Halloween: 2016 – Closing Time on the Call


Happy Halloween, or a joyous celebration to you no matter your holiday of choice!

I knew this day would come, since founding this blog on December 28, 2008, but it’s been an absolute blast.

It really has.

After this entry, the blog will remain online, but closed to further updates. Posts older than one year since this date will be closed for commenting, and this site will continue to serve as an archive.

I’m changing venues to another site for most of my blogging, a site much with much more functionality, one which permits me to sell my work directly, and most of all one which is less burdened by the spectre of time and loss of those passed on whom I’ve come to like, love, and respect.

This blog has seen much history in the nearly eight years it’s existed, and not all of it good. It has seen the deaths of many very close to me, and my work on this site has been deeply affected by these undertones, and the erosion over the months and years of the joy and enthusiasm I began with in late 2008.

I need a change of venue, a place to blog less burdened with the emotional baggage this site carries since the deaths of friends, relatives, online acquaintances scarcely known but profoundly influential, and those of my cats long-gone. It sounds silly and irrational, coming from a non-believer, but it feels almost as if the site has been spiritually tainted by this history.

So, I’m off to a new start, mostly away from WordPress.

Perhaps one day I’ll see a need to return to posting here, at some misty, inchoate time in the future. But I will not promise that. I cannot honestly do so. I simply don’t know what lies ahead.

My new main blogging venue beginning on November 26th of this year will be The Collect Call of Troythulu, with the first few weeks of November being one of preparing and scheduling updates there, as well as study, reading, recharging my cognitive batteries, and relaxation as my new quarterly activity schedule comes into effect on November 1.

I’ll post there each month afterward every other day, with a period of one week or eight days at month’s end to research, rest, read, and review my lessons ready for the following month of updates. I’ll continue posting on WordPress at Checkerboards of the Gods, with an update monthly in keeping with that blog’s topic matter of language use, literature, and writing.

I’ll continue keeping up with those of you on WordPress by commenting on your posts, liking, voting on, and chatting with you on other social media venues you may use. I’d be delighted if you could join me on Blogger or Google+, on Facebook (Here) and (Here), on Twitter, @Troythulu, @Mister_Eccles, or on my Tumblr account at My Horrific Elegance. For those of you with RSS feed readers, my Blogger site has links to updates there, both posts and comments working much like WordPress’s RSS widget. It’s also possible to subscribe there by email.

 

So, in closing this site, I’ll paraphrase from Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor’s parting line in the final episode of the 2005 season of Doctor Who, “The Parting of the Ways:”

Before this ends, I just want to say one thing. It’s been fantastic, absolutely fantastic! And D’you know what? So have you!

Thank you all for your support, your friendship, and the pleasure of meeting you online these eight years past. I hope I’ve been worthy of it.

Be safe. Be well. Be brilliant as the stars…. Always.

Caturday’s Astrophenia | Tonight: Doctor Madblood’s Halloween Scream 2016


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This evening at 10:00 p.m. EDT airs the annual Doctor Madblood’s Halloween Scream at whro.org/madblood. This year’s movie will be the director’s cut of the original Night of the Living Dead.

Zombies! The Shambling Dead! How cool is that??

*braiinsss…*

Ahem.

To me, the skits involving the Madblood gang are the best part, but the movie is okay as well if you like the quintessential film by George Romero! The skits take place at Madblood Manor, the home of retired mad scientist Doctor Maximillian Madblood and his monsters.

Pungo Virginia’s resident vampire, Count Lacudra (Dracula spelled sideways🙂 ) makes an appearance, as Madblood characters lighten the movie segments with humor.

A certain Ninth Doctor impersonator does not appear in the skits, only during the costume party scenes, which are very brief. There are Daleks though, thankfully not encountered by said Ninth Doctor impersonator, as being exterminated by an angry Dalek with only the Sonic as a defense would have been unpleasant. They were made of wood, and the Sonic doesn’t work on wood!

The other cosplayers, though, were brilliant, funny, and very nice people who made the early evening of September 25 enormously fun and memorable.

Enjoy the movie!

