A random sampling of the stupid.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Error Scale

While I would love to post only mistakes which are logical errors in the mathematical sense, those are rarer, and much less amusing, than stories which are just dumb. For instance, you only occasionally see news stating that since toxic chemical cause cancer, and somebody has cancer, then they must have been exposed to toxic chemicals. It's quite common, though, for a reporter to find out that researchers have discovered a way to turn a normally attractive force, which allows geckos to stick to walls*, and turn that into a futuristic world of us riding flying geckos. But that's just an issue of the reporter being dumb, ignorant, lazy, and/or sensationalistic.

So in general, this blog will focus on cases of idiocy, ignorance, laziness, ridiculous sensationalism, and other types of nonsense not strictly related to syllogistic errors.

To aid in that endeavor, I have developed a simple scale on which to rate mistakes. As with all scales, it ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being "might be right, but you said it was proven and it's not" and 10 being "the continued existence of this author is a near disproof of Darwinism".

Some examples of each level

1: "Measured atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing in lock-step with human CO2 emission levels and global temperatures. Therefore, human CO2 emitted must be increasing atmospheric CO2, warming the Earth". While I actually do believe this, if some other factor warmed the Earth, it would almost certainly increase CO2 levels, which would then feedback warming the Earth more, and so on. Notice no humans were involved in this hypothetical situation.

5: "The vice president is not part of the executive branch." If you read the constitution without thinking too hard about this, it's obviously a false statement. If you agonize over the meaning of each and every word, you start to wonder. If you actually think about the consequences, as CREW did, of course it means there's some magical 4th branch, or that Cheney is should be subjected to all kinds of oversight. If you actually think for a second, you realize that 200 years of precedent put the VP in the executive branch.

7: "The streets are safe in Philadelphia. It’s only the people who make them unsafe." Mayor of Philadelphia. Gee, I wonder if he knows how to take something not perfectly, 100% literally? My guess would be not.

10: "We can't make pot legal. If marijuana were legal, people would smoke it." 'Nuff said


* The Casimir force. It's quantum mechanical in nature, essentially the random variations in quantum foam don't cancel out completely at very short length scales.

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