Monday, May 30, 2005

Embellishment, part 1.

Embellishment happens all the time. It is a basic part of human nature to want to impress our fellow humans. Some people have taken this a step further by discovering that, when you impress people, they are often willing to pay you. Probably the most famous example of embellishment in my culture is the “fish story” wherein the luckless fisherman exaggerates the size of the fish that got away. There are a few variations of embellishment. Some, like the fish story, are the result of an act of wishful thinking overlaid on a real experience. Some are an overlay of prejudicial thinking, or previously held beliefs on observed phenomenon. Some are carefully constructed and elaborate tapestries of subjective reasoning that become methods for living, religious dogma, or supporting “evidence” for claims that are not scientifically proven. Some embellishments are the product of a single act of revision, and some grow with the re-telling. They all share the common element of starting with a grain of truth, and, like an oyster growing a pearl around a grain of sand, surrounding it with material that often completely obscures the shape and nature of that truth.

For example, Feng-shui. An entire dogma has grown up around a belief that one’s surroundings can be modified to positively affect one’s mental health. Duh. Unnecessary mystical relationships and unquantifiable physical states and energies are expounded to explain the phenomenon. Why? Because elaborate methodology and “wisdom of the ages” is easier to package and sell than are the simple concepts of eye appeal and personal satisfaction with one’s surroundings. If I allow my environment to become cluttered, there is a constant, low-level nag in the back of my mind that I should clean up. I feel guilty about relaxing when there is unfinished work. If I hire an interior decorator, or make any kind of decorating plan and meticulously create and maintain it, then there is nothing for me to do when I enter the room but to enjoy living inside the three dimensional picture I have created for myself. I am relaxed and satisfied. That’s it. No chi, gui, ki, or toenail synergy is necessary to explain the phenomenon. I need satisfy no dogmatic disciplines. All I need are the kind of artistic balances taught in an Art Appreciation class, and my own personal taste, assuming that I am assertive enough to know what that is. Satisfying artistic balances in a three-dimensional space that will be viewed from several angles is admittedly more difficult than doing so in a two-dimensional painting. Also, when dealing with a living space, concessions need to be made to satisfy functional requirements. It’s called interior decorating, and like anything else, there are people who have a flair for it, those who don’t, and those who don’t but think that they do. Don’t let anybody tell you that you need a goldfish pond to make you happy if that’s not what you’re telling yourself.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Field Trip

Be prepared to discuss how this is a confusion of ideas:

Swiss Hardcore Teddy

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Lesson 4: Crying “Foul!”

This is one of the more desperate attempts at a confusion of ideas. You see it in “real life” TV police shows, every time the low life says, “She hit me first!” as he is being led away. The statement is made to deflect attention from the central fact; in this case, that the perpetrator has just committed assault. Generally speaking, we recognize this obvious attempt to shift blame for what it is, and pay little attention. Why is it then, that we have more difficulty recognizing this tactic when the actions of the accused crying “foul” are less obviously criminal? This is what Congressman Spencer Bachus is doing when he accuses Bill Mahr of treason, and demeaning US troops. (Show of hands, who saw that topic coming?) For those of you not aware of this current event, the AP wire story that everyone is parroting goes like this:

“The Republican lawmaker from Vestavia Hills believes the comic insulted and demeaned US military personnel when he characterized troops as "low-lying fruit."
The remark was tied to a comment Mahr made about the Army's failure to meet its recruiting goals. The show aired May 13th.
Bachus said he sent a letter to the board of directors of TimeWarner, HBO's parent company, asking them to cancel the show. The Congressman also said Maher's statement was in bad taste, especially with American men and women risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. “

And the entire blurb can be found here WSFA TV Montgomery, AL - Alabama Congressman Criticizes Bill Maher , among other places.

