Science: Logical fallacies Part 1

Logical fallacies have less to do with science and more to do with logic. Logic itself is a massive subject and one that can take a lifetime to master. Thankfully today we’ll only be covering a small section of logic. There are generally around 30 logical fallacies, although sometimes they can get broken down into more for clarity. To keep things simple I’m going to limit us to 5 fallacies at a time, otherwise these posts could end up being very long indeed.

Fallacies are categories of fallacious thinking. In a nutshell this means constructing an argument based on poor reasoning. Honestly this definition is pretty harsh. The reason logical fallacies are so important to understand in regards to science is because we all make them, and far more often than you might think. As you’ll see, some fallacies could even be linked to the shortcuts our brains take, which is often an evolutionary advantage despite being illogical. Getting past some of these is extremely difficult, as they’re practically hardwired into us. However, if we wish to uncover the truths of our world it is important we understand these fallacies, as they can be quite crippling to furthering our understanding.

Before we dive into the actual fallacies, lets briefly cover a little logic 101.

LOGIC 101

All arguments follow a certain structure. An example of this might be:

Premise 1: A = B.

Premise 2: B = C.

Conclusion: Therefore A must also = C.

A more tangible example of this might be:

Premise 1: Cows are mammals

Premise 2: All mammals are warm-blooded

Conclusion: Therefore cows are warm-blooded.

This is all very basic right here, but at the end of the day most arguments boil down to something very similar. Now for an argument to be believed it needs to be both ‘sound’ and ‘valid’. But what does it mean to be both sound and valid?

A valid argument is one in which the premises follow, as with the example above. An example of an invalid argument might be:

Premise 1: Cows are mammals

Premise 2: All reptiles are cold-blooded.

Premise 3: A cow is not a reptile.

Conclusion: Therefore a cow must be warm-blooded.

The problem with this argument is that although all reptiles are cold-blooded, that doesn’t immediately mean everything that isn’t a reptile is warm-blooded. What’s particularly interesting about this argument is that although it is not valid, the conclusion is still true. Just because an argument is invalid or unsound doesn’t immediately make the conclusion false. It just means it’s not true for the reasons the arguer is putting forth.

A sound argument is one in which the premises are true. An argument can be valid (everything follows), but unsound (the premises are untrue). An example of this might be:

Premise 1: Cows are reptiles.

Premise 2: All reptiles are cold-blooded.

Conclusion: Cows are cold-blooded.

As you can see here, the logic is valid. If cows were reptiles and reptiles were cold-blooded, then cows would be cold-blooded. But as I’m sure you know, cows aren’t reptiles. This argument is valid, but not sound.

The final example is that of an argument that is sound, but not valid. These probably won’t come up as often as they’re easier to spot, but for consistencies we’ll cover it.

Premise 1: Cows are mammals.

Premise 2: Lizards are reptiles.

Conclusion: Cows eat grass.

All these statements are true (sound) but the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises.

The one final thing worth mentioning in this logic 101 course, is that of assumptions. There are many gaps in our knowledge. In some cases we have a pretty good idea of what is likely, although we don’t know for certain. Using these ideas as premises can be dangerous, because if our assumptions are wrong then the argument may suddenly become invalid or unsound without our realising it. Where possible, try to avoid assumptions in arguments. That said, it is perfectly acceptable to use assumptions, it’s just fair to let the person you’re debating with know it’s an assumption. If they have a different assumption you may find yourselves with different conclusions and not understand why.

LOGICAL FALLACIES

So let’s take a look at a couple of starter fallacies.

Ad hominem

Ad hominem is Latin for “to the man”. This is where someone chooses to attack the arguer, rather than the argument. The idea is that if you discredit the arguer people will no longer listen to their point of view. Unfortunately this can be quite effective, but we should recognise it for the logical fallacy it is.

An example might be: “He’s just a Bible thumping Creationist; he doesn’t know anything about evolution.”

Of course the flip is equally true: “She’s an atheist, so she doesn’t get why religion is important to people.”

