5 Internet Argumentation Tips!

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 Image from xkcd

Debating topics on the internet is vastly different than doing so in person. It can, however, be a valuable tool for sharing knowledge and influencing minds, but it needs to be done correctly. Here are a few tips to help you make the most impact.

TONE

Tone is difficult in text. People are incredibly good at reading tone in someone else’s words dependent upon how they, themselves feel. The best is to ignore tone altogether. Don’t try to read the tone of what someone else writes. Just stick with the content of their words.

Always strive to keep your own words, and the tone you type them in, calm and even. Stay away from loaded language that can imply anything other than an even tone.

BUZZWORDS

Buzzwords are the bread and butter of the internet. They’re used to draw out emotional responses, often in otherwise rational people. Don’t use them. If you’re talking about GMOs, stay away from “shill” or “sheeple” or even “chemicals.” If you’re talking about religion, stay away from the common insults. Buzzwords are a terrible plague on our society right now. When your interlocutor uses them, dismiss them. They can only take away from the content of the discussion.

EVIDENCE

Understand the burden of proof, and when it lies on you, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, back up your claims with good evidence from reliable sources. Try not to use blogs as a scientific resource, unless they include a good set of reliable references (even if they’re entirely correct). Blogs are useful in political or social commentary that doesn’t rely as much on studies or physical evidence, but on opinion and analysis. Steer clear of YouTube.

When the burden of proof lies on your interlocutor, make sure they know it. Don’t start debunking their assertions until they provide evidence. Then, dismantle whatever evidence is unreliable or discuss any evidence that may be valid.

ASSERTIONS

If your interlocutor refuses to provide evidence, and only fires off more assertions, then the conversation is over. Don’t be upset about it or storm out with a “rage quit.” Just realize that they are so terribly uninformed that their worldview revolves around sound bytes, and not data. If you make an assertion, ANY assertion, be prepared to support it. Always.

HERD MENTALITY

This is very important. When you’re speaking on the internet, other people can usually see the conversation. They may be a point where you become outnumbered. This can go one of two ways. Either the conversation can continue to be a rational discourse, just with more people, or….it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you often see your opponents start to play off each other and cheer each other on. When this happens, the conversation is over. No amount of evidence, logic, or rational discourse will change the mind of someone who has cheerleaders.

Now, there are times where those same people will reflect later and have learned something, but in the moment, it’s no longer worth pursuing.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

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Those Evil Chemicals!

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Lately, I can’t get through a day without someone talking about harmful chemicals in our food. People are in an uproar over a harmless chemical in Subway rolls. People go nuts over GMOs. People even get in an uproar about flouride in the water. So, I think we should look at some of these chemical filled foods.

Let’s start with this incredibly dangerous cocktail of horribly dangerous chemicals.

sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, manganese, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, chlorid, flouride, iodine, slenemium, ncotinamide, pantothenic acid, frolic acid, leucine, lysine, valine, isoleucine

Wow, that’s some scary stuff. And to think, we let schools feed these “apples” to our children.

OK, now that we’re terrified, let’s take a look at another poisonous compound that we feed our children.

iron, sulfur, potassium, sodium, chlorine

Wow. Sulfur?!?! Chlorine?!?! We should ban eggs from the shelves.

OK, but surely we eat something that isn’t chemicals? What about something free ranger and organic?

Actin, myosin, moglobin, elastin, reticulin, collagen, nucleoprotein, hemoglobin, albumin, globulin, fibrinogen, citrate, lactate, niacin, glycine, proline, serine, tyrosine, hydoxyproline, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc

Woah. That’s a deadly steak!

Now, let’s look at reality. Every single thing is made of chemicals. It doesn’t matter how “clean” or “organic” or whatever other buzzword you choose to use it is. Picking out a chemical you don’t understand and making claims that it’s somehow bad, regardless of what the science says is absurd, to say the least. I can only really say…

Dude, do you even science?

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

 

Rant

The anti-GMO movement is an interesting marriage of the white suburbia faux green ideology (natural when it’s trendy, but I still want the SUV and internet) and the Occupy style anti-corporation stance, that all corporations are bad, whether they’ve done something worth criticizing or not.

It stems from the same neoliberalism mentality that is completely against oppression…except it’s OK for Israel to oppress Palestine. I’m completely against racism….but black people scare me. We need to address poverty…don’t look in his eyes, son, he just wants our money for booze.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

The Decline of Evidence

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There was a time, not too far in American history, that people understood the concept of evidence. Now, they may not have really grasped the scientific principles of evidence, but they got the concept. If they made a claim about science, and someone asked them to prove it, they’d point to X scientist or X scientific study they read about. What they didn’t say, typically, is “prove me wrong.”

Whenever someone makes an assertion, followed by a request to prove them wrong, the conversation is a non-starter. It’s nonsense. When you make a positive claim, such as “this is or is not true about the world,” then the onus is on you to prove your assertion. You hold the burden of proof. No one is under any obligation to believe you until you do so, nor do they need to prove you wrong. You’ve provided nothing to disprove.