Cylindrical Mountains on Venus

An Atlas V Rocket Launches OSIRIS REx

The Antlia Cluster of Galaxies

M45: The Pleiades Star Cluster

The Tulip in the Swan

Full Moon in Mountain Shadow

Cerro Tololo Trails

Eagle Aurora over Norway

HI4PI: The Hydrogen Sky

Clouds Near Jupiter’s South Pole from Juno

Propellor Shadows on Saturn’s Rings

A Giant Squid in the Flying Bat

Haunting the Cepheus Flare

Moonset at Whitby Abbey

Zoom into The Center of Our Galaxy:

The Astrognuz:

MIT Programs Humanoid Robots to Explore Mars

MRO Sees Impact Site of ESA Mars Lander

New Horizons: Possible Clouds on Pluto, Next Target Reddish

Historical Records May Underestimate Sea Level Rise

Seasonal Change on Titan is Dynamic Business

September 2016 is 12th Month in a Row for Record Breaking Temperatures

Space Station Crew Gets Special Delivery from Virginia

Big Picture Science Radio Show | Moral’s Law

Can We Get Space-Madness?

Three Stars Illuminate NGC 6188

Evidence Mounts for Planet Nine

Colliding Galaxies, Black Holes in X-Rays

xkcd: Rosetta

Project Logicality | The Appeal to Force


 Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 21.28.48(This post contains rough language, and at least one rather graphic example, not particularly kid-friendly, is provided. Then, this is not a kid-friendly blog, so no biggie.)

Here we discuss the appeal to force, just for the sake of annoying pedantry, the argument from the cudgel, or the ad baculum fallacy.

It’s informal, language-derived argument, an irrelevant appeal, trying to coerce compliance or even merely feigned agreement with a claim by applying force or its threat, whether that be physical, psychological, or legal.

It may be thought of as a subset of the argument from final consequences, and in a simple but slightly vulgar formulation basically amounts to:

Agree with me and do as I say, or I’ll kick your f**king *ss!

or a bit less crudely,

Agree that I’m right because I’m badder and meaner than you are and I can light you up!

There’s also:

Do as I say, not as I do …or else!

That last might also double as an argument from authority, it and the ad baculum being not-so-subtle forms of bullying.

It’s fallacious when the threat implied or expressed used has no logical relation to the claim. It aims to exploit a demand for submission to authority and fear to substitute for valid argument.

This is probably apocryphal, but there’s a classic example I’ve seen on various places on the Web and in one of my Great Courses lectures, of a statement of Hitler’s upon hearing the then Pope’s displeasure, in which he’s claimed to have said, “…and how many tanks does the Pope have?”

Not exactly a rhetorical question.

But that nicely illustrates the specious use of this argument in exploiting the idea that ‘might makes right.’

Another example of this is Pascal’s Wager, with its choice, actually a false dilemma, of theistic belief while supposedly losing nothing and a chance at winning everything, or non-belief and risking perdition if ‘wrong,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean. There’s a whole host of unstated assumptions going into the wager that lack independent support, and which if not presupposed undermine Pascal’s  case, but I won’t deal with that here.

But an ad baculum argument can have valid applications, as when the threat invoked directly relates to the claims and is not merely used to overthrow a discussion by substituting intimidation or fear for real justification of a claim. There are criminal penalties imposed as punishment in various legal systems. This includes things like theft, fraud, and treason, which such penalties as narfling the Garthok, or maybe being consigned to Jabba the Hutt’s Rancor pit for making awful movie references on this blog. Ouch.

For example:

If you read the forbidden (and completely made-up) haiku collection ‘Reflections on Infinity,’ horrible and nasty critters (equally fictitious) from the Outer Void (as made-up as the first two) will show up and slowly eat your brain. Attracting the attention of such horrors can be horrific, worse than death, as madness comes while they eat your brain. To best avoid this unpleasant fate, you must not read ‘Reflections on Infinity.’

That was a little over the top, but I did say this blog isn’t kid-friendly.

With many informal arguments, sometimes fallacies or not, valid or invalid use depends on context. The use of it for furthering or squelching critical discussion, is valid when used for the former, invalid for the latter.

Most informal fallacies are not simple matters of incorrect structure. They depend on meaning bound up in language, which is inextricably linked to it, not merely decorative filler as with formal logic. Content matters.

Caturday’s Astrophenia | Doctors and Dusters: 2016.10.15


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G’day! I had the cosplay session at the studio on the 25th of last month, but I neglected to take pics! Here is one that the parental unit took before filming began (I look old, just short of 900 years, I think!):

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But the filming went well, and the episode should air on the 29th of this month, the Saturday before Halloween. I’ll post links to it on social media, including the next Astrophenia for this blog before regular posting ends. Stay cool, or warm, depending on your hemisphere of residence, and as always…

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Aurora Over White Dome Geyser

Explore Rosetta’s Comet

Nest of the Eagle Nebula

A Crumbling Layered Butte on Mars

Trifid, Lagoon, and Mars

The Hydrogen Clouds of M33

Moon, Mercury, and Twilight Radio

Hurricane Ivan from the Space Station

The Winds of Earth

The Cygnus Wall of Star Formation

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

Galaxies from the Altiplano

Herschel’s Orion

Gemini Observatory North

The Astrognuz:

What Was Sputnik I?

