Fallacy Friday #5 Poisoning the Well

Let’s talk about wells. Symbolic wells anyway. Today’s Fallacy Friday is going to be a short one. Anyway, let’s get down to talking about the fallacy of “Poisoning the Well”.

Don't put poison in here. Just don't do it.

Don’t put poison in here. Just don’t do it.

An attempt to “Poison the Well” is an attempt to feed people information which isn’t necessarily (though it can be) connected to the actual, and ongoing, debate. This information is negative (Usually), or is meant to be perceived in a negative light.  It’s a character attack. It’s also not an actual response to someone’s arguments, it’s an appeal to the audience.

This is fallacious because it has no bearing on the actual argument, in any sense. It’s a tactic used when the goal is to make your opponents look and sound like jerks, or people who shouldn’t be listened to. Usually this information isn’t even related to the debate at hand. An example of this is could be when you attack someone on the basis of not speaking the language they are arguing in as a first language (or attacking the grammar of the person, in an attempt to make them look less suitable to be arguing). This can also be an argument from style, or lack thereof.

It is important to focus your judgement of an argument not by the presenter, but by the information contained within the arguments. The identity of the presenter shouldn’t have an effect on how you feel about their argument. It should be their argument that you listen too. If you want to be as impartial as possible, you need to not take into account how you feel about the debaters, and focus on the content of their arguments.

If you are known (you could be a particular audience, not just you as a singular person) to dislike a certain group of people, and one of the debaters conflates the identity of their opponent with that group of people (even if it’s true), they are attempting to poison the well. And to some (because this can be debated) this continues, EVEN IF the information is true, and related to the debate. The identity of a debater isn’t relevant to their arguments, and to the level of truth their argument contains. This argument might be an attempt to point out someone’s biases, but even then it doesn’t dispute any evidence they have presented in favor of their position. The truth of the evidence or argument exists or doesn’t exist independent of the identity of the presenter. The focus must be on the specific argument presented, not the person who presents it, and this can be extremely unpleasant to deal with.

Debating isn’t easy, and seeking to avoid as many fallacies as possible is important. Don’t try to poison the well. It makes honest debating and critical evaluation of evidence difficult. Just don’t do it,

Please Use Snopes

I rarely talk about skepticism directly, but I’ll make an exception today. Please be skeptical. And please, please, use sources like Snopes.

I still see atheists sharing that stupid photo where Trump calls Republicans the dumbest group of voters. It’s not true. And it is annoying. Occasionally I’ll see it as a joke, but usually it’s not (in case this is unclear what I mean here is that typically the people who share it don’t know it’s not true, or at least currently unproven). It’s annoying and it shows people that atheists don’t by definition love skepticism. I don’t think we NEED too, but we should (in my opinion). We need to be skeptical of more than just religious claims.

It’s not enough to be skeptical of religious claims and act like we value skepticism. If we truly value skepticism let’s be consistently skeptical. Not that all atheists do value skepticism, and that’s fine enough, but for those of us who DO value skepticism we need to be skeptical of more than just claims about deities.

I don’t think Snopes is the end all be all tool for skeptics (That’d be hilarious, any skeptic using exclusively Snopes… I actually laughed writing that sentence), BUT I think if you are skeptical of something going viral it’s a good first place to check. We live in an age where it is REALLY easy to lie to someone, and for it to explode on social media. Don’t be fooled by photos on the Internet. I’ve seen everything from statements saying Honduras outlawed guns (it hasn’t, nor will it), to claims about Hitler’s first move being to ban guns (it wasn’t). On the Internet lies can and will go viral. Please, please, please, be skeptical. Independent of religious beliefs, and of political views, when you see something that you recognize is ridiculous, fact-check it.

The ability to see through untrue and oftentimes bold propaganda is a surprisingly rare talent. Do not be afraid to call out something as untrue. And never believe something just because it was shared by someone you care about. If you care about people, you should work to make sure they share information based in reality or at least appearing to be true. Skepticism is a good attitude towards historical, political, scientific, and religious claims. We need to show that to people.

