Archive | April, 2012

This is What Evil Looks Like

So much evil.

Look at all these evil, evil people. God-haters, anti-Christs, willing tools of the Devil, all of them. Nothing good can ever come of a group so filled with such hatred and lies.

If you’re anything like them – if you doubt your church’s teachings, or stopped believing in god, or prefer to trust your own reason over the shackles of dogma – then you’re better off joining them than contaminating your congregation with your filth.

They have a Facebook group where they announce regular meet-ups and talk about blasphemous things like thinking for yourself.

Disgusting.

Posted in Pictures4 Comments

Evolution is Not a Religious Issue

It really irks me that more than one person has tried to disprove evolution to me as soon as I reveal to them that I am an atheist, as if evolution were the reason for my disbelief. People would soon begin spouting nonsense, citing “scientific” articles that they’ve never read, and asking me to view religious propaganda masquerading as legitimate documentaries.

I have had my fair share of creationist indoctrination even during my childhood. One of my earliest recollections of the concept of evolution, if not the earliest, was when I was still about 4 years old. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be a scientist. She asked me in return if I would still want to be one even though scientists believe that we came from monkeys. She then asked me the very common (and stupid) creationist fallacy, “If evolution is true, why haven’t the monkeys today turned into men?”

To the unsuspecting child, this empty argument would have effectively put the nail through the coffin of evolution. Sadly, this seems to be the case in the Philippines, where the pseudoscience of creationism and misconceptions of evolution are accepted and even embraced by religious and scientific authorities. People in highly influential positions such as parents, teachers, and clerics, whom other people (most especially children) look up to as sources of truth, continue to preach against evolution while hardly knowing anything about it. In most cases, arguments against evolution revolve around citing Bible verses or attacking straw man versions of the theory.

Our current demography

According to the 2000 census, Roman Catholics made up 80.9% of the Philippine population while Muslims comprised 5%, Evangelicals 2.8%, Iglesia ni Cristo 2.3%; Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise 1.3%. [1]

Thankfully, the Catholic Church is more liberal in saying that evolution is compatible with Christianity. In a statement made by the Vatican on February 2009, they further claimed that the concept of evolution predates Darwin, and the concept can be traced to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. More than 50 years ago, Pope Pius himself said that evolution is a valid scientific approach to understanding the development of humanity. [2] This makes me wonder though why, despite the Philippines being almost 81% Catholic, evolution denial is still prevalent among Filipinos.

From my experience, evolution is still treated, even within academic circles, as a scientific principle that can be reasonably doubted. What saddens me the most is the fact that I personally know biology students, graduates, and even teachers who, while seemingly versed in evolutionary biology, continue to dismiss it as false. Equally sad is how many science majors I know repudiate evolution for being “just a theory.” The fact that grossly unscientific ideas like creationism continue to permeate the academe, and that people who are products of our country’s so-called “premier university” keep on spouting nonsense against evolution, makes me seriously doubt the effectiveness of our system of science education.

Evangelicals (also known as born-agains) and Muslims are divided on the matter. However, both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists are clear on their position against evolution. [3] [4] The controversial Members’ Church of God International (colloquially known by their TV and radio show, Ang Dating Daan) has a creationist stance as well. Eliseo Soriano, its leader, stated: [5]

“To believe in the theory of evolution is to believe in accidents, for the theory of evolution can only be explained by accidents that allegedly happened in nature, and perhaps in the brains and minds of evolutionists!”

the ever-savvy Soriano

Clarifying some misconceptions

“According to Darwin, man was not created by God.”

The previous statement came from a history book written by Gregorio Zaide that is widely circulated among elementary schools in the Philippines. [6] Yes, you heard me right. That’s the famous Filipino historian Zaide right there. More of his religious zealotry can be found in the book and this blog article [7] written by a fellow freethinker.

It is a blatant misquotation of Charles Darwin, whose 1859 On the Origin of Species kickstarted revolutionary advancements in evolutionary biology and science, in general. While Darwin eventually professed deism and agnosticism, he never became an atheist. [8] As a biographer of Darwin puts, “one point is abundantly clear, all the surviving evidence contradicts the assertion that Darwin was an atheist.” [9]

“It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist. … I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.” —Charles Darwin in his letter to John Fordyce, 7 May 1879 [10]

“Lenin is quoted as saying that religion is the opiate of the people, but the truth is that evolution is the opiate of the atheists!”

The quotation came from an article published by The Church of God International (Philippines) about evolution and their stand against it. [11] The Church of God, by the way, is affiliated with the producers of Armor of God, a TV show on GMA News TV. Just so you’d know.

Before I proceed on dispelling these obviously distorted straw men, let’s just get things straight. Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist, did not make an opium metaphor. It was Karl Marx who said that “religion … is the opium of the people.” [12]

Both Lenin and Marx were atheists, communists and evolutionists. Now before you get into thinking that evolution is some propaganda by atheists and/or communists, like what this person in Answers in Genesis thinks, let me tell you: it’s not. Believing in evolution will not make you an atheist (or a communist).

Contrary to what Soriano thinks, evolution is not driven by accidents. Rather, it is driven by natural selection. Natural selection is the process by which certain individuals in a population survive or reproduce more because of certain variants of genes they possess. This eventually creates organisms which are better equipped for their environments as they out-reproduce the competition. Mutations give rise to new variations among genes, and are also subject to natural selection.

To demonstrate this point, I’ll give a common example: albinism, a condition in which the animal is unable to produce any skin pigments. The primary reason why albinism is so rare is that individuals with the condition are heavily pressured in nature not to survive. Albinos will be normally easier to spot for predators, and are usually unsuccessful in finding mates, and thus fail to pass on their albino genes.

Another example would be sickle-cell disease (SCD). Just like albinism, it is a very rare condition, and for a good reason; SCD brings about many life-threatening complications, shortening life expectancy to about 42-48 years. But here’s the catch. While SCD is a rarity elsewhere, it has a high rate of prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is because, in less severe cases, resistance to malaria is displayed by individuals with SCD. This is especially helpful if you’re living in a region where malaria is widespread.

In summary, traits are a result of a continuous non-random process where a species adapts to the pressures of its environment. It is not an accident why albinism is rare. It is not an accident why SCD is prevalent in some parts of Africa. Humanity is not an accident. We have our traits today because individuals who first had them found them an evolutionary advantage for survival against those who don’t have these traits.

It may appear that animals (including humans) are intelligently designed because they’re so adapted to their environments. This is but an illusion of a lengthy natural selection and evolutionary process.

Why is it so contentious?

I think the biggest reason it has been so contentious is that a lot of people think that evolution, just as what people in the Renaissance thought of heliocentrism, is a religious issue. Well, it’s not. The fact that evolution is true doesn’t disprove the existence of any god, just as proving that the Earth revolves around the Sun doesn’t. Disputing creationism (the antithesis of evolution) doesn’t mean that you reject believing in a god as well. In fact, you can still be an atheist and believe that life on Earth was mystically guided by, say, some flying spaghetti monster.

