Saturday, November 1, 2014

Even Prime Fallacy

The simplest possible Even Prime Fallacy is shown below:
Salviati: Most prime numbers are odd.
Simplicio: Two is even! Your argument completely falls apart.
We may express this idea more formally:
Salviati: p is sometimes true.
Simplicio: Yes, but p is sometimes false! Your argument completely falls apart.
Simplicio has failed to disprove Salviati, not because Simplicio's rebuttal is illogical or irrelevant, but because it is literally the exact same argument as the one Salviati made! "p is sometimes false" is an inevitable logical consequence of "p is sometimes true."
Someone who invokes an even prime fallacy probably thinks of an argument as "words you say in response to words someone else says," rather than as an exercise in logic.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Today in Drivers Obeying the Law...

The sign says NO TURN ON RED. It very clearly indicates what lanes you are legally allowed to turn into.

Naturally, the car in front of me turns, on red, into a lane in which it is not allowed. He joins a veritable parade of cars illegally blocking the transit lanes, for what purpose I cannot discern. Further up the street, a car honks at a bus pulling away from it's stop, even though the car is breaking the law by being in a transit lane. Behind me, a train has to slow to a crawl. The trains take a full block to come to a stop, so the operator has to hit the brakes early to avoid crushing all the cars parked on the tracks.
Drivers think the law is very important, which is why they always obey it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Consent Schmonsent

At any given moment, one person wants sex more passionately than the other. What's more, whether due to nurture or nature, there is usually a difference in tempo between men and women, with women generally requiring more "convincing." And someone who requires convincing is not yet in a position to offer "affirmative" much less "enthusiastic" consent. That doesn't mean that the final experience is unsatisfying—but it does mean that initially one has to be coaxed out of one's comfort zone. Affirmative consent would criminalize that.
I am finding it next to impossible to read this passage in any other way than "women just need to be raped a little bit or they won't want to have sex." It is deeply, deeply creepy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rhetorical Bestiary: Free Speech is Censorship

Alan Dershowitz:
I would bet anything that 99 percent of the people who are demanding that [Salaita] be restored tenure would be on the exact opposite side of this if he’d been making pro-Israel but equally uncivil statements.
Hypocrisy about free speech is universal. Even among Supreme Court justices, who are supposed to be non-ideological, Epstein, Parker, and Segal found a strong tendency to support the free speech rights of their ideological brethren and oppose the free speech rights of their ideological opponents. No doubt your average Joe is even less principled than Scalia, Ginsburg, or Kennedy.
If free speech hypocrisy is so banal, why make so much of it? The argument goes something like this:
  1. Supporters of X's right to say p claim they care about free speech rights.
  2. Were X saying ¬p, X's current supporters would not defend his free speech rights.
  3. Therefore, censorship is good! P.S., I am not a crackpot.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Clinton Street: Still Too Scary

Two weeks ago, Bike Portland ran a story on Portland's Clinton St. bike boulevard. It included a quote from PBOT traffic safety specialist Greg Raisman:
Our safety performance [on bike boulevards] over time has been excellent. 70 percent of our streets are residential. Less than 20 percent of bike and pedestrian crash activity happens there. … There’s comfort factors that are important in how many cars are on the road. But from a pure safety perspective, the big threat is where you’re crossing the busy streets.
Immediately after finishing the article, I hopped on my bike and rode down Clinton to go to dinner with my girlfriend and her coworkers. Just after I passed 43rd Ave. heading toward Chavez, I saw a group of three cyclists heading in the opposite direction with a Subaru following close behind. I kept my eye on the Subaru, because dangerous passing is a daily occurrence on Clinton. Suddenly and without warning, the car swerved into my lane and started heading straight for me. I had to steer hard to the right, almost colliding with a parked car; the Subaru passed within a foot of my handlebar.
I have been bike commuting for thirteen years, and this is by far the scariest thing that has ever happened to me on my bike. I am thankful to have escaped without injury, but I worry even more about other riders. I had two or three seconds at most to react before a collision happened. What if it had been my girlfriend? She's newer to cycling and can't steer as tightly as I can. What if she hit her brakes too hard and lost control of her bike? What if she avoided the head-on but slammed into a parked car at 15 mph? What about an 8 year old or an 80 year old?
As harrowing as this incident was, this isn't the first close call I've had on Clinton. I've lost count of the number of times I've had to dart off the road to avoid a head-on. I ride Clinton between 51st and 21st to get to work, and not a day goes by without a dangerous pass or two in the morning and another couple in the evening. I applaud Raisman for bringing crash data to the table, but in this case the data can't possibly measure the risk properly. There is an epidemic of aggressive, dangerous driving on Clinton. The only reason why it's not showing up in the crash data is because (thank God) it's been near misses so far. Sooner or later, one of those near misses won't be a miss at all. I am quite certain that if a less skilled rider had been on Clinton that night you'd have read about the crash in the Oregonian, not on some insignificant blog.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Reverence for the Law

Patrick George was caught driving 93 in a 55. He doesn't think he should be accountable, though:
I didn't hurt anyone, or kill anyone, or sell drugs, or drive drunk, or beat my wife, or steal[.]
Next time someone yells at you for rolling your bike through a stop sign, try using Mr. George's excuse. I'm sure your interlocutor will find it persuasive.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Almost incidentally to his main point about the firing of Steven Salaita, Scott Lemieux wrote:
Whether he had signed all the paperwork might be relevant to his legal remedies, but from that standpoint of norms and ethics the job was his[.]
All too often the law is used to narrow a discussion as much as possible. Salaita didn't have a contract signed, nothing to see here, move along. None of Dylan Farrow's allegations against Woody Allen have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, nothing to see here, move along.
Couple arrested for repeatedly threating mountain bikers at a dedicated mountain bike trail system with mace and a gun. Nothing to see here. Move along.