Not that there was all that much doubt, after hearing about his theories that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain, and recognizing that any intelligent man would realize that giving a popular prayer breakfast speech and being a neurosurgeon no more qualifies someone to run for President of the United States than being a crossword puzzle champion or an airplane pilot. Nonetheless, his statement today ends any benefit of the doubt Carson had due to him. There is no doubt. He’s a dolt, and its obvious enough that we must assume anyone supporting him must also be a dolt.
Today, talking about the Syrian refugees in Alabama, Gentle Ben said...he really did…
“If there’s a rabid dog running around in your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog. And you’re probably going to put your children out of the way. That doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs.”
As various thought fallacies and flawed arguments are constantly being exposed, used, debunked or otherwise referenced during our ethics discussions and debates—the Ethics Alarms compendium is here––this looked like something readers would enjoy. I probably should dedicate this post to former blog Commenter of the Year tgt, in appreciation for his ending—maybe just briefly, we shall see—his latest sabbatical with a flurry of 70 comments while I was lecturing in Newport last week. I didn’t have time to properly engage him or even read all the comments, but he seemed in characteristic form.
Tgt loves the fallacies and delights in slapping them down whenever they occur. His favorite is “No True Scotsman.” I immediately thought of him when I stumbled upon “An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments” by the multi-talented Ali Almossawi. Tgt’s pet fallacy is here, as well as ad hominem, appeals to authority, the straw man, equivocation and others, some under different names than those I am used to. I haven’t read it carefully: there may be one or two that needs to be added to the Ethics Alarms list.
This is a well-researched and written exposition of some major fallacies with lovely illustrations, presented like a vintage children’s book. Someone should actually publish a children’s book like this: I would have been grateful for one when my son was a boy, or when I was a boy. I’m grateful for this now.
You can find this amazing work of art, ethics, rhetoric and logic here. I’ve already sent the link around to many friends, young and old, and you may want to do the same.
(Other than the fact that it’s ridiculous, of course.)
Not THAT again…
As far as preventing terrorist organizations from destroying civilization is concerned, the proposition being repeatedly made by Republicans that “you can’t fight something if you can’t accurately describe it” is also ridiculous. Obama can call ISIS Late For Dinner if he wants to, and still take effective steps to contain the group and others. I can’t remember ever experiencing such a long and intense debate over what something should be called, unless you count the Republican insistence that water-boarding isn’t torture after decades of the United States saying otherwise in legal documents, treaties and places where English is spoken, That, however, was obviously deceitful wordplay to get around the law, lawyering at it’s worst. This is something else…but what is it?
Yesterday, poor Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson did the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows, and was asked to explain the Administration’s weird rhetorical line in the sand repeatedly. Presumably he was prepared beforehand, yet the best he could do was probably the version he came up with on Fox News, saying on the topic:
” [T]he thing I hear from leaders in the Muslim community in this country is, “ISIL is attempting to hijack my religion. Our religion is about peace and brotherhood and ISIL is attempting to hijack that from us.” And they resent that. Most victims of ISIL are, in fact, Muslims. So it seems to me that to refer to ISIL as occupying any part of the Islamic theology is playing on a — a battlefield that they would like us to be on. I think that to call them — to call them some form of Islam gives the group more dignity than it deserves, frankly.”
Wait..what? That’s it? So this is meant to, like, hurt their feelings? Why not go whole hog, and call them “Smoosh-Face Poopy-Heads,” then, or something similar? We’re officially denying what everyone knows to be true because moderate Muslims don’t like sharing a religion with the radicals, so to be nice, were speaking Fantasy rather than English? Continue reading
I realized it was time to post the definitive Ethics Alarms List of Debate Cheats and Fallacies after once again having to point out to an indignant commenter that calling him a jerk based on a jerkish comment was not an ad hominem attack, and that saying idiotic things on-line carry that risk. Here, at last, is the current list, adapted from multiple sources. As with the Rationalizations List, with which this occasionally overlaps, I invite additions. Participants here should feel free to refer to the various fallacious arguments by number, and to apply critically them to my posts as well as the comments of others. Am I immune from occasionally falling into one or more of these bad debate techniques and rhetorical habits? No. The other reason I wanted to get the list up was to reinforce my own efforts to be persuasive without being manipulative.
1. Ad Hominem Attack
An ad hominem attack means that one is substituting the character or quality of an adversary’s thought for the argument the adversary is presenting. This is unfair, as well as misleading. “Your argument is invalid because you are a crook, a fool, an idiot” is an ad hominem attack. It is not an ad hominem attack to prove an argument idiotic, and conclude, on the basis of signature significance, (which requires that an argument be so idiotic that no non-idiot would conceive such a thing and dare express it),that the one making the argument is an idiot, since only an idiot would make such an argument. Confusing the true ad hominem attack with the latter is a useful deflection by poor advocates of the fair consequence of their advocacy. Idiots can still hold valid positions, and disproving the position has nothing to do with proving they are idiots.
1 a. The Toxic Introduction.
A more subtle application of the ad hominem attack is The Toxic Introduction, where the argument of another is introduced by noting a negative quality about the individual. The effect is to undermine the argument before it has even been heard, by its association with a less than impressive advocate.
2. Butch’s Stratagem (The Straw Man)
The U.S.’s recent experiment with a Senator-President has been disheartening—persuasive words unhinged to action and actual principles. There was a remarkable example of this in the President’s NSA speech, in fact, in a quote that would have been the Ethics Quote of the Month had it not been so cynical coming from him. The President said…
“Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.”
Wonderful! If only this had been uttered by a leader with credibility and integrity, rather than one who has shrugged off, firing no one, interference with the federal election process by the IRS, illegal spying by the NSA, and the intentional facilitation of illegal firearms coming into the murderous hands of drug cartels by his Justice Department, after bombing Libya illegally in defiance of law, selectively enforcing immigration laws, using drones to kill American citizens abroad without due process, making recess appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess, and more recently, unconstitutionally amending the ACA on his own after it was signed into law.
This was all foretold, however. Community organizers and senators make speeches and inspire people, but unfortunately seldom have a clue how to actually govern unless, as Obama himself has wistfully noted, they have absolute power. This is why, in theory, at least, state governors, who at least have experience governing, now seem like a better recruitment field for the next occupant of the Oval Office. It sounds good in the abstract, but the recent news from the state houses is like ice water in the face—-
According to a poster on Reddit, a woman allegedly left the message above on her receipt after eating a pricey meal at a restaurant. “Single mom, sorry,” she wrote, in the space left for a tip. “Thank you—it was great!” The furious waiter’s colleague scanned and posted the receipt, with appropriate invective that has been matched and exceeded by others on the site.
As usual, there are denials that the story is genuine, and claims that some single mother-hating trouble-maker created this miserable ethics smoking gun. “I think this bill is a fraud because I’ve met very few single mothers who expected to get special treatment for their status. They’re just hoping no one holds their situation against them,” wrote one skeptic. This is the “No True Scotsman” fallacy in Technicolor. The fact, if it is a fact, that few single mothers expect special treatment doesn’t prove that this one didn’t or doesn’t. Continue reading