The need to teach evolution and real science

Having recognized the problems, why make a fuss out of it? Why do we need to teach evolution? Why can’t we teach creationism alongside evolution?

The answer is simple: we must teach evolution because it is what evidence-based science tells us to be true; teaching creationism would be a disservice to rationality. People advocating for teaching creationism at schools might as well advocate for equal teaching time for astrology and the horoscope in our astronomy classes, for magnetic therapy in our medicine classes, and for homeopathy in our pharmacy classes.

Our current state necessitates secularism as a tool for preventing unscientific ideas from penetrating society-at-large. We must never commit in our pursuit of equal representation and free speech a most grave fallacy—that all ideas are of equal value. The words of Isaac Asimov still ring true and remain as inspiring as it was more than 30 years ago: “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Evolution is a cornerstone of modern science. As biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, denying evolution is tantamount to denying the Holocaust. [13]

Now if creationists would just apply the same degree of skepticism to their religious beliefs, that would be really dandy.

 

Notes and references:

  1. Philippines. National Statistics Office. The Philippines in Figures 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.census.gov.ph/data/publications/pif2012_in_CD.pdf >
  2. Irvine, Chris. “The Vatican claims Darwin’s theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity.” The Telegraph 11 Feb. 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/4588289/The-Vatican-claims-Darwins-theory-of-evolution-is-compatible-with-Christianity.html >
  3. “Evolution is incompatible with Christianity.” Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. “Is Evolution Compatible with THE BIBLE?” The Watchtower 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.watchtower.org/e/20080101a/article_01.htm >
  4. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church affirms its belief in the biblical account of creation in contrast to an evolutionary explanation for the origin of living organisms and the relationship of humans to other life forms.” “Statement on Creation : The Bible’s Worldview.” Seventh-Day Church. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 23 Jun. 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/statements/bible-worldview.html >
  5. “The Origin of Humankind.” Members’ Church of God International. Eliseo F. Soriano, 28 Feb. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.mcgi.org/en/topics/blog_articles/the_origin_of_humankind/ >
  6. Zaide, Gregorio F. World History in an Asian Setting. 1994. Quezon City, Philippines: Rex Printing Company, Inc., 2000. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Kq512SmGMIsC >
  7. The Filipino Freethinkers does not guarantee the veracity of any of the blog post’s claims.
  8. Lamoureux, Denis O. “Theological Insights from Darwin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 56.1 (2004): 2-9. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2004/PSCF3-04Lamoureux.pdf >
  9. “Was Charles Darwin an Atheist?” The Public Domain Review. John van Wyhe, 28 Jun. 2011. Web. Apr 6. 2012. <http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/06/28/was-charles-darwin-an-atheist/ >
  10. “Darwin to John Fordyce.” Darwin Correspondence Project. n.a., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12041 >
  11. “The theory of evolution remains unproved and unprovable. … Special creation is the more rational.” The Church of God International (Philippines). “Evolution: Fact or Fallacy?” 2002. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. < http://www.cgiphils.org/literature/pdf/evolution.pdf >
  12. Marx, Karl. Introduction. “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher. Trans. Annette Jolin and Joseph O’Malley. Paris: 7 Feb. 1844. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm >
  13. Rizvi, Ali A. “Are Evolution-Deniers any Different from Holocaust-Deniers, Birthers, or Truthers?” Hufftington Post 24 Sep. 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/are-evolution-deniers-any_b_295254.html >

Posted in Personal, Science, Society0 Comments

April 29, 2012 (Sunday) Starbucks Anson’s Ortigas Meetup

 

Location: Starbucks, Anson’s (across The Podium), ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig (Google map)
Date: Sunday, April 29, 2012
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

 

Discussion Topics
The Philippines is the most religious country: a good thing?
Squatters’ Rights and Violent Demolition
– Gay literature by straight people

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.

Posted in Announcements, Meetup0 Comments

Pride and Prejudice (and outgrowing both)

Racism has and will always be a hot-button topic, more so for anybody who has survived the infamous Jim Crow era of the United States.

From 1877 to the 1960s, African-Americans were treated as literal second-class citizens. They couldn’t vote, they couldn’t use any facilities reserved for Whites, and couldn’t shake hands with Whites. Given the heavy restrictions imposed on their civil rights, it’s no surprise that a gesture as small as refusing to sit in the back of a bus sparked a firestorm of civil activism.

Brief history lessons aside, how would you feel about going to a museum whose express purpose is of displaying artifacts from this era?

A former sociology professor has used his 2,000-piece collection of racist memorabilia to start a museum dedicated to the worst excesses of the segregation era. The exhibits range from a full-size replica of a lynching tree to a T-shirt that reads “Obama in ’08,” accompanied by a cartoon monkey holding a banana. On one wall, a poster shows four young black children sitting by a river, with the caption “Alligator bait.”

The objects “should either be in a garbage can or a museum,” according to David Pilgrim, founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. The former professor at Michigan’s Ferris State University started the collection as a teenager in Alabama during the 1970s and donated it to the school in 1996. Now, thanks to donors, it has a permanent home in an exhibition hall on campus. The venue will have its grand-opening ceremony on April 26, the Associated Press reported.

To say the museum is awkward is an understatement. Taking this story into a more local context however, would you agree to setting up a local museum for racism, or prejudice, for that matter?

Personally, I’d love it.

Don’t get me wrong – I abhor bigotry of any color (no pun intended), and would love nothing more than to see the human race as a whole to outgrow it. However, I also strongly believe that for us to get past our prejudices, we will need to take a more critical look at out own history, and not just necessarily gloss over the triumphs that puts the fire in our nationalistic fervor. Less of a regurgitation of fairy tales, and more an unbiased eye to reality, if you will.

After all, NOT talking about the problem of LGBT discrimination hasn’t really helped spread awareness (DADT comes to mind), has it? And NOT talking about women’s issues certainly hasn’t done anything to help uplift their lack of access to medicines and other relevant services. If anything, pretending to be mum about these issues has only aggravated the problem. Not to mention that it leaves us incredibly onion-skinned when somebody does raise a stink.

Opening up discussions on our prejudices doesn’t necessarily mean we have to defend or justify them, after all. It can be as simple as us acknowledging that we’ve been ignorant over the matter of LGBT hate crimes, for instance, or that we’ve been insensitive pricks over women’s issues. It’s definitely going to be a very awkward first step to talk about our prejudices (let alone immortalizing them in a museum) openly, but then again, so was puberty, right?

Pinoys really need to realize that facing our own inner prejudices is a show of control: It means that we’re developing a mastery of our inner conflicts, and using our cognitive abilities to weaken decades of misconceptions and false assumptions. In martial arts-speak, understanding your own weaknesses and striving to correct them is a show of strength in itself.

Since I promised the presiding overlords to keep this short, I’m encouraging the readers to visit our FB page, or to post their two cents on the comments below.

As a parting note, here’s a question for you: If you could set up a museum for one particular type of bigotry in the Philippines, what would you choose, and what sort of memorabilia would you have on display?