Evidence, when it comes to a scientific claim, typically refers to a well formed,  peer reviewed study. At the very least, the assertion should be based on sound scientific principles that are known to be true, and it should be a falsifiable claim. There must be a solid way to test it. If your claim isn’t able to be tested and attempted to falsify, then you’ve said nothing of value scientifically.

Unfortunately, today, the concept of evidence has been skewed in the public view. The most commonly cited items as evidence in the public are YouTube videos and blog posts. These are not evidence. These wouldn’t even be accepted on a college freshman English paper as citations. If you’re making claims based on them, or worse, you’ve developed a worldview based on them, then you are devoid of intellectual honesty and any credibility whatsoever.

There’s also this strange perception of the peer review as “corporate science.” People often claim that all professional scientific literature is bought and paid for, biased, as if it’s some kind of conspiracy to keep “real” science (the YouTube version?) suppressed.

Let’s unpack this a bit. What would it take for such a conspiracy to exist? First, it would require millions upon millions of scientists to be in on it. That alone would be unwieldy, impossible given….humans. It would also require all universities and professors to be in on it. All regulatory agencies, medical establishments, and governments would also need to be working together. Do you see how crazy this gets?

Let’s look at some realities of how the scientific process works. There’s a specific reason that science, as a method of knowing, is seen to be self correcting. When someone puts forth a paper, it gets peer reviewed. Once it passes that process, which is often not easy, it gets published. This isn’t the endgame. This is the beginning. At this point, scientists from all over the world get to try and prove the results of that paper wrong. Doing so is one of the best ways to gain recognition as a scientist. This is especially true of a scientist can prove something well accepted to be wrong.

So, even if you provide a study as evidence of a claim, one solitary study doesn’t do it. That’s not how it works. Anything that can really be asserted in science with any certainty will have a large body of studies behind it. It will have been tried to be proven wrong many times without success.

We see this problem so often today as anti-vaxxers pull out the Wakefield study and anti-GMOers pull out the Seralini study. Not only are these singular studies, they’ve been discredited and retracted due to serious bias, dishonest practices, and poor methodology. That’s how science works.

So, when someone tries to first off a YouTube video, blog post, or a single poor study  as their primary source of evidence, you may need to explain how evidence works in science. They’re obviously doing it wrong.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Generalizations and the Honest Conversation

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The other day, something came across my newsfeed. This something came from someone who was a pretty known atheist, skeptic, and feminist. I won’t spotlight the person, but the conversation was disturbing. It really illustrates so many problems in the rational community and the long road we have to walk before an honest conversation can be had.

I feel like I spend half my entire existence yelling “GAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH WHY ARE ATHEISTS SUUUUUUUUUUCH ASSHOLES?”

This, in and of itself, is not terrible. It’s a rant. My reply was as follows.

Atheists, like any group of people, run the spectrum of good and bad. I think the larger concern is why so many people in general are such assholes.

This is when it happened. Rational discourse was made impossible.

And the atheist community is a community full of shitlords. That’s just the way it is.

When I can’t even remember which of our leaders are actual rapists and which are just harassers and the community celebrates that a con with a harassment policy had a dude whip out a loaded weapon on someone and websites dedicated to hating other activists within the community, yeah, I want to hear about how THE REST OF THE WORLD IS JUST AS BAD!

It’s a shit movement. And I expect better from people who base their behaviors on what’s rational.

It’s not really settling to hear “You’d get rape threats from ANY group of people. Lay off the atheists. Stop being IRRATIONAL, LADY!”

Now….what?

The problem is that in any community, you have a lot of people who agree about only one or a handful of things. People are people otherwise. If you spend a lot of time in one community, you may experience more people in that community that are unpleasant. That doesn’t mean that specific community is any better or worse than any other.

When you make gross generalizations about any group, you not only insult the majority who aren’t remotely the caricature you just made of their community, but you alienate potential allies to your cause of addressing the problems and people that exist in that community.

The other problem is that people often characterize the internet troll portion of a community as being representative of that community. It simply isn’t true. Someone on the thread suggested just not frequenting the groups that consist of those types of trollish people. The response was another horrible strawman of what was said.

Oh, you mean OFF OF THE INTERNET? Where I am voiceless completely? Good plan.

Again….what?

Now, while this may seem like an absurdly overblown example of the problems with generalization and discarding rational discourse, it’s a conversation that actually happened with someone who otherwise is well respect for rational thought. This type of generalization and sensationalism does nothing but hinder any progress in addressing the real problems in the community.

Consider this parallel.

Years ago, when I first became active in the Feminist community, I went to a Women Take Back the Night rally. I had brought a group of friends to help out, and we all volunteered. Two of us in the group were male. We had a fantastic time working with everyone, and doing what we could to help out. One person, however, who was working the event, informed us that men are the enemy and we weren’t needed or wanted there.

