Quid Novi? | The Reset Button

G’day, fine hominins! As of this entry, with my schedule the way it is, I’m a bit behind on posting on all my blogs, and so have hit the reset button on them all.

So, no posting for a month, and instead I’ll spend the time scheduling entries and finishing blog pages in addition to other things until the next reset is needed. I’m behind on completing pages, site maintenance and non-blogging duties and need breathing space to finish that. I’ll be hitting the reset button from here on whenever time is limited and scheduling gets too tight.

Reset time from here on may take anywhere from a week to a month, but I’m not closing down any of the sites or going away from the bloggosphere. Blogging’s what I do, so I’m keeping at it, and I SHALL be back.

I’ll see you in July.

Project Logicality | The Non Sequitur Fallacy

What’s going on when the reasons we give to support or refute a statement have no relation to it at all? What is the fundamental error of reasoning underpinning almost all logical fallacies, and when does this represent special cases?

Here we discuss the general fallacy of the Non Sequitur, Latin for does not follow.

This can generally refer to any sort of logical fallacy, any argument where a logical connection between premises is implied that just isn’t there.

This fallacy is often found with other forms of invalid reasoning in the very same statement. Here’s a couple of handy examples of the most common form:

Our cult shall be feared by all, for Azathoth is freakin’ scary when annoyed.

Human-caused global warming is impossible, because it’s cyclical, the ozone hole over the antarctic is closing, cow farts, and Mars is warming too, not just the earth.

But there are more specific named forms of this fallacy as well:

The Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle:

In which a conclusion is incorrectly drawn from two given or assumed premises, and takes the form of:

All Xs are Cs.

A is a C.

So, A is an X.

An obviously ridiculous example would be:

All birds generate their own body heat.

My cats generate their own body heat.

My cats are birds.

There is…

…Denying the Antecedent:

Which takes the form of:

If C is true, then D is true.

C is false.

So, D is also false.

A good example would be:

If I am in ancient Athens, I’m in Greece.

I’m not in ancient Athens.

So, I’m not in Greece.

This is absurd, as there are many locations and times in Greece other than Athens or the Ancient period. There is also…

…Affirming the Consequent:

which takes the form:

If C is true then D is true.

D is true.

So C is true.

An example:

If my Senior Technician intends to transfer me to another project, she’ll have a talk with the Program Director.

My Senior Technician is going to talk with the Program Director.

She wants to get me transferred to another project.

This last is clearly an example of invalid reasoning because the Senior Tech could be seeing the Program Director for entirely different reasons than those given.

One problem people sometimes have with this fallacy is that it can be subtle, and they are often too proud to speak out when they cannot see how an argument follows, or are too polite to point out its lack of relevance to the speaker.

It’s important to more specifically pick out what is being said even as a less general sort of fallacy, including the non sequitur’s aforementioned variants.

So be careful that what facts you bring to an argument are actually relevant to the point you’re trying to make. Otherwise, it may just fail the application of the “so what” test!

Tf. Tk. Tts.

(Fully Updated, Retitled, Broken Links Removed on 2017.06.06)

Ubi Dubium… | The Three Faces of Skepticism

Rather than go into a single definition of what modern skepticism is, already done in great detail on this blog’s Media Guide to Skepticism page by Sharon Hill, I’d like to discuss those aspects, those three faces, that to my understanding make it up.
What are those faces of skepticism? They are:
  1. Skepticism is a set of values, both intellectual and ethical: Skepticism favors intellectual honesty, sincerity, integrity, and a high value on the truth of whatever matter we look into. It is to have little patience with those who deceive, save those ‘honest liars,’ professional conjurors who are forthright about the inherently deceptive nature of their trade. Those who knowingly defraud, harm, or manipulate others are fair game for skeptical scrutiny and critiquing. Skepticism acknowledges and respects the limits of human perception, understanding and reasoning. It tells us about and arms us against our biases. It tells us that “I don’t know,” is a better answer to a question than an answer that is not only demonstrably false, but isn’t even worthy of being wrong. If a skeptic is in error, or is knowingly dishonest, they can be and ought to be be corrected, or exposed, by others who are not. Whatever their personal inclinations, if they are not honest, other skeptics will be, and they will be found out.
  2. Skepticism is a set of methods, a way of evaluating arguments and evidence to determine the likely factual status of claims. These are the methods of science, empiricism, and rational inquiry. Skepticism lets us know when someone’s trying to put us on, or putting others on, and that’s the first step to exposing them. Skepticism lets us distinguish sound claims from unsound and good argument from bad. It lets us know, when we are careful, when our prejudices are being pandered to, giving us the first line of defense against fraud and chicanery. These methods assume scientific literacy, scientific thinking, and an understanding of how we deceive ourselves and others through biases and motivated reasoning.
  3. The values and methods of skepticism assume a particular approach to reality. It assumes that there are such things as facts and truth. It assumes the world is knowable and that it is possible to tell truth from falsehood. It assumes that the world is real, regardless of the nature of that reality, it exists, and that it must for anything at all to be meaningfully true, false, or even possible. It assumes that the methods of science, empiricism, and rational inquiry are valid, useful, and powerful ways of knowing reality. It assumes in its methods that solid, reliable and effective ways of knowing are preferable to those that not only lead to error, but are neither self-correcting nor concerned with the actual truth of a matter. While it doesn’t necessarily assume philosophical naturalism, it does assume naturalistic methods, and so eschews resorting to unobservable or unfalsifiable ‘explanations’ for phenomena. But it has no trouble investigating anything that is knowably real and open to objective inquiry.
These are the three faces and together they form the core of my understanding of skepticism as an endeavor, whatever the state of organized skepticism at any time.

