Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Archive for July, 2009

The Video Climate Deniers Tried to Ban

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 30, 2009

That’s right.

Posted in Global Warming, Science | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Michael Dickens on July 30, 2009

Here are two jokes. Very similar, and yet very different. Both written by Flight of the Conchords.

Joke One
Bret: “There is no more unethical treatment of elephants.”
Jemaine: “There are no more elephants either.”

Joke Two
Bret: “There are no more elephants.”
Jemaine: “There is no more unethical treatment of elephants either.”

What is the difference here?

The first is funny because it is unexpected. At first you think that robots (click the link, you’ll see what I’m talking about) have eradicated all unethical treatment of animals. But then it turns out that all the elephants are dead. This could be described as black humor.

The second is also humor through unexpectedness. “There are no more elephants”, without the context of the first joke, seems like a rather neutral statement. Then, Jemaine takes an unexpected point of view by looking at the bright side, if in a rather off-color way.

I just love to kill jokes.

Posted in Humor | 6 Comments »

Proof for the Nonexistence of God

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 29, 2009

I just read this amazing proof for the nonexistence of God. It goes like this:

1. The creation of the universe is the most marvelous achievement imaginable.
2. The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.
3. The greater the disability (or handicap) of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
4. The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
5. Therefore if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator we can conceive a greater being — namely, one who created everything while not existing.
6. Therefore, God does not exist.

Posted in Humor, Philosophy | Leave a Comment »

Credibility Spectrum for Other Stuff

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 29, 2009

Categorized under Science, even though this is not necessarily scientific.

Let’s say you are doing a research project. What sites should you trust? Wonder no longer. I give you the Credibility Spectrum for Other Stuff, built for all your research needs.

Let’s say we are looking for a biography of George Washington. Which sources should we rely upon?

Blogs. Blogs are at the bottom of the credibility spectrum. They are easy to get, easy to use, and you can say pretty much anything. Like this post, which just barely qualifies as a biography.

Anonymous websites. Pretty much anyone can make a website. But if you find information on a website, it is because someone took the trouble to create a website and put up information about it. People can still say whatever they want, but reliability is more likely than if it’s just a blog. Look for websites that have a lot of information: the more information, the less likely it is to be written by some guy who takes pleasure in making up facts about historical figures. For biographies, you can usually find some pretty good stuff just by a Google search, such as this. It has some nice detail on George Washington’s life, but there are no citations.

Textbooks. Yes, textbooks are below Wikipedia. Want to argue that point? Fine. Do so in the comments section. But here’s the deal. Textbooks in many cases are very reliable. They are written by people who know what they’re talking about. But in some subjects (I’m looking at you, Science), they are not necessarily reliable. Depending on what age they are targeted at, they sometimes don’t go into very much depth. More importantly, though, the Texas State Board of Education was thiiiiiiiis close to teaching creationism. And that’s going to go in the textbooks. Wikipedia just won’t put up with that crap.

Wikipedia. That’s right, Wikipedia. You may love it, you may hate it, but it’s there. It is even easier to edit than a blog, so why is it so high on the spectrum? A huge difference here is that blogs are usually only run by one person, while thousands of people visit Wikipedia every day. More importantly, though, Wikipedia has a team of editors who check each page for reliability. Wikipedia has detailed –- and usually accurate — articles. So let’s check out Washington’s page. There’s well-categorized information and plenty of citations.

University websites. This means most any website that ends in “.edu”. These websites tend to have pretty good educational material. With someone like George Washington, government websites fall under this same category.

Online peer-reviewed papers and primary sources. I don’t know if there are any peer-reviewed papers about George Washington, but if there were, they would be reliable. Primary sources (that is, personal journals, official records, etc.) are reliable by definition.

Posted in Science | Leave a Comment »

RE: 10 Arguments Against Abortion

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 26, 2009

I found yet another anti-abortion site. Once again, there are 10 arguments. And once again, there are 0 valid arguments.