If you want to share something and it feels untrue, fact-check it. Sometimes the truth is surprising. But in all seriousness, please use Snopes. Please be skeptical. If we are consistently skeptical, and we rejoice in the truth (when it is appropriate) we can show others the value of skepticism.

Remember: Always be skeptical. Never accept things that ring alarms in your head, until you’ve been shown or have found that they match reality.

Mythology Monday Update: College

Just like last week, I have ended up doing only 1 Mythology Monday. And that’s okay. This time we visited Honduras, and spoke to a devil. We also incinerated him, and managed to unleash a swarm of insects on a toad. Stuff happens I guess. I’m of course talking about a Tawahka tale, in which 2 orphans accidentally indirectly make toads really ugly.

College life is really draining. I’m not going to come up with excuses for the fact that I couldn’t do two Mythology Mondays, but it is frustrating for me to not get 2 done twice in a row, but that’s life during exam time. I will be posting on here throughout the week like usual in the days to come so don’t worry, and I already have 2 Fallacy Fridays prepared so that’s not a real concern of mine.

Anyways, I hope you all had awesome weekends and if you want to share what you did over the weekend, feel free to do so! I studied, and I did a bit of writing. I’m currently writing a paper on colonial Latin America, so even when I’m not writing for this blog or Sin God, I am still talking about the history of Latin America. It’s the final for a 500 level history course and it’s about what drove the Spanish and Catholic authorities in the Spanish colonies of Latin America to govern the way they did, some sort of objective ideology, or experience with the Indigenous people, people of African descent, and the Spanish who lived in the New World. I believe experiences shaped the decisions of the Spanish authorities and am talking about that.

Have a great week guys! I’ll be posting throughout the week as per usual.

Fallacy Friday #4 Experience/Feeling Argument

So I wrote on Patheos today about traditions, and today on here I want to talk about  “The Affective Fallacy”, or you could just call it the “experience argument”. So what is it? It’s the fallacy of stating that because you feel something or had an “experience” you are right and your argument cannot be touched. This is incorrect.

This is the fallacy theists commit when they state that because of “experiences” they’ve had, they “know” God exists. That’s not an argument, nor should it be treated as such. Their experiences do not form a reason for you to believe them, nor are their experiences somehow “above” criticism or skepticism. One personal encounter I had with this was when a woman stated that because her child survived a supposedly terminal cancer, and got better, God exists. That’s not evidence. And I refused to treat it as such. At least it isn’t evidence that God exists. It wasn’t fun to burst her bubble, but I did, and I’d do so again. I pointed out the possibility that it was a misdiagnosis, and that other possibilities needed to be ruled out prior to her gaining the ability to rightfully declare this served as any sort of argument for God.

This isn’t a valid argument because people’s experiences are limited and oftentimes limited not just because of the direct limitations of experience and memory but also due to knowledge (more specifically lack of knowledge) and bias. In regular conversations experience is often allowed to act as some sort of “argument” but that doesn’t make it valid. We shouldn’t allow this to happen, especially in today’s era, but it does. The real danger is when people make these sorts of arguments online. It’s also lazy. If you are on Facebook (as an example) making arguments from experience, that’s a sign of intellectual laziness, because you could and should just use Google to find evidence for your position. We live in an era where many (but not all) people have access to the internet, yet many people don’t use it to try and find support for or against their own positions. And when people do use it to find support, they’ll find the evidence that best suits them, and not try to find evidence for others positions, even for the sake of undermining said evidence.

