What’s So Good About Being Wrong? »« Basava Premanand (1930-2009)

Can You Spot the Strawman in this Picture?

Who didn’t love Highlights as a kid? It was probably the only positive thing about visiting the dentist that I can recall. Everybody’s favorite thing was the Hidden Pictures—but only if the images weren’t already circled.

Well, today, I’m giving you an adult atheist version of Highlights Hidden Pictures. In this morning’s Austin American-Statesman was a ridiculous opinion piece by Texas Attorney General hopeful Ted Cruz about the cross monument on federal property that has been in the news recently.

Today’s assignment: Be the person who spots the most fallacies, errors, omissions or deceptions.

The winner gets full braggin’ rights.

The only hint I offer is that whenever a person misrepresents an opponent’s stance, the point is to try and wobble them off-base a bit by getting them upset or angry. I find humor, and mocking such a person, has the effect of not giving them what they want, in addition to showing you’re above their childish and obvious attempts at manipulation. Should anyone choose to reply to the Statesman directly, I encourage them to bear that in mind.

Comments

  1. says

    I'll give it a shot, but will include other issues as well.(1) Framing the argument. The first two paragraphs should be read with "America the Beautiful" playing in the background. fought to defend liberty and sacrifices that have kept us all safe. Who's against that? Atheists, that's who!(2) American Civil Liberties Union filed suit demanding that the memorial be destroyed Actually, I don't think anybody called for burning the cross, rather merely removing it.(3) And so this memorial, dedicated to those who fought tyranny and oppression, is covered in wood simply because the monument takes the shape of a cross. O beautiful, for spacious skies . . . well, yeah. the cross is representative of Jesus, not soldiers or their sacrifices.(4) This case is part of a growing pattern. The atheists, they're everywhere!(5)Our nation was formed by brave men and women fighting to protect the religious liberty of every individual, and nothing in the Constitution compels government hostility to God or religious faith. Actually, the Puritans didn't go directly from England to the New World, they made a pit stop in Holland first. And were horrified at how the liberal Dutch were influencing their children into tolerance and acceptance of others. Yeah.(6) Just four years ago, the State of Texas faced a similar legal assault. You remember, they fired a rocket launcher in a courthouse.Wow, you know every other word is some kind of fallacy. I guess I'll stop here.

  2. says

    Well, here are some that I noticed:(1) The whole first 2 paragraphs are "style over substance" fallacies. They're trying to use flowery patriotic language to make their position sound great without actually trying to make it sound valid with good reasons.(2)It claimed that the cross's presence within the 1.6 million acre Mojave Desert violated the people's right to avoid religious symbolsI almost think the inclusion of "1.6 million acre" in here is a non-sequitir. It seems like they're trying to imply that it's just one itty bitty cross in the great big desert! So who cares?(3)And so this memorial, dedicated to those who fought tyranny and oppression, is covered in wood simply because the monument takes the shape of a cross. Emotional appeal.(3)This case is part of a growing pattern.Slippery slope.(4)Just four years ago, the State of Texas faced a similar legal assault.Unnecessarily framing the issue in combative terms.(5)Yet much more is at stake in this case than a single memorial in a California desertSlippery slope.(6)If the Supreme Court allows this memorial to be destroyed, if the ACLU prevails and the image of a cross can never be allowed on public land, it could presage the destruction of thousands of similar monuments and memorials nationwideSlippery slope #3…gosh I can hardly stand it's so slick.(7)They deserve our honor and admiration — not a plywood sheath marring their memory. Emotional appeal.(8)They deserve our honor and admiration — not a plywood sheath marring their memory. Sorry, dunno what to call this one other than baseless bullshit.(9)including members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, American Ex-Prisoners of War and veterans across the nationI would almost say that this constant mention of veterans and how honorable they are is an argument from authority fallacy. Being a veteran doesn't make you a better judge of constitutionality/church-state issues. Yes, you should be honored for your service, but it doesn't give your arguments any more credibility and it doesn't mean that just mentioning veterans gives your argument more validity.