Would it have been fair of me to say that all Feminists are assholes, and begin demonizing the community? Of course not. That’s the ignorant type of irrational thinking that permeates groups like the Men’s Rights Activists. It’s not productive and not accurate or fair.

So, if you want to have a larger, honest conversation about problems within ANY community, then have that conversation. Don’t discard the entire community, and absolutely don’t attack those who may be on your side, but refuse to generalize as you are. It’ll do nothing but hurt your cause and hinder any progress towards fixing the problems.

Contributor: Robert Sacerich

Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Logical Fallacies: The “No True Scotsman” fallacy

This term comes from the example: If Angus states “All Scotsman are brave!” And you give an example of a Scotsman was a coward, Angus might respond, “Well, then, he’s no true Scotsman.”
Angus is claiming that all Scotsman are brave by making “bravery” in what it means to be a Scotsman. This argument is not established by any facts or new information, and is only Angus’ definition what is means to be a “Scotsman.

As I said in my introduction to logical fallacies, this is one that I am very passionate about. Let me explain…

I am a Marine veteran of 9 years of service (yes, I am talking about me, Chivo, the author of the post). This is a thing I am very proud of and earned through many trials and tribulations. Some to my physical detriment. I fought to defend my ideals of what democracy is. And paid the price with my physical health. Not as high a price as some, but that is neither here nor there. I earned my right to be called “Marine”. And I am extremely proud of it.

By now, you might be asking yourself “What does this have to do with a logical fallacy? Bring it or hush it!” Fine, fine, you needn’t be impatience!

Let me pontificate a bit more. Imagine back in 2012. There was a election for something. Something FAIRLY important that your new admin felt very strongly about.

Enough of being obtuse, I backed President Obama and was not shy about it. I stated my intent to vote for him and still stand, not behind it, but in front of it and in defense of it. Still you say, “OOOOKKAY! What does this have to do with the article?!”. You haven’t let me finish….

I was contacted by a fellow Marine, one that I actually had served with. He said, in a nutshell “what are you doing?! You can’t back this guy!” I responded with “I am backing then candidate that I feel that best serves the American public.” Well, after a few rounds back and forth, I got one of the most shocking things I had ever heard(read) ” I thought you were a Marine. You aren’t a Marine.”……

Let’s let that soak in….
.
..

Insert expletive laced comments here. For about four paragraphs.

This guy that I had served with and fought side by side with had just claimed that I was “no true Marine” because I voted differently than he did. Voted Democrat, not Republican.

And that is the core of this logical fallacy. When you include a irrefutable claim as part of the definition of the subject, it had better be irrefutable.

Sorry for the tirade! But I did say I was passionate!

Next up, everyone’s favorite: the Ad Hominem!

 

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.

Logical Fallacies: Introduction

Hello! My admin name is Chivo. I am one of the new Admins here on Rationality Unleashed! and when I was added, I was asked what one of my interests were. I, like the true genius that I am, I opened my mouth and figuratively stuck my foot in it by uttering “logical fallacies”. To which I got a resounding GREAT! DO THAT! *sigh* So here we go down the rabbit hole…
Per the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe: “Even when all of the premises of an argument are reliably true, the argument may still be invalid if the logic employed is not legitimate – a so-called logical fallacy.”

Let’s let that soak in…..

You can have all the facts right and you can still be wrong? Wait,what? Yup! The way a logical argument works is A=B, B=C, therefore A=C, right? Right, except when it doesn’t.

Have I lost you yet? I doubt it. Let’s take it to the absurd to make an example: snow is white, my refrigerator is white, therefore, my refrigerator is snow. As I said, absurd. A 3 year old can tell the difference.

Let’s go to one that you probably know, but it is still subtle: Global Warming means that the Earth is warming, today it was unseasonably cold, therefore Global Warming is false. It SEEMS to be true. Both of the former statements can both be true, without a doubt. But, the conclusion is not true. By making a generalize statement about long term phenomenon (global warming) and comparing it to an extremely fleeting instance (daily weather) is a logical fallacy.

The grandfather of all logical fallacies is the non-sequitur. In Latin, this phrase means “does not follow”. And basically, once you break down any of the logical fallacies to their core, it’s a non-sequitur. The logic just does not follow. When you name a specific fallacy, you are actually just stating a subset of it. And, a way to defend against it!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this article explaining the idea of a logical fallacy as much as I had writing it. The first of the subsets (and one that I am very passionate about and you’ll see why) that I will attempt to break down will be the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

See you soon!

 

Contributor: Jonathan Tindell

A native Floridian living in Pennsylvania, eight year veteran of the United States Maine Corp that is in support of responsible gun control, and salesperson in the Oil and Gas industry that believes in climate change, Jonathan is almost the definition of a dichotomy.

See his full bio!

Thank you for reading Rationality Unleashed! You can “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @rationalityunle. For any questions, concerns, or comments beyond what can be placed in the comments section of the blog, email us at admin@rationalityunleashed.net.