Although it might be true that ‘he’ doesn’t know anything about evolution nor ‘she’ about religion, it’s not true because of the first premise. For clarity, let’s break it down into our logic 101 system.

Premise 1: He’s a Bible thumping Creationist.

Premise 2: Creationists know nothing about evolution.

Conclusion: He knows nothing about evolution.

Hopefully you can see that ad hominem fallacies are valid, but unsound. That is, the premises logically follow, but premise 2 is not true.

Argument from personal incredulity (AKA: Argument from ignorance)

This is one of my personal favourites, because I see it coming up so frequently. Basically this argument amounts to:

X happens.

Y appear to be the only explanation.

Therefore Y is the answer.

Going back to our logic 101, this is an example of an invalid argument (doesn’t follow), however, it doesn’t immediately mean the conclusion is false. The conclusion very well may be true, but not for the reason the arguer is presenting.

This is also stepping into assumption territory. The arguer is assuming that Y is the correct answer, while other people may not make that assumption.

The reason this type of argument is fallacious is because the arguer may simple not be aware of other explanations. Just because you can’t imagine an alternative explanation doesn’t mean the one you have is correct.

Two of the most common examples of this type of fallacy I’ve seen are:

Premise 1: The universe is incredibly complicated.

Premise 2: Only an incredibly intelligent agent could create something so complicated.

Premise 3: God is an incredibly complicated agent.

Conclusion: God created the universe.

Premise 2 is our issue here (although there’s another fallacy hidden in Premise 3). It is a big assumption to conclude only intelligence can create complexity. Not only do we have counter examples of this, but there’s a whole universe of undiscovered things out there that could provide an alternative answer.

The other is most commonly used to explain UFO sightings:

Premise 1: I saw some strange lights in the sky.

Premise 2: Alien spacecrafts make strange lights in the sky.

Conclusion: I saw an alien spacecraft.

It may be true that alien spacecrafts could make lights in the sky. Our spacecraft do, so why not theirs? The assumption here is of course that these lights are in fact of alien origins and not our spacecraft. Oftentimes people who claim to have spotted UFOs say they moved in very strange ways. Ways that would be impossible for anything humans have created to move.

But that too is an assumption. Isn’t it at least possible (in this writers opinion, more likely) that the military happen to have made something that can move in very complicated ways that the sighter simply isn’t aware of?

Okay guys, this post is now over 1,000 words, so rather than tackling another 3 fallacies I’m going to leave it there. If you’re new to the ideas of valid and sound arguments this will no doubt be plenty for you to think about. In the next post I’ll pick up where we left off with another 5 or so fallacies.

Science: Introduction

Hello readers. My apologies for the extended hiatus. I’ve been gone for far too long, but I promise there is a good reason for it. You see, I set myself a rather ambitious task just before disappearing and it’s taken me this long to do the research for it. I honestly bit off a little more than I could chew too, and lost quite a bit of motivation as a result.

Fortunately, reading Carl Sagan’s ‘The Demon Haunted World’ has not only helped inspire me, it helped with quite a bit of the research I needed to do, compiling a lot of it all in the one place.

Anyway, the project I’ve been wanting to attempt is to give a broad overview of science. Since becoming an active atheist and engaging people in many discussions and debates, one thing I’ve found incredibly prominent is a terrible misunderstanding of what science is, what it does, how it works and why we use it. Frequently I find people have some issue with science, but upon examination I discover what they have is a strawman argument (don’t worry, we’ll be coming back to exactly what that is later) and that the problem isn’t with science, but with their understanding of science.

Frankly this shouldn’t be terribly surprising. The science people are taught in high school is an introductory course and often doesn’t cover many of the fundamentals. It’s only those who continue to study the subjects into late high school or better yet university, who learn all these details.

The rules of scientific investigation are extremely strict. Much more strict than the average person needs in their day-to-day life. The kind of skepticism needed to study quantum mechanics is vastly more strict than the skepticism required to discuss your weekend plans with a friend. Because of this most people don’t need scientific logic in their day-to-day lives and therefore have no desire to learn it in-depth.