1. Cost of Abortions
This is no reason to ban abortion. The solution for this is private healthcare, not banning abortion. I can make the exact same argument to advocate for shutting down all hospitals and fire stations. And that will save a LOT more money.

2. Backstreet Abortions Increase
I fail to see how making abortion illegal will REDUCE backstreet abortions. If a woman decides to go to some unqualified guy to get an abortion instead of a doctor, that’s her fault.

3. Parallels between Abortion & Slavery
Interesting. I can see some equivocation and false analogies coming on.

Slavery in centuries past and abortions in this century were defended and promoted by the same arguments. Consider the case in the USA: In 1857, in the Dred Scott case, the US Supreme Court decided, by a 7 to 2 majority, that according to the US Constitution, black people were not legal persons. They were the property of the owner.

Oh, a straw man! How original! My arguments for defending abortion are that a fetus is not rational and that a fetus is not self-aware. The difference is that black people are actually rational and self-aware (unless they are black fetuses). By the exact same logic as this argument is using, I can say that armchairs have rights because we treat armchairs as property.

4. Indisputable Medical Evidence – the Unborn baby is a Human Being
Straw man. Being a human does not automatically grant rights. Fetuses are not rational entities.

This argument includes a series of developmental arguments, the only significant one of which is this:

At 11-12 weeks, the baby is sensative to heat, touch, light and noise.

Ants and cockroaches are sensitive to heat, touch, light, and noise.

5. Abortion Aggravates Child Abuse
They argue “among abused children, a significantly higher percentage were ‘unwanted children’ compared to the percentage of ‘wanted children’ in society at large.” I don’t see how this supports their case.

6. Even Legal Abortions are Unsafe
They still have a relatively low chance of injuring the mother. More to the point, though, it is the mother’s choice. If her own body gets injured in a procedure that she decided to do, it’s her choice.

7. Increase in Breast Cancer
Dear God, they’re misinformed.

“Every study of induced abortions performed before the first live birth is consistent with an initial increase in risk of at least 50 percent,” reports Dr Joel Brind, professor of endocrinology at Baruch College, City University of New York, who is also a breast cancer researcher on staff at Beth Israel Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Notice how they don’t actually cite any studies, but only cite one guy who claims the existence of these studies. This is an appeal to authority.

Induced abortions have no overall effect on the risk of breast cancer.

8. Most South Africans Oppose Abortion
Appeal to popularity. Really. That’s four distinct fallacies already.

9. The Overpopulation Argument

The commonly accepted ideology states that this world is overpopulated, this is the reason for poverty and oppression in the world and the way to solve these problems is to control the population.

Oops. Straw man.

10. The Bible Declares the Sanctity of Human Life
This is only a sound argument if the Bible can be shown to be absolute truth. But even then, no. According to the Bible, life comes from blood. Fetuses do not develop blood until halfway through the second trimester.


Well, that’s another round of arguments down the drain. We are one step closer to a rational world.

Posted in Abortion, Ethics | 8 Comments »

Quote of the Day

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 25, 2009

“If God Wanted People to Believe in Him, Then Why Did He Invent Logic?”

Posted in Philosophy | Leave a Comment »

Transformers 2: Plot Holes Filled

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 25, 2009

From Philosophy Peter‘s blog, I found this article about the 10 most confusing things in ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’. I will now very unscientifically explain all of the plot holes that are brought up. Warning: spoilers ahead.

And yes, this is one of those “stupid” posts.

1. In “Transformers,” there was this giant battle in the middle of downtown Los Angeles — excuse me, Mission City — that was witnessed by thousands of people at the very least. But somehow the government was able to cover up the whole thing, and now the existence of alien robots is just an internet rumor? How did they do it? Pay off everyone who was there and quickly fix millions of dollars in damage? Also, didn’t Keller (Jon Voight) go on TV and tell everyone we were being attacked by “a technological civilization far superior to our own”? How did they spin that?