Focus on the Author | An Interview with Christopher R. Rice

Full disclosure: Christopher is a friend whom I’ve known for years and has done a lot of great writing and GMing for our gaming campaigns. So this interview, conducted by email correspondence, will be the first installment of this series of posts. I’ll include many other writers in it as well. Enjoy!

So, Chris, tell us about your magazine articles and any books you’re working on or had published.

I’ve written quite a bit of gaming material for Steve Jackson Games (at last count 47 articles, a book, and numerous supplemental material appearing in books I didn’t write). I’m currently proposing another (gaming-related) project, working for a nascent publishing company as an indexer, starting the beginning of a series of urban fantasy fiction novels, and another project I can’t talk about at all.

Over the years, I’ve written a lot of ghost content for various magazines, blogs, and gaming engines. Odd, because I got my start as a poet (I won something like $11,000 dollars from age 10 to age 16 for my poetry in various publications).

What was the turning point that led you to become a writer?

I almost died. No, seriously. In early October 2011, I almost died due to complications of severe septicemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. The first was from a systemic infection in my right leg by MRSA and the second was due to the infection triggering my latent Diabetes (I’m a type 1 and thus dependent on insulin). I only wanted four things while I was languishing in the ICU: 1) to live and get out of there; 2) to get healthy and exercise more; 3) to become a writer; 4) to drink Orange Crush until I peed pumpkin. I did 1, 3, and 4 – still working on 2.

I actually started writing seriously because my family needed the money at the time. Imagine my shock when it kind of became a career. That’s when I started taking it seriously. I started my blog soon after and then began to work on the skills I’d need to continue in my chosen profession.

What were your major influences, and who and what are your top 5 inspirations?

Wow. There is so much. I’m going to break this down to personal inspirations and popular culture inspirations.

1) My other half. Seriously. She’s amazing. I don’t think I could write without her.

2) A man named Donald Johnston – my “foster” dad. I remember asking him what he thought about me being a writer about 7 years before I started doing it seriously (only 2 years later he died). He replied with this gem: “Is it a passion? Does the idea of being a writer fill you with fire? If so, follow the burn.” Simple. But moving. That was him all over.

3) My mother. My mother would have liked for me to be a scientist or something else, but she saw in me a talent for writing and observing the fantastic and urged me to continue writing.

4) My friends. I don’t have many, but they are supportive and never ever let me feel less than up to the challenge. I’m lucky like that.

5) My fans (what few I have) and pretty much for the same reasons. They really keep me going.

What are your thoughts on the writing process, and your favorite things and pet peeves on it?

I’m kind of weird when it comes to writing. I just kind of decide to do something and then it gets done. The “process” is different for each writer and I won’t give any advice on it other than just never give up.

I’m terrible about the editing process. I’m better than I was six years ago, but nowhere I need to be. I continue to try to better myself, but even being an autodidact there is so much to learn about the English language. I have a mentor/teacher/friend (Elizabeth McCoy) who helps me so that’s also a bonus.

My favorite part of writing is taking the thoughts from my head (ephemeral electrical impulses) and putting them into something real, solid, and concrete. Something others can see. That’s just magic to me.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you have been, what pursuit or profession?

When I was a boy I wanted to be a scientist (probably a geologist or chemist, I’ve a penchant for both fields). I’ve got what you might call “guardian” tendencies so I might have ended up in security, law enforcement, etc. No matter what I would have done I would have done it to the fullest extent of my ability. Duty to one’s profession is something of a code I live by.

You like to cook, often yummy Indian food, but without precluding any nationality, what’s your favorite dish to eat, and your favorite to cook?

Hmmm. Favorite food to cook, gosh. That’s hard. I like complex recipes that take time, skill, and effort to prepare because cooking is sort of Zen for me. There’s this list of instructions and following it requires little in the way of brainpower. It lets me think about other things (often stumbling blocks within my work). I’d have to say the most complex thing I’ve cooked to date is beef bourguignon served with a spinach and gruyere cheese soufflé.

What do I like to eat? It’s a toss up between my mother’s homemade fried chicken and my other half’s beef stew. I could eat my weight in both.

What are some of your favorite places, and what would be your dream destination? Why?