The point I’m trying to make here is that if you haven’t heard of the topics we’ll be covering in the next few posts don’t feel put out. You’re not dumb, nor did you have a sub-par education. It’s a state most people find themselves in and most of us have little reason to fill this gap in our knowledge.

That said, here at Inquisitive Bliss we’re all about learning for the sake of learning, so come along for the ride and hopefully you’ll discover something new. Maybe you’ll even find a new-found passion for the subject. At the very least I hope you’ll have a deeper appreciation of science and it’s methodologies and maybe even discover some uses for a few of the topics.

There’s a number of topics I’d like to cover during the next few posts. This list may shrink or grow depending on my needs, but this is what I’m hoping to cover:

  • What is science?
  • What is the scientific method?
  • Falsifiability and why it’s important to finding knowledge.
  • The peer review process.
  • Correlation vs Causation.
  • Occam’s razor.
  • Logic and logical fallacies.
  • Science vs pseudoscience

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for the next few posts which will cover logical fallacies.

Mystic moons and lunatic legends

There is a difference between being a fool, and just simply ignorant. Ignorance isn’t a bad thing, it just means there’s a gap in your knowledge and we all have those. Being a fool is a little more challenging. Generally I consider foolish people to be unable or uninterested in getting past their own ignorance.

Why am I bringing this up now? Because today’s post is about pointing out one of my own pieces of ignorance.

I haven’t been playing too much Skyrim. Who told you such!?

For many years I’ve thought that crime does in fact increase during a full moon. On more than one occasion I’m pretty sure I’ve even told people this one was true. For the life of me I can’t remember where I heard the idea, but I thought it was from pretty reliable sources. Naturally I’ve been pretty skeptical most of my life and never thought it was because the moon had any sort of mystical power. There was a correlation, not a causation. In other words people acted strangely on the full moon not because the moon had some sort of power over them, but because of all the stories which made odd behaviour more acceptable during this time.

There’s a wonderful line in Tim Minchin’s beat poem ‘Storm’ that goes “…you’d rather stand in the fog of your inability to Google”.

So rather than just continuing to spread a myth that I was no longer sure was true, I decided to push aside the fog and see for myself.

Truly for all its woes and naysayers out there, the Internet is the greatest tool man has ever built. In no more than 5 minutes of searching and reading I was onto what I thought was the correct answer. After half an hour I no longer have any doubts.

Increased crime during full moons is bullshit. In fact the full moon doesn’t appear to have any significant effect on…well anything. Except maybe our ability to see.

 

As per usual, if all you’re after is a quite bite of information I recommend the Wikipedia entry ‘Lunar effect‘, which briefly outlines the history and the lack of evidence for such claims.

For anyone after something a little more substantial or more reliable, I’d recommend an article done by the ABC – Bad moon rising: The myth of the full moon.

Scientific American also has a good article ‘Lunacy and the full Moon’.

The most common explanation for why the full moon might have an effect on human behaviour is that its gravitational pull affects the oceans tides, and due to the human body being made mostly of water, perhaps there is a similar effect that could explain lunacy. Being the most common I thought I’d tackle this one and leave further investigation to the readers.

The article in Scientific American lays it out quite nicely.

1. The gravitational pull of the moon is far too weak to affect humans. The reason it affects the oceans so much is because the oceans are so large.

2. This one I found quite interesting. The gravitational force only affects open bodies of water such as oceans and lakes. It doesn’t affect contained bodies of water, such as the water found in the human

body.

3. This is the one I find to be the myth killer. The gravitational pull of the moon is just as potent during a new moon. The new moon is when the moon is not visible at all.

 

 

These days, knowing what causes a full moon, why should we expect it to have any power? Seriously, ‘moonlight’ isn’t actually the light of the moon. It’s the light of the sun being reflected off the moon. Keeping that in mind, why should we expect moonlight to behave any differently than sunlight? It just doesn’t make sense.