Now, on the face of it, it looks like a legitimate rant, but let’s break this down. Imagine that you own an apple orchard. You hire two apple pickers. You set them to work in different sections of the orchard. At the end of the day, one picker gives you slightly more bushels of fruit than the other, and you think, “this guy worked harder”. Then you notice on the next day, the tables turn. The picker you thought was working less hard gives you the same number of bushels as the day before, but the one that seemed more productive gives you less on the second day. What happened? Picker #1 picked all the low-hanging fruit the first day, then had to work harder the second. Picker #2 worked the whole tree before moving on. Was there any problem with the low-hanging fruit? No. It was virtually indistinguishable from any other fruit. The problem was with the picker, who had to move the ladder twice to pick the same tree. The same is true with Bill Mahr’s statement. The low-hanging fruit to which he refers is the inner-city and poor rural communities targeted by the army recruiting machine. The people in these communities have more incentive to join the military by virtue of the fact that they have fewer options than the more affluent kids of middle and upper-income families. (May I never refer to these as “class”, because in my experience, they are equally likely to have none.) The fault lies not in the “fruit”, but in the picker, and this, I am sure, is what Bill Mahr was criticizing.

Congressman Bachus is attempting to raise public ire by misdirecting the attention from the recruiting practices to the troops themselves. Echoes of Archie Bunker: “He called youse a fruit! Are youse gonna take dat?”

Giving more affluent Americans a pass when it comes to “serving your country honorably” is nothing new. See for instance, Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York . Bill Mahr does not need me to defend him. This is just a good example of the subtle form that “crying foul” can take. Bill Mahr criticized a real inequity in the recruiting practices of the US military, but how many people are going to stop and think in the face of Congressman Bachus’ false allegations?


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Dr. Phil Rides Again!

On May 4, 2005, CBS Television, that bastion of the “Liberal Media”, launched a massive salvage operation for one of its properties. Pat O’Brien, host of “The Insider ”, and former CBS Sports anchor, was in need of a makeover and CBS rushed to perform damage control. I am reminded of a scene in the movie "Christine" , where one of the minor characters mutters, “You can’t polish a turd.” In terms of reputation, he was wrong. You can polish a shitty reputation by running it up a flagpole and saluting.

In a “Dr. Phil Primetime Special”, Pat O’Brien was given a forum to expiate his “sins” in the public confessional. Dr. Phil, demonstrating his usual grasp of semantic subtlety, asked questions like, “There are those who believe that you fled to rehab to create an excuse for getting busted on ... inappropriate sexual behavior. True or false?" Answer: True. I am one of those who believe that. Please note that Phil did not ask, “Did you....” , and Pat did not have to make a statement that might later be proved to be a lie. As to why I believe this to be a put-up job, it is because it follows a formulaic and common confusion of ideas: The public admission of guilt and remorse makes the crime less despicable. While publicly admitting guilt and remorse might make a perpetrator of a crime more human in our eyes, and more likely to invoke our sympathy, it does nothing to decriminalize the acts themselves. Unfortunately, this tactic works to minimize public outrage, and often to promote leniency for our favorite sons in the justice system. Equally unfortunate is the double standard this produces, as an average citizen could cry their remorse from the rooftops without anyone taking notice.

Another reason that I think this is a put-up job, is that I heard the answering machine tapes that they played on the show. I was not imbued with shock or disgust as much as disbelief. I have had many party animal friends, and never have I heard one of them use, “Let’s go get some hookers and go nuts” as a pick-up line. I can’t imagine being wasted enough for that to make sense. You are basically telling a woman, “I want to do you, but you won’t be enough for me.” Does that work? I’ll have to try it at my local watering hole.... or not. I have not been so overtaken by the sense of the surreal since Morton Downey Jr. showed up on my TV wearing a backwards swastika.

Last week at work, a colleague of mine was having no end of trouble with a brand-new laptop computer. In an attempt to cheer him up, I showed up in his office with a bowl of sugar and a cup of water. In answer to his puzzlement, I explained that this was my response to anyone who gave me the, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” speech. Without a lot of water and sugar, it’s pretty damn sour and unsellable lemonade. What CBS is doing is watering down and sugar-coating a lemon.

