Posts Tagged ‘argument from ignorance’
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 30, 2013
I’ve posted many times before about so-called ghost hunters and ghost hunting, and much of the time it has been in either good fun (by spoofing them) or a bit more serious in challenging them to be more rigorous in their methodology. However, in this post I want to point out the danger(s) involved in ghost hunting; as is so often illustrated on the What’s The Harm? website, when people buy into pseudoscientific and non-critical thinking, it can have profoundly negative effects.
Case in point: recently some moronic ghost hunters in New Orleans decided that in order to get the spirits supposedly inhabiting an old mansion from the 1850s to “come out and play” that they needed to set fire to the place. The result: it completely burned to the ground…
… The mansion, built in the 1850s, had survived through many incarnations, operating as a boarding house, a hotel and even an illegal gambling house. Though the mansion had been shuttered in recent years, its owner, the Arlene and Joseph Meraux Charitable Foundation, had plans to renovate the building. …
… The fire at LeBeau broke out at about 2 a.m. local time Friday, Nov. 21, and the building was almost completely destroyed by the time firefighters arrived. The ghost hunters had been trying to produce a reaction from the spirits they assumed resided there, by doing what TV ghost hunters call “provocation,” essentially making loud noises, yelling taunts at the ghosts and banging on walls. Frustrated that their efforts failed to yield any spirits, the group decided to light a fire. Whether this was intended to smoke the spirits out or simply burn the place down, the resulting flames soon reduced the mansion to ashes and four brick chimneys.
While many ghost hunters engage in harmless (and fruitless) fun, as this case shows, there can be a dark, dangerous side to the pursuit. In the wake of popular ghost-hunting TV shows, police across the country have seen a surge in people being arrested, injured and even killed while looking for ghosts.
In 2006, a woman was critically wounded looking for ghosts in a private house near a cemetery; she and a friend were trespassing, and the house owner mistook them for vandals and shot them. In 2010, a North Carolina man died while ghost hunting with a group of friends, hoping to see the ghost of a train that crashed years earlier. The ghost train did not appear — but a real train came around a bend and killed one man who couldn’t get out of the way in time. … [emphasis added]
Note the backwards thinking here: the ghost hunters in question were so hell-bent on “proving” the existence of the ghosts supposedly haunting this mansion that, when all else failed, they actually burnt the damn place down! It is revealing that the thought that perhaps there were no ghosts/spirits in the place at all seems to have never occurred to them, so strong was their confirmation bias in favor of all evidence pointing towards the existence of the ghosts/spirits…
Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: argument from ignorance, arson, burn, burned down, burnt, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, extrasensory perception, fire, flame, ghost busters, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghostbusters, ghosts, harm, haunted house, historic, house, infrared, LeBeau Plantation house, library, mansion, New Orleans, old, orb, paranormal, physics, pseudoscience, science, skepticism, spirits, Whats the Harm, woo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 31, 2013
One of the things I like to do on Halloween, besides handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, is watch scary and spooky themed movies. I recently re-watched one of the great ones from the 1980s: Ghostbusters. Did you ever notice that the character of Peter Venkman is actually kind of a skeptic? This fact is outlined in the following hilarious scene from the opening of the movie, where Venkman essentially calls out his colleagues for engaging in an argument from ignorance in his typical deadpan way as they search for a ghost…
**Dialogue from 0:19 – 0:38**
Ray Stantz: “Look!”
Egon Spengler: “This is hot, Ray.”
Ray: “Symmetrical book stacking, just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.”
Peter Venkman: “You’re right, no human being would stack books like this.”
