English

Think before you give: Charity is about a cool head as much as a warm heart

When I was a kid, my little sister and I sold calendars door to door to raise money for Haiti. They were nice, too: shiny paper and beautiful full-color photos of poor Haitian children. The money raised went to support the charity work of the Salesian Missionary. They cost 700 Belgian francs each (about €17.50), which was quite a tidy… Lees verder »Think before you give: Charity is about a cool head as much as a warm heart

The Magic Three-Letter Word

One day when I was in elementary school, I asked my teacher if he believed in God. For weeks, he had been telling us all these nice stories about Yahweh and his people (we used a sanitized children’s Bible, without the sex and violence), but when it came to his own beliefs, he tended to waffle somewhat. When I asked him… Lees verder »The Magic Three-Letter Word

Moral myopia: how to conflate (culpable) negligence with wilful murder

There’s a worrying tendency today to equate wilful acts of murder (i.e. terrorism) with deaths due to (culpable) negligence or remission. I’ve heard people comparing jihadi terrorism to 1) boat refugees drowning in the Mediterranean 2) civilian casualties due to Western airstrikes in Syria, or even 3) the deaths of Grenfell fire. In a discussion on Twitter on the relative… Lees verder »Moral myopia: how to conflate (culpable) negligence with wilful murder

Escaping The Fallacy Fork? Straw-manning and circular reasoning.

Is it time to get rid of fallacy theory? Is there any use in having a laundry lists of labels for alleged reasoning errors, often with impressive Latin names, that are constantly thrown around? Several people have pointed to the “straw man fallacy” and the fallacy of “begging the question” (also known as circular reasoning or petitio principii) as counterexamples… Lees verder »Escaping The Fallacy Fork? Straw-manning and circular reasoning.

The Conceptual Penis Hoax: Solid or Flaccid?

Last month, the philosopher Peter Boghossian and mathematician James M. Lindsay perpetrated a hoax on the journal Cogent Social Science, in an attempt to expose the academic field of Gender Studies. The paper, entitled “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct”, is a hilarious piece of satire, making the preposterous argument that the human penis is not so much an… Lees verder »The Conceptual Penis Hoax: Solid or Flaccid?

The Fallacy Fork: Why It’s Time to Get Rid of Fallacy Theory

Fallacy theory is popular among skeptics, but in fact it’s in serious trouble. Every fallacy in the traditional taxonomy runs into a destructive dilemma that I call the Fallacy Fork: either it hardly ever occurs in real life, or it is not actually fallacious. Here’s a piece I wrote about the Fallacy Fork for Skeptical Inquiry, based on our paper… Lees verder »The Fallacy Fork: Why It’s Time to Get Rid of Fallacy Theory

Are there “mysteries” that will forever baffle us?

My colleague Michael Vlerick and I just published a paper in the journal Dialectica, dissecting the arguments of the so-called “New Mysterians”. This group of thinkers, among whom luminaries such as Noam Chomsky, Jerry Fodor and Steven Pinker, claim that some problems will always remain ineffable “mysteries” to us, because our brains are just not equipped to understand them. Just… Lees verder »Are there “mysteries” that will forever baffle us?

Whataboutery

Pure fallacies are a rare breed.  You encounter examples of such arguments in textbooks of logic, but rarely in real life. Real-life fallacies generally bear some resemblance to valid forms of reasoning, which makes them hard to distinguish. Nevertheless, I found a genuine, 24-carat nugget of bad reasoning the other day.  The historian Jeroen Bouterse was reacting to my essay… Lees verder »Whataboutery

How to chase away a university

For the past week or so I’ve been in Budapeston a study visit at the Central European University (CEU), where I’ve been doing some research on cultural evolution with the anthropologist Dan Sperber and his group.  I wouldn’t normally be blogging about this kind of everyday academic excursion, but if you’ve been following the news at all closely for the… Lees verder »How to chase away a university

Letter from a Young Contrarian

I received this letter from an Iraqi ex-Muslim studying at a Belgian university, among countless others, after publishing my piece on the invisibility of ex-Muslims. The author suggested sharing his letter, but he wishes to remain anonymous, for obvious reasons. It is a powerful testimony that deserves to be read, especially by those on the Regressive Left who have betrayed… Lees verder »Letter from a Young Contrarian