Posted in Society0 Comments

In Their Hearts: Bishop Bacani and the Secret Religiosity of Secular Individuals

I’ve been outed. In a recent interview, Bishop Bacani revealed the truth that although I identify as an atheist, I actually believe in God:

Bacani insists that many atheists still believe in God and just don’t know it:

These so-called atheists love with a great altruism, they really love their fellow man and even have a passion for justice and what is right and good,” he said. “Those people really believe in God in their hearts, but they will not admit that (emphasis added).
– Bishop Bacani, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)

In short, if I do good, my actions betray the fact that I’m more religious than I realize — I’m really a theist in my heart.

I wouldn’t have admitted it to myself without the help of Bacani, so I feel indebted to him. And as a good theist, who believes in God in his heart, I’ll return the favor by paying it forward.

In the spirit of great altruism — and justice, and what is right and good — I will help some who work in the non-religious sector realize that they are more religious than they know or choose to admit.

These so-called parents, teachers, and other authority figures, who betray the trust of the children under their care by sexually abusing them — they’re really Catholic priests in their hearts.

These so-called crime syndicates, corrupt government officials and military personnel, who abuse their power to commit and cover up their crimes — they’re really Catholic bishops in their hearts.

These so-called dictators, such as the late Kim Jong Il, who coerce their followers to fear and obey them and to believe that what they say is Truth — they’re really Popes in their hearts.

And what about so-called Bishop Bacani? Although he likes to meddle in legislation, he’s actually more political than he realizes. Because the way he parades his piety and makes a show of moral superiority, while showing nothing but prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry toward those who don’t accept his Truth — Bishop Bacani is really a Senate Majority leader in his heart.

—-

* There are so-called Catholic priests and bishops who refuse to spread the Church’s anti-women, anti-science, and anti-choice dogma, and instead choose to focus on helping parishioners with the things that will truly help them in life. These so-called Catholic leaders may not know it, but it’s obvious that they’re actually nuns in their hearts.

Posted in Humor, Politics, Religion, Society2 Comments

A Love Letter to Teddy Bacani

 

Teddy Dearest,

 

My heart has been a-flutter ever since I found your message to me this morning. How lovingly you have described me!

“These so-called atheists love with a great altruism, they really love their fellow man and even have a passion for justice and what is right and good. Those people really believe in God in their hearts, but they will not admit that.”

Rest assured that I have kept your sweet words in my bosom all day today, and truly, how they have kept me warm! In fact, the adept way you have traced out my true being has inspired me to do the same for you, my love. I apologize if the following does not accurately mirror your sentiments but, after all, I do not think anyone can truly match up to your eloquent reasoning. But enough of this meandering! Here I go:

If I were wont to describe you, my darling, I would have quite a few options at hand. You could be a so-called advocate of acceptance, or a so-called man of dignity, or a so-called fount of charity, or a so-called lover of truth and life.

Because in truth, my beloved, you hate with a remarkable impunity. You really love to suppress your fellow man’s rights and freedoms, and even have a passion for breeding ignorance, for cloaking prejudice and pride as what is right and good. You really, truly do believe in being a horrible human being, Teddy. But you will just not admit it.

There! I have said it, and I can only hope, my dearest, that you keep my sweet words in your own bosom as I do yours. Few have the courage to whisper such delights into your ears, but I have taken it upon myself to do so for, in your own kind words, I have the “passion for justice and what is right and good,” and oh, how this opportunity beckoned!

 

Kiss-kiss,

Your So-Called Atheist

Posted in Humor, Religion, Society2 Comments

Alternative (to) Medicine

The Silver Bullet. The Magic Pill. The Cure For What Ails Ya. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a miracle drug that could instantly cure us of whatever illness we might have? “Colds? Muscle pain? TB? Gonorrhea? Cancer? Pop this pill and call me in the morning.”

Sadly, no such thing exists (yet). The human body is an extremely complicated piece of machinery (Needlessly complicated in fact, that’s why it’s improbable that we’re intelligently designed, ok creationists?), and drugs that have a beneficial effect on one part of your body will likely have a detrimental effect on another part of your body. No single drug will have a beneficial effect on your ENTIRE body, unless you consider death to be beneficial.

However, there are many people who swear by such miracle cures. Pretty much all of them fall into the category known as “Alternative Medicine”.

Alternative medicine has always existed, in one form or another, throughout human history. The principles have roughly stayed the same: “All maladies are caused by some sort of imbalance in our *insert magical, unmeasureable, undetectable energy/life force here*, and the cure is *insert modality here*.”

The thing is, they only became “alternative” after the dawn of science-based medicine. Our ancestors used all sorts of “treatments” and “remedies” for every ailment, from the mundane (leaves, flowers, ground up animal parts, etc) to the outright bizarre (spells, incantations, faith healing, etc).

But we can’t really blame our ancestors because back then, our knowledge base was pretty limited. In fact, as recently as the 1860’s, bloodletting was a pretty common treatment for a lot of ailments. Even something as simple as handwashing was seen as “ungentlemanly” by doctors and surgeons, no less.

But in this day and age of advanced scientific knowledge, near instant communications, fast transport and travel,  fantastic technologies, and the incredible exchange of ideas afforded to us by the internet, there really isn’t much of an excuse to believe in Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (or SCAM, for short)…

…or is there?

Let’s try to analyze this question:

“If SCAM is bunk, then why is it so popular?”

I think it boils down to a few factors:

1. Confirmation bias:

Most people who use SCAM fall under one of two categories:

a. Those who already believe in them;

b. and those who are willing to try them either because of lack of finances, or because conventional medicine didn’t work for them.

Both these types almost always fall victim to confirmation bias. So what is confirmation bias?

Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true. As a result, people gather evidence and recall information from memory selectively, and interpret it in a biased way.

The first type already expects the SCAM modality to work, so they feel better after using it. The second type is desperate for something to work, and is therefore primed to believe that it is actually working.

2. The body heals itself (most of the time):

If you’re like the vast majority of people in the civilized world, you won’t go see your doctor until your fever/cold/cough/ache is at it’s worst. Also, a significant portion of that population goes to a SCAM practitioner, instead of a real doctor.

The thing is, if we are reasonably healthy, our bodies are quite capable of fighting off most illnesses. And since we go see these SCAM practitioners at the peak of our illness, any treatment they perform (or don’t perform) is almost guaranteed to “cure” you. Thus, giving the illusion that the homeopath, naturopath, reiki master, acupuncturist, chiropractor, touch therapist, etc. is the real deal.

Now I’m sure some SCAM proponent is saying ” AHA! So you’re admitting that those who go to real doctors also have this phenomenon going for them!”

Well yes, to a certain degree. You see, the placebo effect applies even to real medicine. So you get an actual benefit, PLUS the placebo effect. This is also the reason why in science, we have this thing called the “randomized, double blinded, controlled clinical trials” to separate the placebo effect from true efficacy, something no SCAM practitioner does.