For another slant, try this for homework:

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Lesson 3: “One for you and two for me.”

Why do Evangelists and their Islamic counterparts concentrate their efforts on converting poor people in 3rd world countries and ghettos around the world? At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a good return on investment for the organization. Poor people will never be able to contribute much to the wealth of the organization, and asking for contributions, no matter how small, is taking food away from the poor families. It is more likely that the church will provide financial aid to the converts in an attempt to create false prosperity and attract more converts. Why?

If you ask the missionaries they will tell you that they are saving souls, and indeed these front-line zealots probably believe that. If you ask the people they are trying to convert, you will get several answers. Quoting from :

“What is the motivation behind conversion activities? Why should one person want to convert another to his or her religious belief? In a pluralistic world, such as we live in there are many different types of culture, art, language, business and religion that contribute much to the richness of society. Why should we demand that everyone be like us in terms of anything, including religion? Isn't this diversity the very beauty of culture and our greater human heritage?

Clearly the missionary seeking converts must believe that other people cannot find their goal of life by any other religion than the one that he is propagating. Otherwise there would be no need to convert anyone. And generally the missionary is not simply announcing that he has something good or better, like someone who has invented a better light bulb. He is usually claiming that his religion is the one true faith and that the others are either inferior, out of date, or simply false.
One could argue therefore that the conversion mentality is inherently intolerant. If, recognise that many religions are good and religious belief should be arrived at freely and without interference, then I will not create a massive organization to covert other people to my belief and get them to renounce what they already have. Only an intolerant and exclusive religious ideology requires conversion or funds it on a massive scale.

In short conversion activity is anti-secular. It does not tolerate the religious differences that must exist in a truly secular society but aims at eliminating them. “ - Peter Frawley

“At a time when the west seems to be moving away from religion, one must wonder why missionaries come to lands where there is a healthy practice of religion. Today, these missionaries target the poor, the destitute and the ignorant because these are the socioeconomic groups most vulnerable to their machinations.

>No religion interferes with the way of life of a people. It is the responsibility of
>political and religious leaders, teachers and parents to ensure that unscrupulous
>elements are not permitted to exploit situations and create unrest that would be
>detrimental to the country. - (quoting ZERNEY WIJESURIYA, Former Director, National Intelligence Bureau, Sri-Lanka)

No particular religion may interfere with the way of life of people, but evangelism certainly does. For example, new converts are forbidden by missionaries to take part in cultural activities they have taken part in since they were children. This results in their alienation from other villagers who are either Buddhist or Hindu. As more people convert and subscribe to the rigid attitude of the missionaries, the village is divided and the harmony that was once prevalent is breached. New converts are encouraged to develop a sense of aversion towards their ancestral faith.”
– Unattributed response to Mr. Zerney Wijesuriya.

So, why go to all that trouble when the result is to divide communities and create strife? Is it to create an army of Christians, presumably to take over the world, as another post on the Sri-Lankan site suggested? No! The answer is that converting the heathen is BIG BUSINESS! The people at the top of this food chain could care less about the spiritual well being of poor people that they will never meet. If these same people came to live in their neighborhood, they would move away. The leaders of this idiocy benefit in many ways; they use the image of saving poor little Jamal to drum up money. Only a fraction of that money is actually spent on the “heathens”, or even on the mission itself. The rest goes to television producers, and wardrobe, and food and lodging and transportation around the world. Trips to check on the various missions, and with stops in less hellish places for “conferences” and “fund raising”. All this is done in the name of the church, and all tax-exempt. They are getting and granting huge financial favors, and living amid church-owned luxury “investments”. These people at the top of the food chain are living a life of luxury, all in the name of religion, while their zombified shock troops sell their illogical message of false hope to the poor. Indeed, the world’s poor are a good investment. They are desperate enough to try anything, and are often lacking in the kind of education that would give them the tools to question the absurdity of the zealot’s claims. Fertile ground indeed for converts, and in order for the scam to work, one has to show results. The confusion of ideas here is that the missionary work is the motive, and not the fund raising activities themselves.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Name Game

Ever wonder, “What’s the deal?” with Popes and Nuns and gang members and cult members and fraternity brothers being given a different name? It’s a very simple confusion of ideas called identity blurring, and it works in a couple of related ways.