I don’t get out much now, but I used to be a fairly avid hiker, rock climber, and outdoor enthusiast. This is something I’d like to change in the coming years if I can. I like being outside. I also like to be in places where I can be fully alone; I tend to prefer being alone sans the company of a few individuals in my life.

I’d be at peace in the mountains, by the sea, or forest in the middle of no where – as long as I had access to the internet.

Dream destination would probably be the Maldives, Rocky Mountains, or in general somewhere up north. I like the cold and I like just being by myself so all that fits for me.

Besides gaming, and GMing GURPS campaigns, what hobbies and pastimes do you enjoy when not working on something?

I read. A lot. Usually between 1.5 to 2.5 books per day. I love to carve and whittle, but it’s been a while for both. I also consume a lot of popular culture like TV, movies, etc. mostly because I have issues sleeping. I’d probably have gone mad by now without the advent of On Demand technology. I love to cook as it relaxes me and gives me something to do at the same time. I also enjoy writing poetry on occasion, but it’s mostly for myself. Therapeutic in a way. I tend to get philosophic around 3am (no idea why) and that leads me to questioning, well, everything. I do enjoy thought exercises and I’ve been known to just stare off for hours thinking.

How do you deal with life’s difficulties? What life lessons have you learned from your experiences, or survival tips to pass on to the readers?

I try to take things a day at a time (sometimes an hour at a time if everything is on fire like it seems to be lately). I concentrate on the things I can fix and do my best to be aware of, but ignore everything else.

I’m bi-polar so this is really hard, but I’ve literally spent 13 years using various practices, meditative techniques, and breathing exercises to allow me to keep my emotional state. Combined with my medications I function almost normally (as long as I can get breaks – another perk of being a freelance writer).

TL;DR Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.

What’s your current favorite quotation, and overall favorite quotable person, real or fictional?

There is a series of books by David Wong – the first being “John Dies at the End” – which are quite excellent. Don Coscarelli directed a movie version in 2012 with a quote I rather like about insanity and perception of reality.

“Dave: What do you think it’s like, Father?

Father Shellnut: What’s what like?

Dave: Being crazy, mentally ill.

Father Shellnut: Well, they never know they’re ill, do they? I mean, you can’t diagnose yourself with the same organ that has the disease, just like you can’t see your own eyeball. I suppose you just feel regular, and the rest of the world seems to go crazy around you.”

John Dies at the End (2012)

I remember being a quite bitter and angry youth and asking my foster dad a question which he took the time to answer:

“Nothing I do matters so what’s the point?”

“If nothing you do matters than the only thing that matters is what you do. You have a choice, you can choose to be angry, bitter, and full of hatred and self-loathing and tear down everything around you or you can use your pain to build everything up around you.”

That really stuck with me. I mean really stuck with me. I’m remind of those words every day of my life and I try to live by them.

If you were to strike it filthy rich virtually in a night, verging on being a trillionaire, what would you do with the money?

Too much. It boils down to making sure my countrymen have healthcare, fixing some of our social intuitions, etc. I’d provide for all my friends and loved ones in some many and generally invest in the future of the planet. I know that makes me sound like some hippy-dippy do-gooder, but that’s what I’d do. There’s only so much money you need.

So, I’d like to establish a precedent for these interviews, attributing its origin to Cara Santa Maria of the Talk Nerdy podcast, to wrap up with a double question, so…

…what current trends and events most tempt you toward pessimism of things to be? And…

“A pessimist is an optimist with a sense of history.”

The apathy of man and the general lack of critical thinking and asking the big questions among the populous. I cannot personally stand the willfully ignorant in any capacity and it tends to angry up my blood when I see someone who fits the bill. Ask questions! (Respectfully) defy authority! Hold others accountable! Be personally responsible. The lack of personal responsibility is something that deeply disturbs me.

…on a much lighter note, what gives you the most hope toward what the future holds?

Not much. But I still hold hope. It’s a foolish, optimistic hope. The best kind. I believe that in the end people will do the right thing – and not just for them.

I remember something my grandfather told me once: “A man goes out into the storm and he has a lantern. The rain is pelting him in the face and he’s sheltering the lantern with his body when he comes across another man who stands shivering in the dark and cursing his fortune. He asks the man what’s he’s doing. The man replies ‘I am lost and my lantern has gone out.’ So the man with the lit lantern pulls the candle from it and lights the other man’s candle knowing full well that the rain could extinguish it and leave them both in the dark. But by some miracle the fire is shared and the lost man is helped home. Was the man foolish for risking his own candle? Brave for facing the storm? Something else? To put it another way: Is it better to curse the darkness or to light another’s candle?”

Mr. Eccles Presents | How Conspiracy Theories Destroy Families

I have no personal beef with conservatives of the sane, sensible sort, and I’m rather fond of those I call friends and family. They’re good peeps. My problem, as with some on the far left, lies with the extremists.

While there are conspiracy theories promoted on both ends of the political spectrum, this seems especially common with the radical right wing in the United States.

This is a problem for the safety of all sane Americans that begs for a solution.

Tf. Tk. Tts.