3. Personal anecdotes trump impersonal data every single time:

We love hearing stories, especially stories delivered with conviction by a satisfied SCAM victim customer. Let’s face it: Hearing a feelgood story about how some miracle product cured a person of his/her cancer is far more compelling than some boring study written on a piece of paper by anonymous scientists from thousand of miles away. This is one of the big reasons why practically every form of SCAM relies on testimonials from satisfied victims customers.

4. It feels good and is easy to understand:

Every successful SCAM modality is also very simple to understand. No technical knowledge is required. There’s no scary sounding drugs or hyper-complicated machinery to intimidate you. From vague and simple explanations of adjusting/restoring the balance of chi in your body to replenishing vibrational energy/bioenergy/life energy, just about anyone can understand it. Many SCAM modalities also incorporate soothing music, comfortable couches or beds, massages, and dim lighting to help a victim customer relax. As you might guess, a relaxed victim customer is more likely to report positive results.

And because of all of the above, many of us are quite eager to accept that these SCAM modalities work, despite the low quality of evidence that supports them. As I have mentioned before, most SCAM practitioners rely on testimonials and anecdotal evidence. They also love to cite poorly made studies, many of which are performed by themselves, and published in “pee-reviewed” (that’s not a typo) medical journals, which were made just to promote SCAMs.

5. Conspiracy theorists vs “Big Pharma”:

There is a general notion among the public that “Big Pharma” is out to get them and that Big Pharma is in bed with Big Bad Government to keep us sick in order to keep selling drugs. Many SCAM practitioners love to incite this particular fear and paranoia into potential victims customers. It’s easy to target “Big Pharma” as evil, because it’s seen as one single entity. Few people realize that in order for this “Big Pharma Conspiracy” to exist, everyone from the pharmaceutical companies’ top management to government officials, to doctors, to nurses, med techs, researchers, down to the clerks and support staff HAVE to be involved in the conspiracy. Few people stop to think that these people are human too, with their own friends and loved ones that they would like to keep free from illness.

Now, do I think pharmaceutical companies are benevolent and have only our wellbeing and best interests at heart? Of course not. As with any other business, the three main objectives of pharmaceutical companies are 1.) profit, 2.) Profit, and 3.) PROFIT. Given the choice of cutting costs and saving money vs spending a fortune on efficacy and safety trials, I’m pretty sure which path the pharmaceutical executives would rather take.

But this is why the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world. The FDA keeps a close eye on them. These companies spend billions upon billions of dollars on R&D, efficacy trials, and safety trials. They have to, otherwise they won’t have a product to sell. This is also why most real medicine costs a lot.  In fact, the rules and regulations are so stringent that roughly 85% to 90% of the drugs being tested never get past the first and second phase of clinical trials. It is also interesting to note that Big Pharma actually PREFERS these super stringent rules and regulations that cost a lot of money, because it discourages startup competition, leaving only the big boys with fat wallets.

And no, the FDA is not perfect. Many defective products have still passed through it’s screening process. Some would say that this is unacceptable and the FDA sucks, but that would be like saying that Kobe Bryant is bad at free throw shooting because he only makes 84% of them. Also, once a defect is discovered (even relatively minor ones), it is immediately pulled out.

Compare and contrast with SCAM, which few people realize is ALSO a multi-billion dollar industry. The SCAM industry has a ridiculous reputation for being “all natural” (as if that means anything) and somehow “more caring and more personal”. We need to realize that these people also have profit as their primary motive. Otherwise, they wouldn’t charge for their treatments. The worst part is, this industry is NOT regulated at all. For an industry that frequently promises to “wash away the toxins”, many of their products have been found to contain hazardous materials.

We, as consumers, need to be more skeptical of fantastic claims. This is the only way we can weed out bad products from the good ones. As with almost every thing we encounter in life, it’s useful to always remember this adage:

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Posted in Science, Society3 Comments

Why Miriam Quiambao Will Continue to be Ms. Universe in My Eyes

I love Arnold Clavio. I love how he handled his interview with Miriam Qiuambao and Naomi Fontanos (Chairwoman of Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines) on the topic of transgender women being allowed to compete in the Ms. Universe pageant. Clavio kept the mood light, he did not show any bias or transphobia, and he asked the right questions.

I also love Naomi for not letting Miriam get away with her attempt to impose her version of the truth on Naomi. I love Naomi for standing up for transwomen and LGBT people.

But most of all, I love Miriam for embodying what a beauty queen should be. Sure, she does not completely understand the difference between sex and gender. Sure, by saying that womanhood is determined by chromosomes, she has effectively misinformed her more than 250,000 Twitter followers. But I don’t take this against her. It is irresponsible, definitely! But she is a beauty queen, not a gender and sexuality expert. So chill out!

I also love Miriam for using her own masculine childhood experience of playing with soldiers and “going on adventures” and how it did not turn her into a man. And of course, I agree that just because you played with dolls when you were young, it doesn’t mean you will become a woman. I’m not quite sure where she got this line of thinking but hey, beauty queens will be beauty queens. So don’t worry girls, you can do boy stuff and still be a beauty queen when you grow up. Take it from Miriam!

And I just love how she constantly used her faith throughout the discussion. Sure, it was arrogant of her to say that she knew the truth and Naomi didn’t. Hell, she was practically telling Naomi that Naomi’s entire life was a big lie! Sure, she probably doesn’t know that the existence of an absolute truth has been debated by philosophers for so many millennia. But on stage, “Leave it to God” will earn you more beauty queen points than “The truth in a particular context – (is) a statement that is known to be correct —ie. in accord with reality, as corroborated by evidence or related experience.

So do I hate Miriam Quiambao? Of course not! This whole fuss just reinforced my original belief that beauty pageants should just be abolished in the first place. Miss Universe is run by a rude, disrespectful, macho businessman who cares about ticket sales — not gender equality. If it has to do with gender at all, it perpetuates gender stereotypes. It objectifies women and reduces beauty to being young, single, and infertile (read: get older than 27, marry your partner, or get pregnant and you are disqualified).

Do I love Miriam? Of course! Well, maybe not as much as before but I am still a huge fan of her outer beauty. You could say I’ve lost hope in her when I saw how things turned out after I wrote her an open letter. But when the dust has settled, when people start overreacting to other news, when we start getting used to small steps that lead to social change, I will continue to be amazed by Miriam’s statuesque pose. I will still watch Miriam get clobbered by Eugene Domingo in Kimmy Dora Part 2. And yes, Miriam Quiambao will continue to be Ms. Universe in my eyes!

Image from http://miriamquiambao.tripod.com/home.html

Posted in Gender Rights, Humor, Society9 Comments

World-Wide LGBT Civil Rights March (Saturday, April 21)

Where: Quezon Memorial Circle (Google map)
When: Saturday, April 21, 2012
Time: 8:00AM to 12:00PM

RSVP at the Facebook Event

On April 21, 2012 Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), will join the Worldwide LGBT Civil Rights March to call for equal rights for all people and demand respect for human rights!

