What a mangled metaphor reveals about its creator

George Orwell warned that when a metaphor gets mangled, that is a sure indication that the writer is not actually thinking about they are saying but is in a kind of auto-mode, not visualizing the idea but just stringing together words that sound good but don’t really mean anything. It is a sign that the writer lacks conviction or does not care. I have observed that this is true for me, that the times when I have been in the auto-mode are when I make errors or say something that makes little sense when examined closely.
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On insults-4: The responsibilities of a blog author

In my private discussions with other bloggers about the issue of whether one should ban offensive commenters, the point was made that even if I could live with such comments, other readers may find them so offensive that they leave and never return because they think that by allowing them, the host is condoning such views. The suggestion was also made that men seem to be more comfortable with creating and being in a heated atmosphere and that if the blog host is not careful, the blog may become an exclusively male preserve. This is a serious argument that merits serious consideration. What is the blog host’s responsibility to provide a congenial environment to all who choose to visit? [Read more…]

On insults-2: Heated language on the internet

Once in a while, a furious debate flares up about the proper tone that people should use in exchanges with one another on the internet. This occurs within the skeptic community as well, the most prominent division being between the groups now referred to as accommodationists and the new atheists. The most common charge laid against the latter is that they sometimes use intemperate language in criticizing both religion and the accommodationist position. [Read more…]

The deplorable practice of quote-mining

Scholarly articles tend to follow pretty much a four-step formula.

  1. The author identifies the problem being investigated, explains why it is of interest, and why it is important to find a solution.
  2. The previous solutions to the problem are discussed and reasons are given (in the form of evidence and arguments) as to why those earlier attempts are unsatisfactory.
  3. The author proposes a new solution to the problem and gives reasons (again in the form of evidence and arguments) why the new solution should be accepted.
  4. Other auxiliary problems will usually also be identified and addressed in the course of making the larger case.

In order to make the case that their research is important, [Read more…]

The evolution of language

In a comment to a previous post Jared A suggested that I would benefit, especially in my posts on religion and atheism, from using words more precisely in order to make my points clearer. In particular, he said that the word ‘myths’ usually refer to sacred narratives, while ‘scriptures’ refer to sacred writings. The beliefs in the scriptures, if codified, are referred to as ‘doctrine’ and [Read more…]