TAUTOLOGY

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on September 9th, 2009 by Ed

The next phase in the coordinated campaign of anti-reform rhetoric in the health care debate apparently is to dip back into the Bush 2004 playbook and trot out the Red Herrings. I draw your attention to a recent editorial entitled "Fix the costs first." To wit:

The need for health reform is as plain as the headline on the front page of Tuesday's editions of The Buffalo News: "Salaried employees suffer loss of health care, reduced pensions due to Delphi bankruptcy." The system is falling apart. The wailing from the political right notwithstanding, without reform, we will have rationing.

But those on the left who continue to deny that controlling costs must be the first order of business need to read the same story. Today it's Delphi Corp. in Lockport, a company that is under severe economic strain. But as the costs of health care continue to soar — reaching 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2017 — more companies will find themselves under severe economic strain. Employer-based health care will become increasingly less available.

It's only a matter of time until we are besieged with warnings about capping malpractice claims.

Costs are not causing the problem, they are the end result of it. Drawing upon my experience in the world of medical collections – briefly, lest I start having flashbacks – the average hospital writes off tens of millions of dollars in services annually. That is to say lots of people are receiving services for which they don't pay. We know that emergency rooms are required by Federal law to treat any patient who presents himself regardless of ability to pay. For people without health insurance and with meager incomes, this becomes the sole source of medical care. Hospitals attempt to compensate for services they essentially provide for free by breaking it off in the ass of every patient with half-decent insurance. So the next guy through the door with a Blue Cross PPO gets charged $75 for an ibuprofen in an effort to make up the difference. Hospitals then pay insurers a discounted bulk rate for claims – thousands at a time – according an arcane formula that ends up being slightly more complicated than a group of astronauts doing their taxes in Latin. In short, they charge you $75 to get a negotiated payment of $60 from your insurance to start compensating for the fact that they just did a $15,000 operation to pull the steering column of a 1994 Toyota Tercel out of the sternum of an uninsured teenager.

The costs can't be controlled prior to extending coverage to everyone. The presence of 50 million uninsured people is in fact contributing mightily to the disconnect between the costs of medical care and reality. Bask in the rich irony as the Glenn Beck fan in the next cubicle wails loudly about how he isn't going to pay for anyone else's health insurance. We already pay for the uninsured. It's just a big, disorganized trainwreck, clearly superior to a government-administered program which would achieve the exact same end result.

HERE IS A GRAPH. NOW LET'S DO SOME EUGENICS.

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on September 2nd, 2009 by Ed

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few days regarding the relationship among income, genetics, and intelligence. A controversial paper by economist Bruce Sacerdote purports to show that the relationship between parental income and children's income is different for biological and adopted children. Biological kids make more money as parents' income increases whereas adopted kids have a flat income curve as parental income increases. Mike has a great writeup (follow the link) explaining the high school-caliber errors in the author's ultimate conclusion that intelligence is passed down genetically, which is stacked upon the equally fallacious claim that high income = intelligence. In other words, Prof. Sacerdote presents some very interesting if deceiving findings – I can't emphasize enough Mike's point about the four year difference in mean age between the groups of children – and then closes with some nice eugenics.

Economists are useful people to have around in the academic world. They have great quantitative skills and, in my experience, a keen eye for research design. Unfortunately most of them think they are social scientists. They aren't. They are mathematicians practicing a hard science. They should not do political science, biology, or sociology any more than practitioners of those disciplines should do economics. But economists have the misfortune of seeing the entire world in rational choice terms and a field which encourages them to make the most immoderate, speculative conclusions possible based on their findings.

Prof. Sacerdote, for example, could have written a paper in which he said "Here is a very interesting disparity I have uncovered. I hope this encourages others to study this issue and find out what's going on here." Nah. As economists like to do, he just solves the dilemma himself at the end of the paper: it's genetic. People who make more money are smarter than people who make less, and that intelligence is passed on to their children. See how much easier that was compared to doing all that messy "research" and using "logic"?

Similarly, from the are-you-fucking-kidding file we have this entry on Harvard economist Greg Mankiw's blog. This man is a very good economist. He is famous. He has achieved much in his academic and professional career. Now read this:

The NY Times Economix blog offers us the above graph, showing that kids from higher income families get higher average SAT scores.

Of course! But so what? This fact tells us nothing about the causal impact of income on test scores. (Economix does not advance a causal interpretation, but nor does it warn readers against it.)

