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Summary of "And What It Is Not" Entries - Anti-Small Talk
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Summary of "And What It Is Not" Entries
I am a man who cares very much about definitions. I would argue that many disagreements arise simply because the ones in disagreement are using different definitions of the words. I have shared my wish that words were more precise, that is, that they did not have such a wide range in meanings.[1] If words have fewer meanings, there is less chance of two people in an argument using different ones.

In addition, a common unfair tactic used in arguments these days is in misusing words. This is a case of definition accuracy.

It works like this:
  • It is agreed on that something, X, is bad.
  • Something that is not X, Y, is said to be X when it is not.
  • The argument is made, "Therefore, Y is bad. I win!"

  • It is agreed on that something, X, is good.
  • Something that is not X, Y, is said to be X when it is not.
  • The argument is made, "Therefore, Y is good. I win!"

    This is similar to name-calling and is not a valid argument.

    A problem with people misusing words (inaccuracy) is that, if it happens long enough, the formerly inaccurate definition is accepted as an alternate definition, and the word in turn becomes less precise.

    (A second problem, which many of my readers have pointed out, is that misusing words, such as "racism", for example, weakens the power of those words when they are used properly.)

    Thus, I have found it helpful for my own purposes to comment on words I've heard commonly misused. Below is a list of the majority of such definitions I have discussed here with links to their entries (beginning with one new definition):
    ...is not accuracy.
    Accuracy is how close something is to the truth. Precision is the range around something. (If I shoot 10 arrows and they all miss the bullseye but are clustered together in the SW quadrant, then I am horribly inaccurate but very precise.)

    Grammar Rules
    ...are not the same as usage rules.[2]
    For example, the "rule" to not split an infinitive is a usage rule, not a grammatical one. There is nothing illogical or in violation of how English works that makes "not to run" any better than "to not run". It's simply considered better usage traditionally to use the former.

    Intelligent Design Theory
    ...is not Creationism.[3]
    ...is not scientific.
    Sci-fi author Orson Scott Card explains the above better than I ever could....[4]

    The Uncertainty Principle
    ...is not a philosophical, moral, or ethical argument.
    It "mathematically proves that one cannot exactly measure both a particle's position and momentum simultaneously." That's as far as it goes. Period.[5]

    ...are not contradictions.
    Oftentimes, the limits of our understanding cause two models to appear contradictory, when in fact both models are alternative ways of looking at a true thing. Common examples include light's particle/wave "duality". If such paradoxes exist in science, why should they not also exist in religions?[6]

    ...are not symptoms.
    ...So why do we treat them as such so often in our society, particularly with so-called "disorders"? An example:
    Consider insomnia. One might say it is a disorder. One cannot sleep. Certainly, sleeping is probably better for an individual.... Yet insomnia is not a disease in and of itself. Insomnia is the result of a plethora of possible physical or mental problems. Insomnia is a symptom. If you tell your doctor that you have insomnia, he or she then runs tests to determine what causes the insomnia, so that he or she can treat that problem — not the insomnia directly.[7]

    ...is not a sole process.
    It can refer to three or four separate things, so please clarify which one you mean if you are going to try and argue about it:
    Astronomical Evolution
    the very-strongly-supported theory that the solar system and galaxies, etc., came about via small changes over large periods of time as opposed to always having been in their present state.
    the directly-observed fact that organisms will change traits due to random mutations over multiple generations.
    the strongly-supported theory that organisms change from less complicated species to more complicated species due to mutations over multiple generations, as opposed to always having existed in their present state.
    the theory/hypothesis that life arose from non-life due to random formation of complex biochemical molecules from simpler molecules.[8]

    Realistic Fiction
    ...does not have to be exactly like reality to still be realistic.
    "Realism [being realistic] makes games, books, and movies more believable — no matter what form the story is in. Because if the non-fantastical stuff doesn't match reality, we have no connection with which to understand it[, because w]e assume that everything not specifically stated as being a part of the fantasy world is just like our world."[9] (The reason I dislike most comic book movies is because, while I can accept the premise of mutants or superpowers, I cannot accept the violation of all the other laws of physics.)

    ...is not failing to practice what one preaches. Nov 18, 2005
    And in fact, "it is very possible for a hypocrite to practice everything he or she preaches and still be a hypocrite. The key is in intentions." The true meaning of "hypocrite" is "actor". A hypocrite is someone who is pretending.[10]

    ...are not needs.[11, 12]

    A Correlation
    ...is not necessarily a cause.[13]

    ...does not mean metaphorically!
    I'll shut up on this one; just click here and "literally" laugh your socks off.