The frat boys are doing it in its most basic and ancient form. For them, it is merely a group identity, a rite of inclusion, and an alter-ego that gives the young adult a degree of anonymity within certain social situations. You might have experienced this yourself without realizing it if, as a child or young adult, you hung out with a group (or gang) that gave each other nicknames. Having a nickname can have no effect at all, or it can have a similar liberating effect as wearing a costume to a costume party. One can feel uninhibited enough to take on the characteristics of a pirate, or a gorilla, or the group persona of the gang. The consequences of this form of identity blurring can range from a healthy tool of self-discovery all the way to a surrender of self to a group-inspired ideal. The fraternity brother has ties to life outside the group, and his old, individual identity continues to be used and reinforced.

When you look at Nuns, cults, and street gangs, you start to see a darker element. Nuns take on a new name as a deliberate attempt to renounce their former lives. This is a conscious decision, a strong declaration of obedience to the rules of a religious order, and a start of a new way of life. Whatever else I might think of this lifestyle, at least it was a conscious decision, made with many opportunities to reconsider. Gangs and cults perpetrate this name changing, identity blurring behavior on their members without the members being aware of the subtle psychological effects. Cult members are often isolated from those that knew them in the past, and “gangstas” often assume the given identity and insist on being called by their gang name. In all of these cases, when an individual allows a group or group leader to dictate a name change, that individual is loudly proclaiming that he or she is a follower, not a leader. A person’s name is a unique linguistic extension of that person’s self image, and allowing outside entities to modify that name is a surrender of personal integrity.

Finally, we come to why the Pope changes his name. As figurehead/leader of a large religious sect, this does not seem to fit the patterns above. One explanation is that, like the Nuns, he is starting a new life in the service of his god. This does not hold water, however, because he was already in service as a priest, bishop, and cardinal. Another explanation is that it reinforces the argument of, “See? I’m just a servant, like you, even though in fact I control the future of the church, have use of a vast fortune in spite of my hair-splitting vow of personal poverty, and live in luxury.” Pope Flounder I, just one of the boys. For a more secular explanation, one has to remember the state of the world when the practice started. Documentation, when it existed at all, was usually the property of, and tightly controlled by, the church. Communication beyond one’s own province was rare, and in many cases, the private property of royalty. Pagan bards, who spread news to the masses, had been fairly well exterminated as part of Christianity’s spread through Europe. The practice of taking a new name as Pope allowed Pope Alexander VI for example, to enjoy a certain anonymity from the family name of Borgia. History is a little more public and better documented these days, but the life of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will still not be as closely associated with the career of Pope Benedict XVI as it would be for Pope Joseph Ratzinger I.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Why Lynne McTaggart is a hack.

Lynne McTaggart, for those who aren’t familiar with the name, is an “award-winning journalist” who has written a book called “The Field”. The premise-and-conclusion of this work is that the theoretical zero-point field in quantum mechanics explains why homeopathy and spiritual healing “work”. For those of you not sure what homeopathy means, it is the evolution of folk medicine into something diluted to the point of non-existence to avoid sanction by the FDA. While I fully embrace the potential value of odd amino acids and bioflavinoids and trace minerals and chemically specific lipids, a molecule of spider leg is vastly unnoticeable to the biological system of my body, and no amount of (theoretical) quantum physics is going to overcome the reality of biochemistry.

Hack: v. tr.