In the Philippines, simultaneous Civil Rights Marches will be held in Isabela, Bacolod City and in Quezon City, Manila. In Manila, the event will be in Quezon Memorial Circle from 9:00am to 12:00 noon where everyone will march around the memorial circle and gather at the Peace Bell inside the park to collectively celebrate the gains achieved by LGBT groups in the Philippines in pushing forward LGBT rights in mainstream society and to re-affirm our commitment to continue the fight for equal rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

The Philippines LGBT Civil Rights March is a call to action to:

• Remind us of the need to address the grave human rights violations against LGBT Filipinos; that victims of these violations must be given justice and that perpetrators must be arrested and punished.

• Respect the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people regardless of SOGI by the passage of the Reproductive Health bill – House Bill 4244 and Senate bill 2865

• Safeguard the retention of SOGI provisions of Senate Bill 2814. The bill, “the Anti-Ethnic, Racial or Religious Discrimination and Profiling Act,” which aims to penalize all forms of discrimination, has passed third reading in the Senate and is close to being finalized in Congress. The LGBT community is gravely concerned that anti-LGBT forces led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will succeed in removing the SOGI provisions of SB 2814.

• Demand the inclusion of SOGI in the ASEAN Declaration of Human Rights, which is being finalized and will be presented in the ASEAN Plus Summit in November 2012 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It is hoped that the April 21 Worldwide LGBT Civil Rights March will impress upon our legislators the urgent need to pass the anti-discrimination law to include the protection of LGBT rights. This will be helped greatly by a large show of numbers of the LGBT community and its supporters this coming Saturday.

It is time to make a stand for the civil and political rights if LGBT persons in the Philippines so April 21, 2012 will be a celebration of LGBT rights and a testament to our continued fight for equal rights.

Posted in Society0 Comments

On Blasphemy and Sewage

As the president of Rationalist International, Sanal Edamaruku has made a name for himself among skeptics’ circles by debunking the mysticism surrounding India’s so-called Holy Men.

But while his efforts are admirable, and his exposes a never-ending source of lols (at the fakir’s expense, that is), he’s run into a bit of trouble.

Last month, Sanal participated in a Channel TV-9 report about the the “miracle” of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni – a crucifix that was claimed to have water miraculously appear and trickle down Jesus’ feet.

We say “was”, because shortly after Sanal arrived, he quickly pointed out that the source of the water in the “miracle” was from a nearby washroom drainage pipe, brought to the crucifix’s feet via capillary action:

 

As expected, the local Catholic Church was not happy with Sanal, who accused them of miracle-mongering in a follow-up program on TV-9.

A heated debate began, in which the five church people, among them Fr. Augustine Palett, the priest of Our Lady of Velankanni church, and representatives of the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) demanded that Sanal apologize. But he powerfully argued against them. Via telephone, Msgr. Agnelo Gracias, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai, intervened in order to rescue the image of the Catholic Church. He claimed the Church was “always cautious in attributing supernatural causes” to such phenomena and always striving “to find ‘scientific’ explanations.” He even assured the Pope was a friend of science.

Following the exchange, the RCC gracefully conceded to Sanal’s superior argumentative style, while Sanal and Fr. Palett have since become close drinking buddies.

Just kidding. The RCC sued Sanal for blasphemy.

Sanal can be arrested any moment. In every single place where a petition is filed against him. He could be forced to appear in person to answer them. If his answer is not found satisfactory, he could be arrested. He could be forced to fight a multitude of criminal cases in different places. This is not only immensely time and money consuming. Given the fanaticism of some Catholic believers, it can be a danger for his life.

There are a couple of important points that we can take away from this incident. The first is that the Catholic Church has only been a self-proclaimed advocate of science only when it suits its agenda.

So for instance, while the RCC has declared the theory of Evolution as compatible with its doctrine, it’s been a staunch opponent of any discussion on stem cell research that does not adhere to its teachings. It’s gone as far as to cancel a conference when the invited speakers refused to be censored by the Vatican.

It might have worked to some extent, but after some of the speakers declined to censor their speeches, the Vatican abruptly canceled the conference altogether. According to the conference website, the event was canceled due to “serious economic and logistic-organizational reasons that have completely jeopardized the success of the 3rd International Congress on Responsible Stem Cell Research.” The scientists who were planning to attend say they are being stifled instead. “I think the only interpretation is that we are being censored,” Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine in San Francisco, said in a statement. “It is very disappointing that they are unwilling to hear the truth.”

The other point we can learn from this is that when the RCC is backed into a corner, it will almost always invoke the Waaahmbulance – crying persecution and blasphemy when its fancy apologetics doesn’t work on fool dissenters.

And this is why Sanal’s story can feel like something so close to home. As many of you will already know by now, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has been actively promoting its own brand of mysticism to keep its flock sedate and obedient.

At the same time, it’s used this same mysticism to control its flock to strike down anybody it disagrees with, including local artists who dare to stick a penis on a carpenter’s forehead, to trying to justify that discrimination against the LGBT community is religiously protected speech.

On the bright side, Sanal’s plight also tells us that we are not alone in our fight – that we’re part of a continually growing community of skeptics who are becoming more vocal in our opposition to their baseless rubbish and dogma.

As a parting note, I’d like to cite that India isn’t the only country that’s assumed raw sewage to be an act of God. As written by professor Ambeth Ocampo in 1988, in an article titled “The Miracle of the Water and the Cross“:

Sometime during the term of William Howard Taft, a fisherman in Manila Bay found “bubbles like a crown of pearls… stretched upon the surface of the sea.” He tasted the water and to his surprise, it was sweet!

Sweet water in the middle of the sea? The fisherman returned with a priest who promptly pronounced a miracle. People from nearby Tondo came in boats and saw bubbles form a cross. They took bottles of the sweet miraculous water home. Two days later, one of the cholera epidemics hit Tondo.

Dr. Victor Heiser (who later wrote a book about his “adventure” in the Philippines) went to the site to investigate the “miracle” and discovered that the bubbles and sweet water came from a busted sewage pipe! Kadiri (Gross!). People were actually drinking, or should I say gulping sewage water. Taft could not do anything because keeping the people from the “miracle” could provoke a revolt.

Quaffing magical potty water – It’s more fun in the Philippines!

You can learn more about how to help Sanal Edamaruku by visiting his organization’s site, accessible through here.

Posted in Others, Religion, Society0 Comments

Demystifying Homeschooling

Homeschooling is a much misunderstood and maligned word. It seems natural for people to jump to conclusions about it. After all, since one knows the meaning of “home” and “school”, naturally putting them together should obviously define homeschooling as education relegated to the home environment, right?

 

It’s true that homeschooling in general includes more contact hours at home, but it doesn’t mean that learning is solely done at home. In fact, a big part of homeschooling is experience-based (experiential) learning outside the usual four corners of traditional classrooms. The whole world can literally become the student’s educational oyster.

