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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Logan Atone, My Other Blog

I realized that religion has a treasure trove of reasoning schemes just ripe for analysis, so I've been spending a lot of my time building and participating in the Logan Atone blog. Its an equal partnership collaboration between two Christians and I.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Cycle of Action

The Cycle of Action
Adapted from pg. 20 of "Turning Numbers Into Knowledge", by Johnathan G. Koomey, and from "The Design of Everyday Things", by Norman, See it at Amazon

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Unpacking" the Atonement Comments Opened 20100125

This is a continuation of comments from "Unpacking" The Atonement Project.
Project members are MattK, RichD, and Harlan Quinn.
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Arguments from Popular Opinion Scheme (Ad Populum)

aka, the Ad Populum Argument Scheme
* If a large majority in a particular reference group G accepts A as true (false), then there exists a defeasible presumption in favor of (against) A
* A large majority accepts A as true (false).
* Therefore, there exists a presumption in favor of (against) A

This form of the argument might use polls or statistics meant to measure public opinion. This argument may or may not accurately reflect a real world state, but the fact that so many people commit to it, gives it a presumption that it does accurately reflect a real world state. (Walton, Reed, Macagno. 125)

Critical Questions regarding the argument scheme.
1. Is it really the case that a large majority of the particular reference group accepts A as true?
2. Is there any other available evidence that would support the assumption that A is false?
3. What reason is there for thinking that the view of this large majority is likely to be right?

In order to determine if it does accurately reflect a real world state, whatever claim is being made must be verified.  Data gathering must be done with an emphasis on data about what its causes are, where it came from, what it interacts with, what it depends on and what it causes. 

Variant of the Basic Form of Ad Populum Argument Scheme
1. Position to Know
2. Expert Opinion
3. Deliberation
4. Moral Justification (Excuse subtype)
5. Moral Justification
6. Common Folks
7. Rhetoric of Belonging
8. Snob Appeal
9. Appeal to Vanity

Walton, Reed, Macagno. Argumentation Schemes. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008, pgs 122-131
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Diagramming Arguments for Study

On the left is a picture of a type of argument diagram.
Douglas N. Walton uses the araucaria program, but I don't use it as much as I use this type of  form mixed with flowcharting conventions by hand. I use the software sometimes, but I mostly do diagrams using the tools I already know.
Here are a couple of links to PDF Documents by Walton explaining what diagramming arguments is good for.

Araucaria as a Tool for Diagramming Arguments in Teaching and Studying Philosophy

Argument Visualization Tools for Corroborative Evidence

Douglas N. Waltons' site, University of Windsor

Automated Argument Assistance
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Position to Know Ad Populum Argument Scheme

Depending on preferred classification style, it can be a subcategory of Ad Populum or a subcategory of Source-based Arguments.
Ad Populum arguments are inherently weak and prone to exploit prejudice. They are typically categorized as fallacies but in many instances they can be reasonable arguments and the best kind of evidence available to make a rational decision (Walton, Reed, Macagno. 121). 
The degree of commitment to the truth of the argument varies from person to person, however, if artifacts are available for review in support of the Ad Populum argument, they strengthen the persuasiveness of the argument, and the Ad Populum argument takes on the characteristics of another more persuasive reasoning scheme.

The type of reasoning scheme that it transitions to must be assessed with regard to all that is known about it in order to determine which scheme it has transitioned to.
Major Premise: a person a is in a position to know about things in the domain of a subject which contains proposition P.
Minor Premise: a asserts that P is true (or false).
Conclusion: P is true (or false).

Critical Questions about the argument
1. Is a in a position to know whether P is true (or false)?
2. Is a an honest (trustworthy, reliable) source?
3. Did a assert that P is true (or false)?

Reference for this example in the book Argumentation Schemes
Douglas Walton, Legal Argumentation and Evidence. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002, p. 46.

