Paralogism for the month of June, 2011

Each month I will post my favorite paralogism from the previous month. I usually find these when reading articles about politics or religion. Maybe that’s why you’re not supposed to discuss those things at family gatherings.

The NY Times ran an article exploring the idea that human reasoning is nothing more than a weapon for winning arguments. The title goes so far as to say, “Reason Seen More as Weapon Than Path to Truth.”

Aside from the irony of the ensuing debate, the paralogism in this purportedly legitimate news story is simple:

Mr. Sperber wanted to figure out why people persisted in picking out evidence that supported their views and ignored the rest—what is known as confirmation bias—leading them to hold on to a belief doggedly in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

Like all paralogisms, at face value, this one seems logical. After all, if employing reason implies employing confirmation bias, then it makes sense reason would be a weapon for winning, and not a method for discovering truth.

But reason is:

…the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

Thus, confirmation bias, while a very real and common practice (see said article or any episode of the View), is not an implicit part of reasoning. In fact, quite the opposite—confirmation bias is a refusal to employ reason.

Paralogism for the month of July, 2011

Each month I will post my favorite paralogism from the previous month. I usually find these when reading articles about politics or religion. Maybe that’s why you’re not supposed to discuss those things at family gatherings.

This is not a debate of the economic stimulus package.

The Weekly Standard ran a Blog “Report” assessing the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors’ Seventh Quarterly Report on the effects of the $667 Billion Economic Stimulus package from 2009:

The council reports that […] the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs—whether private or public—at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.   

In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the “stimulus,” and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead.

Paralogism: Almost every business has expenses beyond employment. But the analysis assumes that all money in the stimulus bill was used only for jobs / salaries. The math is wrong.

Update: I had composed the above analysis the day the article was posted, and two days later, the White House responded with the same answer:

[…] the White House responds to my piece by claiming that “stimulus” spending “didn’t just fund salaries but also went to the actual costs of building things.” I never said, however, that the $278,000 per job has gone to salaries. Rather, I said that each job has cost taxpayers $278,000.

New paralogism to defend the old one: The author now claims his $278,000 figure was not limited to salaries. However, when he reported his $278,000 figure, he claimed cutting $100,000 checks to job holders would have saved $427 billion. Cutting checks to job holders is known as salary, and salary does exclude the costs of building things.

The philosophers’ paralogism is to assume a people of men. But this is a contradictory expression, an impossible being. There are only peoples of citizens, people who have given up their reason to the inegalitarian fiction.
—  Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation

老外筆記: homolog, ortholog, and paralog
lawaymayaw.blogspot.hk

這啥?

沒錯,這啥?每回在 paper 上看到 homolog/ortholog/paralog 等等的字就會開始在腦中尋找它們的定義,可惜,總沒記得住,以至於情況就陷入像是在「自己/已經」的詞中選擇「已/己/巳」三字裡的正確單字 (我是用行列輸入法打字的,所以有這種情況出現)。

今天,學長走來問我相關用法,而我又不是很確定。於是再次請教 google 大神,看看正確用法是什麼。簡單來說,homolo

The #evolution of black widow venom

Black widow venom contains α-latrotoxin, infamous for causing intense pain. Combining 33kb of Latrodectus hesperus genomic DNA with #RNA-Seq, we characterized the α-latrotoxin gene and discovered a paralog, 4.5kb downstream. Both paralogs exhibit venom gland specific transcription, and may be regulated post-transcriptionally via musashi-like proteins. A 4kb intron interrupts the α-latrotoxin coding sequence, while a …

The #evolution of black widow venom is a post from: RNA-Seq Blog http://bit.ly/1sg6nKC #RNAseq

Paralogism for the month of May, 2011

Each month I will post my favorite paralogism from the previous month. I usually find these when reading articles about politics or religion. Maybe that’s why you’re not supposed to discuss those things at family gatherings.

CNN.com ran an editorial of sorts regarding the Catholic Church’s position on in vitro fertilization (IVF). The entire thing is rife with paralogisms, but the one that stuck with me was this:

[…Catholic doctrine states that through the use of IVF] the generation of the human person is deprived of its proper perfection[…]

[…] Is the church truly claiming that our beautiful and innocent daughter, conceived through an IVF procedure, is somehow “less” because of how her physical life began? […]

Paralogism: the “generation of the human person” (subject: IVF) is not the same thing as the “human person generated” (subject: daughter). The Church has made no claims about the author’s daughter, only about the method by which she was conceived.

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