I’m afraid this is just another myth to drop into the bunked pile.

 

– Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.

Happiness

Bacon = happinessElusive little bastard isn’t it? But maybe that’s not terribly surprising when you consider the different meanings being ‘happy’ has had over the last three thousand years or so. The ancient Greeks apparently defined it as ‘luck’. Something that the Gods bestowed upon you and you really had no say in the matter. Over time this has changed many, many times until we get to todays meaning of happiness, whereby not only can everybody be happy, but if you’re not there must be something wrong you with.

Paradoxically, you’ll probably be happy to know that’s bollocks.

I strongly encourage you to read this article over at Cracked.com called ‘5 scientific reasons your idea of happiness is wrong‘. We’ve already covered some of these ideas in the TED Talk ‘Paradox of choice’ (#27 on the TED Talk Challenge page), but this article goes into a bit more detail on some areas and I thought it was worth sharing.

And once you’ve read that you might want to consider hopping over to the Authentic Happiness Questionnaire. Annoyingly it does require registration, but you can opt out of their spam. I scored a 4.3 out of 5, which puts me in the top 3.5% of users.

Although that’s a really awesome score, I have to say I didn’t find the questions all that appealing, and I wanted to dedicate the rest of the post to explaining why a couple of these questions don’t work for me. And do remember, they just don’t work for me and a lot of that has to do with my being a happy pessimist. They might very well work for you.

 

Question #4 was the first one that made me twig there was something I didn’t like.

A. My life does not have any purpose or meaning.
B. I do not know the purpose or meaning of my life.
C. I have a hint about my purpose in life.
D. I have a pretty good idea about the purpose or meaning of my life.
E. I have a very clear idea about the purpose or meaning of my life.

Personally A and E are the same answer for me. My life has no intrinsic purpose or meaning, however I’m very clear about that idea and it doesn’t bother me. I chose E simply because the wording of the question made me feel that was the answer they were looking for.

Question #11 kinda stumped me too.

A. Time passes slowly during most of the things that I do.
B. Time passes quickly during some of the things that I do and slowly for other things.
C. Time passes quickly during most of the things that I do.
D. Time passes quickly during all of the things that I do.
E. Time passes so quickly during all of the things that I do that I do not even notice it.

Generally, people find that time passes quickly when you’re having fun and time passes slowly when you’re not. That really hasn’t been an issue for me. The time I spent at University was probably the happiest three years of my life. Oddly enough it felt like about three years.

The answer they’re looking for in terms of happiness contribution is obviously E, but the honest answer for me is A or B. However this has nothing to do with my happiness scale, which I know is strange, but that’s just me.

#12 really cracked me up.

A. In the grand scheme of things, my existence may hurt the world.
B. My existence neither helps nor hurts the world.
C. My existence has a small but positive effect on the world.
D. My existence makes the world a better place.
E. My existence has a lasting, large, and positive impact on the world.

Again, the obvious answer here is E for the best happiness contribution, but the honest answer for me is B. I actually upped my answer to C just because I thought the question was badly worded and it would be closer to the answer they were searching for.

You see, the in the grand scheme of things, my life means dick. I will disappear from this universe as quietly as I came into it and virtually no one will care. And those that do care will move on in a month or two, which is a terribly short time in the grand scheme of things. But again, that doesn’t bother me.

#17 was also interesting.

A. I have accomplished little in life.
B. I have accomplished no more in life than most people.
C. I have accomplished somewhat more in life than most people.
D. I have accomplished more in life than most people.
E. I have accomplished a great deal more in my life than most people.

Well firstly I’m 24, so I really haven’t had time to accomplish much. But honestly, by the time I’m 74 I probably still won’t have accomplished much, and that’s because very few people do. Most of us will go through our day-to-day lives, do what’s required to live comfortably and not much else. And I’m okay with that. I don’t need to cure cancer or be the next big boy band to feel happy. My accomplishments aren’t linked that strongly with my sense of happiness.