Experience shouldn’t be the basis for people to form opinions on topics like religion. Especially because every religion (I’m counting atheism/irreligion here, despite the fact that both are by definition not religions) has followers who are great people and followers who are terrible people. Someone can have great or terrible experiences with “religion” (handy-dandy catchall term) due to how vocal people are about their religious views. This has absolutely no effect on how true a religion is. It might sound blunt, but the fact that someone you love survived an awful disease which typically kills victims doesn’t mean there’s an almighty, all-loving God watching out for you and your loved ones personally, but more than willing to let other victims of the same disease die. And it’s really arrogant to make claims that that is the case. And the opposite is also true: just because followers of a religion or religious view were awful to you doesn’t make their beliefs wrong. If you think God is real because atheists called you mean names over the Internet your reasoning is faulty. And (once again I have to sound blunt here) terrible things done by Christians doesn’t make God not real. The existence or non-existence of a deity isn’t dependent on your experience with people who have a particular opinion on the existence of God, Allah, Shiva, Xbalanque, or Zeus (not to mention the literally thousands of other gods I’m not talking about right now). And it’s also not based on how those who follow whichever deity happen to behave. These things exist or don’t exist independent of the actions of their followers and those who don’t follow them.

Also: I can and will be critical of your experience, and others should be too. I dislike that it makes me sound insensitive but that won’t stop me from questioning you about the experience you had. Your experience isn’t untouchable and somehow magically above skepticism. I realize that makes me sound mean, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do it. This is partially because I want to see why you think it is the particular deity you think it is, instead of another explanation including another deity.

The argument from experience is a stupid argument to make, and we should stop making it. Seriously, in 2016 there are no excuses for people to be making this argument, at least if those people have time to go on Facebook and YouTube and make claims that are when boiled down examples of this fallacy. It’s ridiculous.

Remember: If your argument is appealing to this heart, instead of say: a brain made of strawberries, it's an argument based off of a fallacy. You cannot depend on emotions unless you are more bent on "winning" the debate you happen to be in, than you are with basing your conclusions off of facts and proper reasoning.

Remember: If your argument is appealing to this heart, instead of say: a brain made of strawberries, it’s an argument based off of a fallacy. You cannot depend on emotions unless you are more bent on “winning” the debate you happen to be in, than you are with basing your conclusions off of facts and proper reasoning.  Avoid making generalizations and arguments based off of personal experience. Seriously. Photo credit: Shutterstock 

Let me know what you think of my coverage of this fallacy, and which fallacy you’d like to see next!

Patheos Stuff and Why Latin American Irreligion Is Important

I wrote about Honduras yesterday (specifically the slowly growing number of free-thought groups and what appears to be the beginning of a community of atheists who are connected and work together to achieve common, desired goals). Evidently it was a popular post, according to my Google Analytics page. It got shared by quite a few different sources, including and especially the Honduran Association of atheists and freethinkers (AHAL). And I think the groups mentioned appreciated the shoutout.

I want to cover all of the Latin American free-thought groups. And in order for me to do that, I’ll be writing posts on here and on Patheos about Latin American groups who celebrate skepticism. I’m really happy that I have managed to get this opportunity. I can also tell that the skeptical community in Honduras really appreciates that a writer who writes in English talked about them and their needs. I’ve spoken to a decent number of Latin American skeptics and while how we feel varies from person to person more than a few of us (especially those of us that are vocal and enjoy talking about skepticism, atheism, and religion) feel that English speaking atheists don’t take us particularly seriously. I want to change that. I want to talk about a movement that has begun occurring throughout our part of the world which seriously talks about atheism, Catholicism, and other religions. I want atheists worldwide to turn their eyes towards Latin America, as nations like Honduras, and Mexico begin to produce serious and dedicated voices who are passionate about irreligion, and about organizing and speaking out against those who would demonize the men and women who are godless.

I feel that in the future Latin America will play an important role in global irreligion and especially a worldwide push towards secularism as the standard for governmental attitudes towards religion;  as the Church begins to look docile, with figureheads taking control like the Pope who specialize in trying to restore the faith the people once had in religion and ensure that the Church remains relevant in contemporary society. Given that Latin America supplies the Catholic Church with nearly half of its believers (Latin American Catholics are nearly 40% of Catholics worldwide according to a Pew article from 2014), Latin American atheism, skepticism, irreligion, and secularism will play a huge role in lessening the influence of the Catholic Church. If we want to see a world where politicized Catholicism cannot prevent people from getting married, or a woman from having access to all forms of medical operations (like abortions) and medicine (like emergency contraception) than we must turn our eyes towards Latin America.