Posted in ghosts & paranormal, humor | Tagged: argument from ignorance, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, extrasensory perception, ghost busters, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghostbusters, ghosts, Halloween, haunted house, humor, infrared, library, orb, paranormal, physics, pseudoscience, science, skepticism, spirits, woo | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on February 2, 2011
Recently, I’ve posted about how Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly displayed a great deal of scientific ignorance when he tried to argue that God exists because “we cannot explain the tides”. Of course, scientists do know how the tides work (as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson states: it’s gravity from the Moon, duh); but rather than admit his error, Bill O’Reilly has decided to double down on the stupid. Just watch this…
Once again, O’Reilly makes the all-too-common argument from ignorance, specifically the god-of-the-gaps argument. Of course, we actually do have scientific answers to many of the questions brought up by Mr. O’Reilly. Let us examine some of his statements/claims… Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in physics denial/woo, religion | Tagged: argument from ignorance, astronomy, astrophysics, atheism, atheist, Bill O'Reilly, Deimos, ET, evolution, extra terrestrial, FN, Fox News, God, god of the gaps, gravity, Isaac Newton, life, mars, Moon, Newton, O'Reilly, ocean, Phobos, physics, stars, Sun, tidal forces, tides, universal law of gravitation, universe, water | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 29, 2011
As a humorous follow-up to my recent post called God, Gravity, and the Anti-Science Lunacy of Bill O’Reilly, I just wanted to share a hilarious clip from The Colbert Report with you. In it, Colbert does a marvelous job of, in his satirical way, calling Bill O’Reilly to the carpet on his god-of-the-gaps argument when he says:
Now, like all great theologies, Bill’s can be boiled down to one sentence: “There must be a God, because I don’t know how things work!”
In addition, Stephen Colbert is surprised when astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson drops by for a visit and explains why the tides actually work :) …
Posted in humor, physics denial/woo, religion | Tagged: American Atheists, argument from ignorance, astrophysicist, astrophysics, atheism, atheist, Bill O'Reilly, billboards, Colbert, Colbert Report, David Silverman, FN, Fox News, God, god of the gaps, gravity, Isaac Newton, Moon, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Newton, O'Reilly, O'Reilly Factor, ocean, Stephen Colbert, tidal forces, tides, universal law of gravitation, universe, water | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2011
Oh man. As a high school & college physics professor, I have to say that I’ve heard some pretty bad arguments regarding physics in my day, but I think this one is worth a mention: Fox News celebrity Bill O’Reilly displays his gross ignorance of basic physics by… well, by ignoring gravity.
Apparently, Bill O’Reilly has never heard of the moon. In a debate Tuesday with Dave Silverman, head of the American Atheist group behind this, the Fox host tried to prove the existence of God by citing the unknowable mysteries of the tides. “I’ll tell you why [religion is] not a scam, in my opinion,” he told Silverman. “Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can’t explain why the tide goes in.” …
Yup, he’s ignoring gravity and replacing it with God. Just watch the video for yourself (the relevant part begins at the 1:40 mark)…
Wow… just, wow. Apprently, Mr. O’Reilly has never studied the universal law of gravitation (which is standard in any high school physics class) which explains quite clearly – without any mention of God, Zeus, Thor, or Santa Claus – where tidal forces come from. Essentially, tides in Earth’s oceans exist because one side of our planet is closer to the Moon (or the Sun, both exert tides) than the other. Thus, the side closer to the Moon (Sun) is pulled slightly more than the side further away from the Moon, resulting in the tidal bulges which lead to the rising and falling of the oceans. This article on Wikipedia (ever heard of Google, Mr. O’Reilly?) and graphic can help illustrate the point I’m making:
Graphic of tidal forces; the gravity field is generated by a body to the right. The top picture shows the gravitational forces; the bottom shows their residual once the field of the sphere is subtracted; this is the tidal force. Source: Wikipedia
Essentially, O’Reilly is making a stunningly stupid argument from ignorance (in this case known as the god-of-the-gaps) by saying that just because he doesn’t know how the tides work, then that must mean that his version of God is real. Of course, it might be interesting to ask Mr. O’Reilly’s feelings on the matter after he’s had a lesson in basic physics – would he then conclude that the tides are evidence against the existence of God? That precarious position is precisely why serious theologians & philosophers do not engage in arguing from ignorance.
Such ham-fisted arguments are also why natural science separated itself from supernatural causes back in the 19th century as natural philosophy transitioned into what we now call modern science. It seems that O’Reilly is still stuck in the 1800s.
In closing, despite my atheism, if Mr. O’Reilly or anyone wants to believe in God, that’s fine by me I suppose, just so long as they don’t piss all over science in the process.
