Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fallacies of the daily argument

In this post, I wish to create a curated list of daily arguments used in society (Indian or elsewhere,) that have logical fallacies. I am sure all of you, growing up, have argued with your friends / parents / within family circles or with your school teachers about issues concerning "must do", or "should not do". You would have come across many logical fallacies in the arguments where you were told 'this is why you should follow X', or 'this is why you should never do Y'. These could also include superstitions such as 'see, I told you, whenever A happens, B happens', or even refusing the causality of A-B and insisting it is just a coincidence. 

Let's play a game ! In the comments section, why don't you add some of the fallacies you have seen in your daily arguments with your friends / parents / society, and I will add them here ! I will also update the list of authors accordingly, giving due credit !! Meanwhile, I will add more as I keep identifying them. 

For starters, here is a wiki on `non sequitur' : (latin for `does not follow', and describes an argument that does not follow from its premises.) In the examples below, it is irrelevant whether the boolean value of the premises is True (or False), it is only that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. 

Example 1. Grades in School
a. Every student with poor grades fails to study regularly
b. you fail to study regularly
c. therefore you will get poor grades
It may or may not be that 'a' above is true, but in either case it is irrelevant to the conclusion. What is relevant to the conclusion is whether it is true that "every student who does not study regularly does get poor grades", which is ignored in the argument.

Example 2. Social norms and rituals 
a. If you do everything according to 'social norms and religious prescriptions', society will accept you
b. You are not doing everything according to the social norms and religious prescriptions
c. Hence society [as defined] will not accept you
It may or may not be that 'a' above is true, but in either case it is irrelevant to the conclusion. What is relevant to the conclusion is whether it is true that "everyone who is accepted by the society has been doing everything according to social norms and religious prescriptions", which is ignored in the argument. 

Slippery slope fallacy 
Example 1: "If we raise the minimum wage to 15$ why not raise it to 100000$ (slippery slope)". This actually happened on fox ! (contributed by Purushottam Dixit

This reminded me of another one of the golden fallacies of the childhood:
Example 2: If you can not change your habits now, you can not change them later !

True scotsman fallacy (contributed by Purushottam Dixit
Example 1: After a terrible tragedy: "Real Christians/Muslims/Whatever would never do this!"

The false dilemma, or black-and-white
Example: You are with us in this war/cause, or else you are against us !

The Strawman: Misrepresent someone's argument and then attack it easily
Well just listen / read any political argument !!

Appeal to authority: because it is said somewhere or by someone authoritative, it must therefore be true.
Example: Citing scriptures for basically everything you want to make true.
Example: Propagating unsubstantiated pseudo-factoids like structure of water based on one person's experiments. Classic example here is Emoto water experiments.

Friday, June 10, 2011

संवेदनशीलतेची अशी एक व्याख्या ?

संवेदनशीलता किंवा संवेदनशील मन ह्या नक्की काय भानगडी आहेत असा प्रश्न पडलेला असताना मनात एक विचार अाला तो सांगावासा वाटतो.

जी हरवल्यावर मुळात काही हरवलंय हे कळतंच नाही, (काय हरवलंय तो भाग सोडून द्या,) ती म्हणजे संवेदनशीलता !
जी हरवल्यावर केवळ तिच्या हरवण्यामुळे निर्माण झालेले प्रश्न दिसतात, पण प्रश्नांचं मूळ हाती लागत नाही ती संवेदनशीलता !

Monday, June 6, 2011

Govt. committed to present the Shoe-Hurl Bill in the Monsoon Session

A Kanda-News report, June 6 2012 (New Delhi) :

After a handful of spectacular Satyagrahas at the lavish Hotel RavaN-leela, New Delhi, the government has finally accepted to draft a bill for the "Right to Hurl a Shoe in a Government Press Briefing" (also known as the Shoe-Hurl Bill) and present it at the Monsoon parliamentary Session. "This is a great success of the newly awakened Indian society and will be a milestone towards a successful democracy" said the spokesperson of the pioneering Satyagraha based NGO "burp-IT", the pivotal organization behind planning and execution of the Satyagrahas and hundreds of nation-wide 'awakening meetings' for the cause.

According to the list of demands and recommendations made by burp-IT to the Government, the Shoe-Hurl Bill would give all Indian citizens a right to hurl one shoe towards the speaker at a Government press briefing. This promises to open new avenues to the reporters for asking questions, at the same time conveying their standpoint. The reporters will have to throw the shoe in strictly a standing position (to succinctly convey their standpoint). As an additional effort on behalf of the Government, a special mechanical system is being designed for the physically handicapped reporters to stand, if willing to exercise this right. All civil society members and various Satyagraha NGOs commended government's efforts for being considerate of the disabled reporters. The opposition's view on the Government's extra efforts was the same as any of their past views in last 4 years, viz. the Government is trying to win commendations and votes in view of the upcoming elections.


