Tag Archives: Black Hole

Protecting yourself against bullshit

Here’s a very useful book for those who often get into debates with people who attempt to diss science. Its called Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole. The author is philosopher Stephen Law.

It’s quite a short book – it’s purpose is to help the reader identify arguments and techniques used by the irrational to defend their beliefs. In short, the bullshit that can often suck people into the “intellectual black holes” of irrational belief.

The author aims to unpack and explain some strategies used by people who are “powerfully committed to some ludicrous system of belief.” Strategies used to construct “an impregnable fortress . . . . around even a ridiculous set of beliefs, rendering them immune to rational criticism and creating a veneer of faux reasonableness.”

Law concentrates on eight strategies and povides his own name for these in the following chapters:

  1. Playing the Mystery Card
  2. “But It Fits!” and The Blunderbuss
  3. Going Nuclear
  4. Moving the Semantic Goalposts
  5. “I Just Know!”
  6. Pseudoprofundity
  7. Piling Up the Anecdotes
  8. Pressing Your Button

I am half way through reading the book and recommend it. His discussion of the “scientism” ploy and analysis of the bullshit used to attack Richard Dawkins book The God Delusion were spot on. I also liked his Chapter 3 on Going Nuclear – he has an early version on his blog – see Going Nuclear. A version of Chapter 6: Pseudoprofundity is also on the blog.

Anyone with a passing interest in internet discussion will immediately recognise these strategies. They are generally a sign of weakness, but are often  used to bamboozle discussion partners.  This book will help people to understand what is going on and how to handle such bullshit.

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Science-religion conflicts. Who’s responsible?

tysonThere does seem to be a blog war these days on the science-relgion conflict. There even seems to be a debate within the separate camps about the tactics used by the participants. And then there are other’s who find the whole issue embarrassing. They seem to wish everyone would just shut up or cover their ears (eyes and mouths).

It’s worth asking, though, who is responsible? Who is feeding the conflict and why?

I thought Neil deGrasse Tyson put it very well in a recent talk. Responding to a question about the evolution-creation conflict he put some questions to the audience:

“Do you see scientists demanding that their science be taught in Sunday schools? Do you see scientists parading with placards outside Churches? Do you see scientists appearing at Church governing bodies demanding a determining role in Church dogma?”

The answer is no, of course. And that tells you something.

By the way, this was a great talk. He was in great form, using a lot of humour to discuss recent findings in astronomical physics. He was speaking to the Commonwealth Cub in California on his book Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries. His talk is available as a video (mp4), in audio (mp3) and as a  Transcript (pdf). Well worth watching, listening to or reading.

See Video: FORA.tv – Neil deGrasse Tyson: Death By Black Hole.


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