1. To cut or chop with repeated and irregular blows: hacked down the saplings.
2. To break up the surface of (soil).

3. Informal. To alter (a computer program): hacked her text editor to read HTML.
To gain access to (a computer file or network) illegally or without authorization: hacked the firm's personnel database.

4. Slang. To cut or mutilate as if by hacking: hacked millions off the budget.
5. Slang. To cope with successfully; manage: couldn't hack a second job.

1. A rough, irregular cut made by hacking.
2. A tool, such as a hoe, used for hacking.
3. A blow made by hacking.
4. A rough, dry cough.

Courtesy of

The definitions I am stretching here are verbs 1. and 4. It might also be appropriate to use the noun definition of a tool, such as a hoe. Quoting the web site:

“For several years I immersed myself in quantum physics and pored through hundreds of scientific papers. I then had the task of decoding what was often impenetrable work into something that ordinary readers could understand.” – Lynne McTaggart

How sad for you Lynne, that you found the work impenetrable. Did you ignore those parts, or just make up a meaning? To be fair, I do not have the mathematical background to understand it either, but I do have a mathematical background, and I have not tried for several years. The confusion of ideas here is that mathematicians express themselves in numeric formulae to be confusing or obtuse. They do so because the work requires that level of precision. Any effort to dumb down the mathematics results in generalities that render the conclusions virtually meaningless. Lynne McTaggart set out to find a connection between quantum physics and New Age health practices, and lo and behold, she did! Hardly the scientific method to use science to prove your preconceived conclusions. Lynne McTaggart hacked quantum physics into little, irregular pieces that would be unrecognizable to the authors of quantum theory, and made even wilder surmises about the nature of things than do the quantum physicists themselves.

The mutual admiration society of Lynne McTaggart and Dr. Wayne Dyer was not lost on me either.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Confusion of Ideas 101, class 2: Stealing the high ground.

Confusion of Ideas 101, class 2: Stealing the high ground.

This is the tactic of accusing the other guy first and loudest, so that whomever is in the wrong, your side looks more victimized. This is the dismissive tactic of labeling your detractors something like, “the liberal press”, so that no matter how plausible the argument, the motives have been preemptively tarnished. Once this mighty sound bite has been loosed, those that have been conditioned to believe without question will dismiss the argument. Even though this kind of name calling is no rebuttal to any valid accusation, it stops people from listening. If used incessantly, it can even shut off the medium of communication before anyone notices that this has happened.


Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases

Special thanks to Yaoi Huntress Earth for bringing these articles to my attention.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I believe that Dr. Wayne Dyer is a gibbering idiot (part2)

Try as I might, I can’t find a way to prove my point without specific examples. This is no real surprise; proof becomes allegation without facts to hang the arguments upon. Using quotes is no assurance of making a point, however. Dr. Wayne Dyer’s statements are often vague enough to support wide interpretation. It appears to me that Dr. Dyer fancies himself a prophet, minister, or shaman, and like any of these believers, the defense that I have misunderstood his message is open to him. Pay no attention to the unbeliever in the back of the room. That being said, this is what my reasoning ability tells me about Dr. Dyer’s message.

Dr. Dyer credits his … I don’t rightly know what to call it … ministry of intent? … vision? … breakthrough into the world of New Age marketing? I’ll be kind and stick to vision. He credits Carlos Castaneda with providing him a starting point, specifically, “Intent is a force that exists in the universe. When sorcerers (those who live of the source) beckon intent, it comes to them and sets up the path for attainment, which means that sorcerers always accomplish what they set out to do.” Taken from The Active Side Of Infinity, Castaneda’s last book. Would it surprise you to learn that I have more than one problem with those two sentences? For example: “always”??? I have not read Carlos Castaneda since the 1970’s and I only ever read his first three books. I did not read his later work because someone whose opinion I trusted told me that, what started out as an interesting foray into anthropological philosophy and a potential method for a person to connect with their own hindbrain had degenerated into pure mysticism. I did not want Castaneda to lose his place in my journey, so I went no farther along his path. Perhaps I will attempt to unbolt that part of the New Age Frankenstein’s Monster at another time. For now, I return to Dr. Dyer.