This graph is a good example of omitted variable bias, a statistical issue discussed in Chapter 2 of my favorite textbook. The key omitted variable here is parents' IQ. Smart parents make more money and pass those good genes on to their offspring.

Suppose we were to graph average SAT scores by the number of bathrooms a student has in his or her family home. That curve would also likely slope upward. (After all, people with more money buy larger homes with more bathrooms.) But it would be a mistake to conclude that installing an extra toilet raises yours kids' SAT scores.

Is this a joke? He opens by recognizing that the data offer no evidence whatsoever about causality and closes with a warning about making spurious and unwarranted conclusions about causality when correlation is present. Which is cute, because between those two statements he grabs his ankles, reaches deep within his ass, and pulls out the uncited, unwarranted, and baseless conclusion that the real causal mechanism here is genetics. A goddamn college freshman could look at the relationship between income and SAT scores and conclude, "Hmm. Well, parents with more money can afford expensive schools and SAT prep courses." That is just about the most basic example of cause and effect one could imagine.

If you took your car to a mechanic because the alternator was shot – you can open the hood and plainly see that the alternator is burnt out and not functioning – a reasonable mechanic would say "Hey, you need a new alternator." If you took the same car to an economist, he or (rarely) she would say "The problem is obvious. Your parents have low IQs, and thus you have inherited genes which make you too dumb to pick out a car that will be free of mechanical problems." If that analogy seems ridiculous, that is exactly what Mankiw has done here. He has ignored the overwhelmingly obvious explanation and substituted his own imagined causal mechanism.

Economists may not suck at causal inferences universally, but the ones that do it well and judiciously are well-hidden. Their field provides perverse incentives to draw attention to one's work by stating the biggest, most shocking conclusion that can be wrung from the data, however tenuous the evidence. Either that or they just suck at playing social scientist. Causality is determined by hypothesis testing and supported with evidence. When hypotheses can't be thoroughly tested, statements about causality should at least adhere to basic logic. Showing a correlation and then going off half-assed on one's own preferred explanation of How the World Works is not science. And it is particularly unwelcome when that preferred explanation happens to be 19th Century eugenics and a handful of social Darwinism.

THE SPURIOUS AND THE UNSPURIOUS

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on August 6th, 2009 by Ed

I just had a long phone conversation with Glenn Reynolds (edit: NOT REALLY. This is a literary device known as "making shit up" for the sake of humor). He told me that he is going to post a lengthy correction and apology regarding a post he made on March 2. Here is what he said:

THE DOW-JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE since the passage of the stimulus bill. Looks like a vote of “no confidence” to me.

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In the five months since he decided that the DJIA was a reliable indicator of Presidential and/or policy performance the benchmark index has risen by 37%. 37%! So tomorrow Glenn is going to write about how the Market God has bestowed upon our President the most confident of votes.

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Noting that two things happen at the same time and assuming that causality exists between them is called spurious correlation. It is what stupid people do when they are getting ready to make really bad predictions – not just the bad "I think this is the Cubs' year" kind, the epic-bad JFK "I think it's OK to leave the top off the convertible today" kind – or lose a lot of money in the stock market. The fact that both the stimulus and the Dow Jones Average are related to the same central theme (our macro-economy) creates the reassuring but incorrect sense that correlation does in fact imply causation. False. Anything can be correlated with market movement and causality is always – always – a bad assumption. The market is like secret recipe hobo stew: there are so goddamn many ingredients, many of which the average person does not care to know about, that no one can say with certainty what causes what.

To wit: let's say I shaved my balls on Friday. Note that the market responded positively, only to once again decline as a vote of no confidence when the team of international observers (led by Jimmy Carter, former Canadian PM Brian Mulrooney, and the Dalai Lama) detected the growth of stubble.

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The evidence is beyond dispute. My balls move markets.

Back in January the USA Today noted that the stock market performs significantly better – nearly 25% – in years in which the Steelers win the Super Bowl. And that America-hating prick Larry Fitzgerald almost ruined it all.

The market is not rational regardless of how many business school professors pitched tents over its majesty as an arbiter of every political, social, and economic process. Remember, the market once told us that DrKoop.com was worth $45/share. It decided that theGlobe.com was worth $97/share (3 months later: a dime). It is not a parliament which issues meaningful votes of confidence and no confidence. Only a long view of market trends can provide useful (and retrospective, mind you) insights. Trying to use its day-to-day and week-to-week fluctuations as evidence of one's preferred version of current events is logical to the same extent that cavemen banging on drums to make the sun rise (and it worked! every day!) made sense.