As seen in “Transformers”, the Autobots have top-secret technology. It is only possible that they also have mind-wiping devices and that they can repair buildings very quickly. As for the TV thing, Keller’s excuse is that he was using live television television as the quickest means to send a coded message to all government personnel, “a technological civilization far superior to our own” obviously being code for “terrorists”.

2. There are two pieces of the Allspark cube left: the military has one under lock and key, and Sam discovers another. The Decepticons steal one and bring Megatron back to life. But when Sam (Shia LaBeouf) wants to bring back Optimus, he has to find the Matrix of Leadership on the other side of the globe. Why not use the other piece? Mikaela (Megan Fox) has it in her backpack the whole time. It brought his kitchen appliances to life, why can’t it do the same for Optimus?

Megatron was just frozen. But Optimus had sustained heavy damage. More importantly, every piece of machinery has a special aura that allows it to come alive. Not even Optimus knows about this, though: only Megatron and a select few others know of it. Megatron was able to destroy Optimus’s aura, requiring the Matrix to revive him.

3. Speaking of Megatron’s rebirth, when the Decepticons venture deep into the ocean to revive him, the Navy crew tracking them reads five contacts. When they get down there, they tear apart one of the robots for parts to rebuild Megatron. Then as they rise to the surface, the same Navy guys say they spot six contacts. The little “Doctor” robot popped out down there, but he’s about a third of the size of a person. Would he have shown up on sonar?

Yes he would. And as everyone knows, the Navy (and the entire U.S. government) is incompetent. Actually, the older and more authoritative you are, the less competent. This is why kids who have spent just two days in college are the most capable when it comes to defeating giant robots.

4. That reminds me: even if I were to forgive the Doctor’s German accent — and director Michael Bay is asking me to forgive a lot of ridiculous accents — why would a robot need glasses? He has little lenses that flip in front of his mechanical eyes. Couldn’t he just get his eyes adjusted? You’d think with all the laser guns, someone could perform a Lasik procedure.

His glasses serve special sensory purposes that cannot be replicated by normal eyes.

5. Apparently, Transformers can look like people now. How? And how is it that even though the robo-girl (Isabel Lucas) is made of metal, she can still straddle Sam without crushing him. And if Bumblebee knows something’s wrong with her, why does he spit antifreeze at her instead of telling Sam? Yes, his voicebox is broken, but wasn’t it fixed at the end of the last movie?

She’s partially hollow, obviously. And Bumblebee has no reason to report baseless intuitions. And it was CLEARLY established that Bumblebee’s voicebox broke again.

6. The Fallen is the last of the Primes, since they all sacrificed themselves to stop him from destroying the sun. But then he says that Optimus is a descendant of the Primes. First, Transformers have kids? And second, how could he descend from them if they were all dead? And if the Fallen could only be destroyed by a Prime, why didn’t the originals just gang up on him back in the day? And what makes Optimus so special, anyway? Megatron beat him earlier, but all it takes is a few spare parts from creaky old Jetfire for him to take out the Fallen?

They have kids in a different sense. They use their own sparks to create new transformers. And second, they had kids BEFORE they were dead! My great-great-grandmother is dead, and yet she has descendants. And the Fallen couldn’t be destroyed at the time because he had armies and stuff to back him up. And Jetfire is not just a few spare parts, he is an SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft with mach 3.3 capabilities.

7. Sam, Mikaela, and Simmons (John Turturro) go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. to find Jetfire. Then they walk out the back onto a wide open field with old planes and mountains in the distance. When did the National Mall start to look so much like to Tucson, AZ (where they really filmed that scene)?

Since now. Seriously, get your facts straight.

8. The geography is just as bad when they go to Egypt. The stone city of Petra in Jordan is over 250 miles away, over mountainous terrain, with few paved roads and the Israeli border between them, so how can they drive from one to the other in a couple of hours. And the Pyramids are said to be shooting distance from the Mediterranean, but they are actually well over 80 miles inland. Even if the Navy ship had a secret rail gun, and even if the captain would take an order to fire from a former agent of a government branch that no longer exists (over a walkie-talkie that inexplicably starts working again), how could it hit a moving target from that distance.

