Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stupid Arguments that Irk Me #1: Smoking Does Not Cause Cancer

Every now and again I am met with an argument that is so profoundly stupid, yet clung to by the arguer with such fervent devotion, that I lose my temper and refuse to speak with the arguer any further. Usually, this is after I’ve given them the chance to scrutinize their own logical fallacies, after which they once again repeat their stupid argument, as if it were I who did not understand. The champion of these arguments is of course, the existence of god in the absence of anything that proves otherwise, but as I bored of that one long ago, I will instead begin with a rather pig-headed argument I was accosted by last night, involving smoking and cancer.

I was at Social Girl’s home, you see, with her roommate and our friends, Muscles and Wheels. Muscles, (who is skinny as a twig – I can’t take credit for the ironic name – that honor belongs to Social Girl), argued against someone’s (?) assertion that smoking is linked with cancer, something I had hitherto expected could be accepted as fact, was wrong. Muscles argued that smoking cigarettes did not cause cancer, because if it did, smoking one cigarette would cause cancer. “That’s what causation means. Look it up in a dictionary,” he said, which is about when I lost my temper. While I agreed with him that causation did not equal correlation, the only decent rational point he made all night, I could not concede that the rest of what he had to say was anything less than the baldest of bullshit.

So I gave up on the argument in favour of playing some Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo instead, but I mulled it over in my mind, and drafted a proper response, which isn’t necessarily meant for him to read, but a means of sorting my thoughts out properly into words. The result is as follows.

Your argument contains two logical fallacies. The first is your assertion that something is not true, simply because the negative cannot be proven to be false. For instance, you cannot go claiming that there is no god, much to my chagrin, simply because we cannot prove that there is one. There may be no reason to prove that he exists, but that’s as far as you can go.

In the case of smoking, I will grant that we cannot prove the exact mechanism that leads to cancer, and thus, the most compelling evidence that we have at present are studies and statistics. While these studies do not prove causation, they do prove correlation, which is reason enough to examine further before we can confirm the positive. However, to say that this therefore proves the negative is just stupid. It is just as stupid as a priest saying that because I can’t prove that god does not exist, he therefore does, or that I cannot prove how the universe came to be, and that therefore the existing stupid theory is better than no theory.

Allow me to illustrate your fallacy with another analogy. For years, patients were dying on operating tables because of something invisible that we cannot see. We did know what was killing roughly half of our patients, but we theorized that something was indeed causing it, and we found later that proper sterilization of instruments and wounds reduced the number of these deaths to these invisible killers drastically. We call these invisible little monsters “germs” now, and even though we didn’t know then what we know now, we were not wrong in thinking they were killing our patients. They were indeed causing deaths. Just because we didn’t know how or why our patients were dying, didn’t mean that they weren’t. Lack of knowledge of fact does not equal lack of fact.

Your second logical fallacy is your assertion that, if smoking causes cancer, (and again, I think it is a well-known and well-documented fact that it does, but we can leave that for now), one cigarette would cause cancer. That is like saying that a minor laceration to your face will kill you, regardless of size, severity or number. If I cut you in the face, and then left you alone, it would heal, and you would be fine. You would be marred, but fine. If I keep cutting you, however, you will eventually die from your injuries. It is like the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back. One straw will probably go completely unnoticed, but if you keep piling on straw, at a certain point, you will pile on the last straw, and kill your camel. An excess of something causing death does not equal the mere presence of something causing death. The name for this fallacy, which you’ve made twice in your argument, is “equivocation.” You can look that up on your own time.

So, I’m sorry Muscles, (well, no I’m not – you’re wrong, and I’m trying to help you out so that you don’t keep saying this and sounding so stupid in future, and more importantly, annoying me), but your argument is flawed, and you are wrong.

And that concludes my first rant, about stupid arguments.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Misery Date

My first mistake was nicknaming her “Princess.” She told me that she refuses to get her license, and that when she gets her man, he’ll drive her around like a princess. So as a joke, I started calling her “Princess.” I was going to call her “Princess” on the blog too, but “Misery” took the win. In numerous consequent e-mails, she told me that she loves being called princess, and that it makes her feel special. This was the first sign that I was in real trouble.