ED vs. LOGICAL FALLACIES, PART 22: FALLACIES OF AGGREGATION

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on July 22nd, 2009 by Ed

It has been a while. As long as I'm being boring this week, let's really stretch our legs and take the dog for a walk.

Attributing the characteristics of a group to its individual members lies at the root of a vast portion of the bad logic in this world (and certainly a majority of the bad social science). In the most basic sensee, aggregation destroys data. And whether in life, politics, or academia, we often want but cannot have that data. We don't know what each member of an audience thinks of a performance; all we know is that the crowd applauded at the end. We want to know what kind of people voted for Obama, but we know only that 54% of voters did. We want to know if liberals or conservatives are experiencing more home mortgage foreclosures, but the only information we have are general foreclosure statistics.

A basic fallacy of aggregation assumes the actions or decisions of an individual based on a group. Mike was at the concert and the crowd cheered loudly, so Mike must have enjoyed it. White people like Arrested Development, so Ed likes it. These may be good guesses, but playing the odds is not the same as being logical. Knowing that Jim Inhofe is a Senator and that the Senate is about to confirm Sotomayor, would we conclude that Mitch McConnell voted to confirm her? Yeah, not really.

A second kind of fallacy is particularly prominent in sociological, political, and economic research because of the preponderance of pooled data (election results, jury verdicts, unemployment rates, the Gross National Product, etc.). A famous sociologist termed it the "Ecological Fallacy" in 1950. An ecological fallacy correlates pieces of aggregate data without evidence that a relationship exists among the data. Here is a basic example.

In the 2008 Election, residents in a particular state were asked to vote on Proposition 1. In City A, Prop 1 got 5% Yes votes. In City B, the Yes votes were 40%. Fine. But we also note that 5% of the population in City A is Latino – as are 40% of the residents of City B. Ergo we conclude, seemingly quite logically, that Latinos voted for Prop 1 and non-Latinos didn't. The percentage of Yes votes and Latinos is equal in both cities. Lacking detailed data about who voted for what and why, commentators often make leaps of faith along these lines. Here's the problem. What if Prop 1 is, "Should public services throughout the state, including schooling, be conducted solely in English?" City A has few Latinos, the ethnic group most likely to want or need services offered in a different language. Because there are few people who are likely to be native Spanish speakers in City A, voters there neither think nor care much about English-only laws. But in City B, the large Latino population makes the issue highly contentious and polarizes non-Latino voters. So City B is 40% Latino, but the 40% voting for Prop 1 are the white people who feel threatened by the multilingual environment in which they live. The fact that the Yes votes and percentage of Latinos in each city are equal does not imply a direct correlation. The true relationship among the data, in this hypothetical, is entirely different than the numbers would suggest.

The foreclosure maps which are popping up in newspapers and around the interwebs are just too tempting for many people. Note the county-level foreclosure rate, throw in some election data, and start making conclusions about partisan balance and imprudent lending. Were it that simple, I and most of my colleagues would be out of a job and contributing mightily to the foreclosure landscape. The data lost in aggregation are often of great interest but no amount of rationalization can recreate them from the pale substitute of numerous data points smashed together in one big, indistinct pile.

CAUSALITY

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies, Quick Hits on December 3rd, 2008 by Ed

Watch Grover Norquist explain how the current recession is a result of the Democrats taking control of the Senate in 2006. This caused a recession because everyone knew that the Democratic takeover meant that higher taxes were on the way in 2010.

The logic is so flawless it's stunning.

SEARCHING FOR THE TRILLION-DOLLAR EARMARK

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies, Rants on October 15th, 2008 by Ed

Rather than resorting to my usual marathon of words, today I intend to use some numbers to prove that a major McCain talking point (and a staple of right-wing rhetoric) has something in common with Trig Palin.

"I can eliminate $100 billion of wasteful and earmark spending immediately–35 billion in big spending bills in the last two years, and another 65 billion that has already been made a permanent part of the budget." — Sen. McCain, All Things Considered, April 23, 2008

How does Gramps McCain's mysteriously-derived estimate of earmark spending compare to calculations by organizations that bother with "facts" and "numbers"?

