Tag Archives: intellectual dishonesty

On “Whataboutism”

“Shut up! How dare you point out my hypocritical double standard!”

I am abashed to admit that I read the term “whataboutism” many times without having a clue regarding what it meant. Properly used, the term could have been a useful one. I often wondered what to call it when, say, Newsbusters, would run one of the stories like this one (there have been far worse. but this was the most recent):

FLASHBACK: CNN Didn’t See GOP Winning Governor Races in 2009 As Referendum On Obama

What does CNN’s analysis eight years ago have to do with whether its analysis regarding 2017 election results are persuasive or not? Nothing. It’s a deflection without substance: “Oh yeah? Well, why should we pay attention to your claim that the GOP losing State House races is ominous for the party now when you didn’t say the same thing when Democrats lost elections under Obama?” It makes no sense, especially since those losses were a warning for Democrats, who got clobbered in the 2010 mid-terms.

That’s real “whataboutism”: an intellectually dishonest argument that changes the subject to avoid dealing with the issues. It flourished during the Obama years, especially in the comments on political blogs. Virtually any discussion about Obama’s myriad botches and failures were routinely countered by, “Oh yeah? Well, Bush lied and people died!”

This kind of “whataboutism” involves the use of Rationalization #2, Ethics Estoppel, or “They’re Just as Bad,” and #22 The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

The idea, again,  is to avoid honest consideration of fair criticism by pointing somewhere else.

But progressives and liberals are very good at stifling dissent and argument by constricting language and discourse, so now “whataboutism” is increasingly being used to shut down efforts to point out double standards….and double standards, which are reaching plague proportions, must be stopped, and the only way the stop them is to identify them.  Continue reading

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Filed under Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Comment Of The Day: “Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are”

The post on Facebook hysteria over the U.S.’s decision to withdraw from the largely symbolic Paris climate change accords has drawn perplexing commentary. The post did not assert a position on climate change, nor did it defend the reasons given for the withdrawal.  The post simply stated that it was irresponsible and dishonest to claim dire consequences of the decision when the accord itself is almost entirely symbolic, requires nothing, in the sense that there are no enforcement mechanisms, and can’t possibly carry the existential weight that social media, politicians, pundits and activists are claiming. It is all appeal to emotion and ignorance.

And it is. Especially since most of the social media hysterics haven’t read the accord and are illiterate regarding climate science.

And they are.

I guess I knew that both climate change flacks and those suspicious of them would shift gears into the messy issue itself and its controversial research and models. The dreaded (and misleading) “97% of all scientists” stat even made its appearance, although, again, it was irrelevant to the post.

Finally, Zoltar Speaks!, Popeye-like, declared that “I ain’t gonna take it, ’cause I can’t take no more!” after a side debate over whether the infamous hacked e-mails among climate-change researchers “proved” that there was a conspiracy to distort the science on climate change (no,  they prove that the scholarly research community members are not as objective and independent as they are professionally obligated to be, and that this makes their conclusions inherently untrustworthy). He produced an epic essay in response, so long and detailed that he posted it on a satellite blog. With his permission, I am posting it in it’s entirety here.

Here is the Zoltar Speaks! Comment of the Day on the post, “Facebook User Ethics : Don’t Spread Panic, And Don’t Make Your Friends As Ignorant As You Are” … Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, History, Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

From A Proud Abortion Defender, An Inconvenient Truth….

Snake eating its tail

A New York lawyer named Janice Mac Avoy gifted the Washington Post with an op-ed that was supposed to be a powerful brief for abortion. Viewing it as someone who is deeply conflicted about the ethics of abortion, which is to say, someone who is objective and who didn’t make up his mind first and then look for rationalizations to support that position, I recognized it as a perfect example of why abortion advocates still haven’t made a strong enough case for me, and perhaps why they can’t.

I am still surprised, somehow, when lawyers, like Mac Avoy, display poor reasoning skills. I shouldn’t be, I know: I’ve known plenty of dumb lawyers, even rich and successful dumb lawyers. I suppose I am hostage to the mythology of law school, that professors take students whose “minds are much,’ to quote Professor Kingsfield, and transform those minds into whirring computers of emotion- and bias- free rationality. Unfortunately, mush in, mush out tends to be reality.

Mac Avoy places her own mind in the mush column immediately, with her title “I’m a successful lawyer and mother, because I had an abortion.” This shows her adoption of the classic logical fallacy Post hoc ergo propter hoc, or “After this, thus because of this.” The statement is factually nonsense, and her column takes off from there.