Climate Change Denial: Like Saying the Earth is Flat

Big Picture Science Radio Show | Science and the Election

NASA’s Opportunity Rover to Explore Mars Gully

Hurricane Matthew Forces Closure of Cape Kennedy Space Center

Blue Origin Tests Spacecraft Escape System

Methane on Mars: Potential Origin and Seepage

NASA’s Kepler and Comet 67P

JPL Predicts Global Mars Dust Storm

Arctic Sea Ice Second Lowest Extent in 2016

World’s Biggest Radio Ear

Hubble Detects Giant ‘Cannonballs’ Shooting from Star

Can You Buy Land on the Moon?

Calculating How Big A Black Hole Can Get

Pluto’s Interacting Surface and Atmosphere

Where are All the Alien Robots?

Rosetta Mission Ends

Zombie Vortices in Star and Planet Formation

NASA-Produced Maps Help Gauge Italy Earthquake Damage

Moonshot

Project Logicality | Slippery Slopes


Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 21.28.48I discuss here the Slippery Slope, which has both a causal and semantic version.

But first I’ll deal with its causal version, the Fallacy of the Beard, also the Camel’s Nose fallacy. The first name comes from an analogy with the greying of a man’s beard, in which the amount of grey is small at first, but inexorably progresses until the entire beard is grey. The second  name comes from a fable in which a camel is permitted by its owner to stick its nose in the tent for warmth from the cold desert night air, quickly followed by the entire camel, who crowds its owner out of the tent and into the cold.

Afterward, I’ll discuss the semantic version, the Vagueness, or False Continuum.

The first asserts that a position or claim is unacceptable because if accepted, its extreme must inevitably follow, without sound reasons as to how or why this must be.

A superficially similar form of argument can be a strong line of reasoning when the chain of inference is laid out and logically follows, but this refers to the specious usage, as below:

The public teaching of comparative religion leads to awareness of religious diversity, then to religious doubt, then to agnosticism, then to atheism, then to anti-theism, then to nihilism, then to moral degeneracy, then inevitably to the disintegration of a society in total anarchy, so we don’t want comparative religion courses taught in our public schools.

Beside the fact that the evidence just doesn’t bear this ridiculous chain of consequences out, note here that no supporting reasons or other justification are ever provided as to why this chain must be true.

The semantic Vagueness, or False Continuum, is below:

One version attempts to argue that concepts B and E shade into each other along a continuum without any fine dividing line between them, so they are the same thing.

But it just doesn’t follow that:

There is no difference between blue light and yellow light, despite no sharp dividing point in wavelengths in the visible spectrum.

Nor does it follow that:

There is no separation between humid or dry weather when the moisture in the air at any one time and place varies in degree from high to low.

The second variant is used to argue that concept B differs so little from concept E with no fine line between them, that concept E simply doesn’t exist. As for this one, it doesn’t follow that:

Truth doesn’t exist because of the continuum between truth and falsehood. The concept of truth is without any objective reference.

These two fallacies, causal and semantic, are distinct, but they are mentioned together here as the use of the semantic version can and does often lead to the commission of the causal version. Their joint use implies that a slip from position or claim B to E is inevitable because of the lack of a fine point of separation between them.

Project Logicality | Reducing to Absurdity


Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 21.28.48Here we discuss what is otherwise useful and valid reasoning, known as the Reductio ad Absurdum. In its valid form it may be used to show an argument’s claim to be false by following it to its ultimate logical conclusion, revealing a contradiction, an absurdity, or it may be used as a form of Straw-Man argument, known here as the False Reductio. I’ll deal first with the latter.

This works by forcing a conclusion that while absurd, doesn’t use the actual reasoning of the original argument, such as:

If you’re skeptical of the existence of UFOs, Bigfoot, and ancient aliens, then you must also be skeptical of the existence of the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House, and the Empire State Building, since you’ve never been there to see those places.

This is fallacious because the proportional nature  of the claims requires proportional standards of evidence. The criteria for each differ, and the argument itself ignores the use of evidence other than anecdotal testimony and grainy, low-resolution, or obviously photoshopped videos and photos.

Here is one of my favorites:

If you don’t believe in psychic abilities then you also disbelieve in dark matter and dark energy, so 90% of the Universe does not exist to you because you haven’t seen those either.