John McCain: earmarks = $100 billion
Anti-tax hawks Citizens Against Government Waste: FY 2008 earmarks = $17.2 billion
Anti-tax hawks Taxpayers for Common Sense: FY 2008 earmarks = $18.3 billion

McCain magically (and without explanation, even when pressed, of where the $100 billion figure comes from) quintuples the amount of "wasteful spending" calculated by people who follow such matters for a living. More importantly, the premise of his argument is downright ridiculous when we look at earmarks in context. Yes, yes, I know. Republicans hate context. Context has a pronounced liberal bias. Consider the following.

FY 2008 earmark spending: ~$18,000,000,000 (#1 state: Alaska)**
Annual cost, tax-deductible home mortgage interest: $65,000,000,000
Bailout of sinking insurance giant AIG: $85,000,000,000
FY 2008 Iraq War spending: ~$155,000,000,000
FY 2008 cost of Bush tax cuts: $189,100,000,000
FY 2008 cost of Bush tax cuts with AMT "relief": $247,400,000,000
FY 2008 interest on the Federal debt: $261,000,000,000
FY 2008 Dept. of Defense budget (excluding Iraq): $481,000,000,000
FY 2008 Social Security: $608,000,000,000
Financial "rescue" plan: $700,000,000,000
FY 2008 Federal Budget: ~$3,000,000,000,000
National Debt as of 9/30/08: ~$10,000,000,000,000

FY 2008 Earmarks as a percentage of the Federal budget: 0.6%

That's right, folks! Vote for John McCain and in the fantasy world in which he can eliminate all Congressional earmarks (using the line-item veto….which was just declared unconsitutional by Scalia and Thomas ten years ago) you can maybe, kinda, potentially (but probably not) save six-tenths of a percent of the annual Federal outlay of your hard-earned dollars! Yes, truly those wasteful earmarks for things like cancer research and military aid to Israel (which McCain hates, right? Let's ask Joe Lieberman) are the cause of our economic difficulties.

Let's go one step further, critically examining the common right-wing bitching point about "unnecessary" Federal spending of the non-earmarked kind.

FY 2008 budget, Environmental Protection Agency: $7.2 billion
FY 2008 Deparment of Labor budget: $10.6 billion
FY 2008 Department of Interior budget: $10.6 billion
FY 2008 Treasury Department budget: $12.1 billion
Iraq War in FY 2008: $12.9 billion per month
FY 2008 Bush tax cuts to top 1% of income earners alone: $79.5 billion

For the mathematically challenged – and polling indicates that about 45% of you are – the annual budgets of your least favorite Cabinet agencies, if completely eliminated, would not fund the Iraq War for 30 days. To put it another way, the combined budget of Labor and Interior ($21.2 billion) is 4.4% of the Department of Defense budget or 3.5% of the cost of Social Security for one year. This year we spent four times as much giving tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy (top 1% = incomes greater than $275,000) as we did on the Departments of Labor and Interior combined.

The point, and one that will surely be lost on McCain, is not that earmarks or the Department of Labor are productive uses of our financial resources. The point is that eliminating them would not make the slightest goddamn difference when considered in the context of our Federal budget. It is a spit in the ocean. A grain of sand in the Sahara. A snowflake on a glacier. "Wasteful" or not, earmarks and the budgets of agencies most loathed by conservatives represent piss-ant sums compared to the items that perennially dominate the budget. Uncle Sam saving the money spent on earmarks would be about as meaningful as a millionaire with $100 million in debt finding a quarter in his couch. McCain's earmark crusade fits snugly into the narrative about those shiftless tax-and-spend libruls. But like so much of the conservative canon, it makes sense only as long as one remains stunningly ignorant of the facts.

**Is life hilarious or what? I could not make this shit up if I tried.

ED vs. LOGICAL FALLACIES, PART 21: A SPECIAL NON CAUSA

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on July 9th, 2008 by Ed

It's been a while. Let's jump back in with a very special kind of non causa fallacy. Longtime Fox News fans are going to feel right at home here.

Like emotionally-healthy former President Richard Nixon, Bill O'Reilly has an "enemies list" of sorts. He calls it the "Coward List." It contains more than two dozen names across the political spectrum, including Dick Cheney, "the heads of oil companies," Howard Dean, "NPR" and Jane Fonda. This list of people – and entities, I suppose – share one thing in common. They all refuse Bill's generous invitations to appear on The Factor. They refuse to do this because they are afraid, of course, to expose themselves to the superior intellect and rhetorical powers of Bill O'Reilly.