Quoting from Dr. Dyer’s book, The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way, “Some prominent researchers believe that our intelligence, creativity, and imagination interact with the energy field of intention rather than being thoughts or elements in our brain.” This is a massive confusion of ideas, bordering on gibberish. “Some prominent researchers…” who? From a later sentence in the same book, “If scientific evidence appeals to you, I suggest you read The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe by Lynne McTaggart. Perhaps Ms. McTaggart is the “some” to which he refers? But no, he said “researchers”, not scientists, and all you need to be a researcher is a book and the ability to read it. Besides, Lynne McTaggart is not a scientist, she is a hack, in the oldest sense of the word, ruthlessly whittling down quantum physics to fit her preconceived ideas. “Prominent”? How? Do you need recognition from a higher authority, equally dubious peers, or just a following to be “prominent”? Moving on: “…believe that our intelligence, creativity, and imagination interact with the energy field of intention rather than being thoughts in our own brain”. Believe. How nice for them. And what, do they believe makes this “interaction” necessary? Intelligence is the measure of the result of a person’s knowledge, aptitude, and problem solving ability. There is wide dispute as to how to make this measurement, but if we agree that we all have it to a greater or lesser degree, and also agree that we have imagination and creativity, what else is required to perform an act of will besides a physical presence to commit the creative process to action? Dr. Dyer is attempting to remove the thought process and the will to commit action, and the decision to commit action or to procrastinate from my own brain and place them into the world of the mysterious and unseen. Boy, how nice to have an unseen force, and my failure to tap into it, to blame for my own failings. Balderdash.

One more example of the rampant confusion of ideas taking place in this pseudoscientific psudoreligious ersatz philosophy: “A tiny acorn with no apparent power to think or make plans for its future contains intention from the invisible field. If you cut the acorn open, you won’t see a giant oak tree, but you know it’s there.” Dr. Wayne Dyer, The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way. No it doesn’t, no it isn’t, and no, I don’t. What the acorn contains is the plant equivalent of a zygote, and enough nourishment to give it a start in the world, proper growing conditions being met. This is what I would see if I cut open an acorn. That’s what I know is there. The acorn has the potential to become a seedling oak, or get eaten by a squirrel, or shoot out the bottom of my lawnmower, etc. If this is what Dr. Dyer means by “intent”, I think his definition needs work. The giant oak tree that he thinks he sees in that acorn is the product of a plant system that, every year, creates energy by photosynthesis, hoards that energy in its root system, and uses that energy for a burst of growth every spring. In the course of its life, it will also suck up tons of water and minerals to use in this process. I don’t see the intent to become an oak tree when I look at a wet pile of dirt, but that dirt makes up more of my future oak tree than the contents of an acorn does. There is another problem with assigning intent to the acorn. Say the acorn had intent to be a giant oak. Did it also have intent to grow a limb so large that it was torn off in a storm? Did it then have the intent to be so wounded as to allow infection to kill it? Was its ignorance of the laws of increase of volumetric mass versus surface area an ultimate intent to commit suicide? When one has to draw an arbitrary line through a chain of causality that, in itself, is only one of several possible outcomes, one has bias. A biased opinion of the nature of the universe disproves itself.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Wherein I believe that Dr. Wayne Dyer is a gibbering idiot (part 1).