Thus, you are not merely confined to teaching your child from a book (although standard instructional materials will most likely be assigned by most homeschooling providers). In fact, you can teach more, over and above available instructional materials, topics, and formats. Best of all, you can delve into topics your child is interested in as well. For example, to promote Science learning, aside from teaching the child what’s in the book, you can bring him/her to the Mind Museum, NIDO’s Science Center, Museo Pambata, a planetarium, or a microbiology lab. In a microbio lab, a child can don a lab gown, wear protective plastic for his/her shoes, peer under a microscope, and discuss with lab researchers and technicians.

Another question that crops up is whether homeschooling is illegal. In some countries it is, but luckily for the Philippines, it isn’t. Several educational laws support alternative learning systems, where homeschooling would naturally fall under.

Section 1(2) of Article XIV (14) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that the State shall, “Establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels. Without limiting the natural right of parents to rear their children…” It is from the last phrase on supporting parental educational rights that homeschooling is provided the legal basis of educating children. However, Section 4(1) of the same also stated that, “The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the education system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all education institutions,” is one legal basis to support the establishment of formal homeschool providers, both as an educational institution and organization, as well as a business model.

 

Before DepEd, there was DECS, and before that was the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports whose educational powers and functions (Section 5) were enumerated under Executive Order 117, series of 1987. Section 5 included item b, as follows, “Sec. 5. Powers and Functions. To accomplish its mandate and objectives, the Ministry shall have the powers and functions of formulating, planning, implementing and coordinating the policies, plans, programs and projects for the following areas of responsibility:

(b) Non-formal and vocational/technical kinds of education;

Again, homeschooling would fall under a non-formal kind of education (granted a choice of only formal or non-formal education). By non-formal, I mean education not falling under the typical traditional classroom set-up. In addition, a 2001 paper by Torres cited a more explicit and specific classification based on the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCD), http://www.adeanet.org/adeaPortal/adea/wgnfe/publications/biennial01/RMTorres%20-%20ADEA%20Biennale%20outline.pdf . She classified education into three types: formal education (FE), non-formal education (NFE), and informal education (IE) with the following definitions:

Formal education comprised “regular school and university education”; non-formal education (NFE) comprised “out-of-school and continuing education, on the job training, etc.”; and informal education comprised “family and socially directed learning”. A fourth category, experiential learning, was added to embrace “learning by doing, self-directed learning, etc.” (UNESCO 1991:17-18).

 

It should be noted that E.O. 117 series of 1987 came much earlier than Torres’ paper, where alternative educational systems are relatively recent developments when compared to other countries. For example, while the British Open University which provides these alternative learning systems was operational as far back as 1971 (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/429744/Open-University ), most of the Philippine legal documents for such systems were only crafted in 2000. There was only one introduced at the time in 1972, three in the later 1980’s, one in the 1990’s.

This might very well be one reason why there are only a handful of homeschool providers in the Philippines, most of them concentrated in Luzon, and almost all of them religious and or sectarian in nature. The more popular ones include the following: Angelicum College, Catholic Filipino Academy (CFA), Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Harvest Christian School International, The Master’s Academy (TMA), and The School of Tomorrow.

Another common concern is the socialization process. By socialization, I mean a definition similar to the following: processes by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and values to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/socialization.html ).

Despite that definition, there seems to be this thinking that children learn more from other children close to their ages (as exemplified by schools artificially grouping children into grade levels) than when children are exposed to other children and people of different ages. What can commonly happen in schools is that traditionally schooled children who spend most of their waking moments in school will most likely look to their peers as role models. Homeschooled children, on the other hand, have more contact with their parents and maybe other older children (siblings, cousins, neighbors) and just different kinds of people, affording them more opportunities to meet with and observe social norms from older children and adults than if they were relegated to the classroom.

While strong advocates for FE and die hard supporters of NFE and IE have cited conflicting results about the socialization of homeschoolers vs tradional students, a more recent paper by Koehler, Langness, Pietig, Stoffel, and Wyttenbach (http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/jur/2002/koehler-langness-pietig-stoffel-wyttenbach.pdf ), seems indicative of the potential promise of better socialization skills of homeschoolers over traditional students. The Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), a reliable and valid assessment tool of social skills, contains fifty-five questions that probe into social skill subcategories of cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and self-control. The SSRS was administered to a total sample of 23 children (7 homeschooled versus 16 traditionally schooled children). Results “indicated that the homeschooled population demonstrated above average overall social skills with a mean score of 63.143. The traditionally schooled children demonstrated average social skills with a mean score of 55.125” (Koehler et. al: p 472).

In addition, using the t-test for independent means (a test to show if there is significant quantitative differences between two discrete groups), it was reported that “a statistical difference was found when comparing the means of the two groups in relation to their overall scores at the .01 level, with the homeschooled children scoring higher. With regards to the subcategories, the results were mixed. In the area of responsibility, a statistical significance was found at the .01 level, indicating that the homeschooled population scored significantly higher than the publicly schooled population. No statistically significant differences were found in relation to other subcategories.” (Koehler et. al: p 472).

Further, Koehler and company also cited earlier studies which also supported their findings, including that of Stough (1992) who said that, “it would appear that few homeschooled children are socially deprived, and that there may be sufficient evidence to indicate that some homeschooled children have a higher self concept than conventionally schooled children” (as cited in Aiex, 1994).

They also cited the work of Smedley, (1992) who found that, “home educated children are more mature and socialized than those sent to school.”

Granted that the sample size is low, and thus, future studies must include a bigger sample size as well as similar local studies. Nonetheless, the results of this research is encouraging for parents like me who have chosen homeschooling for their children.

As a parting note, homeschooling has afforded me several other benefits, not the least of which include more family bonding, less cost (no uniform or daily transportation costs), less worry about my son fitting in school, bullying, or even infection from recent epidemics (like the last AH1N1 scare). At worst, sectarian schools will constrain and indoctrinate children with unconstitutional school rules and guidelines and superstitious mumbo jumbo. With homeschooling, my son and I can be out having nature walks and talks, identifying plants, trees, and insects.

References

The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. (1987). Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.chanrobles.com/article14.htm

Executive Order No. 117 January 30, 1987: Reorganization of the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports prescribing its powers and functions and for other purposes. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.lawphil.net/executive/execord/eo1987/eo_117_1987.html

Homeschooling and open universities in the Philippines. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Homeschooling_and_open_universities_in_the_Philippines

Jardeleza, M. J.Learning System Program. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.slideshare.net/YsayJardeleza/alternative-learning-system-program

Koehler,L.D., Langness, T.J., Pietig, S.S., Stoffel, N.L. and Wyttenbach, J.L. (2002). Socialization skills in home schooled children versus conventionally schooled children. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/jur/2002/koehler-langness-pietig-stoffel-wyttenbach.pdf

Torres, R-M. (2001). Amplifying and diversifying learning: Formal, non-formal, and informal education revisited (Outline). Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.adeanet.org/adeaPortal/adea/wgnfe/publications/biennial01/RMTorres%20-%20ADEA%20Biennale%20outline.pdf

Posted in Metro Manila South Chapter, Personal, Society32 Comments

Metro Manila South/UP Los Baños Chapters Meetup and Picnic (Sunday, April 22)

Hi folks! The Metro Manila South and UP Los Baños are holding a joint meetup this weekend. To make this meeting of chapters even more special, the meetup will be a picnic at the UP Los Baños Freedom Park!

