Guerrilla Mythbusting: 5 Snappy Rules For Spotting and Exposing Popular Nonsense
College students tend to wax enthusiastic about the lessons they pick up in class. Curiously, this very admirable trait, a thirst for knowledge, has a downside to it. When one learns at a rate best described as "alarming," which college students often must do, little time exists to sit and sift through all that new material carefully. And this burdensome task would mandate yet more study time, which luxury few students can afford.
This means that, for very practical reasons, they will tend to accept readily the sermons that echo from academic pulpits. Consumers of media information have nearly the same problem -- a large flow of information thrust at them, and little time to sort through it. Election years only magnify this problem, and political candidates can grind axes with the best of them. When a scandal breaks out, the media blitz can sometimes blind even the more critical viewers. So we have done some of the extra homework for these groups to help them make the best of this unhappy situation. Here, we offer a clear-headed set of rules to disperse the fog quickly, adding daylight to the topic at hand.
As a first step in adopting a cautiously critical posture, we would like to introduce the rule, "take careful notes and develop a long memory by referring back to them now and again." Spin-doctors count on the fact -- a most unhappy truth -- that most people do not remember what the sales script said that they fed to the masses last week. This way, when they later change the story, you can call them on it. If it's a political speech in question, "Tivo" it, so you can play it back when later when spin proponents deny that their guy ever said it in the first place.
Second, isolate the parts of the speech or lecture that seem to form the main points of the argument. Often this or that advocate will avoid stating the main points of his argument explicitly, only implying them. Make the implied parts explicit yourself by asking, "what assumption(s), does this depend upon that he has not stated openly?" Then write them down. For instance, if one were to argue, "We had to attack his country because the guy is a tyrant," then note that this assumes -- unless otherwise qualified -- that we must attack all countries where tyrants rule. Given today's political climate, this would not promote a very promising course of action. So stated, we would have to attack almost everyone, starting with the I.R.S.
So remember to make a list of the important claims in question -- whether the speaker or writer has stated, implied, or simply assumed them.
Third, "Always examine a claim by itself first."
This provides a fast and easy way to prevent reckless professors, for instance, from hoodwinking students into bogus philosophies (as is their custom). For instance, consider the popular claim, "There are no moral absolutes." This would mean that claims about morality necessarily have exceptions. Evaluating this claim by its own words, however, quickly reveals that it provides to us an example of a moral absolute. It allows no exception, while speaking to the topic of morality.
Ironically, then, the claim instances an example of just what it denies. The claim cannot be true on ITS OWN terms. Such claims would play the roles of felon AND whistleblower all at once. They represent a form of logical or propositional suicide, since they affirm by example, and yet forbid by principle, the very same thing. Look for these and you will find more than you imagine might suffuse popular chatter.
Fourth, compare and contrast these claims, assumptions, and implied assertions with one another, asking, "Are these logically consistent with each other, or do they get along like Larry, Moe and Curly when the ladder-swinging begins, and the paintbrushes start to fly?" Sometimes speakers will utter logically incompatible sayings within a very short span. So you will need to learn to identify them to note when this happens. Here, you will have located spin, exaggeration, unwarranted claims, or even outright lies. You might even get two-for-one.
For instance, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, it did so against the voice of the U.N. inspectors, who wanted more time. This shows that the U.S. (or at least the current administration) believes it proper to ignore whatever authority the U.N. might have when it deems it necessary. Yet when Iraq defied the very same U.N. authority (Saddam, as we say, "dissed" the U.N. inspectors) the Bush administration claimed that this provided grounds to invade Iraq. The "Okay for us, but not for them" trick is called the fallacy of self-exception. One commits this error in reasoning when he lays down a rule for everyone or every argument, and then arbitrarily excuses himself (or his position) from following, or being subject to, the same rule.
Finally, spin-doctors notoriously create mind-fog by abusing langauge. Sometimes they utter deliberately vague or ambiguous sayings. Sometimes they simply make fine-sounding claims and offer no proof. You have heard this many times: "Our product delivers twice the chocolatey goodness and only half the calories!!" (And Joe Fried-potato, who happens to be wider than your dining room, AGREES!!). The simple way to fight mind-fog comes from asking questions that clarify.
For instance, in your criminology course, you might ask Professor Plumb, "Professor, you said something about a candlestick in a library. Precisely what did you mean by "candlestick," and did you mean to refer to this literally, or as some sort of symbol that stands for something else? Press the point, when you feel that someone tries to sell you something, as it were, under-the-table -- and make them sell it over-the-counter instead. Make them say just what they mean, clearly and precisely.
Once you have a clearer idea of the nature of the claim he wishes to promote, you can toss it into the pool of "noted claims to compare and contrast," first measuring that claim by itself, and then by checking it against the other claims in the pool. Some claims will swim, while others will plunge like the Titanic at an iceberg party.
Here, just below, we have collected a few of our favorite sayings popular on college campuses, most of which we have heard Professor Spin mumble more than once from his academic pulpit. Not only do most of these refute themselves, but they also don't get along with each other very well, as we will see. Our helpful and irreverent responses to these appear in brackets.
1. No one can really know anything for sure, when all is said and done. [Really? Are you certain?]
2. All religions are equally valid [Most, but not all, religions deny this] [But we are absolutely sure this is true anyway].
3. We must tolerate all views [except those which deny this][Which includes most, but not all, religions] [but we are absolutely sure that the dissenting religions are all equally wrong][And, of course, we will not tolerate those dogmatic religions].
4. There are no ethical absolutes [And we mean absolutely none] [Note: This claim contradicts #1, 2, and 3 also.]
5. Slavery is wrong [Although this is true, we put it here so you would notice that it contradicts #1, #2, #3 and #4, which shows that claims 1-4 are false, but popular enough anyway].
