Good? Bad? Truth? You decide.

Spirit – the word is from the Latin verb “to breathe”. A
necessary action for humans to continue living. Part of
that universal instinct to do what keeps us alive
whether we are animal, fish, fowl or plant.

Is there any reason why we should not study how spirit
works? Study of ourselves and anything that affects us
has led to thousands of breakthrough technologies that
better our lives.

I can’t find any religious text that forbids learning and
improving. Most religious leaders in history were scholars.
Scientists have been religious, atheist and everything in
between.

Being religious does not mean you reject science and
vice versa. Being interested in both gives us twice as
many  things to enjoy learning.

In thinking, reading, listening and learning we come
across many of life’s puzzles and the resulting public
and private arguments. Making up our minds which to
believe can be tough. Here is an interesting list of clues
to help sift for nuggets among the pebbles. It is from the
“bullshit detection kit” by Carl Sagan.

1. Attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The
Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist,
so her objections to evolution need not be taken
seriously)

2. Argument from authority (e.g., President Richard
Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan
to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was
secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate
it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him
because he was President. A mistake, as it turned out)

3. Argument from adverse consequences (e.g., A God
meting out punishment and reward must exist, because
if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and
dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The
defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be
found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement
for other men to murder their wives)

4. Appeal to ignorance — the claim that whatever has
not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g.,
There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not
visiting the Earth; therefore UFOs exist — and there is
intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may
be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known
to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re
still central to the Universe.) Absence of evidence is not
evidence of absence.

5. Begging the question, also called assuming the
answer
(e.g., We must institute the death penalty to
discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime
rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or:
The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical
adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there
any independent evidence for the causal role of
“adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned
anything at all from this purported explanation?)

6. Observational selection, also called the enumeration
of favorable circumstances
, or as the philosopher
Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting
the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has
produced, but is silent on its serial killers)

7. Statistics of small numbers — a close relative of
observational selection (e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5
people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds
of people, and none of them is Chinese.” Or: “I’ve thrown
three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)

8. Misunderstanding of the nature of statistics (e.g.,
President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment
and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans
have below average intelligence)

9. Inconsistency (e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of
which a potential military adversary is capable, but
thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental
dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the
declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union
to the failures of communism many years ago, but never
attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United
States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to
the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for
the Universe to continue to exist forever into the
future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has
infinite duration into the past);

10. It doesn’t follow (e.g., Our nation will prevail because
God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be
true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often
those falling into this fallacy have simply failed to
recognize alternative possibilities.

11. It happened after, so it was caused by (e.g., Jaime
Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of a 26 year
old who looks 60 because she takes contraceptive pills.”
Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear
weapons)

12. Meaningless question (e.g., What happens when an
irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there
is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no
immovable objects, and vice versa)

13. Excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering
only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate
possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s
perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your
country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the
solution, you’re part of the problem”)

14. Short-term vs. long-term — a subset of the excluded
middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special
attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed
malnourished children and educate pre-school kids.
We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets. Or:
Why explore space or pursue fundamental science
when we have so huge a budget deficit?)

15. Slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g., If
we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will
be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant.
Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the
ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our
bodies around the time of conception);

16. Confusion of correlation and causation (e.g., A
survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual
than those with lesser education; therefore education
makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated
with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore —
despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer,
more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the
former)

17. Straw man — caricaturing a position to make it easier
to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply
fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully
ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets
up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or
this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy environmentalists
care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do
for people)

18. Suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An
amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of
the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown
on television; but — an important detail — was it
recorded before or after the event? Or: These
government abuses demand revolution, even if you
can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.
Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far
more people are killed than under the previous regime?
What does the experience of other revolutions suggest?
Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable
and  in the interests of the people?)

19. Weasel words (e.g., The separation of powers of the
U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may
not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress.
On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign
policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially
powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected.
Presidents of either political party may therefore be
tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and
calling  the wars something else — “police actions,”
“armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,”
“pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a
wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just
Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class
of reinventions of language for political purposes.
Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to
find new names for institutions which under old
names have become odious to the public”)

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Ken