Day: June 4, 2016

How you make excuses in order to maintain your beliefs

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Without realizing it, you sometimes apply a double standard to the things you love, believe, and consider crucial to your identity.

If you do this while arguing, it is sometimes called special pleading. You search for exemptions and excuses for why a rule or a description or a definition does not apply to something that you hold dear while still applying those standards to everything else.

You also use special pleading to explain away how something extraordinary failed to stand up to scrutiny, or why there is a lack of evidence for a difficult-to-believe claim that you personally think is credible.

One of the tools used by special pleaders is called moving the goalposts. Whenever your opponent eliminates one of your claims, you alter your claim just a smidge so that it remains right outside your opponent’s rhetorical grasp. When they do it again, you move your claim a bit more.

In this episode, listen as three experts in logic and reasoning dive deep into the odd thinking behind the special pleading fallacy and how you move the goalposts to keep from seeming incorrect.

This episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is the seventh in a full season of episodes exploring logical fallacies. The first episode is here.

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This episode is brought to you by the MIT Press, publishing Marc Wittmann’s about Felt Time and a few other new science, philosophy, language, and technology titles at mitpress.com/smart.

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BobBob Blaskiewicz is an assistant professor who teaches, among other subjects, critical thinking at Stockton University. He also writes about logic and reasoning at skepticalhumanities.com, and is a regular guest on the YouTube show The Virtual Skeptics.

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Julie Galef is the president and co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, a non-profit devoted to training people to be better at reasoning and decision-making. She is also the host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast and writes for publications like Slate, Science, Scientific American, and Popular Science. This is her website.

Vanessa Hill is …read more

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Muhammad Ali, RIP

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Muhammad Ali, three-time world heavyweight boxing champion and cultural icon, died today at 74. He was the greatest. From the New York Times:

Ali was the most thrilling if not the best heavyweight ever, carrying into the ring a physically lyrical, unorthodox boxing style that fused speed, agility and power more seamlessly than that of any fighter before him.

But he was more than the sum of his athletic gifts. An agile mind, a buoyant personality, a brash self-confidence and an evolving set of personal convictions fostered a magnetism that the ring alone could not contain. He entertained as much with his mouth as with his fists, narrating his life with a patter of inventive doggerel. (“Me! Wheeeeee!”)

Ali was as polarizing a superstar as the sports world has ever produced — both admired and vilified in the 1960s and ’70s for his religious, political and social stances. His refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War, his rejection of racial integration at the height of the civil rights movement, his conversion from Christianity to Islam and the changing of his “slave” name, Cassius Clay, to one bestowed by the separatist black sect he joined, the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, were perceived as serious threats by the conservative establishment and noble acts of defiance by the liberal opposition.

Muhammad Ali knocks out Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome, Houston, 1966
“Muhammad Ali knocks out Cleveland Williams, 1966” by Neil Leifer

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