Early in this presidential primary season, nearly every Democratic candidate refused to appear on a Fox News-sponsored debate. Their motive, of course, is that they were too afraid to expose their indefensible, hysterical politics to the light of truth and fairness that is a Chris Wallace/John Gibson moderated debate.

There is a subset of people in the world with very high opinions of themselves, opinions as high as their rhetorical skills are shitty, who interpret your refusal to have anything to do with them as an endorsement of their beliefs. You don't want to debate Bill O'Reilly because, goddammit, you just know he's right. Your refusal is enough evidence to prove that you are wrong. If you're right, why wouldn't you go on the show? Makes sense to me!

Like all non causa fallacies, this statement could potentially be true. Maybe Jane Fonda really is afraid to be proven wrong and she knows BillO will do it. Yeah, that's one possibility. I guess. Or maybe she doesn't want to debate him for the same reason that she doesn't want to debate the homeless guy who drops his pants for nickels at the bus station.

Declining to debate a person or group probably has a lot more to do with your maturity level and tolerance for stupidity than the validity of your argument. Maybe you don't like arguing with people who aren't intelligent enough to realize when they are proven wrong. Maybe you don't enjoy people who refuse to admit being wrong no matter how obvious you make it. Maybe you're not out to change the mind of every retard you meet on the internet or in a bar. Maybe you can detect situations in which another person simply wants to yell at you rather than have a real discussion. These are all valid reasons, all of which are more plausible than fear.

When someone makes him- or herself a rhetorical pariah, refusing to play the game makes perfect sense. What makes no sense at all is drawing a conclusions about an argument based on how willing people are to argue with their drunk, ranting uncle or the guy talking to himself on the bus.

BUNDLED SERVICES

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on May 29th, 2008 by Ed

One anti-gay marriage opinion column, three arguments, three logical fallacies. That's efficiency!

1. It is not the business of judges to make public policy.

Red herring with a dose of false dilemma. The question is about the legality of gay marriage, not some tired talking point about activist judges greedily re-writing the law. Disputes over marriage laws end up in the legal system because that is where we resolve legal disputes. He attempts to bolster that argument by (subjectively and pejoritatively) characterizing legal decision-making as "mak(ing) public policy." That's one way to describe it. Alternatively, I'd characterize the courts' work as "fulfilling their vital and constitutionally mandated responsibility to our democratic system by providing a peaceful and impartial forum for the resolution of disputes over matters of law." But that's just me.

2. The radical transformation of marriage won't end with same-sex weddings.

Slippery slooooooooooooooooooope! Man on llama! Man on tree! Orgies! Pedophilia! Corpsefucking! Bigamy! Trigamy! Mormon Hold'em! Circle jerks! Cleveland steamers! Alabama hot pockets! Tennessee taco swaps! Daisy chains for satan! Where will it stop??!?!11!?!?!one?!?!!!!!!one!111!!???

3. Society has a vested interest in promoting only traditional marriage.

Which is why we have drive-thru Vegas weddings and no-questions-asked quickie divorces, right? Our legal and social respect for the sacred institution of Hetero Marriage is clearly deep and abiding. That is why two intelligent and committed gay people cannot get married but two mouthbreathing idiots can meet in a trailer park, bond over their shared struggle against rickets, and get married in 10 minutes at the courthouse before rushing home to tend to their meth labs. Their inevitable divorce, motivated by the realization that married people qualify for fewer food stamps, will be just as rapid. The author goes on to connect marriage and the production of children, apparently unaware that the latter can occur in the absence of the former. Sure, a solid marriage is a good environment for child-raising. But the author fails to support his implication that it is either the best or only one.

And, for the record, the lowest divorce rate in the nation? Liberal, elitist, homo-loving Massachusetts. The highest, discounting Nevada? Rednecked, god-fearing, homo-hating Arkansas.

(thanks, non-seq)

ED vs. LOGICAL FALLACIES, PART 20: SLIPPERY SLOPE

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on May 6th, 2008 by Ed

My research isn't exactly scintillating to the average person. It's an application of concepts from a physical science (geography) to a social one (political science) in an effort to expand what we know about things like partisanship and voter turnout. Oh, but the last sentence of my dissertation is really interesting: "In conclusion, fire up the gas chambers and start killing people."