I also just don’t want any other Latin American irreligious people to feel alone. And to me personally that’s the most important reason to be vocal. I don’t want others to have to feel like I did. Including communities like the ones in Honduras might have before they got this shoutout. So I’m going to be annoyingly vocal, so people far and wide can hear me. In a variety of languages. And I hope, along the way to gain some good friends, and to inspire others to write as well. We can do this, together. We can work to normalize skepticism. So that we and others throughout Latin America like us are treated with respect and dignity, and so that the relative beauty of “child like faith” is diminished. I don’t think that blind faith or that being uncritical towards your own views are traits that should be encouraged. In fact I think the opposite is true. So let’s work to question things. And to accept reality for how it seems to be, not make up ideas and concepts which make us feel better, with no observable evidence.

If you want to support my friends, check them out at Ateos de Honduras, and AHAL.

If you like my writing, feel free to check out the Patheos and learn about what’s going down in Honduras!

So the article has apparently started to trend. And I think that's pretty rad. You can see it on the trending section of Patheos Atheist. Developments like this are pretty rad.

So the article has apparently started to trend. And I think that’s pretty rad. You can see it on the trending section of Patheos Atheist. Developments like this are pretty rad.


Mythology Monday: Let’s Chat About Myths and Stuff

So… the Patheos account is finally up. And public. I suspect (and kind of hope) that at least a few people have been waiting for that. If you want to check it out, let me drop the link to that right now. Here’s a spoiler: I talked about spooky dogs with metal paws who like to stand on people. Yep. If that sounds fun, then just click on that link.

Unfortunately this post won’t feature a story like the ones have. Instead I want to use this opportunity to ask: what sort of myths would you like to hear about? Do you prefer monsters, or gods? Personally I like covering monsters more than covering deities. But that’s a personal preference. I want to hear from you all, especially because I actually want to do 2 Mythology Monday’s a week. This week is going to be a bit of a break for me, but even with that “break” I still did a Mythology Monday. In the future I might choose between alternating the seriousness and length of the two posts, writing two a week but having one be significantly longer and more serious than the other, probably doing a “serious” one on Patheos one week, and than having the next serious one be on FreeThought Blogs. I still have no intention of slacking off on either site, and will likely write a series of Mythology Monday’s at a time, and then just post them over the course of a few weeks. I suspect that might be the best possible plan for me personally. But I really want to know what you think.

If you’re interested some examples of “serious” vs “silly” Mythology Monday’s might be Elal (I tried at least, but given the videos I found it might not exactly look that way) vs. Cocollona. It’s partially decided upon by the relative importance of the specific mythological figures being discussed, which is why when I cover creation myths I tend to be more serious (as in more academic), vs when I cover specific monsters which have appeared throughout the oral tales of various groups of people.

Basically: I really want to know what you think, and how you feel. I am going to continue Mythology Monday’s because not many people talk about Latin American myths, legends, and spooky or fantastic tales, especially in English no matter what, but right now is a good chance for you to give me your input! I’d love to learn how you feel about what I write. I hope you had a great weekend, and are ready for work (and was ready for work today)!

Story Time Sunday: Greetings From Ciel

“You can’t come here and sell people… people!” Says the off duty police officer to the shopkeeper, who seems a bit flustered.  “But officer… these aren’t people. They are partially made constructs. They are basically golems.” He explains, trying to reason with the police officer, who is growing more and more annoyed by the minute. “Listen Ikal… the law has changed. You cannot sell these anymore. It’s illegal.” Says Arvid, the off-duty police officer who is currently having to enforce the law, even in his leisure time.

