Nick Byrd’s Blog

I Bought An Electric Height-adjustable Desk …and I love it.

I do not want to sit at a desk all day. Sometimes I want to stand. But for a long time, I was too cheap to buy an electric standing desk. Well, I finally bought one for around $200. I have used it for almost 9 months. And I love it. It has become one of the reasons that I look forward to going to the office: working at an electric height-adjustable desk is just really, really enjoyable. In this post, I will explain what I bought and why I like it. Continue reading I Bought An Electric Height-adjustable Desk …and I love it.

The Institute of Art and Ideas Podcast: Europe’s (Superior) Answer to TED

I first learned about the Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI) a few years ago. I was watching one of the IAI’s debates about the limits of logic. The discussion was long form, but structured. And it included perspectives from multiple areas of expertise. For those reasons alone, the IAI had my attention. After all, you don’t typically get all that from American alternatives like TED or Talks at Google. In this post, I want to introduce the uninitiated to the IAI podcast by highlighting two of my favorite episodes. Continue reading The Institute of Art and Ideas Podcast: Europe’s (Superior) Answer to TED

How Arguments Work: The Basics

If you understand how arguments succeed and fail, then you can do some important stuff. You can construct a convincing argument, evaluate an argument, fix a broken argument, and — maybe most importantly — avoid being duped by a bullshit argument. So if any of that sounds interesting to you, then you’ll want to understand the basics of how arguments work. I’ll review those basics in the rest of this post.  Continue reading How Arguments Work: The Basics

Evaluate An Argument With Just ONE Flowchart

I love philosophy and science. I also love flowcharts because they can compress many pages of instruction into a simple chart. And three researchers from George Mason University and the University of Queensland have combined these three loves in a paper about climate change denialism. In their paper, they create a flowchart that shows how to find over a dozen fallacies in over 40 denialist claims! In this post, I’ll explain this argument-checking flowchart. First, we will identify a common denialist claim and then evaluate the argument for it. Continue reading Evaluate An Argument With Just ONE Flowchart

3 Obstacles For Research About Cheating & Morality

What if traveling abroad were somehow bad for you? Well, a series of studies seem to find that “[traveling abroad] can lead to [lying and cheating] by increasing moral relativism” (Lu et al 2017, 1, 3). This finding has just the right combination of intuitive plausibility and surprise for us to want to share it uncritically. So, instead, let’s take a look at the methods, measures, and philosophical nuances of the topic. As usual, a bit of reflection makes the finding a bit less exciting and it reveals a need for follow-up research.

Continue reading 3 Obstacles For Research About Cheating & Morality

Sexual Harassment Accusations & The Acceptance Principle

A public figure is accused of a sexual misdeed. You know nothing about the accused besides their name and their alleged crime. And you know nothing about the accuser except their name and their accusation. Can you believe the accuser? We often learn about such sexual harassment accusations. So it behooves us to find a principled response. The Acceptance Principle suggests that we can accept this kind of accusation. Why? I’ll explain in this post. Continue reading Sexual Harassment Accusations & The Acceptance Principle

Writing Bloopers

Early in graduate school, I attended a writing workshop that began with a Writing Bloopers activity: in small groups, outline a really bad paper on a topic with which we’re all familiar. Unsurprisingly, the activity was fun. But the activity was also instructive. I learned how some of my writing habits can annoy my readers. And more importantly, I realized just how easy it is to write badly.

1.  Modified Writing Bloopers Activity

I sometimes wonder if the Writing Bloopers activity would work with high school or college students. When I pitch the idea to other teachers, they are sometimes skeptical. The skeptics worry that the students do not sufficiently understand what makes writing good or bad. After all, students sometimes turn in papers that contain comically bad writing.

I take the skeptic’s point. However, I wonder if the activity could be modified to work for less experienced writers. For example, perhaps I could present examples of bad writing and let students explain how they are bad. I find that this works well for teaching students about arguments. So it perhaps it would work for teaching students about writing as well. If you’ve done a Writing Bloopers activity, then feel free to share your experience in the comments.

2.  A List of Writing Bloopers

Here’s a (growing) list of writing bloopers that could be used for the activity. Feel free to add writing bloopers in the comments.

Introduction Bloopers

“From the beginning of time, philosophers have argued about abortion.”

“Since the beginning of time, there has been American history.”

“Since the dawn of time, man has wondered whether computers can think.”

“Since the dawn of time the sun has risen in the East.  (Well, that first dawn?  The sun may have risen all over at once, but after that things settled down.)”

“Throughout history, man has wrestled with the concepts of cyclic versus linear time.”

“Since the invention of the Nintendo game controller in the 1980’s, scientists have been increasingly worried that computers will take over the world…”

“Throughout the ages, women have been the cause of trouble for men. I, personally, have seen this.”

Continue reading Writing Bloopers