    ...is not simply discrimination.
    It's more complicated than that. See my posts on the matter for a full discussion.[14, 15]

    ...are not fights.
    Or rather, they should not have to be. So, please leave your emotions at the door. Let's have some logical discussions in this society for once.[16]

    ...is not disagreeing with how one lives.[17]
    ...is not calling what someone is doing wrong.[18]
    Hate is an emotion. And yes, hate can lead to evil actions. If I could perfect myself, I would never hate any human. However, if I disagree with you, please do not assume you can read my mind and accuse me of hating you. And please stop labeling and name-calling people as haters to justify your political agenda.

    A Reason
    ...is not an excuse.
    An excuse is a subcategory of reason: it is not why someone has done something; it is why someone should not be held accountable for doing something.[19]

    A Castle
    ...is not a palace.[20] (Yeah, so this one is not really that big a deal..., I know.)

    ...is not by definition "blind".[21]
    Faith is synonymous with belief. Everyone believes things. Geometers believe axioms without proof, but they are still reasonable.[22] Scientists believe theories based on observed evidence, but not proof. Historians believe accounts because of trust.[23] And the vast majority of us gain knowledge by deferment, a type of faith.[24]

    ...is not synonymous with freedom.[25]

    (Click here for a full list of my entries on definitions.)

    (This is the first time I've ever used a "definition list" in HTML....)

    Edit: added a "can" to comments on "hate" to remove accidental implied necessity of evil actions

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  • read 8 comments or post comment
    sadeyedartist From: sadeyedartist Date: June 4th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC) (link to entry)
    I literally hate that you believe in evolution. While you may think it a paradox, I think you are a hypocrite for claiming to have faith yet believing this way. I know that you have the democracy to think as you please, but that's no reason to go down this path of so-called "logic". (As you would precisely define it.) Evolution is a symptom of the disease called "disbelief" and is racist towards people of faith. Intelligent design is so much more grounded--it has "intelligent" right in it's name. Of course, I would expect nothing less from someone who believes in such "realistic" fiction as the uncertainty principle. Life is not all relative, although people in your field literally make that correlation. Not to be hateful or anything, but arguing about real truth is wanting in this situation. It is literally essential to the upholding of the fortress/palace/castle of our faith.
    From: mwbangor Date: June 16th, 2011 11:02 pm (UTC) (link to entry)
    sadeyedartist: I cannot hope to improve on the creative wit in your post but I too was bothered by the evolution definitions.
    I do agree that Intelligent Design is not science. Science deals with observation and testable theories. The only way science can tell us what happened in the past is if no outside force has been applied. If I see a ball rolling across the floor, science can measure the various properties of the ball and the environment and tell me, for any particular point in time, where the ball was and how fast it was moving assuming no outside force was applied. At some point in the past science will tell me that there had to be an outside force because the ball could not have rolled through the wall on the far side of the room. But science cannot tell me if the outside force was intelligent. That is the realm of logic. Therefore science is illogical. Just kidding! No, science is just limited. Science is not to be worshiped. There are plenty of fools who worship science and I am sure that lhynard has studied under several. I don't think lhynard is a fool but there is always that danger when you study under fools.
    Abiogenesis is not science because it cannot be tested. There is no way I can scientifically prove that the ball was at any point prior to my observation without making unscientific assumptions about outside force.
    Macroevolution makes no sense to me. By my observations, everything is degenerating. Perhaps I place too much emphasis on physics.
    Microevolution to me works in this way: It is like the Transformer toy I had when I was a kid. I could change the toy from a truck to a humanoid but all within the constrains of the toy. Dogs beget dogs of various types but they are still dogs.
    Astronomical Evolution is obvious in that things are changing all the time. However, I would just like to repeat that science is limited to what we can observe and test. Science cannot tell you what happened before we started observing unless you first assume that there is no outside force. In other words, that there is nothing unseen. Or to put it yet another way: to deduce the past we have to assume we have all knowledge. Only a fool would assume that.
    lhynard From: lhynard Date: June 17th, 2011 12:39 am (UTC) (link to entry)
    I can assure you that sadeyedartist meant the whole thing in jest; she doesn't really hate that I "believe in evolution".

    You are correct about science being about observation and testability, and in fact, my next entry is going to be about science and its strengths and weaknesses. You are also quite correct in hinting that — in most cases — science cannot prove the past. However, in the case of astronomical evolution, there is an interesting catch. We actually can observe the past, because the light traveling to us from far away shows us an image of billions of years ago. We can see older parts of the universe and we can see that it both is and was expanding from a single point. The only way this could not be the case is if God created photons in transit — which sounds contrary to an honest God — or if the speed of light has changed over time, for which there is no evidence at all. That's why I describe astronomical evolution with more certainty.

    Physics — by which I assume you mean the Laws of Thermodynamics — in no way conflicts with anything in biological evolutionary theory. The entropy of the universe always increases, but the fact that one can make cool water to ice in a freezer is proof that local entropy can go down. The source of the energy required to overcome the entropic factors required for any biochemistry, evolution or otherwise, is ultimately the light from the sun.