According to some people, this is the inevitable conclusion of science. It's also one of the most bleedingly obvious examples of a slippery slope argument that you're likely to see.

Slippery slopes are technically a subset of non causa pro causa fallacies, but they're unique in their incremental approach. A standard NC argument asserts (wrongly) that A causes B. The slippery slope asserts that A causes B, which in turn causes C, D, and E, which ultimately causes F. The trick is to get the listener to accept the argument by presenting plausible arguments (banning assault rifles opens the door for other kinds of weapons to be banned) contained in an implausible larger argument (banning assault rifles inevitably leads to a ban on all gun ownership).

Cue Ben Stein. Is he ready? I know I just used him last week, but I think he's rested.

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Crouch: Good word, good word.

And there we have it. "Science" leads to killing people. We start with a harmless idea about the evolution of bacteria and, some indeterminate number of steps later, we're gassing people. The argument leaves many questions unanswered, most likely because Mr. Stein is not very good at making arguments. For instance, can we clarify what "science" is? Does geography count? Sociology? Library Science? Second, how many steps are between Librarianship and Genocide? Is there any possibility for intervention before we get to mass murder?

Anton Scalia, dissenting in Lawrence v Texas, approves.

State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today’s decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.

There you have it; if a ridiculous, unenforceable "sodomy" law is repealed and we let teh gays butt-fuck with impunity, it's only a matter of time until incest and man-on-llama are legal.**

The implied undercurrent of every slippery slope argument is "Where will this madness end?" It disregards the human capacity to understand subtle differences (i.e., consenting adults having sex versus someone ass-plowing a barnyard animal) because the authors of such arguments likely lack it. In my experience, the best way to destroy a slippery slope is not by pointing out the illogic (too much effort expended on a dunce who probably won't accept your argument anyway) but simply by turning it around. The next time you hear "If gay marriage is OK, why not polygamy or man-on-dog?" feel free to respond with "OK, if you want to play the slippery slope game, if it's legal to ban gay marriage, why not interracial marriage? Or inter-religious marriage? WHERE DOES IT STOP?!?!?"

You'll feel dirty, but you did it for the greater good.

**Google image search failed me, but this is where I wanted to post a picture of a very worried-looking llama. Turns out they're relatively unflappable.

ED vs. LOGICAL FALLACIES, PART 19: INCREDULITY

Posted in Ed vs. Logical Fallacies on April 28th, 2008 by Ed

Reading reviews of the Ben Stein trainwreck Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (which is a funny title, but probably not in the way they intended) is good fun. I suppose there's no definitive way to determine if a film is good or bad, but here's a hint: it's not looking good when you make a piece of red meat for ultra-conservative nutcase Americans and Fox News calls it "sloppy, all-over-the-place, poorly made (and not just a little boring) 'exposé' of the scientific community" and calls its director "either completely nuts or so avaricious that he's abandoned all good sense to make a buck." Good times.

Rather than dignify the creationist nonsense that Stein regurgitates, let's talk about the amusing lengths to which creationism advocates go to turn their little fairy tale into a legitimate science. Specifically, the effort to sell this to the courts as Intelligent Design: All Scientific and Shit revolves around the idea of "irreducible complexity." It is, of course, based on a ridiculously transparent logical fallacy – the Argument from Incredulity.

This fallacy is basically the assertion that something cannot be true (or should be presumed false) because one personally finds it impossible, implausible, or incomprehensible. In other words, "I don't believe that, ergo it isn't true." If this sounds like a fairly silly thing upon which to base an entire belief system and sociopolitical movement, you're not alone in your skepticism.

Irreducible Complexity is the argument that certain biological processes are too complex to be explained by evolutionary theory. Of course "too complex to be explained by science" means that the correct explanation is provided by Genesis.** Here's the problem, though…there are plenty of explanations for every phenomenon purported to support this theory. Creationists simply respond that these explanations are not plausible (ginandtacos preferred whipping boy, Michael Behe, provides a great example of this logic in Kitzmiller v Dover). In other words, "I don't understand it / I don't believe it, therefore it is not true."

Try it out! It's fun. For example, a friend of mine once explained to me how the internet works. I did not understand a goddamn bit of it. It just went directly over my head. Therefore….there is no existing theory that can explain how the internet works except "God made it." Neither can I believe anyone would use an argument this stupid. Therefore it can't be happening. The copious evidence to the contrary that is created every time a creationist opens his or her mouth does not persuade me.

**Not the band

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