Failing Occam’s Razor – FT#68

Failing Occam’s Razor – FT#68

Show Notes

The Failing Occam’s Razor Fallacy is committed when someone ignores an obvious or simple explanation for something and chooses a far-fetched hypothesis instead.



We started out by talking about this tweet from Trump:

Trump tweet asking why mail-in ballots favored Biden

and then we discussed this clip where Lou Dobbs almost figured it out, but not quite:


Mark’s British Politics Corner

Mark is having to take a few weeks off from the podcast due to work, so Jim talked about this clip in which Therese Coffey claims the huge COVID case count in the UK is due to anything other than the government doing stuff wrong:

And then we listened to Baron McColl of Dulwich lying about the levels of obesity and population density in the UK to tell essentially the same story.


Fallacy in the Wild

We talked about this clip from The Simpsons:

We followed that up with this clip from Brothers and Sisters:


Other places you can see us this week

Jim was a guest on the Sitcom Archive Deep Dive Overdrive podcast last week, in which he talked about various logical fallacies committed by Margo Leadbetter from classic 70’s British sitcom ‘The Good Life’ (known as Good Neighbors in the US). It’s basically an extended Fallacy in the Wild section, so check it out!

Sitcom archive deep dive overdrive podcast

Meanwhile, Jim and Mark have teamed up with Mark’s friend Ian to play a fun game called No More Jockeys on YouTube. Game 1 is up now, and subsequent games will go up on our YouTube channel on the first of every month. We’re just doing it for fun really, but if you want to watch, here it is:


Fake News

Here are the statements from this week’s Fake News game:

  1. Even certain of the other side are starting to see the level of importance and the importance of having this wall. I call it a wall; some people are liking to call it a barrier. And some people are even calling it slats. But it’s a wall, and it’s a strong wall. It’s a powerful wall.
  2. I want to thank the White House Historical Association and all of the people that work so hard with Melania, with everybody, to keep this incredible house, or building, or whatever you want to call it — because there really is no name for it. It is special — and we keep it in tip-top shape. We call it sometimes tippy-top shape.
  3. You can’t really do better than MAGA. It was something we came up with — I came up with really, and it’s just a tremendous… logo. People call it a phrase, you can call it a campaign. I call it a logo. Or a brand. It’s like a brand, and it’s just something that’s been very, very successful.

Click below for the answer

My guest Marsh got it wrong again this week, and is currently on 0%


Marsh is not a logical fallacy

Marsh, AKA Michael Marshall from The Merseyside Skeptics, Be Reasonable, Skeptics With A K, The Good Thinking Society, QED, Skeptics in the Pub Online, and The Skeptic Magazine (!) joined me for a chat about how he got started in skepticism, how to help friends and family in danger of believing things like Q, and the plans for the next QED conference, among other things. Make sure you check out all his stuff – which is universally excellent.