Question #22 was also a little tricky for me.

A. I experience more pain than pleasure.
B. I experience pain and pleasure in equal measure.
C. I experience more pleasure than pain.
D. I experience much more pleasure than pain.
E. My life is filled with pleasure.

Although things have drastically picked up for me this year, last year was awful, mostly because I was broke, owed people money, didn’t know when I was going to get a decent paying job and didn’t even know how I was going to pay the rent next month. On top of that I had people and pets dying on me. Life kinda sucked. But it…didn’t really bother me that much. Pain is a natural part of life and I get my enjoyment out of life, not necessarily the conditions of said life.

The final question, #24 is strange, but also kind of good for insight.

A. My life is a bad one.
B. My life is an OK one.
C. My life is a good one.
D. My life is a very good one.
E. My life is a wonderful one.

Comparatively speaking, if you’re reading this you should be answering E, because it means you have Internet access, which means you have a computer or phone, which likely means you have enough money to buy food, shelter and appliances. Compared to a good chunk of humanity, you’re doing fucking brilliant.

What makes this a good question is how few people reading this would likely answer E, which means your sense of happiness is not tied to how fortunate you are. Not sure what that means exactly, but it’s interesting none the less.

 

What I found interesting about these particular questions was how they were asking how ‘big’ you felt. Have I accomplished much? How important is my existence? Does my life have meaning?

For an atheist, all answers to these questions would initially sound pretty down in the dumps. But far from making me unhappy, many of these things make me happy.

But perhaps I’m looking at the questions too intrinsically. In the grand scheme of things (remember, that is their wording) I’m not important, my life has no meaning and anything I accomplish is so small and insignificant to be rendered meaningless. But from my very small and very limited human perspective my life is the complete opposite.

I have a great job, I own my own business, I make decent money, the jobs I do have a positive effect on the world, I have a roof over my head, I have a great family and great friends, I’m fairly well-educated, I’m physically well off and I eat very well. That’s a pretty good list of accomplishments, meaningful experiences and I think of all of them as important. So on what scale are these questions asked? Because depending on how you phrase the questions you’ll get a very different perspective of happiness. And that I think is half the problem when questing after happiness. We’re asking the wrong questions.

 

-Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.

Should universities teach alternative medicine?

I got linked to an article on alternative medicine education today and it pissed me off so much I just had to write about it. And hey, it’s been a while since I did a rant piece, so this should be fun 😀

First off, the article can be found here: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/the-question/should–universities–teach–alternative–medicine-20120203-1qxb3.html

Honestly, it’s not so much as article as it is four opinion pieces, two on each side of the argument. Can you guess which two articles are better?

In a nutshell the articles are about the ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ (FSM) lobbying Australian Universities in an attempt to get them to stop teaching pseudoscience in their classrooms. Unfortunately this article doesn’t quote anything from FSM, but the first author does specify ‘Homeopathy, reflexology, iridology, energy medicine, tactile healing and kinesiology‘ as examples of these pseudosciences.

With this, I completely, 100% agree. These subjects should not be taught at schools, and certainly not in education houses as influential as Universities. If at some point these fields receive some credibility and there is actually some proof that they do anything other than drain a patients wallet, then fair enough, teach them. But until they are dragged out of the realm of psuedoscience and wishful thinking they should not be taught. Our schools and universities are there for teaching students what we do know, not what might one day be proven.

With that we move on from the intelligent, thought out responce to the question, and onto the absolute bullshit spewed by Dr Rob Morrison a researcher at Flinders University. Let’s break it down bit by bit.

“COMPLEMENTARY medicine treatments are used by two in three Australians each year and have been taught in universities here for two decades. The recent call by Friends of Science in Medicine to ban the university teaching of ”complementary medicine” presents a sad view of science and a shameless push to censor learning.”

I’m sorry, but what the fuck is ‘Complementary medicine’? Strangely enough Wikipedia redirects to ‘Alternative medicine’, so let’s not mince words here. Giving it a different and more pleasant sounding name doesn’t cover the smell of crap.