  3. says

    Here's what I have1) Red herring – "From the first musket shots at Lexington and Concord, American patriots have fought to defend liberty."2) Equivocation – "And yet Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Salazar v. Buono on whether a 75-year-old veterans' memorial in the Mojave Desert should be destroyed." – 3) Straw man – "It claimed that the cross's presence within the 1.6 million acre Mojave Desert violated the people's right to avoid religious symbols."4) Factual inaccuracy – "1.6 million acre Mojave Desert" (it's ~14 million acres)5) Factual inaccuracy – "dedicated to those who fought tyranny and oppression" This was from World War I, which had little or nothing to do with tyrrany or oppression6) Factual inaccuracy – "This case is part of a growing pattern. Like lawsuits seeking to strike down the Pledge of Allegiance or to remove "In God we trust" from our currency, the ACLU's lawsuit is based on a profound misconception of our Constitution."7) Straw man – "nothing in the Constitution compels government hostility to God or religious faith."8) Straw man – "The Constitution protects our religious liberty; it does not demand that we scour the public square to remove any reference to the Almighty."9) Straw man – "They deserve our honor and admiration"10) Red herring, weasel words – "Many of these veterans are touring the country to protect the memorial."11) Red herring – "No decision of the Supreme Court has ever suggested that those hallowed memorials are unconstitutional." (the US supreme court has never heard a case on the removal of a public religious monument)That reads like something by Ray Comfort. You can't even make it through a sentence without something being off-topic, misleading or just wrong.

  4. says

    Couldn't they just change the memorial from being shaped like a cross, which is a religious symbol, to another shape that isn't a religious symbol? What am I missing here?

  5. says

    @BberrymanDon't you have any respect for the way they originally constructed it?To tell you the truth I'm with the veterans here. If say they were just building a new cross for the purpose of promoting religion then I would be against it. But this is a old relic constructed to honor those veterans. It should stay.

  6. says

    I haven't had a chance to read the article yet, I just wanted to say I always thought Highlights was boring. I would go for the Reader's Digest instead.

  7. says

    I don't really know enough about the cross to have an opinion on it. Is it actually a memorial? Does it have peoples names on it and such? If so, why did they choose a cross in the first place? I'm not necessarily against it at this stage.

  8. says

    It's a long story of how that cross came to be an issue, but part of the problem is that back in the 90's a Buddhist group sought permission to construct a memorial as well and they were flatly denied. Which is another problem with the article – he's suggesting it's atheists bringing this case, it's Buddhists (who may or may not be atheists, but I'm sure he doesn't know that).

  9. says

    Logical fallacies in the following article:http://www.statesman.com/opinion/content/editorial/stories/2009/10/08/1008monument_edit.htmlPart 1 of 2 (too long for the comment box)1. Argument from blatant lie: The article repeatedly states that there is a lawsuit with the goal of destroying a monument. Although I haven't read anything about the case, I'm certain the plaintiffs would be satisfied with it being removed from public property. There is no need to destroy it.2. Irrellevant argument from scale: They say that a single cross in a 1.6 million acre desert is violating rights, as though such an insignificant percentage must surely be incapable of causing harm.3. Argument from false coincidence: The cross is covered "simply because the monument takes the shape of a cross." No, because it *is* a cross — blatantly religious symbol of a specific religion in the cemetery honoring the heroes of a secular nation.4. Argument from blatant lie: They claim that there are lawsuits to "strike down the pledge of allegiance." It's impossible to justify that statement, considering that the lawsuits seek only to remove words which were added very recently, and leave the rest alone.5. Non-sequitur: "Nothing in the Constitution compels government hostility to God or religious faith." That is true, but it explicitly doesn't allow government support, which is what we are talking about.6. Use of loaded phrasing: "An atheist" filed a lawsuit to remove a monument of the ten commandments from government property. It doesn't matter who filed it. It's a question of law, which is agnostic.7. Argument from antiquity: The aforementioned lawsuit was about a monument that had stood for "more than four decades." So? We had slavery in the US for longer than that. Length of time doesn't make something good.8. Argument from authority: "Attorney General Greg Abbott argued the case himself," implying that the case had more merit because of who supported it.