They have a robot car. Those things are fast. And 80 miles is shooting distance if you have a railgun. He could hit a moving target from that distance because RAILGUNS ARE FREAKING BADASS. They use Lorentz force.

9. Sam briefly dies and goes to Robot Heaven. Robot Heaven?!?!

I don’t get what’s so hard about this concept. God created robots in his own image.

10. Where does Sam’s bandage come from? What about his extra sock? Why does Sam’s roommate not contribute anything at all? What was the Fallen doing for those thousands of years Megatron was frozen in ice? How does one satellite receive transmissions from everywhere on the planet? Why does Wheelie hump Mikaela’s leg? Why do we have to see John Turturro’s thong? Why are robots who join together to become Devastator also seen fighting the Army at the same time? Why does the government want only our military fighting Decepticons when our weapons seem unable to make so much as a dent on any of them? Why did the ancient Egyptians build a pyramid around the sun-destroying machines instead of just breaking it? Why is the Matrix of Leadership bigger in the Fallen’s hand than in Sam’s? And how do Mikaela’s pants stay so clean?

People keep bandages. He had a sock in his backpack. Not every person in life has a purpose. The Fallen was sitting around because he’s lazy and incompetent and needs Megatron to do everything for him. The satellite hooks up to other ones around the world in geosynchronous orbit. Wheelie did it to get everybody’s attention. We didn’t have to see his thong, but we saw it, so grow up. They have twins. As I said, the government is incompetent; not only that, but they are self-centered and jealous. The sun-destroying machines could not be broken at the time due to specialized circumstances. The Matrix changes size based on the individual who possesses it. Mikaela’s pants have robotic dirt-repellant technology.

This movie has no plot holes and no contradictions. It is a work of pure genius.

Posted in Rant | Leave a Comment »

Appeal to Authority is a Necessary Evil

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 25, 2009

An appeal to authority goes like this:

1. Person A believes B.
2. Person A is an expert on the subject of B.
3. Therefore, B is true.

This is clearly fallacious. However, an appeal to authority is sometimes useful with scientific topics. My explanation goes something like this:

1. There is too much knowledge on the given subject for one person to have it all.
2. An expert is more likely to have more knowledge than the average person.
3. I am an average person.
4. Therefore, an expert’s opinion is probably based on more and better information than mine.
5. Therefore, an expert is more likely to be right than I am.
6. Therefore, I should trust an expert’s opinion.

This works in many situations. For example, I do not know the proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem. But expert mathematicians say that the proof is sound, so I trust them. This does not prove that the proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem is sound, but at least we have good reason to believe it.

Posted in Rationality | Leave a Comment »

FYI: “Lead” (pronounced “led”) is not the past tense of “lead” (pronounced “leed”). It is a type of metal. The past tense of “lead” is “led”. Seriously, people.

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 25, 2009

It’s not that difficult.

Posted in Language | Leave a Comment »

“I won’t accept the idea that I came from monkeys.”

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 23, 2009

I heard a Creationist say something like that one time. My response is this:

If you won’t accept the idea that you came from monkeys*, then I won’t accept the idea that I was created by a jealous and self-centered God who created me for the sole purpose of groveling at his feet during a meaningless existence and then either joining with His Jealousness or, if I don’t accept Him, being banished to a land of fire and torture for all of eternity.

*Technically, humans did not evolve from monkeys. They evolved from prehistoric primates that branched off into monkeys and apes (and apes later branched off into chimpanzees, orangutans, humans, etc.)

7/25/09 Edit: I was not previously aware of this, but Charles Darwin actually has a very similar quote. It is worded more elegantly, if less amusingly:

For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs — as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.

Posted in Creationism, Science | 2 Comments »

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