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ARE YOU A CRITICAL THINKER?

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Are you a critical thinker? I have a simple test for you. No, it is not a riddle involving a dead guy hanging in an empty room locked from the inside. (He was standing on a block of ice) The way to test whether you are a critical thinker is even easer then that. Have you ever heard of the following terms: a straw man argument, moving the goal posts, the Barnum effect, confirmation bias, Occam’s razor, false dichotomy, or an argument from final consequence?

If you have ever said you are a critical thinker and are not familiar with at least some of these terms, then the chances are, you are just talking out of your ass. (It’s ok. I do it all the time.) But to be clear, a person who calls himself a critical thinker and is not familiar with at least some of these terms is like a guy who calls himself a Christian but has never heard of that Jesus guy.

LEX LUTHOR'S REVENGE

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When someone says to me “You cannot prove there is no God,” I agree with him whole hardy. Why do I bring this up? Partially because I’m writing drunk again, but also, because someone wrote me and said my “Lex Luthor” post was a poor argument against the existence of God.

I am sorry the piece was unclear. It was not intended to disprove God. Believe me if I were setting my sights on God I wouldn’t bring up a comic book character. I might mention drowning children in tsunamis, but hey, I’m silly that way.

As brilliant as I imagine I am (usually directly correlated to how much wine I’ve consumed), I still would not be able to prove there is no God - because I cannot prove a negative. I cannot prove there are no blue polar bears, either.

In order to prove there are no blue polar bears, I would have to track down every polar bear in the world and hold a color chip up against his fur. Not only would this be logistically imposable (and dangerous), it still would not prove there were no blue…

MONKEYS EATING JELL-O

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Lets start off 2010 with something good -  Monkeys eating Jello-O.

HEAVEN?

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The following is the elegy I delivered at my sister, Angela’s funeral this year. It’s not original. I lifted a lot of the ideas from all those grumpy web sites I’m always reading. HEAVENIs there a Soul? Is there a heaven?I don’t know if there is a soul. I don’t think what is essentially us leaves our bodies when we die. I think that what is essentially us leaves our body at all times - while we are still alive. It’s always radiating out, into the universe, every time we interact with other people. It’s like raindrops in a pond - the ripples we make spread out in all directions and affect all the other drops, made by all the other people around us. These make little waves that come back and lap up against us, and those in turn are changed again by more of our ripples, and on and on. This is an old idea, call it karma. Call it the interconnectedness of all things. Call it, just being nice.I think the world is one giant soul-soup, in which we all make big and small ripples, and all the f…

PAREIDOLIA

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I found these and many more on Buzz Feed. They are a collection of Virgin Mary sightings for 2009. The phenomenon is called pareidolia, the act of seeing specific images in vague shapes or smudges. We all do this when we look at a cloud and imagine a dog or fire truck. We are also doing it when we look at a satellite image from mars and see a human face.And yes the one at the end is a condom. I am so sorry.

LEX LUTHOR - HUMANIST

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I remember watching this cartoon a while back where Lex Luthor built this super powerful mega intelligent robot to destroy Super Man. As with all super powerful mega intelligent robots, the machine became sentient. Lex could no longer control it, so to get it out of the way; he sent it to the other side of the galaxy. But, the robot fought its way back from the edge of space and headed straight for Earth.
Being a man of means, Lex, persuaded all the Earths space agencies to confront the machine. Lex even talked the Justice League into helping protect him from the Robot. After all, he argued, the Justice League had pledged to protect all humanity (even Lex.) But nothing could stop the robot. The machine smashed all the defenses Earth could muster. Even the Super Heroes themselves were no match for this juggernaut.
In desperation Lex barricaded himself in a cement and steel re-enforced bunker, deep under LuthorCorp. But the robot crashed through the walls, effortlessly. Stone and metal…

BEATLES 3000

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You see this is secretly about religion. Get it?This is from Scott Gairdner at Loltarkill's Cannel. There is some great stuff there.

IN HONOR OF CARL SAGAN

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CRITICAL THINKING IN ACTION!!!

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I blather on about Critical Thinking all the time but what does that mean specifically? Recently, someone sent me an article in reference to my post entitled Going Gault. Thanks for the article. I love all comments. Please write me. (Really, I’m so lonely.)I agree with most of what the commenter said, but this article that he sent is another matter. It’s a piece of crap. But the article is useful in one way. It is great to analyze for CRITICAL THINKING IN ACTION!!! (For future referencing to this post please note that three exclamation points after the title are always required)Basically the article says that between 2000 and 2008 people left New York in droves because of high taxes, and now the state’s tax base is hurting. The lesson - if you tax the rich, you’ll be sorry.First, this piece is from the tabloid paper, The New York Post. According to a 2004 survey by Pace University, The Post was rated the least-credible major news outlet in New York. The article quotes a study by the “…

WHY CAN’T WE ADMIT IT?