Location: UP Los Baños Freedom Park
Date: Sunday, April 22, 2012
Time: 10am – 7pm

Discussion Topics:

1. Values in a secular and freethinking family
2. How to survive romantic relationships between religious individuals and nonbelievers
3. FF labeled as an atheist organization? Can religious people and progressive theists be freethinkers, too?
4. Joint-projects of FF-UPLB and Metro Manila South
5. RH Agenda students’ assembly
6. Planning of possible UPLB activities for AY 2012-2013

RSVP on facebook

Newbies are welcome.
Bring snacks and packed lunch to share with your fellow freethinkers.
After the meetup, we can go somewhere for dinner and drinks.

For inquiries and for those who will be coming from Manila, please text Karl at 09228493476 or Api at 09151806652

Posted in Meetup2 Comments

An Awesome Logic Primer (Part 2)

 

In the first part of the primer, we discussed the form of a deductive argument, learned the difference between truth and validity, clarified the limits and benefits of logic, learned about logical operators, and were introduced to truth tables, a way of knowing all the truth values that a certain statement can have.

In this part, we are going to move away from the tedium of proving everything with truth tables, going towards handy rules of inference. Think of these as shortcuts when trying to find out if someone’s statements make sense. A list of common fallacies follows, and a short summary of everything in this primer.

Common Properties and Identities (Rules of Inference)

Proving an argument valid or invalid by truth tables becomes very tedious. In the case of more than two statements, for example:

 

P

Q

R

P ∧Q ∧ R

T

T

T

T

T

T

F

F

T

F

T

F

T

F

F

F

F

T

T

F

F

T

F

F

F

F

T

F

F

F

F

F

 

To get all the possible combinations of truth values reflected in the table, we need eight rows. To generalize, we need 2n rows, where n is the number of statements. Of course, we all have lives outside of debating people on the internet, so making these god-fangled tables is not high on anyone’s priority.

Thankfully, logicians who have no life have compiled a list of argument forms which are valid, and these rules of inference(in impressive-sounding Latin!) will now be available to you so you can con your way into someone’s pants by pretending to be a lawyer.

Any argument which can be reduced to these forms must then also be valid.
_________________________________________

Modus Ponens

P→Q
P
∴ Q.

Modus ponendo ponens, translated from Latin to Yoda-speak is, “the way that affirms by affirming”. If P is true, then Q is true. P, therefore Q. It is the subject of the above series of truth tables.

Don’t panic because of that weird-looking triangular dot formation sign there. It’s only a mathematical shorthand for “therefore”. It’s a convenient way to separate premises from the conclusion.
_________________________________________

Modus Tollens

P→Q
~Q
∴~P.

Modus tollendo tollens, again in Yoda-speak is, “the way that denies by denying”. If P, then Q. Not Q, therefore not P. There are two ways to prove that this is valid. One is to use truth tables, and the other is to derive it from modus ponens. If you’re lazy, then just take it on faith. =P

Example: If Alice has friends, she will get invited to the party. She isn’t invited to the party, so Alice must not have any friends.

_________________________________________

Syllogism

P→Q
Q→R
∴P→R.

The syllogism can be spotted everywhere: from your arguments with stubborn kids, to seedy detective novels. It is, after all, the most common form that human reasoning takes.

Example: If he was clobbered to death, the wrench was used to kill him. If the wrench was used to kill him, then the butler killed him. Therefore, if he was clobbered to death, the butler did it.

_________________________________________

Reductio ad Absurdum(aka proof by contradiction, lit. “reduction to the absurd”)

P→Q
P→~Q
∴~P.

The general case of a proof by contradiction. If a statement implies another statement and the opposite of it, then the negation of that statement must be true. This is a staple of debates, and the best way to poke holes in your opponent’s argument.

In real life(Ha! Who are we kidding? On online forums…), P usually takes the form of many premises added together(this means P1∧P2∧P3∧… ), where the number of premises render the absurdity of conclusions obscure.

Example: If there is an invisible pink unicorn, then it must be invisible. If there is an invisible pink unicorn, it must also be pink, and therefore, visible. Therefore, there is no such thing as an invisible pink unicorn.

_________________________________________

This is an incomplete list. For a better one, check out the references at the end of this text.

List of common fallacies
Your face is a common fallacy!

Formal fallacies vs. informal fallacies

A formal fallacy is a mistake in an argument’s form, that is, someone who makes them has obviously skimmed to this part of the primer, missing out on the incredibly detailed and sensual description of lesbian sex between the definitions of the logical conjunction and the logical disjunction.

All formal fallacies stem from invalid arguments, and are actually special cases of non sequitur(Latin for “it does not follow”. Example: rabbits are awesome therefore I am having lunch right now ).

An informal fallacy, however, is usually committed because of false premises or hidden assumptions which are required for the argument to function. That is, it has something to do with an argument’s content.

Since by now you will have the proper tools to perceive formal fallacies, most of the elements of this list will contain informal fallacies. I will also list only a small portion of these fallacies, as easy-to-understand lists are readily available around the net.

Ad Hominem (literally, “to the person”)

Ad hominem attacks neither the form or the premise of the argument, but the person who is making that argument. Note that ad hominem is always a fallacy, but there is a form of attacking the premises which looks very similar to ad hominem- saying, for example, that a person has a vested interest in lying about a premise means that you put a premise in doubt, and not the person.

Example:

A:”What you said about evolution isn’t true because you are a pervert.”

B:”I guess if I say you exist, that’s also not true, then?”

Ad Hominem Tu Quoque (well so is your face)

Could be translated in spirit to “oh yeah? No, you!”, this is asserting that a person’s conclusion is false because it contradicts his actions or a previous statement. Of course, when a person says both Q and ~Q, that probably means that he’s an idiot or a lying shit-faced hypocrite, but unfortunately, it doesn’t say anything about the truth of his current statement.

Example:

A: “Capitalism is evil!!!”

B: “But, you wear branded clothing, and eat at upscale restaurants.”

A: “Well your face is an upscale restaurant.”

_________________________________________
Appeal to Authority (Argumentum ad Verecundiam)

Asserting that something is true because an expert(or someone pretending to be one) said it. This fallacy is akin to a double-edged sword, and it depends on whether the person is a valid authority in that exact subject he is being quoted in.

Example:

A:”Isaac Newton believed in ghosts and occult stuff, so they must be true.”

B:”What.”

_________________________________________
Appeal to Ignorance (Argumentum ad Ignorantiam)

Asserting that since something cannot be proven false, it is therefore true. One of the most rage-inducing fallacies to ever exist.

Example:

A:”You cannot prove that I do not have an invisible dragon in my garage on planet Jupiter. Therefore, it exists.”

B:”My dragon-slaying girlfriend went to Jupiter and made its skin into a trendy purse. So there.”

