All posts for the topic: Biases and Fallacies

Tut-tutting about filter bubbles & echochambers misses the point

Est Reading Time: 5 min [CN:Trump] One of the narratives that’s emerged from Trump’s victory is that “we” anti-Trumpers have been living in a “filter bubble” or “echochamber”. In the standard white liberal pundit narrative (which I shat on in the previous post), social media means we only see things we agree with which has led to where we are now. While this narrative has a grain of truth, the way it’s been discussed has been misleading and simplistic. Yes humans are tribal creatures — all of us, regardless of our politics. We’re subject to biases that distort our picture about the world. We will […]

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Matilda, “Miss” Trunchbull and gender presentation

Est Reading Time: 3 min [CN: child abuse, Matilda spoilers] I recently saw Matilda the Musical. I’m deprived, it was my first musical and it was really well produced and everyone in it super-talented. But the characterisation of Miss Trunchbull spoiled it. Miss Trunchbull is the antagonist in the story of Matilda (and apparently the movie and musical follow the book reasonably closely). She is the headmistress of Matilda’s school who openly hates children and revels in inflicting horrible punishments and abuse on the students. This sets up a nice foil for the audience to root against, especially since she’s not merely “mean”. Roald Dahl […]

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Project claims to map global happiness using tweets

Est Reading Time: 3 min I adore maps and so usually enjoy I Fucking Love Maps on Facebook. Every now and then they post something infuriating. Because one of the best ways to bypass people’s bullshit detectors is to put your bullshit on a map. They’ve recently shared a project about “Mapping Global Happiness And Sadness In 2015” (project page here). [Source] I’ve looked before at the problems with compiling “global” indexes of happiness/well-being etc. There’s enough opportunity for bias and confounding factors in these studies. Here, the bias is on steroids. Here are just some of the ways this project, while being pretty useful […]

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2016: a wishlist for the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Est Reading Time: 4 min [CN: All the things] Dear noodly overlord, I know that 2016 has already started but you’re as generous as the FSMas season is long. I know that if you look at it from one way there’s never been a better time to be alive. Last year was the first year child mortality rates fell below 6 million. The overrall deaths from war and conflict are in decline. We might be able to cross polio off the list soon. Global life expectancy is over 70, the highest it’s ever been. Only 0.4% of the world’s population are enslaved which could well […]

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The Australian government is pretty good at misleading charts

Est Reading Time: 3 min The Abbott government introduced a new page in Australian tax assessments that provides a breakdown of where your taxes go. I’m not sure whose idea it was but I really like the concept. It might be one of the only positive achievements of Abbott’s 726 days in office. But the way it’s executed is seriously misleading to be in line with the Abbott government’s agenda. Here’s an example tax return with the personal details and amounts deleted: It starts off with some alarmist (ie. bold) text about the level of Australian Government debt. This is supposed to be a big […]

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A closer look at anti-smartphone memes

Est Reading Time: 5 min If there’s one thing I love to hate-read more than anti-smartphone moral panics (see some previous examples), it’s anti-tech memes. They distill the moral panic clearly, without much chance to obfuscate. They also get shared a lot. Recently I saw someone share an article called 27 powerful images that sum up how smartphones are ruining our lives. There are loads of almost identical articles, eg. These 40 Cartoons Perfectly Illustrate How Smartphones Have Taken Over Our Lives, These 30+ Cartoons Illustrate How Smartphones Are The Death Of Conversation and These 19 Cartoons Nailed Our Smart Phone Addiction, And It’s Kind […]

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How do you know someone’s vegan? They’ll tell you!

Est Reading Time: 5 min I’m sure you’ve seen the one-line that’s the title of this post: Although the above joke is about vegans, it’s a standard template used against lots of other groups (as we’ll see below). An interesting connection to the vegan version of the joke is the countless times I’ve seen LGBT people accused of “flaunting” their sexuality, shoving it in people’s faces and even imposing it on others. This is often set off by the most indirect factors, like someone having a picture of their same-sex partner at their desk at work. And it’s not like the increasing public support for […]

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Bringing Science to Wellness Panel at Sydney Science Festival

Est Reading Time: 7 min Here’s a belated liveblog of the panel, which I thought would be focussed on making our definition of wellness more scientific but was actually about the wellness (ie. CAM) industry. There’s also a podcast about the panel on Radio National. DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS ON THAT PAGE! The panelists were: Natasha Mitchell from Radio National as the moderator (NM in this post) Professor Margaret Allman-Farinelli, a nutritionist (MAF) Christopher Zinn, a consumer advocate (CZ) Dr Sarah McKay, a neuroscientist turned science blogger (SM) Liz Graham, editor of body+soul (LG) Italics are comments from me. NM: How many of us […]

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Why does the Australian conversation on racism suck?

Est Reading Time: 4 min Due to the Adam Goodes “controversy”, Australians are actually talking about race. (If you’re not in Australia you probably haven’t heard of it so this may fill you in). The way that many have responded to the issues highlights a lot of peculiarities about Australian racism and why it’s so pernicious even as we proclaim ourselves to be tolerant (coincidence?). Here are some reasons that I think play a role: People generally understand that reading the dictionary is not a substitute for actual expertise. They wouldn’t dream of trying to resolve moral conflicts by checking which outcome fits the Macquarie […]

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A tale of two blockades

Est Reading Time: 6 min [CN: War, starvation, genocide] The legacy of WWII is a much bigger deal in the former Soviet Union than can be imagined in many other countries. The Victory Day celebrations of May 9th are a major international event in Moscow (although this year’s 70th anniversary was poorly attended by representatives because of the situation in Ukraine) that reverberate in the media and private consciousness. In comparison, there’s little commemoration in (say) Australia that’s specifically dedicated to WWII. The former Soviet republics’ strong focus is understandable. WWII caused about 26 million deaths in the USSR, or about 14% of the total […]

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