Fortunately the market is beginning to grow more active, and the market is a good distance away, so any police officers who are on duty won’t be nearby. Some of them are less human, and less compassionate, than Arvid is. He’s a native. Born and raised in Ciel, and thus is someone who is known for trying to convince people in the area to follow the law, even when they don’t. He’s respected by locals, and is cared for by them. And in return he tries to do what he views as “right” by them, so that they don’t spend time in jail. Many of them even listen to him. Arvid knows that Ikal is a good person, the danger is that Ikal only views humans as people, but the law disagrees with him. The law in Ciel is that sentient beings are considered “people” even if they are made by sorcerers in secret labs. far from the prying eyes of royal wizards and witches.

The constructs that Ikal is peddling are unmarked, but Ikal can’t tell because he isn’t gifted in magic, and he doesn’t have one of the “perks” given to Arvid by the royal magic users. This perk is a basic one, given to men and women (and other beings who can’t really be described as either gender or any other gender that can be used to describe humans) assigned to portal the market and other places of business which allow them to determine whether or not the government has allowed for the creation of constructs like this. Ones that aren’t created by the government, or at least with it’s permission aren’t by definition “defective” but they can be confiscated at any time by police officers. Arvid was debating what to do, because he could take them, but that’d mean that Ikal wouldn’t get any money for them and he’d have wasted his hard earned cash. Arvid was annoyed that he was having this conversation at all. “Listen Ikal… stop trying to sell these. If anything I guess you can keep them here but these constructs are unmarked.” The police officer says to the shopkeeper. Ikal’s face instantly started to turn scarlet. “What? I was told they were marked!” And at that Arvid laughed. It was a harsh sound, but it was necessary to teach Ikal a lesson he wouldn’t forget anytime soon. As Arvid looked at the constructs again, he still didn’t identify any of the necessary markings to brand a construct as government made, or government sanctioned. “Sorry kid.” He said, his Universal blunt. He didn’t have time to try and sound pleasant. He preferred instead to be taken seriously and respected by his coworkers due to his work-ethic, rather than his “kindness”. It was only to the people he sought to protect that he tried to be kind. Normally when he spoke, his Universal would be harsh and blunt, but that wasn’t what natives to Ciel would hear unless he needed them to remember how they felt at the time he spoke the way he did to them. This was one of those moments.

Arvid would spend a few minutes helping Ikal modify the constructs to help out around the shop. It was the only thing they could do, unless Ikal decided he wanted the next police officer to come and confiscate them. And even with them helping, police officers could come and legally confiscate them. But Arvid would tell them not to, so that Ikal doesn’t get unduly harmed (financially) by his lack of skepticism. Every purchase of a construct, or golem, or any other non-naturally occurring magical being carried this risk. That’s why people don’t sell them. Usually when people tried to sell them they’d get hurt, economically. Doesn’t stop some from trying. Ikal now joined their ranks. And that’s a shame.


Welcome to Ciel. The land where skepticism will help you out of a pinch, even if the people who are selling you swords are also selling bottles with actual genies in them. I hope you enjoyed the first Story Time Sunday! Let me know what you think. Ciel is a city, in a fictional world I’m creating where I fuse all sorts of mythologies together and see what happens. If you want to see more of this, than you should let me know!

Silly Argument Saturday

Sometimes Fallacy Friday comes late. When that happens we’ll just turn it into “Silly Argument Saturday”. Hopefully that won’t be very often. But anyway let’s down to discussing some silly arguments. Also known as: fallacies.

Moving the Goalpost: This is when someone effectively changes the rules of a debate to make it unwinnable. This refers (usually) to evidence for or against a position and the practice of demanding more or “better” evidence when presented with the evidence they asked for originally. An example of this could be Christians asking for evidence of evolution and when presented with sufficient evidence, then immediately asking for more or another type of evidence.

Post Hoc Argument: 1 thing happens and something else happens afterwards. “It rained… but we had been praying for rain. Thus we caused the rain, WITH our prayers!” This fallacy is what happens when people look for the “reason” why something (“the primary thing”) happened and “discover” that something else (“the other thing”) had happened at more or less the same time, and decide to say that the other thing caused the primary thing.