The stories we really didn’t have time to talk about

  • Among the things that freshman congresswoman and trailer park Karen, Marjorie Taylor Greene has endorsed or promoted are the following: 911 was an inside job; the Sandy Hook, Parkland and Vegas shootings were staged; Hillary Clinton eats babies; prominent Democrats should be executed, Q Anon is worth listening to; Muslims don’t belong in Government, and the California wildfires were started by secret Jewish space lasers. So naturally enough, when Democrats voted to remove Greene from the committees she was assigned to, a whole 11 Republicans agreed, which was fortunately more than enough to do the job. You can’t really blame the 199 Republicans who voted to keep her in a position of power, after her forcefully disavowing a couple of her batshit ideas by passively saying “I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true”. Meanwhile, 61 Republicans voted to oust Liz Cheney from her post as GOP Conference Chairwoman for the crime of thinking insurrection is bad.  One GOP representative discovered new levels of cowardice, voting ‘present’ in a secret ballot.   
  • With his usual tact and dignity, acceptance and humility Trump has quietly withdrawn his membership of the Screen Acting Guild mindful that the Guild expressed concerns that his insurrection-fomenting actions, not to mention his frankly terrible acting in the part of wounded loser (they didn’t mention that), might threaten the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members. No, no he didn’t – what he did do was send a letter – no twitter remember – basically saying ‘you can’t fire me I quit’ with the remarks: “While I’m not familiar with your work,” (SAG-AFTRA has been a key part of entertainment production since the 1930s.) “I’m very proud of my work on movies such as Home Alone 2, Zoolander and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps; and television shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saturday Night Live,” – (He shouldn’t be proud of any of his appearances in anything – he’s shit!) – “And of course, one of the most successful shows in television history, The Apprentice — to name just a few!” Let’s face it there are only a few to name and current chair of the union Gabrielle Carteris played Andrea in an actual one of the most successful “Beverly Hills, 90210” [NB Frank it’s pronounced Nine-oh-two-one-oh]. In response, Carteris and SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White issued their own two-word statement: “Thank you.”  Grace and erudition from real artists 1 – ranty, failed, talentless out-of-work orange windbag – Nil
  • With Fox News cancelling Lou Dobbs, other right wing cable news channels are running scared from lawsuits in pretty amazing ways. My Pillow guy and fat Higgins from Magnum PI, Mike Lindell, appeared on Newsmax to talk about cancel culture but kept making unsubstantiated claims about Dominion which caused the show host to shout him down and read out disclaimers before eventually walking off the set of his own show when Lindell wouldn’t shut the fuck up. Meanwhile, One America News Network took money from Lindell to show a three hour ‘documentary’ – and please imagine giant fucking scare quotes around that word – that Lindell had made himself, about how the election was totally stolen and we can prove it – we won’t, but we can, honest.  In the spirit of not being sued by everyone, OAN started the show with a 90 second, full screen of text disclaimer which we’ll link in the show notes but which basically boils down to “This is all bullshit but Mike paid us to air it, so here ya go!” 
  • Just when you thought the UK had cornered the market in profiteering from the pandemic – well members of this government’s “I’ll bung you billions in contracts you’re not qualified to deliver in return for funding and support in the next election” chumocracy anyway – altruistic group of college-kids “Philly Fighting COVID” have just been fired by the city of Philadelphia. The company was originally a not-for-profit concern when 22-yr old Andrei Doroshin started 3-D printing free face shields for health care workers at the start of the pandemic and formed Philly Fighting COVID over the summer to run pop-up testing sites with his friends. On Jan. 8, in collaboration with city officials, the group opened Philadelphia’s largest mass vaccination site, and, smelling greenbacks, switched to a for-profit model. Boasting how they’d get very rich, they began charging health insurers and collecting personal data, though they say they haven’t sold any of that. After the vaccination centre got overbooked with 85 and 90 year olds queuing for hours only to be turned away, Doroshin was later seen to take spare vaccine doses home and posted a snapchat of himself administering a dose to one of his friends. He’s NOT a qualified medic by the way, and the recipient was in their 20s! City officials cancelled their contract with Philly Fights COVID on Monday, and Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley told Today that “in retrospect, we wish we hadn’t worked with that organization.” If only our governing officials had the decency to fess up to their mistakes and even resign – no wait we’d have no one left – as you were…!  
  • In case you thought it was just the GOP members in DC who were awful, awful people, meet Stephen Huffman, an Ohio State Senator and doctor, who recently asked if the higher incidence of COVID in – and I cannot be clear enough that I am directly quoting him here – “the colored population” is because they “do not wash their hands as well as other groups”. Holy fuck!  Huffman was fired from his job as an ER doctor for the remarks, but his cousin Matt, the Ohio State Senate President, appointed him to chair the Senate Health Committee instead.
  • Remember several dozen conspiracy theories ago when Trump was taking hydroxychloroquine to protect himself against COVID-19 but then got it anyway? And cos Trump had told us of the healing power of hydroxychloroquine – nah its a six-syllable word so he’s never actually said it – no one could get it anywhere, not even malaria and lupus sufferers who’d die without it, cos it had become a restricted drug. Well Oklahoma state has a $2 million stockpile of the stuff and are, quote, ”working with the department of health to try and return it”. Doubtless the DoH are laughing up their PPE sleeves at the greed and avarice of Oklahoma, and are perhaps even now prescribing bleach or a powerful light taken internally as a cure for slavishly- Trump-blind and exceedingly red-faced state officials.
  • It’s almost our favorite time of year again – impeachment. And a week ago, Trump’s entire legal team quit, reportedly because they refused to focus the entire case on Trump’s claim that he actually won the election. My hopes that Trump might defend himself were dashed pretty quickly by the news that he had hired new lawyers, who I’m sure will do a great job. Oh no, wait, they’ve filed their 14 page response brief, and it starts by misspelling ‘United States’. They go on to simultaneously claim that it’s too late to impeach him now he’s out of office, and also that doing it so quickly infringes on Trump’s rights. Somehow. And it also contains a fantastic Argument from Legal Ignorance, in saying about Trump’s election fraud claims “Insufficient evidence exists upon which a reasonable jurist could conclude that the 45th President’s statements were accurate or not, and he therefore denies they were false” which, for those not fluent in tortured syntax, is basically saying “You can’t prove the election wasn’t stolen, so it was”.  64 court cases beg to differ.
  • A grim week last week – the UK passed 100,000 people died from COVID-19. That’s more than would fill Wembley stadium, about the capacity of the Melbourne Cricket Australia, or the Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin Texas. It’s twice as many people as the Beatles played to in Shea Stadium. Boris said he and his government truly did everything they could – No, no they didn’t! If they did everything they could, and that were even remotely true, then obviously it wasn’t good enough and they are therefore not fit to be governing this country… also we shouldn’t be allowing anyone to say “aw give him a chance he’s doing his best”; Boris is the Prime Minister, not a toddler failing at potty-training… either way we’re in the shit – so in that regard an ordinary week in Britpol.

That’s all for this week, welcome to our newest Patron Brian, and thanks for listening!

Jim Cliff

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