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    by
    Dixon
    Published on 01-19-2014 01:06 AM
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    by Dixon Wragg
    WaccoBB.net

    Column #18: Pyramid of Betrayal
    "I was on the women's gifting circle and lost about $6000.00 and now stay away from them..."

    "I personally know several women who were involved in the "Gifting Circle"...One of these women I know actually made a nice little bundle of tax free cash. Because she got in on the ground floor. Everyone else lost their "investment"."

    "I made a commitment to myself some years ago never again to get involved in anything that smells even a little bit like a pyramid (I was young the first couple of times and I forgive myself for being young and ignorant). Many of my womyn friends were involved in the "Gifting Circles" that were popular here a while back and tried so very hard to get me involved. I just stood my ground, spoke my truth (I don't get involved
    ...
    by
    Dixon
    Published on 08-12-2013 11:11 AM
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    by Dixon Wragg
    WaccoBB.net
    Column #17: Make-Believe

    Some years ago, I was at a party celebrating a couple's engagement. The bride-to-be mentioned that, as her fiance was Jewish, she was converting to Judaism. Puzzled, I asked her something like: "What does it mean to say you're converting to Judaism because you're marrying a Jew? Does loving a person somehow magically change your worldview to theirs? Or do you mean by 'converting' that you're going to act as if you share their beliefs in order to fit in, or what?"

    You readers will not be surprised to hear that the woman's response was hostile. She seemed distressed by the prospect of scrutinizing what "belief" meant to her. I guess at the time I was a bit naive about the psychological/social realities of belief. My personal experience was that,
    ...
    by
    Dixon
    Published on 04-09-2013 11:48 PM
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    by Dixon Wragg
    WaccoBB.net


    Column #16: Eyewitness to Bad Memory

    In my last three columns (1), I discussed limitations on certainty. Now let's look at two more, related sources of "certainty" that nearly all of us trust too much: memory and eyewitness testimony.

    Like just about everyone else, I grew up thinking memory is sort of like video recording. We might lose parts of a "data file", or even whole files, and what images we have may be out of focus so that details are obscured, and we may have difficulty retrieving data, but memory is supposedly a fundamentally faithful reproduction of our experience.

    It wasn't until the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" (SRA) scare of the 1980s-90s, which was based largely on claims of "recovered memories", that I noticed much controversy about the nature of memory. One result of that moral panic was research showing that false memories could be implanted (2), and
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    by
    Dixon
    Published on 02-01-2013 01:53 AM
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    by Dixon Wragg
    WaccoBB.net

    Column #15: Are You Certain?

    The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man,
    but is nevertheless an intellectual vice.

    ~ Bertrand Russell

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.
    ~ Voltaire

    The minute one utters a certainty, the opposite comes to mind.
    ~ May Sarton

    In my last couple of columns (1), we've been looking at various forms of misinformation and fallacy that render dubious so much of what we think we're certain ...
    by
    Dixon
    Published on 02-03-2012 05:05 PM
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    by Dixon Wragg
    WaccoBB.net

    When I was fifteen, my mom gathered us kids around the table for a momentous announcement. At that point we had been Mormons for five years (Mom and the kids, that is—Dad wasn’t a churchgoer). Mom had recently been visited repeatedly by fundamentalist Christian “Missionaries to the Mormons” and they had succeeded in wooing her away from Mormonism and back into fundamentalism, the religion of her youth. So her announcement to us kids was that she’d been shown some doctrinal errors in Mormonism and from now on she’d be taking us, not to our accustomed Mormon church, but to Calvary Bible Church instead.
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    by
    Dixon
    Published on 01-03-2012 01:31 PM
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    We’ve all heard plenty of these tales: “I was troubled by (depression / indigestion / leprosy / the heartbreak of psoriasis / whatever) for years. I tried everything, but nothing helped. But then I met (Reverend / Swami / Doctor) Ironbeard, and just one session of (energy healing / crystals / potions / pills / quantum laser / shamanic techniques / powdered tiger penis / whatever) cured me! Plus, my sex life has improved, I’ve stopped snoring, and it leaves no bathtub ring!”



    When such little stories, or “anecdotes”, are offered as evidence for something, that’s called anecdotal evidence (no surprise there). Often, most or all of the evidence proffered in support of a claim is anecdotal, and most of us, at one time or another, make decisions based on anecdotal evidence. Sometimes, it’s
    ...
    by
    Dixon
    Published on 10-29-2011 02:26 PM
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    by Dixon Wragg
    WaccoBB.net


    One of the common ways people short-circuit meaningful discussion is by taking the position that evidence and proof are irrelevant to them. They may claim that they don’t think about evidence when deciding upon beliefs, instead apparently feeling that beliefs form inside them through some magical process divorced from grosser concerns like evidence and proof, the clunky mental mechanisms of less enlightened souls. People tell me, for instance, that any logical critique of their belief is irrelevant at best, because it’s not about “linear” logic (“linear” being a term they use for proper logic, with the implication that it’s inferior to some vague alternative logic that
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