Again with ignoring evidence other than personally witnessing something. Also, it fails to consider the fact that though there is some question as to what dark matter and dark energy are, they have been reliably observed by their effects on the visible universe itself, and the evidence shows that they are real. Clearly, elusive supernormal psychic abilities and invisible but indirectly observable astrophysical phenomena are not analogous.

But all is not without a ray of light in the dark. There is an informally valid and intellectually honest use of this as well, to highlight the fallaciousness of some extraordinary claims. Here, the actual train of logic of the original argument is kept intact.

Here are a couple of silly claims I’ve come across:

The ancient Egyptians could not have built the pyramids without alien or Atlantean help. They were far too primitive a civilization.

In order to know what a human skeleton looks like, the Maya and Aztecs must have been given X-ray machines by ancient astronauts.

Such claims reek not only of thinly disguised racism and colonialist arrogance, but stupidity and historical shortsightedness as well.

And skeletons? Come on, that’s just silly!

Here, we may apply the same train of logic to what the proponents of these ideas, mostly whites of Western descent, dare not apply it to: early Europeans:

How could the Medievals possibly have had the intelligence to invent such marvels as the crossbow, stained glass windows, steel armor and weapons, and those massive cathedrals! They had to get their technology from aliens, because they were too inept to come up with them on their own! They must have gotten medical imaging technology from the aliens too, because Medieval art has lots of skeletons in it, and how could they have possibly known what those looked like without using it?

Absurd? Clearly it is, and in retaining as closely as can be the reasoning of the original applied to another subject, it shows that.

A side note: Technology is cumulative, and evolves over time, with earlier, precursor technologies leading to better, more advanced ones, with archaeological remnants to show this progression, no matter the location, or ethnic and cultural makeup of the civilization. This is true even dating as far back as the Paleolithic with stone tools.

Never underestimate human genius. There exists brilliance in every human era, with no need to gift early peoples with technology from super-civilizations for such tasks as constructing even impressive monuments, which require only engineering, tools, and social organization which we know they had, as opposed to the claims of pseudo-historians in massive, and dare I say, monumental, arguments from ignorance.

But I digress.

Reason is a tool. Use it well and it will serve you reliably, leading to the acquisition of more true conclusions than false ones. But abuse it, and the content of the claims you accept and promote becomes much more prone to error. Especially when you misrepresent the chain of another’s reasoning for ideological ends.

Project Logicality | Moving Goalposts


Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 21.28.48Here, I deal with a popular rhetorical tactic of cranks, pseudoscientists, grand conspiracy theorists,  and charlatans of all stripes, the Moving Goalpost.

But its use is also common in everyday discourse. Most people are fairly closed-minded and find changing their stance on things uncomfortable. It takes good metacognitive skills, thinking about thinking, to correct this tendency.

The fallacy takes its name from an analogy with American football, in which the goalposts are always out of reach of whoever is carrying the ball, and continue to recede further still.

With this tactic, the more unreasonable the standard of proof for refuting or confirming the claim, the better. It involves either arbitrarily redefining one’s claims to put them conveniently out of reach of any disproof, or setting impossible standards from the very beginning.

The objective here is to avoid having to rescind whatever claims one is making, when one has a political, financial, personal, or ideological stake in a position. For some, no amount of evidence and reason is enough, and it shows in this use of rhetoric.

A couple of examples might be:

Show me just one experiment conducted in a lab on Earth that has ever created dark matter, directly measured gravity, manufactured a black hole, or generated controlled stellar fusion!

Establishment Cosmology™ is silly, fallacious, and wrong!

This argument clearly sets impossible standards from the beginning.

It and what follows use a version of the “show me just one proof” gambit common among creationists and crank cosmology proponents (Sometimes  those are one and the same!).

The next illustrates shifting standards of proof each time evidence is presented:

I want to see any example of a transitional species before I think evolution even remotely plausible! Just one!

Tiktaalik? Ambulocetus?

There are still gaps in the fossil record between those and what came before and after! Where’s the evidence for those??

You’ve filled in those gaps?

Now there are more gaps to fill! Fraud! Fake! Amoral evilutionist! Evolution is a sham!

It’s important to proportion to the claim just what criteria of evidence and logic you will accept, and to stick with that as your gold standard throughout. Set reasonable standards, then admit it and change your mind once those standards have been met.

Consistency might be called the bugaboo of small minds, but it’s what’s needed when assessing claims open-mindedly and rationally.

Ubi dubium, ibi libertas. – Where there is doubt, there is freedom.

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