Fake News, lies, conspiracies and how to spot them

with thanks to our old friend Ms Sarah McCabe, whose idea this was

Lies. Screams. Rants. Fake news. Conspiracy. These days, both the internet and the world wide web are both full of them, choking out the truth like weeds in a badly-kept garden. Or is it graffiti on the toilet walls of a low public house in the port area of a run down city? The trouble is that every uneducated jackass can spew out their beery opinions, and in internet terms it’s just the same as finding something from Nature or the Economist. Sad, but true. The disease of our age.

But there is a remedy, gentle readers. Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, through the Medievals like St Thomas Aquinas up to moderns like Bertrand Russell, the cleverest people in history have been developing a concept called fallacies in reasoning. It is a list of logical errors that we all make without thinking. And we have some sites here which you can go to find out what they are. You too will have a kit which will let you detect the errors in the confused ramblings which clutter up our beautiful internet. Links below, but here’s a couple of examples:

Straw man argument. You select someone you hate (the straw man), put some words into their mouth, then attack them on that basis

Of course, if someone had toppled the statue of Winston Churchill, the Guardian the BBC and all the liberal media would say it was good, because they want a Revolution and bring in communism

Spotted the error(s)? You may not like the Guardian, maybe with good reason. But you don’t know what they would say because they haven’t said it yet. Then you attribute communist motives which they may not have. By the way-how do you know that Revolution is their preferred political method?

False cause and effect

This is where can believe in something you want to be true by using bits of “evidence”, without considering other explanations

Example If there was a large hairy caveman living in the Himalayas, we would find its tracks in the snow, We would hear strange calls. There would be reports and sightings from locals and mountaineers

There are many examples of tracks in the snow, strange calls. and odd reports and sightings from locals and mountaineers in the Himalayas. Therefore, the Abominable Snowman is real.

Is it? What about bears? Snow leopards? Did the locals and mountaineers, brave men no doubt, make honest mistakes? Was someone else up there less honest, faking things?

Once upon a time, logic and reasoning were central to the curriculum. The tragedy of our times is that schools don’t teach them. They are hypersensitised to pushing their pupils through examinations. But there is a wide gap between examinations and thinking. So, gentle reader, it’s down to you. Find something on the internet, then read the words very carefully. Then check those words against the lists of errors below. Now you will know how good it is

Psychology today has a nice short list

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/memory-medic/201410/analytical-thinking-logic-errors-101

for a longer course, there’s good old Wikipedia. Please donate to them when they appeal this autumn

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

and here we found a free online university course (spoiler alert: we haven’t tried it but were so amazed by its very existence, we had to give them a plug)

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/logical-and-critical-thinking

#logicalfallacies #reasoning #bertrandrussell #conspiracies #fakenews

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