Shifting The Burden of Proof: When someone rejects a claim made by you, and you demand that the person prove your claim wrong, ESPECIALLY when you merely asserted that your argument or stance was right, but didn’t provide evidence. The person who rejects your claim doesn’t have an obligation to prove your claim wrong, especially if the claim you are making is an extraordinary claim (as religions are, for instance). You are to provide evidence for your own position, not demand that others prove you wrong just because they disagree with you.

These 3 arguments are very common and can be seen on a variety of sides in a multitude of conflicts. Do you know of any other common “silly arguments” that you’d like to see covered?

Fallacy Friday update

Tomorrow morning there’ll be a Fallacy Friday. Today was basically a college day and I haven’t had time to breath. I dislike breaking schedules like this, but it cannot be helped from time to time. My finals start, informally, next week and thus I need a few seconds to catch my breath in this bit of free-time prior to the end of the semester. Tomorrow I’ll post a lengthy F.F. and everything will be back to normal. Have a great night!

Mythology Monday #4 Guarani

A row of clay statues stood firm, crafted to be perpetually focused and attentive. The god who had crafted them was focused on his work and he examined each of the statues with a painstaking attention to detail. Quietly he confirmed that they were ready, and then blew on them, his breath containing the mixture of chemical and magical ingredients necessary for life to spring forth from nothingness. And slowly, the clay hardened and than after a while began to soften. Transforming and molding itself carefully, as part of a process Tupa had perfected over a long period of time. Countless years. Countless centuries. And now the lord of all of creation had a plan. A plan which would result in Jasy-Jaterei dying. The demon god of naps had finally pushed the one who created everything too far. No longer would the imp get away with his pranks.

 The Guarani people have a complex set of myths revolving around their creation. Well they did. Many of them have converted to Christianity, but the records of their ancient beliefs still exist and thus we can chat about them!

Tupa is the lord of creation. He and his wife, Arasy are the deities of the Sun and the Moon. He is the creator in the ancient myths, and he creates Tau and Angatupyry (the spirits of evil and good respectively). Humans are made out of clay, and brought to life by Tupa. The first were Rupave and Sypave. They had kids, among them Marangatu (a leader), and Kerana (she’s the Echidna or Lilith or even the Persephone of Gurani mythology.). Kerana’s beauty attracted Tau, and Tau eventually pursued her, even directly fighting Angatupyry for days prior to kidnap her. Their children were and are… well less than pleasant. From the impish Jasy, to the “cannibal” (although I think “man-eating” would be more appropriate) Ao Ao, the kids produced by Kerana and Tau were monstrous and while some were calm and only monstrous in appearance, all were pretty scary to be around in one way or another. The sources I used talk about the children in some detail so I’ll leave to them. But here’s the basics: the children are all monstrous even in personality if not in appearance. For example Luison is contemporarily considered by some to be a werewolf like creature (although this is an example of the protean nature of myths because this isn’t the same as Luison was originally considered to be). Teju-Jagua has 7 heads and the body of an alligator.

As you will be able to see from the links I post, records related to this mythology are actually surprisingly uniform and non-contradictory (with one exception, which I included because aside from the names it isn’t vastly different from the others with more specific details). (This is an edit on 4/19/16. I misspoke and showed only a one-sided portrayal of Guarani mythology, and would like to invite readers to go to the comments section to see a more accurate breakdown of the mythology. Sometimes things like this happen, and it’s important to acknowledge them when they occur. I’d also like to thank commentator Kreator for providing a correction. It’s awesome that everyone here truly wants to learn about the mythologies found throughout Latin America. Kreator’s comment is fantastic, and even has a source embedded within it. Give it a quick read!) Given that this is the case, I am happy to let others explain more of this mythology than I usually do. In later weeks I’ll be covering in more detail the myths of other cultures, but this is the first time I’ve seen the myths be remembered and discussed so clearly. It’s a pleasant change. Remember: the purpose of Mythology Monday is to introduce people to Latin American mythological features and legends.

Some sources can be found here, here, here, and here. Another source similar to the one with different names can be found here.