Sunday, July 21, 2013

I can't stand it, anymore!

Where shall I begin with this rant?

Civil liberties

 I don't care if  you are a pro-rights person or an anti-rights person. Okay. That's a little unfair. I don't care if you advocate for more and increasing freedom or if you think current and increasing restrictions on liberty are okay, I am pretty much done discussing things with people who lie, impugn the motives of others and call names in the name of "truth."  Here's a newsflash: The truth does not need that kind of help. It has always done quite well on its own and there is every reason to believe it will continue to do so. It might take a while, but that's okay. If you believe, that since truth is found in the encounter between a hearer/reader and the narrative, it's okay to twist the facts in the interest of a "greater truth" (the one endorsed by your narrative), it doesn't matter what position you occupy on any issue. You are a liar. It doesn't matter if I agree with your basic position or not. You're still a liar. Got that? You...are...a...liar. Calling other people liars does not make you less of one. If you are convinced someone else is a liar, though your only evidence is that he or she doesn't agree with your position or analysis, you are also an idiot appear to be frightfully unaware of what constitutes evidence, proof, sound logic or awareness of your own bias.

It's a conspiracy/plot

Chem trails. Stop. Please, just stop. You make my head hurt. We have ample evidence that wing tip vortices and other contrails are not only naturally occurring events, but that they also do last longer than a few seconds or minutes in the absence of any scheme or plot.

No. There is no individual or organization that has the ability to control your mind and thoughts with nanotechnology. Nor can they see through your eyes and hear through your ears. They cannot retrieve your thoughts.

Yes, we did (successfully) send men to the moon...and brought them home. I know it offends you. It happens to be true.

The world is not flat. Feel free to ignore the pictures taken from space. Ask the ancient Greeks. Ask the royal navigators of Columbus' day. Consider the Viking hoards that contain items from China.

The world, financial or otherwise, is not controlled by: the "Illuminati", Jews, Nazis, Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, space aliens, George Soros, George Bush or any combination thereof. Incidentally, every American President has not been a member of Skull and Bones

Now, some people only embrace a few of these ideas. Some, however, because we know governments do lie, cheat and deceive citizens, seem to feel compelled to believe everything is evidence of one conspiracy or another. If that describes you, please try to remember that if all the things of which you accuse our government/business/religious institutions were true, there would be no need to hide them.


In spite of frequent comments to the contrary, you actually can prove a negative, universal or otherwise. People make a mistake and confuse data with logic. The scientific idea of functionality and the philosophical ability to prove something are not the same thing. Some things may be functionally difficult to prove but philosophically far easier. For instance, I can say there are no fish with fur. If your objection is that I can't prove it because I haven't collected every fish in the world, that's a functional difficulty. Philosophically, I can say there is no evidence of currently living fish with fur and that, therefore, fish do not have fur. In some cases, that is as close to proof as we can come. It's dependent, in part, upon the size of your universe.There are a lot of fish in the world, but relatively few people living in most houses. So, let me give another example. There are five people living in my house. No one in living in my house is a Muslim. Therefore, there are no Muslims living in my house. In this case, it is far easier to test all the members of the set.  However, the philosophical argument remains the same. To insist that for something to be proven we must know everything about every member of a set is to be content knowing and accepting very little at all.

"Common sense" is an adequate substitute for neither logic nor research. Is it easier? Much easier. Is it faster? It is faster by far, especially if we are talking about research that uses the scientific method. It's also far more prone to being influenced by our individual experiences and beliefs. For instance, as an RN I know a lot of other RNs, many of whom work in Labor and Delivery (L&D). Virtually every L&D nurse I know insists more babies are born on the full moon than on any other single day. The weight of the research, though, does not support such a belief. There are a number of reasons given for the persistence of the idea, but most of them come down to experience and belief. The same thing is true in other areas. A person who insists that he or she prefers common sense to logic and research is far more likely to be influenced by his experiences and pre-existing beliefs than he might be if he used logic and research. I am the last person to deny that research can be tedious, or that it can be biased or misinterpreted. But to reject research because all research isn't perfect, or because it is slow, painfully detailed and lumbering,  is silly. Such an attitude denies us the benefits of research and the possibility of learning something new (and possibly challenging, which I suspect gets to the heart of the matter).

"You can prove anything with statistics." Actually, not true. I've spoken with a number of statisticians. Every one of them has said statistics prove nothing. In fact, when used in properly designed research, they are designed to disprove the hypothesis being tested (the "null" hypothesis). What people often mean is "since statistics can be misused I don't like them and refuse to have anything to do with them." Statistics are a tool. Like any other tool they can be used properly and they can be misused. So can research. So can logic. And, yes, so too can common sense. If I am to be consistent, if I reject statistics because it can be misused, I must reject these other three as well.

"I don't care what you say." That may be true. If you spend a significant amount of time and energy reminding me of how little you care about what I say, allow me to suggest that Shakespeare was correct about someone protesting too much. Likewise, if you publish a blog and insist that you don't care if anyone reads it, your veracity is...suspect. If you don't care if anyone reads it, why not simply write a private journal?

"You're too stupid/foolish/uneducated/blind to understand the truth of my arguments and the foolishness of  yours." Socrates would have had this person for lunch. "You are correct" he might say. "How shall an old man such as I learn or see my way out of this darkness if one such as you will not teach me?" It's still a valid response. I like Socrates, at least when he argued. He played to win.

This concludes this rant.

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