Some highlights:

1. She writes…

“In spring 1981, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I was about to become the first person in my family to graduate from high school. I had a scholarship to college, and I planned to go on to law school. I was determined to break a cycle of poverty and teenage pregnancy that had shaped the lives of the previous three generations of women in my family — all mothers by age 18. Then, just before graduation, I learned I was pregnant. Knowing that I wasn’t ready to be a mother, I had a friend drive me to a Planned Parenthood clinic, where I had an abortion.”

Pop quiz: What crucial piece of information is glossed over, indeed strangely omitted, from that account? Mac Avoy “was determined to break a cycle of poverty and teenage pregnancy” —so determined and laser focused on the life goal that she suddenly woke up pregnant! How did that happen? Apparently, despite her representation to the contrary, she was not sufficiently determined that she was willing to refuse  to engage in the exact and only conduct that could foil her intent, and that she knew could foil her intent.

I’m not arguing that a teenage mistake of judgment should derail a life, but I am pointing out that to ignore that personal conduct, as Mac Avoy does, and pretend that pregnancy in every case is some unavoidable random tragedy like a rape or incest, is self-serving and intellectually dishonest, and like most pro-abortion rhetoric, avoids the key issues that make abortion a difficult ethical problem.

2. She writes… Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Rights

Just To Wash The Nasty Residue Of Those Absurd Pilgrim-Syrian Refugee Analogies Out Of Your Brain, Here are Some Useful And Informative Silly Refugee Discourses

Go ahead, tell us how you'd keep THESE refugees out, Donald...

Go ahead, tell us how you’d keep THESE refugees out, Donald…

By the time Thanksgiving arrived, the social media memes pronouncing that for anyone who believes accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S. is less than wise policy it was rank hypocrisy to celebrate the holiday had become too much to bear. Granted, this stupid analogy was marginally less stupid than the “Jesus was a refugee so what kind of Christian are you?” stuff put out by OccupyDemocrats, but it was still pure debate pollution. Did the Native Americans know that the Europeans were refugees? Uh, no. Did they have a refugee policy? Nooooo. Was the territory that became the United States being targeting by terrorists? No. Had there been any previous terrorist attacks on Native Americans in North America? No. If the Indians had known about what the Spanish had already been doing to indigenous people, would they have been so welcoming? I think not. If Native Americans today could go back in time and decide all over again whether to allow the “refugees” to settle here, what would they decide?

You betcha.

Are the beneficiaries of a terrible decision ethically obligated to risk their own destruction by making the same mistake?I guess that’s the theory. Pardon me if I’m not persuaded, but you wouldn’t believe the “likes” this argument got on Facebook in its various forms.

Well, President Obama used this same illicit analogy before Thanksgiving, and the progressives and pundits nodded their heads furiously, like turkeys. Oh, snap, Mr. President! You really stuck it to those xenophobes!

President Obama obviously doesn’t care about his rhetoric any more, or think about it, either. He’s not as flagrant as Donald Trump in spewing irresponsible nonsense, but no ethical President should even spark the comparison.

Well, over at Law and the Multiverse, which is another neat website in the Ethics Alarms links, there is a very informative discussion of the refugee status of Superman, an environmental refugee (a planet exploding qualifies its residents) and Supergirl, another Krypton refugee whose status is a bit more complex. Law and the Multiverse features serious legal discussions of the legal issues that would be raised by the conduct and existence of superheroes in the real world. Here’s a sample, from author Kean Zimmerman’s discussion of Supergirl’s status: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture

Ethics Observations On The Impending “Little Ice Age” And Climate Change

snowpiercer

From Alphr:

Between the years 1645 and 1715, there was a period of bitterly cold winters in the northern hemisphere. The winters were so cold that the Thames completely froze.This was caused by low solar activity, known as the Maunder Minimum, and when it will happen again has been a source of debate among scientists. Well, according to a new model that promises 97% accuracy, we’re due another “little ice age” in 15 to 25 years time. The prediction is the work of mathematics professor Valentina Zharkova from Northumbria University, examining the sun’s so-called “11-year heartbeat”. This is the period at which the sun’s activity remains steady before fluctuating every 10-12 years. Zharkova’s new model forecasts solar cycles based on two layers of moving fluid within the sun, one near the surface and another in the convection zone. By using this model, Zharkova’s team found their predictions “showed an accuracy of 97%”.