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Monday, December 6, 2010


on a moon-lit, winding road,
the chilly, grave wind
rubs out the snow-flakes dry and round,
till they look like white-ash:
cold-burnt and marble-white

a mile away, on a shivery grassland,
wool-warmth sparks in happy, golden eyes,
chirpy pine twigs burn and burn,
merry little sparks make little clouds
and some white-ash.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

यज्ञ, मंत्र and the ozone layer? Some back of the envelope thoughts


(Statutory warning: Arbitrary browsing could be time wasting (but fun as well :-) )

Today I got hints from some "lazy-time" wikipedia browsing that Yajna/Mantr could help replenish the ozone layer, and started thinking if there is indeed any scientific basis to that. If there was some such reaction happening in those burnings of samidha that might produce (or) stabilize ozone (or) de-stabilize the de-ozonizers such as methane, then effectively, ozone could be forming/being sustained.

Although the article seemed like a stub (Wikipedia's words!), it said that the use of ghee or घृत in Yajna helps to build and sustain the ozone layer.

With some Google Scholar, I soon got intrigued by this puzzle and got a peek down the rabbit hole !

Here are the fragments of the puzzle I found :

1. Yajnas from the Elden Days in India were performed by offering samidha(holy offerings to please Agni) to the holy fire (Agni) and Mantras were sung/ chanted at the same time. Ghee was used as an ingredient of samidha. Bovine fats, such as Ghee, is a milk product, and to my limit of knowledge about organic molecules(!), contains a lot of lipids.

2. Research exists on the effect of breathing ozone as inducing formation of "lipid hydro-peroxides" (read : = lipids + -OH bonds and the peroxide O-O bond) in the lungs of lab rats. This has been researched in the medical field in view of cancer research, as the peroxides are always carcinogenic : the extra oxygen they can give off (the O radical) can catalyze breaking of some vital bio-molecules.

3. What about the मंत्र part? Putting the chanting words aside for a little bit, an intriguing fact about Vedic Mantras is that they are sung in three specific notes (if I am not wrong, the Ni, Sa, and Re).

4. Research exists on the effect of sound waves / pressure fields on the kinetics and selectivity of some biomolecular reactions in water phase. Examples are cell wall damage, lipid oxidation (read sonochemistry here). The sound waves studied in all these papers are of ultrasonic limit (frequencies > 20 kHz, not audible). Ultrasonic pressure waves can catalyze or increase selectivity to certain lipid-oxidation products.

5. An important point here, is that the sound waves sung by the rishis would never go ultrasonic: off the cuff, Sa is 440 Hz freq, (and 78 cm wavelength) and 20 kHz being the auditive limit. Bats scream ultrasonic, we can not! This means the musical notes of Mantras would be much less in energy than the ultrasonics : Ok, so maybe they wont break cell walls : but maybe they are able to catalyze some reactions: worth exploring ..

6. So coming back to the lipids getting oxidized, a search for "ultrasonic lipid oxidation" directs to some interesting research papers in the medical field, where they are interested again in the carcinogenic effects of formation of lipid hydro-peroxides!

Now putting the two together, formation of peroxides of lipids is possible and already seen in the presence of ozone AND/OR sound waves (--where the published research is only on ultrasonics, not on acoustic range of waves.. but oh well..)

An argument then, based on the reversibility of such an oxidation reaction, would be as follows:
If after burning these peroxides rise and reach certain heights (where ozone is naturally a stable compound) to react with oxygen molecules and dissociate, ozone could form. Although a hand-wavy argument, to me this seemed far better than just doing the Yajna for the sake of it!

A complete (though rudimentary) argument would be as follows:

"A sono-catalyzed reaction (due to Mantras chanted in specific acoustic frequencies) of oxidation of bovine lipids (such as in ghee) selectively shifts towards formation of lipid-hydro-peroxides. These LHPs rise up in the air at ambient conditions and an (oxygen + peroxide) - to - (ozone + lipid) dissociation reaction takes off. An equilibrium could be reached where the peroxides get rid of extra oxygens to form stable ozone at the high altitudes. This, even if very minutely, could increase ozone layer."

Worth giving it a shot, don't you think, @biochemists? :-)

hows that!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

अ-कलेचे चांदणे

काजळ रात्री दोन चंद्र दाखवतील दिशा
कलेकलेच्या चंद्राचा कुणा भरवसा ?
आज पडलाय वारा तरी नावेत माझ्या येशील ?
तुझ्या चंद्रांना चांदणी ही हिऱ्याची घेशील ?


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Figure of speech- Resume

(in school-English this is also called hyperbole or exaggeration)

(लोक resume मधे काहीही लिहितात, त्यासाठी..)

आत्तापर्यंत काहीही न केलेल्या २१ वर्षीय बबन्या च्या resume वरची ही वाक्ये :
1. Successfully revolved around the Sun 21 times (19728967187.916 Km) along with other Celestial Bodies
2. Showed competency with others in terms of speed of revolution
3. Fast learner : Picked up rhythmic breathing skills at the earliest
4. Not afraid of green ghosts that rise in elliptical fashion up Northwards
5. Ability to complete dreams through interruptions in sleep
6. Ability to draw impressive conclusions which has been proven useful in resume building

Quick question: find a post suitable for बबन्या.