Posted in physics denial/woo, religion | Tagged: American Atheists, argument from ignorance, atheism, atheist, Bill O'Reilly, billboards, David Silverman, FN, Fox News, God, god of the gaps, gravity, Isaac Newton, Moon, Newton, O'Reilly, O'Reilly Factor, ocean, tidal forces, tides, universal law of gravitation, universe, water | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 30, 2010
Oh my… some days something crosses my email inbox, and while a part of me says “this is just too silly, let it go” another part of me insists that this is simply something which must be dealt with in the most appropriate manner: by mocking it for the laughing stock that it is :)
Case in point: there is a video circulating on the Interwebs of a filmmaker, George Clarke, claiming – seriously, believe it or not – that he’s seen old footage from a 1928 Charlie Chaplin movie which “proves” the existence of a time traveler! His evidence consists of his claim that he’s seen what appears to him to be a mobile phone in the hands of a woman in the film. I’m not kidding, you just have to watch this stupidity in order to believe it…
At the 0:40 point in the video, he makes a blatant argument from ignorance: “Nobody can give me an explanation for what you’re about to see.” Using this sloppy reasoning, he goes on to state later in the video that the only possible explanation has to be that she’s a time traveler holding a modern day cellphone (presumably one which has been upgraded by The Doctor ;) )
I think the best response I’ve seen to this silliness came from a post on the JREF Forum regarding this claim via an appeal to Occam’s Razor. I share that post with you here…
So which is more likely? That someone figured out how to travel back in time and once doing that, figured our how to travel through space roughly 886,973,634,480 miles (based on the Galaxy’s speed of approx 552 Km/s and the travel of 82 years and not counting leap year days or current time vs time that the shot was filmed)? And mind you, that’s not counting in the orbital speed of the Sun in the Galaxy (220 Km/s) over that time.
That someone of advanced age (and possibly diminished hearing) is wearing and holding onto a hearing assist device of the era?
I know which one I’m putting my money on.
So, because MR. Clarke states that “it’s unexplainable” then he’s going to explain it by appealing to time travel? Personally, I think that leprechauns are a much more valid explanation, because I simply cannot explain it any other way! ‘Nuff said.
Posted in humor, physics denial/woo | Tagged: argument from ignorance, cellphone, Charlie Chaplin, George Clarke, humor, iPhone, Occam's Razor, phone, physics, The Circus, The Doctor, time, time travel, time traveler, woo | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on May 30, 2010
A couple of weeks back, a bombshell of an announcement hit the scientific world: the first artificial cell has been synthesized in the lab. Needless to say, this is a big deal, because it not only has vast implications for bio- & genetic engineering, but the discovery can help fill in gaps in our knowledge of how life evolved naturally from non-life (see my previous blog post on this issue – The God-of-the-Gaps Just Got Smaller: Link Found Between Life & Inorganic Matter)
What’s also interesting is the reaction from some religious & creationist circles concerning this discovery. First, there is the response from the Catholic Church warning scientists not to “play God”…
Catholic Church officials said Friday that the recently created first synthetic cell could be a positive development if correctly used, but warned scientists that only God can create life.
Vatican and Italian church officials were mostly cautious in their first reaction to the announcement from the United States that researchers had produced a living cell containing manmade DNA. They warned scientists of the ethical responsibility of scientific progress and said that the manner in which the innovation is applied in the future will be crucial.
“It’s a great scientific discovery. Now we have to understand how it will be implemented in the future,” Monsignor Rino Fisichella, the Vatican’s top bioethics official, told Associated Press Television News.
“If we ascertain that it is for the good of all, of the environment and man in it, we’ll keep the same judgment,” he said. “If, on the other hand, the use of this discovery should turn against the dignity of and respect for human life, then our judgment would change.”
I’m all for proceeding cautiously in this particular research, because there is the potential for abuse, just as there is with any kind of new technology. But read between the lines of what the Vatican is saying – they seem to be implying that, somehow, this artificial life is fundamentally different from “normal” life simply because of the manner in which it was created.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in creationism, religion | Tagged: abiogenesis, argument from ignorance, Bible, biology, Catholic Church, chemical evolution, chemistry, Craig Venter, creationism, DNA, evolution, faith, God, god of the gaps, ID, inorganic, intelligent design, life, matter, old earth creationism, organic, origin of life, Reasons to Believe, religion, RNA, theology, Vatican | 2 Comments »