Apparently this ‘complementary’ medicine is used by two thirds of Australians and has been taught for twenty years. Fantastic, then you should have plenty of data to prove this shit actually works. But you see, if you could actually prove it works you wouldn’t need these stupid alternative names; it would just be ‘medical science’.  Put up or shut up.

And as for a ‘push to censor learning’, fuck off you ignoramous. This isn’t trying to censor learning, it’s attempting to limit bad teaching that might get people killed! I highly doubt you would stand idly by and let schools teach students the proper blood letting techniques, and currently homaeopathy has about as much credibility.

“There are two fundamental points proposed by this group. First, that healthcare practices should be based as much as possible on sound scientific evidence. This is easy to agree with.”

Thank fucking god.

“But ”evidence-based medicine” is a relatively new approach. Most medical and allied healthcare practices have not been rigorously tested.”

I’m not sure what is mean by ‘relatively new approach’, but I’m going to take a stab and suggest that was in the last 100-200 years. You know, roughly the time people stopped dying at the age of 40. In other words, around the time medicine actually started working fuckwit. And I’ve no idea where he gets the idea that medicines aren’t rigorously tested. I can’t say I’m an expert, but last I checked there were quite a few loopholes you had to jump through before you could get your latest pills on the market.

“Second, this group argues that abolishing the teaching of complementary medicine will somehow strengthen its evidence-based clinical practice. This is nonsense. A strong link between research and education helps communicate the fruits of research rapidly and effectively to clinicians. To impose greater barriers to this is counter-productive to quality care.”

So hang on, you think that if you stop teaching people how to do crackpot medicine, whilst teaching them how to do evidence-based medicine, you won’t strengthen the use of evidence based medicine? You sir, are a fucking moron. And as for getting research to clinicians quickly, fine go nuts. Clinicians aren’t students. They should have the tools to decide what are good practices and what aren’t. And if they fuck up, it’s on their heads. On the other hand if a bunch of students from a particular university start killing off patients, pretty bad for the university. Oh, and the dead patients.

“This year, Chinese medicine practitioners will be registered in Australia…There are few cardiologists who do not recognise the value of fish oil supplements in heart disease, and few geriatricians who are not aware of the importance of calcium and Vitamin D3 for bone health…Why would we shut our minds to these possibilities?”

I really want to rip this stupidity to shreads, but I feel the need to be fair. None of these responces refer to what the FSM were requesting be taken out of university courses. I’m assuming by the first reponse the request was to remove pseudosciences such as homaeopathy and crystal healing, and with that I agree. But if this includes removing all Chinese medicine then they’re being a bit overzealous. Of course some Chinese medicine works, and if it’s been proven to work it should be fine to teach it.

“There is no better place than our universities to rigorously discern what works from what does not.”

Okay, again to be fair this dude is a researcher and may just be refering to his own position. If that’s so, then yes, universities are a good place for people to research whatever they like and if they want to spend their time trying to validate psuedosciences then let them. But just because you’re researching this shit doesn’t mean you should be teaching it to students, and that is the question the article poses. Students are at a point in their career where they don’t have the mental tools to be able to process what works and what doesn’t; they’ll just take in what their teacher tells them.

Feel free to do your own research, just don’t drown your students in information that is currently being tested!

“This disregard for patients’ choice will only discourage them from disclosing complementary medicine use to their doctors.”

Wait what? How did we get on to patients choices? I thought we were talking about what should be taught to students? This is just so far removed from the actual topic it’s barely worth mentioning, but for the stupidity it conveys. You see, patients shouldn’t have to make choices about their health. Idealy, they should go to their doctor and their doc should tell them what the best cure is. The patient doesn’t have the knowhow to make a compentant choice. It’s akin to taking the average Joe off the street and asking him which buttons to push in the NASA spacecraft. It’s not a choice, it’s a fucking guessing game. Medicine and the human body are ridiculously complicated things and the idea that you should leave these choices in the hands of an overwhelmed patient is an incredible denial of responsibility.