This is the post I was going to write yesterday, or at least part of it. I believe that Dr. Wayne Dyer is a gibbering idiot. I choose to believe that. Some of the other alternatives are worse, and they are not mutually exclusive, but I feel like believing one thing at a time. Since Dr. Wayne Dyer is not shy about sharing his beliefs, I won’t be either. I watched a PBS production where Dr. Wayne Dyer held his audience spellbound, and one could almost imagine sitting in that audience and hearing the muffled “whump....... whump” of brains imploding inside their skulls. Dr. Wayne Dyer spoke with the same certainty of purpose as Cotton Mather must have done on the day he sentenced innocent human beings to death for witchcraft. If ever there is a contest to find an Indo-European analog for Alan Keyes, I vote for Dr. Dyer.

The paragraph above is an illustration of why I think that Dr. Wayne Dyer is a gibbering idiot. I have gone on and on, but I haven’t really told you anything or explained why I feel that way. This is what Dr. Dyer did for an hour. His premise is that “Intention” exists as an all-pervasive force (yep, like Star Wars), external to the sentience of beings. He stated and restated this premise, mixed with name dropping and quotations from important-sounding people. It is going to be difficult to explain my position without quoting material that I am sure will be vigorously copyright-protected by those who stand to make money selling this budding cult, but I will try.

The first violation of credibility is the confusion of the audience, which was plain on some of their faces. I am as certain as I can be without asking, that there were people in that audience who were thinking, “I know he’s smart, everyone says so. If I can’t follow what he is saying, it must be because I am not smart enough to understand.” This is guaranteed to sell tapes, books, and other lecture materials. Another confusion of ideas of note was when he quoted physicist Max Planck, who being religious, saw the hand of God in the order he perceived in the quantum level of the Universe. Confusion: just because Max Planck said it, doesn’t automatically make it so. If Max Planck believes something and I believe something, it must be true? This was the kind of trick he was substituting for hard evidence over and over again. Do I know that his premise is false? No, BUT I know there is a very high probability, approaching certainty, that it is. I know that it was presented as a false premise, and therefore the conclusion does not necessarily obtain. Simpler but similar example:

Some trees grow fruit.
An apple is a fruit.
Therefore an apple comes from a tree.

Everything above is true, except for the “therefore”, making this a false syllogism. Substitute “blueberry” (which is not a berry and is not blue) for apple, and you see the problem. Dr. Dyer’s proofs, when he offers them, have similar problems, as I will attempt to demonstrate in part 2 of this discussion.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Thank you Charles Babbage, wherever you are.

. I can’t go any farther along without crediting one of the great thinkers of all time with giving me the name for my web site: Charles Babbage . The exact quote that started me thinking about all this is, "On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament!], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question." There are a couple of possible answers to Charles Babbage’s quandary that come to mind. The gentlemen in question were trying to make a joke at his expense, possibly for the added purpose of denigrating his invention, or they were trying to express their disbelief over a machine that could do sums. There are other possibilities, but these seem the most likely to me. The first is an example of snobbery, the second is a badly framed attempt to ask “Will the same answer come out if you change the numbers you put in?” meaning, “Is this for real?” I’d like to think that the Lords or Peers meant the latter, and were just too astounded to frame the question properly.
Anyway, this phrase, “Confusion of ideas” resonated within me, and I started to think of all the ways that human beings eschew logical thinking, or have half-truths and untruths thrust upon them. From there I started pondering the motivations for such actions, and I often found that the motives belonged to people other than the ones that were failing to exercise critical analysis on the world around them. There were systems, forces, and organizations that were being handsomely rewarded for promoting and fostering ignorance, or a deliberately skewed perspective of reality. I further discovered that most of these systems were built on a foundation of self-doubt and low self-esteem, in other words, the confusion of the victim. Like any good con game, much depends on the victim’s confidence in, and acceptance of , another’s authority, failure to check the facts, and unwillingness to accept that they have been conned. You might not agree with what I have to say, that is not your right, it is your prerogative, since rights must be granted or at least acknowledged by an external authority. I only hope that your disagreement is never caused by an unwillingness to admit culpability or gullibility. All of us are human, I think.

Once again, I have written a post that was not the one I sat down to write. I find that I am not ready to write that one. Soon, I promise.