Archive for October, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | Scientists discover dyslexia gene

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

BBC NEWS | Health | Scientists discover dyslexia gene

Skeptico: Lack critical thinking, go to jail

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

Skeptico: Lack critical thinking, go to jail
Ok Skeptico,
It’s time to admit you were wrong.
Otherwise this discussion is going to bring the whole idea of skepticism and critical thinking into disrepute.

Yes the expert, the defence lawyer, the jury, the judge, and the law were all incompetent in their own various ways and the women should all have been found not guilty in their original trials.
And yes, their original convictions were unfair and that’s a bad thing about which we should all feel angry.

BUT

Our emotional reaction to that particular set of examples should not be used to try to add weight to a basically fallacious argument.

In fact the statement that you claim to be disproving is logically unassailable and your argument against it is totally bogus.

Let’s look again at what Sherlock Holmes is alleged to have said: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”

You challenge this by identifying an example where *none* of the conditions of Holmes’ alleged thesis apply.

1 What was “eliminated” in the trials was not “the impossible” but just the merely improbable. (That the estimate of improbability was obtained by multiplying suspect probabilities of manifestly non-independent events is only a small part of what was wrong with that analysis, but that issue is of course irrelevant to the point under discussion(as is also the fact that exactly the same argument could have been used by the defense to prove the “impossibility” of the mothers being guilty!))

2 “Whatever remains” after eliminating SIDS (if in fact that had been done) would have been “anything but SIDS” and certainly not just “murder”. It is not Mr. Holmes’ fault that everyone involved lacked the imagination to consider the possibility that the children had been, for example, bitten by poisonous amazonian spiders (brought into the house in the trousercuffs of their anthropologist uncle whose footprints in the hallway had the unmistakable colour of …)

Of course it is often difficult to come up with an exhaustive list of possibilities (except by using the obvious ploy of negation – though I admit that that would be using logic, which is close to mathematics, which I gather makes you uncomfortable).

But just because it is often difficult to meet Holmes’ criteria in a useful way does not mean that it is never possible.

For example, if a body is found at the bottom of a swimming pool, it is easy to identify an exhaustive set of possibilities regarding the relative times of death and uncovered facial immersion, and the elimination of all but one might usefully establish the actual case.

Science and jurisprudence abound with such legitimate uses of the Holmes’ criterion, and the claim that one (or many) examples of its misuse make it invalid is definitely not an example of good “critical thinking”.

Alan

P.S. The value of your posting might be saved by changing “Wrong! – You can never know all other options, and you can never know they are impossible.” to something more appropriate such as “True, but it is often hard to identify all the other options and to show that they are completely impossible.”

One of the signs of a true critical thinking skeptic is a measured use of language. That may seem boring to the young, but with maturity(I am told)it can become just as much fun as shouting till you are blue in the face.

thetyee.ca The Hidden, Huge Costs of ‘P3’ Projects

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

thetyee.ca The Hidden, Huge Costs of ‘P3’ Projects

God save the heretic – Sunday Times – Times Online

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

God save the heretic – Sunday Times – Times Online
is about a proposed British law to make it illegal to be “insulting or abusive” about any religion. The author considers this a bad idea, but whether or not he is right depends on what is meant by “insulting or abusive”. It is neither insulting nor abusive to politely point out the manifest inconsistencies within a “sacred” text or between professed beliefs and mandated behaviours, then the reasonable person has nothing to fear. The major religious texts, however, all include passages which are unquestionably insulting and abusive of their peers and so, under the proposed law, they will all have to be expurgated or banned. To which I say “So much the better for all of us!” and “Thank you” to Tony Blair.

God save the heretic – Sunday Times – Times Online

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

God save the heretic – Sunday Times – Times Online
is about a proposed British law to make it illegal to be “insulting or abusive” about any religion.

Gamasutra – Feature –

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

Gamasutra – Feature – “Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games”

Stephen’s Web ~ by Stephen Downes ~ Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

Stephen’s Web ~ by Stephen Downes ~ Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games from Stephen Downes’ OLDaily

Philosophy Now

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

Philosophy Now

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Robert Winston: Why do we believe in God?

Friday, October 21st, 2005

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Robert Winston: Why do we believe in God?

A Difference: Rip Mix Learn

Friday, October 14th, 2005

A Difference: Rip Mix Learn
is a workshop on ‘blogging’ for Manitoba math teachers on oct21 by Darren Kurotapwa. I hope I have time to look at it in more detail.

p2pnet.net – the original daily p2p and digital media news site

Friday, October 7th, 2005

Here is one way to fight back against the aggressiva and immoral behaviour of IP hoarders p2pnet.net – the original daily p2p and digital media news site

Michael Geist – Coming Clean on Copyright

Friday, October 7th, 2005

Michael Geist – Coming Clean on Copyright is another article by Michael Geist – a wonderful strong voice for the public good that needs to be promoted and supported.