At this moment, I’m not concerned about whether the prediction is right or wrong; there’s plenty of time for me to buy ear muffs. I do think it is fascinating, however, and I offer these observations:

1. Question: Why has this story been virtually ignored by the mainstream news media?  Answer: Because progressive journalists haven’t figured out how to reconcile their climate change, environmentalist, pro-EPA dictatorship, “all climate change skeptics are idiots and the equivalent of Holocaust deniers” narrative with its implications, that’s why. This is news, don’t you think? “Fit to print,” correct? Any time some semi-respectable scientist predicts that we have 20 years left to knee-cap American industry or the seas will boil, that’s headlines at MSNBC and the Times, isn’t it? I can’t think of a more blatant example of unprofessional and biased news manipulation for purely ideological reasons than the fact that this story has thus far been isolated to European and Australian news sources.

2. The theme of environmentalists and the progressive establishment, as well as elected officials who are just as certain about climate change despite not remotely understanding the science, is that the science is settled, that disastrous, man-caused global warming is certain, and that no argument to the contrary will be accepted or respected. Yet scientists just figured out, using a new model, that a massive global cooling will occur just 15 years from now.  Quite simply, according to the angry, insulting rhetoric from the Gores, Pelosis, Obamas and their pundit cheerinbg section, this is impossible. Science has settled, and cannot be wrong, what the temperature will be a hundred years or more from now, and that’s that—no skepticism allowed. The models are undeniable! And yet, a new model, just developed, shows that a decidedly non-warming trend  not predicted by those perfect models is now certain. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology

Ethics Alarms Encore: “Aesop’s Unethical and Misleading Fable: The North Wind and the Sun”

north-wind-and-the-sun-story-oil-painting

[ I vowed that the next time I got a comment on this post, I would publish it again. It hails from four years ago, when  Ethics Alarms got a quarter of the traffic it gets now. I confess that I wrote it on a whim, having been talking with my wife about how Aesop’s Fables were joining Mother Goose stories,  Edward Lear limericks and American folks song in the Discarded Bin of our culture and then stumbling upon a fable I had either never read before or forgotten about.  To my surprise the post attracted intense criticism from fans of the story—I even had to ban a commenter who got hysterical about it—and the post joined a very eclectic group of early essays here that get considerable and consistent readership every week. Apparently there are a lot of Sun-worshipers out there. Anyway, since you probably missed it the first time, here it is.]

Today, by happenstance, I heard an Aesop’s Fable that I had never encountered before recited on the radio. Like all Aesop’s Fables, at least in its modern re-telling, this one had a moral attached , and is also a statement of ethical values. Unlike most of the fables, however, it doesn’t make its case. It is, in fact, an intellectually dishonest, indeed an unethical, fable.

It is called “The North Wind and the Sun,” and in most sources reads like this:

“The North Wind and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes. The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.”

The moral of the fable is variously stated as “Persuasion is better than Force” , or “Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail.”

The fable proves neither. In reality, it is a vivid example of dishonest argument, using euphemisms and false characterizations to “prove” a proposition that an advocate is biased toward from the outset. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Education, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, War and the Military

Eight Glasses of Water and the Climate Change Bullies

Never mind.

A surprising new report announces that the well-established health standard that we should all drink at least eight glasses a day is a myth, with no data to support it.  Moreover, the report says, drinking so much water may actually be harmful.  Meanwhile, widespread acceptance of water and hydration as a health benefit has led directly to the explosion in the use of bottled water, wasting money and creating an environmental crisis with so many discarded plastic containers.

I would hope that such news, and we get these kind of sudden “never mind!” stories with fair regularity, might convince some of the more insulting critics of global warming skeptics to temper their contempt.
The ideologues and conspiracy theorists who refuse to accept that the world is warming—though nobody really knows how much or how long—and that the effect is likely caused by mankind—though nobody can say with certainty that mankind can reverse or stop it—are rightly derided, up to a point. But those who question the astonishing certainty with which some climate change scientists, Al Gore, and a passel of pundits, columnists and bloggers who barely passed high school chemistry claim to know what the effects of global warming will be, even though doing so requires extensive estimates, extrapolations and assumptions, are being no more than prudent, considering how frequently far simpler scientific conclusions have proven to be flawed, exaggerated, or as may be in the case of  the eight glasses of water, just plain wrong. Prudence is especially appropriate when speculative science transmuted into doctrine calls for huge expenditures of scarce resources and the re-ordering of national priorities, effecting nations, commerce, businesses and lives. Continue reading

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