By the time she started e-mailing five times between replies, I’d already asked her out. I figure it’s better to just ask women out right away rather than to develop feelings for lines of text. This didn’t stop her from building everything up into monumental proportions, telling me how nervous she was, how much she was looking forward to it, and how I was the nicest guy to grace this green earth. Me! Anyone who actually knows me, knows I’m actually kind of a jerk. She actually told me that I was going to be her “whole new world.” I guess she’s a Little Mermaid fan.

I arrived ten minutes early because, after all, I wouldn’t want to keep my princess waiting. I ordered a mango bubble milk, (yes, I like sissy drinks), sat down, and waited. By 3:00, I started thinking I’d been stood up, which was a surprise, given that she says she looked at several maps and bus schedules so that she could get there early. It was that very minute that I realized I was actually relieved, and quite happy to just sit there by myself enjoying my bubble milk.

At 3:01, Misery showed up. I made sure to sit near the front, so I could get a good look at the people coming in. I always do this on first dates. It gives me an edge. But this was a double-edged date.

I only had the one very obscured photograph to go on, and even from that, I could tell she wouldn’t be terribly attractive, but I’m all for giving everyone a chance. But I did not predict the creature I saw before me.

To describe her as looking like a shaved gorilla in an oversized moo-moo, would be an understatement. The scowl on her face, I can only describe as that of an ogre. I mean she was like a frowning, pink Shrek! And she hunched as she walked, and she lurched furtively back and forth, her eyes scanning through the restaurant and then back into the street, as if she was expecting the police to bust her for crack possession.

And I was mere feet away from her.

“Fuck me,” I muttered to myself, going back to my bubble milk, trying to act natural.

And then she was gone.

I looked back towards the glass door. No Misery.

“Well maybe it wasn’t her,” I lied, to myself. I hoped it wasn’t her, but deep down, I knew that it was.

Five minutes later, she was back, and the pattern repeated, and it was at this moment that I realized she was literally so crazy that it never occurred to her to step inside the building. I thought of helping her out and stepping outside to invite her in, but I mean, come on! What is she, a vampire? I decided that this was the final IQ test. If she can’t figure out that all she has to do is come inside, she fails.

So she left again, and five minutes later, she was back. Same furtive, nervous movement, and then she was gone again.

When she returned for a forth time, five minutes later, I knew I was done there. I waited for her to leave, paid for my drink, and left.

When I got outside, I looked around carefully to see if I could spot her. I checked all the bus stops. No Misery. Like a banshee, she was gone.

When I recounted this story to my sister, she called me on it.

“And then she was gone,” I said to her. “She was like a banshee.”

“You used three different animal terms to describe this woman.”

“A banshee is not an animal.”

“Well, mythical creatures then.”

“Fair enough. But you know, I think she must have been some kind of mythical creature, because she moved much more quickly than you might expect, given her physique.”

I had given up on trying to find her and was on my way home, when we passed each other on the street. Much to my amazement, she did not recognize me. In fact, she made no eye contact with anyone. (It was really crowded.) I thought one last time that I might say something to her, but then I realized I’d just been given a get out of jail free card.

Or so I thought, until I got home.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cornball Justice

I’m sure you’ve heard that justice is blind. Well, apparently, it’s also stupid.

Today, I want to talk about the trial of a man who was sentenced to life in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit. I’m sure you’ve all heard these kinds of stories before, and no I’m not directly involved in this affair, but I’ve taken a special interest in this particular case since I first heard about it five years ago, mainly because of how badly the whole case reeked of police corruption. You can read the article here, in the Cornwall Standard Freeholder:


The first thing you should all note is that this entire case is based entirely on the testimony of one lying psychopath named Roger Belair, infamous for being “one of Cornwall’s worst criminals.” The police knew that he is a pathological liar, having constantly lied to them about literally everything in this case, changing his story several times, and having being caught in a lie about not having attempted to murder his accomplice, Andy Paul. (Belair shot Paul in the head, leaving him with a slew of health problems, including “permanent hearing loss, loss of equilibrium, migraines and brain fluid leakages.”)