Reference for this page in Argumentation Schemes
Walton, Reed, Macagno. Argumentation Schemes. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 309
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The "Look" Test

As I study Informal Logic and argumentation, it occurs to me that arguments and persuasion are not necessary when the subject of discussion can be observed or if the discussants can "take a look". However if two discussants observe the same thing and understand it in different ways, then more looking is necessary.  There has to be some set of logical relationships inherent in the subject of a  topic that can be understood equally otherwise the subject of the topic couldn't exist outside of the mind that produced it.

Looking should always carry more force or be more persuasive than any argument.  Artifacts should always be more persuasive than arguments.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Distinguishing Between Arguments and Explanations

While the two can functionally be used interchangeably and combined, the intent behind each determines the context and the context is what makes the difference.

An explanation provides background information to facilitate understanding, and an argument is meant to persuade. In some cases the explanation is being provided to facilitate understanding of something that has already been accepted as true. In the case that an explanation is offered by a discussant and the other participating discussant knows the explanation can't be correct, then the context can shift and argumentation can proceed.

Explanation  Information that is supposed to indicate the origin, cause, meaning, or significance of an event or other phenomenon.
Example: "She's the best tennis player on the team because she has had better coaching, is in better shape, and practices a lot more than anyone else"

Argument  Information that is supposed to establish that a proposition is true or otherwise worthy of belief or acceptance.
Example: "She consistently defeats all her teammates, so she's the best tennis player on the team."
Ralph H. Johnson, J. Anthony Blair. Logical Self-Defense. New York: IDEA, 2006. 18-19.
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Argument Indicators Quick Reference

A good way to spot an argument and identify its components are to look for the following words.

Premise Indicators
given that
granted that
for the reason that

Conclusion Indicators
it follows that
I conclude that
and [so]
my conclusion is

Ralph H. Johnson, J. Anthony Blair. Logical Self-Defense. New York: IDEA, 2006. 13.
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Unpacking "The Atonement" Project

This is a long term project intended as a collaboration with theists using shared documents with diagrams to Analyze the Concept of the Atonement as much as possible to assess its coherence.
STATUS 20100116
Currently coping with interpretability issues


Project Documentation Index

[The questionnaire in the lower part of the article was an attempt to define some terms. Feel free to try your hand at filling in the questionnaire in the bottom portion and join the discussion. I'd like to get feedback from Adherents to other religions, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, etc]
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Problem of Evil/Suffering/Victimization Must be A Design Flaw

This is a response I made to a Christian on the "Problem of Suffering".
The problem of suffering is really a problem of victimization, where gods 'gift' of free will enables the stronger to victimize the weak, with god allowing it in some of the most horrible ways imaginable, and Christians blame humans for it. Effectively blaming the victim. One persons free will impedes another. Obviously a SUBOPTIMAL design.

A lot of the 'sins' are committed because they are LIKED or are PLEASURABLE for people. This is a reaction that is built into people, conversely like the nausea reaction people get around vomit. If God had built the urge to vomit into people when they think of having sex with children the there wouldn't be so many church authorities wanting to molest children.

Additionally a lot of harm is done in the name of religion because of religious texts ambiguity, which is a common human problem of Information Quality. It leads to low scores in the category of "interpretability". This interpretability problem manifests itself in causing lots of women and children suffer needlessly, at the hands of Christians looking for witches and forcing genital mutilation on girls and women. You can see recent cases detailed in the news at my blog QuIRP

There are some impediments to free will that are built into us that make it less likely humans are going to do some act, such as eat vomit or feces. Since god did not build the nausea reaction into us for things that displease him, then we can only infer that he built the pleasure reaction into us for things that displease him on purpose. We can infer from this that he built them into us to make it more likely that we would sin. It is a trap. He has baited a harmful trap for us.

He could have built an aversion to sin into us but he didn't, so its not 100% humans fault that we sin, we sin because we are made to be predisposed to be more likely to sin.