 

The next article is by a student, Rob Pearlman. Honestly, nothing to add here. This dude sounds like he’s got his head screwed on straight. Hopefully a few more students think like him and these universities won’t be able to pull the wool over their eyes.

 

The final piece is by  Valerie Malka, a surgeon, and is almost as bad as the bullocks spewed by Morrison.

“FOR MORE than 10,000 years, natural therapies have been used, while conventional medicine is but 100 years old.”

Yes this is true, but as noted above you might want to look at the correlation between the last 10,000 years and the average age of death as compared to the last 100 years.

“They deserve the recognition universities have given them as they have healing modalities and benefits proven by credible and peer-reviewed research.”

If that is true, then no qualms. If it’s been tested and found to work then go nuts. That’s not pseudoscience.

“The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 80 per cent of the world’s population relies on natural therapies to treat, prevent and cure diseases…”

And oddly enough 80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day. I’m sure there’s no connection between bad medicine and poverty.

“in Australia we have closed-minded colleagues determined to damage and bring into disrepute the entire natural health profession.”

I’m sorry, but would someone please slap this cunt? I am so sick of “close-minded” being another phrase for “doesn’t agree with me”. It is not close minded to ask someone to bring you proof before you start administering drugs, no matter if they’re natural or not

“Do the Americans have it completely wrong? Not only do they have dedicated courses in universities but almost 85 per cent of US medical schools offer elective courses in alternative and complementary medicine or include it in required courses.”

Umm, again I’m not expert, but isn’t the US medical system kinda fucked? Also, we’re talking about the country that has people trying to teach Creationism in high schools. Yeah, they’ve got it pretty fucking wrong.

“There is no better than modern medicine when it comes to surgery, emergency and trauma, but for almost everything else, traditional, natural or alternative medicine is far more effective…”

Okay, this here I think is part of the problem. Natural medicine and alternative medicine aren’t necessarily the same thing. Alternative medicine is medicine that has not yet been proven to work. Natural medicine is stuff like herbal remedies. Of course some of the latter work. Fuck me, some of the former might work too. But you don’t go around administering or teaching things that you don’t know work. It’s just irresponsible.

 

This last link is mostly a reference for a future post, but it should help emphasise exactly why we shouldn’t go around administering medicines we don’t know work.

http://www.news.com.au/national/babys-eczema-death-was-parents-fault/story-e6frfkvr-1225708504277

The scale of the universe

Previously I’ve written posts about how small we are compared to our perceptions and the size of our universe. In the latter of those two posts I even tried to help visualise just how stupefyingly large certain objects are compared to ourselves.

Well, someone has gone one better with that visualisation. Rather than just imagine it, now you can actually visualise it. This flash animation allows you to zoom in and out of many of the largest and smallest objects in our universe and start to get a grasp of the scale of things. In a lovely twist of fate mankind falls fairly close to the middle which has certainly helped in terms of understanding things at either end of this scale. And to top it off each object in the animation has a little paragraph of information for those interested.

This thing really is a must see, so if nothing else take a few seconds to scale from one end of the universe to the other.

http://images.4channel.org/f/src/589217_scale_of_universe_enhanced.swf

The scale of the universe flash animation

TED Talk Challenge #30: Science can answer moral questions

TED Talk LogoI’ve been through a couple of talks in search of one that would serve as a satisfactory finale to the challenge and I think I’ve found it in Sam Harris.

For the past year or two since I began researching atheism and skepticism I’ve heard many people many times say that science can’t or shouldn’t touch on morals and for some time I’ve thought of that as complete and utter bullshit. Trying to explain why it’s bullshit on the other hand isn’t quite so easy.

Harris systematically goes through morals and how science can in fact have something to say on the matter.

I think this is one of the better talks I’ve listened to and I really hope it sparks some interesting conversations and debate. If nothing else I know I’ll be referencing it in future conversations I have.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html