The police had ample evidence that Belair and Paul were present at both crime scenes. (The first is the double homicide of the Benedicts. The second is the attempted murder of Paul, whose blood was understandably at the scene.) There is no evidence that any other person, (other than the two victims of course), had ever been there. So the question is: Why did two other men get charged with the murders?

The first accused man, Jason Maestrello, was sentenced yesterday to a minimum of 25 years in prison. The second, Michael Boyle, will stand trial in September. I’m hoping that his trial goes better than Maestrello’s, but also bear in mind that these two men have already been incarcerated five years, with no concrete evidence to justify keeping them there. The police lied (yes, LIED) about having DNA evidence placing them at the crime scenes, which they were never able to produce. I’m trying to imagine why in the world the police would WANT to lie about something like this, and I can’t. They would have to be convinced of their guilt, but without any evidence, I don’t see how they possibly could be. All they have is the testimony of a lying psychopath, who’s obviously trying to cover his own ass.

Here’s a paraphrase of what Belair told the police, and what the jury was presented with:

“Yeah, I shot Andy Paul. Right in the head. And yes, I admit that I lied about it afterwards, but I mean, come on! How was I supposed to know he’d survive? I’m telling the truth this time though, I promise. And yeah, I was there during the two murderers, but Boyle and Maestrello made me watch. Those two killed the Benedicts, not me. Yeah, I know I didn’t tell you about their involvement right away, but I forgot, alright? Alright, so I forgot twice, when we went over it a second time. Can we get past this? Oh, and yes, I got rid of the weapons, but they made me do that too. Yes, they made me do a lot of things that night. They were the masterminds. Yes, both of them. So can I make a deal and plead to a lesser charge for turning them in, or what?”

This, in a nutshell, is Belair’s bullshit story. Would you buy it? I sure wouldn’t. But apparently, the police did, and consequently, the jury did too. I don’t understand it. It violates the principle of Occam’s razor, and it’s littered with inconsistencies. Generally, I find when you’re looking for the real mastermind behind any crime, you look and at where the money goes. The motive behind this double-murder was to steal 160 grand, which Belair got, by the way. The whole case stinks.

Now Maestrello has to appeal this bullshit case in front of yet another jury. Do you call that a good use of our tax dollars? I sure don’t.

It is painfully obvious that something has gone horribly wrong here. Belair, a known and feared psychopath, who obviously lied about everything, and masterminded the double-homicide (which was actually meant to be triple-homicide) from the very beginning, and who GOT THE MONEY, was sentenced to 3 years. Maestrello, who can’t even be placed at either crime scene by anything other than the testimony of a known liar and psychopath, and who (understandably) maintains his innocence, gets 25-to-life. Does that seem right to you? Unless someone stops Belair, he’ll kill again. Mark my words. Belair should be serving the life sentence, not Maestrello. More importantly, all of the police involved in this case should be investigated for gross incompetence, not to say downright corruption. This is an abomination of justice, and the police should not be making deals with known psychopaths. The fact that the police built their entire case on Belair’s bullshit story, and stuck to it for five years, lacking any actual evidence, suggests that they’re trying to cover up a bigger problem. Wouldn’t you like to know exactly what that is?

Friday, July 2, 2010

What I like about Canada Day

What I like about Canada Day is: Most people behave the way they should behave every day. Well, not exactly. What I mean is, on Canada Day, everyone smiles, is friendly, and is willing to talk to strangers in a way that is open, accepting, and jovial. I don’t mean the people who smash beer bottles, tip over newspaper boxes and call people “faggots” for dressing nicely and wanting to be friendly. Those butt-smears should continue to keep their hands to themselves and their mouths shut. But I think people should feel comfortable talking to their brother and sister people every day. After all, it’s not the strangers who talk to you that you should be worried about; it’s the psychos who don’t talk to you that you should be weary of.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Kiss and Miss

I don't understand you. You'll kiss me in my car, but now you won't have coffee with me. How do I go from the guy you're attracted to to the creepy guy you avoid, without the exchange of a single word?