_________________________________________
Argumentum Verbosium(the argument full of words. I kid not.)

It involves raining down obscure jargon and multiple, often conflicting assertions with the intent to confuse opponents into submission.

Example: Really? Go check the ff page.

_________________________________________
Equivocation

An argument, usually in the form of a syllogism(did you read that part?), where a word with several different meanings is used with a different meaning for each implication. The usual victims of this treatment are abstract words like love, god, nature, etc.

Example:

A:” Being stuck in traffic makes people mad. Mad people get sent to the mental hospital. Being stuck in traffic gets people sent to the mental hospital.”

B:”I don’t even.”

_________________________________________
Appeal to Consequence (Argumentum ad Consequentiam)

Taking a claim to be true because otherwise you will be depressed/the world will end/you will never be loved/etc. A special form of appeal to emotion.

Example:

A: “Being aware that women are still being oppressed in many parts of the world will make me depressed, so I’ll just believe that gender equality has been achieved so I can sleep better at night.”

B:”Good for you.”

_________________________________________

For the impossibly intellectually lazy: a TL;DR
Or for the awesome people who took the time to read, a summary

  • Logic is not a system of all-encompassing laws. It is a formalization of the reasoning that we use every day, kind of like high-level common sense.
  • To simplify things, we construct statements that are either true or false. In the real world, this value depends on many factors, such as semantics and perspective.
  • Even with this simplified system, we can still construct valid arguments and figure out if other people’s arguments are valid or not.
  • The only way for an argument to be invalid is if there’s a possible way that the conclusion is false when you hold all the premises true.
  • A valid argument does not mean the conclusion is true, that depends on the premises. Similarly, an invalid argument does not say anything about the truth of a conclusion.
  • The most important logical symbol is the implication(→), which means “therefore”. It is the usual connector of everyday reasoning.
  • For an argument to be right, it has to be sound- that is, it has to both have true premises and be valid.
  • The most common argument takes the form of a syllogism, which connects statements by implication. (P→Q→R, therefore P→R)
  • Truth tables provide a definitive(but tasking) way of finding out whether the argument is valid. Rules of inference are more efficient, but error-prone. You are prone to error, I mean. Not the rules.
  • Formal fallacies have to do with form, informal fallacies concern everything else.

Protips:

  • There are generally two ways to attack an argument, one is questioning validity, and the second is by questioning the premises.
  • To see if an argument is invalid, try to see a scenario where the conclusion is not true but the premises are. This needs wit and imagination.
  • Premises, especially complicated ones, usually can also be dissected and rendered into premises supporting a conclusion. Similarly, arguments which reduce to a tautology can be used as premises.

The Reference List
And suggested readings

Posted in Science0 Comments

An Open Letter to Miriam Quiambao (1999 Ms. Universe Runner-Up)

Dear Miriam,

Warm greetings to a lovely woman! I have been a big fan ever since you placed first runner up in the 1999 Ms. Universe. Yes, even before major major mistakes and tsunami walks came into existence, you already captured the global audience (and me) with your signature statuesque pose. And who could forget how gracefully you picked yourself up when you fell on stage? Indeed, you have become an inspiration to other women. As for me, my admiration went beyond that pageant. I consider you one of the few women in show business who actually have real skill and talent plus a humanitarian heart to boot.

But today, I am writing you about this deep pang of disappointment that stabbed me from the inside when I read your tweets. The first that caught my attention was this:

Screenshot of retweet

(http://m.tmi.me/obI4l – posting retweet as original has been deleted)

I immediately called this out and sent you a direct tweet:

my reply

after which, you replaced your tweet with this (the version that others picked up and retweeted):

Miriam s new tweet

I want to make it clear that I have yet to take a stand on the policy change so I don’t think we will have any problems in that area. I am writing you in hopes that I could help you form a new perspective on transgender issues and concepts by addressing your tweets point by point.

Tweet #1:

Tweet #1

Do not be surprised but just by putting the words “real” and “women” next to each other, you have already made a discriminatory remark. You have already judged transgender women as “fake women” thereby relegating them to second class citizens. My friend Sass wrote a comprehensive explanation on what makes a woman, a woman. She wrote:

“How do you determine who is “naturally born a woman”? By considering who is born with a vagina or not? Or by considering the configuration of the brain when one is born? According to research, the sexual differentiaton of the body into male and female does not end when you were born. The brain itself undergoes sexual differentation as well and this sexual differentation happens independently of the differentiation of the genitalia, and it continues even after you were born (Hence, assigning a baby female or male at birth should be, at best, considered provisional). ALL these processes are natural. If we are going to use this line of thinking with the case of Jenna Talackova. Jenna is a “natural woman” for she was born with a brain that sexually differentiated into a female brain. Unless of course you want to confine femaleness to (being born with a vagina), which of course is not a scientific decision but a social decision based on a genital centric tradition.”

 

Although I could be wrong, I believe you are the kind of person who would favor the brain as the seat of identity instead of the genitals. Indeed, if a baby is born without genitals, we can always wait for the baby to grow up and decide (using their brain) if their identity is female or male. However, if a baby is born with genitalia but without a brain, this discussion would be irrelevant as there would not even be a living human to speak of. So as long as there is a functioning brain that self-identifies as female, the owner of that brain shall be a woman, a “real woman”, regardless of her genitalia.

Tweet #2:

Actually, the Miss Universe website states the following rule:

“CAN CONTESTANTS BE MARRIED?

No, contestants may not be married or pregnant. They must not have ever been married, not had a marriage annulled nor given birth to, or parented, a child. The titleholders are also required to remain single throughout their reign.”

Falling in love and marrying a partner, giving birth, becoming a mother, aren’t all these part of the essence of being a woman? Before you even turn your back on Jenna, shouldn’t you be defending the rights of the “real women” out there who are disqualified because they’ve gone through such womanly experiences like giving birth? This is not a rhetorical question. I honestly, genuinely believe you are in a position to push this kind of change. I honestly, genuinely believe that given a choice you would pick the path of inclusiveness (questioning this rule) instead of the path of exclusiveness (disapproving of Jenna’s participation).

Tweet #3

Tweet #3

By letting Jenna participate after disqualifying her, Donald Trump has sent a very powerful message. And that message is when Jenna won her case, she “stood up for the rest of the women who have fallen whether on or off stage,” through Jenna’s example, she has “shown courage and strength of being a woman,” she is “a good example to the rest of the women in the world!” Oh wait, that was your message. But see, if you claim to be a humanitarian, I would expect that you would see the positive and share in human celebration rather than see the negative and throw a curtain of exclusion.

I don ‘t think your world would fall apart if I decided I didn’t like you anymore but much of how I regard you depends on how you will respond to this situation. With some luck and critical analysis, may you join the ranks of other LGBT allies like Hillary ClintonAnne Hathaway, and Adam Levine. When that day comes, no Jenna Talackova would have to pick herself up from falling on a transphobic misinformed stage.

Still a fan,

Ron de Vera

(signed)

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