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A new poll shows that the number of Americans who believe scientist’s warnings about global warming is presently at 57%. This is a drop of 20 percentage points in just three years. It reminded me of a discussion I had with a (non-specified) relative a while back. We were talking about global warming and he said that he wasn’t worried about rising sea levels. It did not matter if the ice at the poles melted because when icebergs melt, they do not change the overall sea level.
I said he was wrong, and started mercilessly attacking the right wing conservative news media that he listens to. He countered with a fact that he thought would blow me out of the icy water. As the cubes melt in your full glass of soda, the liquid does not overflow. How could I explain that! He was so pleased with himself. My retort was ready. To be honest, I heard it on one of those lefty tree hugging shows I always listen to. But I was going to enjoy repeating it. I actually got out of my chair, walked over and…

a little something till next post….

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They lie and fight and spit and cheat and …cats litter.
They growl and bite and don’t brush their teeth and…cats litter.
My home is a mess, though I try to stay neat but …cats litter.
There’s crunching and rocks under my feet because…cats litter.
Large mud tracks everywhere in spite of small feet and…cats litter.
Christ, my house is a wreck and so are my sheets because…cats litter.
OH NO, rocks in my food and, God what’s in my teeth, it’s…CATS LITTER.
Cats Litter.
cats litter.

AND THE WORLD GOES ON

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There is this website that I have stumbled upon, that I would like to share with you all. It’s called World Clock and it’s quite extraordinary. It is a running odometer that calculates the world population (to the person) as you watch. One line continually clicks off the number of births on the planet while another, clicks off the number of people dying. It breaks the deaths down into categories: cardiovascular, cancer, traffic accidents, violence, falls…
The site has other statistics on it also: the rising temperature of the earth, cars rolling off the assembly line, oil being produced…
Some of the statistics change unexpectedly slowly, like the number of couples divorcing in the US. Others whiz by surprisingly quickly, like the number of computers being produced.
As I describe it, you might think this site would make you crazy, watching the world, unchecked, spiral out of control, but surprisingly it has the opposite effect on me.
When I think about my own personal world clock I become …

OBAMA BREAKS BUSH’S RECORD!

EVIL NICK - Well, President Obama’s done it. He has broken Bush’s record for number of days in his first year without a catastrophic terrorist attack. Bush said it best after receiving an August 6th 2001 briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in the US.” The then President didn’t ask follow-up questions. He didn’t order more investigation into the threat. His only response to the aid was “Ok, you covered your ass.”  And let’s not forget the 7 minutes of inaction President Bush wasted after being told a plane hit the second tower. Ok, you’re right, you got me. The 7 minute thing is just liberal propaganda dreamed up by Michel Moore. The filmmaker got it completely wrong. According to the independent 9/11 commission it was just 5 minutes Bush sat doing nothing after he was told the United States was under attack.  Watch the You Tube split screen of those minutes.  In this nuclear age do you know how long 5 minutes are? Try sitting there now, not talking, not doing anything, f…

DOES DIGITAL MEDIA MAKE PRINTED BOOKS WORTHLESS?

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For the last couple of days I have been corresponding with someone on Facebook about healthcare. (I promise this Post will not be about healthcare) He would write something and I would respond. And yes, all of my responses were just as lengthy and boring as you might imagine. Yesterday, my computer alerted me that my sparring partner had struck again. Another challenge! I couldn't wait to rush home and post yet another, oh so clever retort. The strange thing is when I went to respond, my adversary’s latest post was gone, along with all his previous posts. All that were left were my responses. Standing alone they looked like the rambling of a crazy person. If you read them without seeing his stuff it seemed very much like I would write something then wander away only to return moments later to answer questions no one had asked, as though I was responding to voices in my head, only I could hear. I was arguing about Lyndon Johnson for god’s sake. But I swear he brought it up first! A…

FIGHTING WITH MYSELF

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EVIL NICK: God! have you seen all those conservatives screaming at town hall meetings. I have news for them. Contrary to their convoluted belief, none of the healthcare bills currently in congress say anything about “death panels euthanizing your grandparents.” Nor have they ever. These republicans are panicky little crybabies. It reminds me of that study that came out a while back that proved that conservatives act the way they do because they are less brave then liberals.