6. Education is the key to solving the world's problems [Unless we count all the logical problems created by educated people (see above) who say impossible things]. [Note: this also contradicts #1, #2, and #4.]
7. Your western views are too binary [You see, there are only binary views, and non-binary ones -- which is itself a binary view -- oops] [hint: all views logically exclude some other views] [Which, of course, shows that NOT all views are equally valid] [Some views, like "the earth is flat" are just goofy, and these are only "equally vaild" with other stupid ideas].
8. Religion is responsible for killing too many people [which implies that murder is wrong, even though this sounds like a moral absolute] [This also contradicts claims #1-4, and #7.] [And note that, if this statement were true, it would render all religions equally bad, not "equally valid," whatever that might mean].
9. Bible-thumping Christians are too dogmatic. [It is written: Thou shalt not be dogmatic!] [And we are sure of this] [So, follow instead OUR dogma, even though it refutes itself] [Which means that BTC's should not be tolerated, contrary to #3 above] [And that their religion is not "equally valid" with non-thumping religions, contrary to #2].
We could go on, and have great fun doing it, but you get the point. This band of hired accusers failed to coordinate their testimonies in advance. And so many of the views promulgated from academic pulpits turn out just a little nuttier than Jif. Just because a confused-but-confident professor, politician, or spin-doctor says it loudly and often -- this doesn't make it true. So when she says, "question authority," you might want to take her at her word, and start by putting her own claims on the chopping block first.
In any case, by keeping these five rules handy, you can arm yourself against all manner of rhetorical shenanigans and verbal skullduggery.
Carson Day has written approximately 1.3 gazillion articles and essays, many with very insightful, if alternative, viewpoints. He presently writes for Ophir Gold Corporation, and specialized in the history of ideas in college. He has been quoted in the past as saying "What box?" and remains at large despite the best efforts of the civil authorities.
You can visit the Ophir Gold Corporation blogsites at http://scriberight.blogspot.com (Writing With Power), http://ophirgoldcorp.blogspot.com (OGC's Free Web Traffic), or http://ophirgold.blogspot.com (Church and State 101)
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The Galileo Conspiracy: 5 Questions Your Science Professors Hope You Never Ask
As a young lad, I took on my first scientific experiment simply because I could. Like most curious youngsters who own walky-talkies, I could only resist for so long the urge to bury one of them (well behind enemy lines) in the bread aisle at the local grocery store, to see what startled shoppers might make of extroverted wheat.
In Answer To: Words Of Encouragement
Throughout my life, I have always known that it is not easy to fight injustices. I grew up in Jersey City and started to work during summers at the age of fourteen.
Understanding Of I-Ching And Tai Chi In Relation To Our Lives
Tai Chi, The Great Ultimate, was found earliest in the Book of Change, or otherwise known as I-Ching. Legend said that this scripture has written by the first emperor of the Zhou Dynasty - Zhou Wen Wang.
Crop Circles and Critical Mass
CROP CIRCLES:The Learning Channel (August 7, 2003) just had a show about crop circles. Here are two major points that no debunker will be able to explain in addition to the designs themselves.
The Esoteric Mandate (Rothschilds too)
The monopoly called usury given to a specific group of Jews has a long history including Templars with Papal Passports. You might think the Jews have been horrifically pursued with prejudice and there certainly are some Jews (That the Halakah or law of the elite Jews also is willing to abuse.
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Web
I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them. The probability of that obviously is very low but laws of probability have often been known to falter at the crucial test of reality.
Belief is Closure
The CON in CONstructs:There are many esoteric wisdom schools and many divisions or a hierarchy in each one of them. Some of the initiates think they are all-knowing once they see what their school has placed in the ether to make them think what they want to think.
Guerrilla Mythbusting: 5 Snappy Rules For Spotting and Exposing Popular Nonsense
College students tend to wax enthusiastic about the lessons they pick up in class. Curiously, this very admirable trait, a thirst for knowledge, has a downside to it.
My Insight into Numerology
From time to time, we wonder about the mystery that exists in our day to day experiences and events that happen in our lives. Some parts of these events are beyond our control and some are not.
The Earth Energy Grid
EARTH ENERGY GRID: - Sedona, Arizona is not only my own personal special place in nature - almost all spiritual organizations have conventions, churches or offices near all these vortices of earth energy and nature. There is a secret government base in a valley to the north and under a swamp some engineers found signs similar to the Nazca Lines and other natural spirit forms from ancient peoples.
The Concept of the Sublime in Eighteenth Century Philosophy
The development of the concept of the sublime as an aesthetic quality distinct from beauty was first brought into prominence in the eighteenth century in the writings of Anthony Ashley Cooper (third earl of Shaftesbury) and John Dennis, in expressing an appreciation of the fearful and irregular forms of external nature, and Joseph Addison's synthesis of Cooper's and Dennis' concepts of the sublime in his Spectator, and later the Pleasures of the Imagination,. All three Englishmen had, within the span of several years, made the journey across the Alps and commented in their writings of the horrors and harmony of the experience, expressing a contrast of aesthetic qualities.
Humans Who Are Disrespected Seek Revenge
The easiest way to gain enemies is to disrespect people. Inherently for some reason; humans who are disrespected more often than not seek revenge.
Einstein and Eirugena
ALBERT EINSTEIN: - "I am satisfied with the Mysteries of life.""A human being is part of a whole, called by us the "Universe," a part limited in time and space.
Culture and Knowledge
In eastern Cultures the passing of thought was considered valuable, so much in fact that even to this day members of those cultures respect their elders and listen to their advice. The passing of such thoughts and concepts and philosophies is of extreme value.
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