    Your example of dogs brings up an intersting point; they are only still dogs because we choose to call them that and dogs are "sexually promiscuous". The definitions of a species is hugely arbitrary. In fact, there are many animals considered different species that are still fully capable of reproducing viable and sexually-capable offspring; they just choose not to — lions and tigers for example. But seriously, look at the huge amount of variation in dogs! You get every size and shape and specialization under the sky.

    But the best proofs of macroevolution are observable experiments. Chickens have been retroevolved to have scales instead of feathers, tails, and teeth. Those genes are all still buried inside their genomes. Likewise, blind fish have been retroevolved to have eyes. If it is possible to turn a chicken into a lizard, doesn't that support the idea quite strongly that it probably happened naturally?

    But after all this, I still agree with you that abiogenesis cannot be tested.

    Edited at 2011-06-17 12:39 am (UTC)
    From: mwbangor Date: June 17th, 2011 11:48 am (UTC) (link to entry)
    You know a lot more about science than I do which is one of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog. I don't mean to commandeer your post but I would like to continue our argument for another comment anyway.
    You said: "We actually can observe the past, because the light traveling to us from far away shows us an image of billions of years ago." I just want to point out that you missed an opportunity to use the word "literally." :)
    I do believe that the universe is constantly expanding. I heard an interesting theory of the beginning of the universe: that God used the opposite of a black hole to create everything. To me it sounds interesting but it is no more useful to science than the theory that the universe expands and contracts in cycles. What we observe now is expansion but these theories are purely conjecture.
    What I am trying to say is that I do not see evolution progressing forward. I do not believe that evolution has produced anything "new." The examples you gave are examples of creatures having lost things, not gained things. Chickens lost the scales. Does that prove that they gained the feathers? Fish lost the ability to see. Does that mean other animals gained the ability to see from nothing?
    I admit that my example of the transformer is very limited. It was designed by humans. God designed dogs. I would not be surprised if Dogs, Coyotes and Foxes came from the same ancestors. But in any case, they are limited. Dogs have not gained new abilities that they did not have previously. There is a wide variety in size but there are limits. I would not be surprised if house cats and lions and tigers came from the same ancestors. If that is true, does that mean that house cats gained the ability to purr and lions gained the ability to roar? Or does it mean that house cats lost the ability to roar? I will completely step beyond my knowledge here so feel free to cut off the limb and watch me fall but... :) I would not be surprised if woolly mammoths and elephants came from the same ancestors. Does that mean that woolly mammoths gained the hair or did elephants lose the hair?
    Suppose I were to find my old transformer and give it to my daughter without telling her about it. In playing with it she discovers you can get a head out of the engine compartment. Then she plays with a friend and they discover you can get legs out of the bed of the truck. They show this to me and I try to get the arms out of the cab of the truck but find they have become stuck with age. After cleaning it I am able to get the arms to come out and we have the humanoid again. That to me is the extent of evolution.
    Gary R Goetz Jr From: Gary R Goetz Jr Date: June 4th, 2011 11:03 pm (UTC) (link to entry)

    Not so sure about "Hate"?

    Rom 12:9 New International Version (©1984) "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." Hate is does not necessarily lead to evil actions. It is proper to love the sinner and hate the sin they/we commit. This is often easier said than done, especially in a climate where people are looking for reasons to be hurt by the actions/statements of another.
    lhynard From: lhynard Date: June 4th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC) (link to entry)

    Re: Not so sure about "Hate"?

    I wasn't trying to say that it necessarily leads to evil actions, just that it can. (I'll go clarify that with an edit.) Note also that I was very careful to say that if I were perfect I would not hate a human. Moreover, I'd persoanlly go even further and say that if I hate someone, it is evil, even if I don't act. I agree that we should all hate evil. I'd imagine that we're on the same page with that.

    Thanks for visiting!
    themadcow From: themadcow Date: June 8th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC) (link to entry)
    Love this--particularly "correlation" and "excuse".

    I am sure I have become quite annoying to some by consistently saying, "Correlation does not imply causation," but it annoys me to no end that this is such a widely held belief with people. I'm sure the fact that I work in a field full of troubleshooting makes it all the more annoying to me when people make this mistake, but still...

    I also have to dodge people jumping down my throat on a fairly regular basis when I offer reasons why people do some of the things that they do. These reasons are not meant to excuse any action but rather to explain it. The fact that I understand someone's motivations or the driving influence behind their actions does not imply that I am attempting to excuse their behavior.
    (Deleted comment)
    lhynard From: lhynard Date: November 1st, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC) (link to entry)

    I do plan to start up blogging again. I just finished my PhD, and that task ate up a lot of my free time.

    Edited at 2011-11-16 02:29 pm (UTC)
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