GOOD NICK: I assume you are referring to the study last year published in the “Journal Science” by Kevin B Smith. It suggested a link between the positions people hold on such controversial issues as gun control, pacifism and capital punishment with their reaction to disturbing images and startling sounds.
EVIL NICK: Yah, that’s the one. They measured perspiration and eye reaction and found that conservatives are three times more afraid of stuff then progressives. Damn pantywaists. Every little thing in the world se…

A MILLION DOLLAR CHALLENGE

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At parties, you’ve heard me say that when it comes to my world view I am a “Skeptic.” (Right now, I am addressing only the people I have gotten drunk in front of, which it turns out is more of you then I wish to admit) Some of you think I use the word Skeptic as a general adjective, as in: “I am skeptical, please refill my wine glass.” To be clear, when I say I am a Skeptic I mean, I belong to an organized group calling, themselves “Skeptics.” Yes, there is such a group. You’ll be surprised to hear there are a number of such grumpy sounding groups. They publish grumpy magazines like "The Skeptic” and “Skeptical Inquirer.” They have grumpy podcasts like “Point of Inquiry” and “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.” They have grumpy congressional lobbing groups and they even hold grumpy conventions. They just had one this month in Las Vegas where I’m sure no one gambled because no one believed they could win. That’s all a pack of lies of cause. They are not a bunch of grumpy people.…

JACKSON'S CONTRIBUTION TO NEWS QUALITY

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The Michael Jackson media circus reminded me of something I thought of a while back. Remember the Anna Nicole Smith nonsense over here estate and custody of her children? Well in the wake of her death I created a formula called the Anna Nicole Smith Inverse News Quality Index (© Nick Farrantello 2009). I think it also fits for Jackson. It works like this – The amount of air time that a particular news program gives to such stories (like Anna Nicole or Jackson) is inversely equal to the quality of that particular news show's overall performance. Not just its performance in covering Anna or Jackson, its performance covering all news. If you are listening to a station that is devoting all it's time to Jackson then (when it comes to news) that station probably blows. If the station you’re listening to doesn’t give the Jackson story much air time then that station is a quality new outlet. I believe that this relationship between air time and how reliabile and accuracy a particular…

OPRAH'S A BAD DOCTOR

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Check out the current issue of Newsweek. The magazine takes on the Goddess of all quack medicine, Oprah Winfrey. Wow, Newsweek’s got balls!
Celebrities get to where they are by wearing blinders. They must have the ability to ignore other people’s opinions. To succeed in Hollywood (along with a mountain of luck) you have to have persistence. Persistence entails the ability to ignore everyone who doesn’t agree with you.
You must ignore critics who question your ability (that is to say the people criticizing the methodology by which you do things). You must ignore friends that might tell you it’s time to give up this acting thing and get a real job (that is not accepting results). And you must ignore odds that tell you your chances of succeeding are one in a million, (that means you must be bad at math). All those qualities that make for a successful celebrity make for a lousy scientist.
A good scientist (or doctor) should listen to his or her critics. If others can show a scientist’s met…

TRADING MY FINGERS FOR ALIENS

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I don’t believe in a damn thing. UFO’s, Bigfoot, ESP, the Loch Ness Monster, ghosts, you name it. In my mind it’s all a bunch of poop. Despite that, I still consider myself very open minded. The reason for this is nothing revolutionary. It’s a reason that other Skeptics sight as to why they too are open minded. Simply put, I want there to be flying saucers. Are you kidding? Alien visitors from another planet, how awesome would that be? I want there to be a Loch Ness Monster. The idea of some animal surviving from the age of the dinosaurs would be fascinating. I want there to be ghosts. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want there to be an afterlife? ESP? Bring it on. Mindreading would be the bomb. Now, in the spirit of complete disclosure, Bigfoot doesn’t do anything for me. If there really is some big, hairy, naked guy running around in the woods of Montana, I’d just as soon not know about it - but UFO’S?
To make it absolutely clear, as to how much I would love it if there where aliens…
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Want to not be a zombie? Change your Mind about something. Find a subject that you hold a specific position on and actively and honestly try to change your own mind on that subject. Do some research, read some of the opposition literature, really make an effort to understand the other side of that position.
I’m not saying give in to some something. I’m saying actively seek out a subject in which you can honestly say “I use to hold position A but after doing more research I now hold position Z which is it’s direct opposite.” You don’t have to change your mind about everything, just find one thing, anything. Start with something that is not to close to you, something you can give up without it meaning much.
You might even try arguing that new position with a friend just to test whether you really understand it. I'll explain using the A and Z thing again. Let’s say you hold position A and your friend also holds position A. (That’s probably why you're friends) I’m saying make an hon…