In common sense terms, to have a goal, then to make the design parameters undermine the goal flies in the face of reason. For god to want us not to sin, then to build the mechanisms into us that make it more likely we are going to sin is inchoherent.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Faulty interpretation
IT IS because the Catholic Church opposes embryonic stem cell research that xenotransplantation remains the only option for many researchers and sufferers of serious diseases (Letters, 12/12).

Such research offers the potential to one day be able to grow tissue to replace diseased organs, hence curing many of these diseases and significantly reducing the number of animals killed for medical research.

We can only hope that eventually religious organisations will stop using their interpretations of ancient texts to hold back new forms of scientific research. In the meantime, the suffering of human and animals continues unabated.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Why does the Pope need security? Aren't the prayers of the faithful enough?

While I'm glad nothing happened to the Pope on a personal level, logically, they should get rid of security and let faith handle it. It would be like putting his money where his mouth is. If God wants a Pope, he'll provide one, right?
Father Federico Lombardi, the pope's spokesman, said it's not realistic to think the Vatican can ensure 100% security for the pontiff because he is regularly surrounded by tens of thousands of people for his weekly audiences, services, papal greetings and other events.

"It seems that they intervened at the earliest possible moment in a situation in which 'zero risk' cannot be achieved," he said of Vatican security officials. They will nonetheless review the episode and "try to learn from experience," Lombardi said.
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Animal Sacrifices are Atonement, but Christianity uses a Human Sacrifice Instead

Local 5 News

The sacrifices of the Bible were offered not only to atone for sins but also as free will offerings to celebrate some joyous event, and as holiday offerings for the three biblical pilgrim festivals of Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Tabernacles). Each of these three holidays was called, in Hebrew, a hag. The Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca called the Haj takes it name from this word.
Some theologians consider such animal sacrifices spiritually primitive and in general, I, along with every single animal, agree with them. Although animal sacrifice is arguably the oldest religious ritual on earth, it's based upon a very dubious belief--that the death of an animal can correct your own moral failings.
The rabbis introduced a daring change in Jewish worship - replacing every sacrifice with a prayer from a newly created prayer book. The prayer times were the same times as the sacrifice times, but no blood was spilled.
This change was made necessary by historical events but had enormous impact on Judaism and the newly emerging religion of Christianity. Surrogate atonement through animal sacrifice was basically abandoned in favor of the direct and ethically superior command of confession and personal apology to anyone you had hurt. Sins were human acts that needed to be fixed by human actions, inspired, of course, by God's commands to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Contributed by Gandolf
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dysrationalia: Why smart people do dumb things

Globe and Mail

Give this problem a shot before you keep reading, but don't feel badly if you get it wrong.
Bob is in a bar, looking at Susan. But she is looking at Pablo. Bob is married. Pablo is not.
Is a married person looking at an unmarried person? The answer could be (a) yes, (b) no or (c) cannot be determined.

Roughly 80 per cent of people choose (c), but it is not the correct answer, says Keith Stanovich, a professor of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto.
He studies why smart people do stupid things - or, in more scientific terms, how intelligence is distinct from rationality. His work offers insight into important cognitive abilities that are not measured by IQ tests. It also suggests that deficits in real-world reasoning can be corrected, whether in adults or in children.

He says most people get the Bob-Susan-Pablo problem wrong because they tend to be "cognitive misers" - they put as little mental effort as possible into solving a problem. In this case, they quickly jump to the conclusion that they don't have enough information rather than making the effort to see if they do.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How We Support Our False Beliefs

ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2009)
The findings may illuminate reasons why some people form false beliefs about the pros and cons of health-care reform or regarding President Obama's citizenship, for example.

The study, "There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification" calls such unsubstantiated beliefs "a serious challenge to democratic theory and practice" and considers how and why it was maintained by so many voters for so long in the absence of supporting evidence.

Co-author Steven Hoffman, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo, says, "Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as 'motivated reasoning,' which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.

"In fact," he says, "for the most part people completely ignore contrary information".

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