trees; a truly ludicrous claim. This is clearly a misrepresentation of what evolutionary biology claims, which is the idea that humans and apes shared a common ancestor several million years ago. Misrepresenting the idea is much easier than refuting the evidence for it.

There’s a whole bunch more – check them out here and get ready for that Thanksgiving dinner when your Uncle Wingnut starts unloading his Limbaugh/Fox-inspired load of crap.

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“For The Moment, The Earth Is Where We Make Our Stand”

Earth - Carl Sagan    -    http://mariopiperni.com/

One of the first astronomy books I ever read was Carl Sagan’s beautifully written Pale Blue Dot. It introduced me to the world of galaxies and planets – ours and those beyond – and gave me a perspective on our place in the cosmos in a way I had never before imagined. I instantly became a Saganite.

The following is a video in which Sagan’s words from Pale Blue Planet narrate Adam Winnik‘s beautifully scripted animation. The narration’s audio is a bit low in places, so I’ve included the full text below. Enjoy.

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.”

“Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

“The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not.”

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

 

Merchandise with the illustration at the top of this post is available in the store.

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