  10. says

    Part 2 of 29. Argument from poor math: They declared the "5-4" victory of a case a "landmark" victory, as though something definitive had been decided. It was as close as it could be without them losing.10. Argument from false analogy: The "landmark" victory "should be the model" for resolving the current dispute. Why?11. Slippery slope (and incendiary lies): If this monument is removed, the the ACLU will see to it that no cross can be displayed on any public land, and it will directly result in the destruction of thousands of other memorials. Also, this is intended to get Christians up in arms about somehow being marginalized in society.12. Non-sequitur: "That is not what our Constitution requires," regarding the removal of "any reference to the Almighty." The establishment clause prohibits the promotion of "the Almighty," because that is clearly in support of a some religions over others (monotheistic over polytheistic), if not a specific religion (Christianity).13. Argument from blatant lie: Covering a cross is said to literally mar the memory of our fallen heroes. Nope, there's not even a logical connection there.14. Argument from emotional appeal: Veterans (whom we all respect) are becoming active to defend the unconstitutional memorial, and one claimed that they are fighting to "keep that little bit of hope standing." The loss to those heroes, their families, and our country is great. However, the cross in no way symbolizes any rational hope. Leaving it there will not bring them back, or remove any injustice from the world which might save another life. It's just a religious symbol. I'd prefer that the hope that is able to remain is the hope that our honored dead are not labeled by others who have come after them as belonging to a divisive, damaging, intolerant religion that they might not have actually subscribed to.15. Non-sequitur: The caretakers of the memorial for the last 25 years say that it is important for the memorial to remain because they appreciate what was done by the veterans. Perfect definition of non-sequitur.16. Argument from willful ignorance and self-deception: "These memorials embody the very best traditions of our nation and our Constitution." Nope, sorry. They symbolize the religion responsible for the acceptance of slavery in this country, as well as the murder of many women for witchcraft (which does not exist), and the deaths of millions in religious wars over whose "god of peace" was more badass.17. Argument from absence of evidence: "No decision of the Supreme Court has ever suggested that those hallowed memorials are unconstitutional." The implication is that, if it has not done so, then it can never do so. Not a logically sound argument, even if it's true.

  11. says

    I messed up. The earlier incident did involve Buddhists, but the case is being brought up by a Catholic who objected to there being a specific religious symbol on public land.My bad. Sorry.

  12. says

    Don't you have any respect for the way they originally constructed it?To tell you the truth I'm with the veterans here. If say they were just building a new cross for the purpose of promoting religion then I would be against it. But this is a old relic constructed to honor those veterans. It should stay."What a surprise!The cross is disrespectful of non-Christian vets. It's like putting up a memorial to those who suffered for equal rights shaped like a giant Caucasian head.plus you know, all that is a red herring to the real issue: The monument was put up illegally and only allowed because it was christian. The purpose of the memorial doesn't matter it was allowed due to religious bias.

  13. says

    About the opinion piece, I will not comment it because others have pretty much spot the Strawman there. I will however mention that, if I am not mistaken, the many "monuments aux morts" in France don't have religious symbols on them. France, like the USA, is a secular republic and does not promote any particular religion. This policy, I think, should be applied in the US in such cases. A proper monument to the veterans who died in past wars should have an American flag or such similar secular symbol. They died for their country, not for any God. Heck, during WWI and WWII they were fighting Christian nations that believed their leaders had divine right!

  14. says

    Ing to tell you the truth and I wouldn't mind if someone put up a memorial to those people who fought for equal rights like a caucasian head.Everyone know that if there was a head in there it would represent everyone who fought. That's like saying that if they constructed a memorial with pictures of black people , it is disrespectful for all the whites who wanted equal rights. Everone knows that this memorial would represent everyone.I found this article on snopeshttp://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/mojave.aspApparently it was not originally one federal land , but when the government came into possession of it , the ACLU wanted it destroyed. The government had the land surrounding the memorial transferred to the a veteran's organisation so they could do what they wanted with the memorial. However the ACLU still thinks this is unfair.

  15. says

    Yes it's unfair because they're selling off public property to show favoritism to religions. A similar Buddhist memorial would not get this treatment.If the gov just wanted to let it stand that would be fine, but they made laws to show favoritism to Christianity in regards to the cross and are going out of their way to accommodate it. Letting it stand as a relic of the first world war is fine…but the original relic was destroyed and the current one was built when the land was owned by the government by a private group without permission…that's the problem. The original monument if it still existed should be preserved for historical reasons. The current one is being preserved for religious reasons.

  16. says

    If anything I think a good compromise would be the US government erecting an official secular monument to replace this one with a historical replica of the original one to the side of the site as well.

  17. says

    This kind of reminds me of a case in Holland. A man had written "Jesus saves" on his rooftop, large enough so it could be seen from the nearby highway. He was asked to remove it, and he fought against it in the name of religious freedom. But that isn't the issue at all.The Dutch judge agreed with the government; anything with letters of that size could only be errected after getting a permit from the local government. If it follows certain criteria, then it is allowed (one of the criteria being that there aren't a lot of signs already by the side of the road; these rules were made to keep drivers from getting too distracted).Not that we're perfect; I can think of two signs nearby with religious texts that have been allowed: "Believing in Jezus means living for eternity." and another example of religious propaganda.Though I don't know the details of the cross memorial, I'm sure there are similar considerations. I still don't think though that it should be removed. It's been 25 years, which basically means that the people who objected have pretty much accepted it by now, and that removing it will only result in a lot of grieve. We should focuss our efforts on religious monuments being placed TODAY.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>