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  1. says

    Why can’t we just let people believe what they want to believe?

    You have conservative beliefs, so you vote for the candidate for congress that best aligns with your beliefs. That candidate wins, and based on those beliefs, enacts legislation to disenfranchise minority voters, eliminate women’s bodily rights, dissolve the capacity to form unions and fight for worker’s rights, and dissolve the EPA, which is the only thing standing between us and a devastated environment.

    Your beliefs matter. They affect us all.

  2. Monocle Smile says

    To the guy who called about the Cosmological Argument:

    William Lane Craig and other Kalam proponents DO NOT, in ANY way, shape or form, use physics or astronomy to back up their argument. In fact, they deliberately rely on complete ignorance of those topics to even make their argument. Kalam uses language unfit for discussing physics, and this is intentional.

    Don’t be fooled. Craig is a ten-gallon hat on a one-quart head. His arguments sound compelling on the surface and he’s articulate, but it’s all a smokescreen. It’s not just “don’t look at the man behind the curtain.” There IS no man behind the curtain…just an empty box.

  3. Corwyn111 says

    Why can’t we just let people believe what they want to believe?

    How is this anything but a tacit admission that their beliefs are false, and they know it?

    My answer is (to paraphrase Matt): “Not only am I better off believing as many true things, and a few false things as possible, I am also better off if you believe as many true things, and a few false things as possible.”

  4. adamah says

    Re: the 1st caller.

    Matt, you’re an idiot, and here’s why:

    1) ad homs are all comments directed against the PERSON, and not addressing their ARGUMENT.

    Thus, personal insults are ALWAYS considered as ‘ad homs (abusive)’, where the conclusion always is ‘baked into the cake’ that the audience should reject their position.

    So there’s no distinction between a personal insult vs an ‘ad hom’ argument.

    2) Like all logical fallacies, the ‘ad hom FALLACY’ is an error in reasoning committed by the LISTENER when he accepts the potentially-false conclusion for a bad reason, namely falling for the persuasive use of an ‘ad hom ARGUMENT’ delivered by the speaker.

    The speaker in fact may genuinely believe his ad hom argument is perfectly true and/or justified, or he may realize it’s a ‘foul’ or a lie.

    Either way, his motives for delivering it don’t matter one bit, since whether the speaker is himself a victim of another’s fallacious argument and is merely propagating the error is irrelevant, since it’s a violation to the principles of debating, any way you cut it, relying on irrelevant information.

    As John stated, there’s a subtle but important difference between saying the PERSON is idiotic, and their ARGUMENT is idiotic. One is verboten, whereas the latter is allowed.

    As Matt always says, ‘the one making the claim bears the burden of proof’.

    Well, heres a prime example of it, since in the case of saying their ARGUMENT is idiotic, you can proceed to refute it, in fact bearing the burden to do so to support the claim.

    If you say the PERSON is an idiot, then you simply cannot logically “connect the dots” without having the person take an IQ test, etc.

    And even putting the PERSONAL (and hence verboten) nature of the comment aside from my first point aside, it’s a very-broad claim which requires more than the results from a single debate to prove.

    (Which is also illogical: since points aren’t tallied in scored formal debates until it’s over, how can you use their poor performance while the debate is still ongoing? Talk about assuming!)

    At this point, Matt surely would agree that since he didn’t understand these points, we should now conclude that Matt is an idiot?

    Of course not, since I didn’t “connect the dots” sufficiently to prove my over-reaching claim (that Matt is an idiot).

    I could’ve said something more reasonable like, “Matt, your understand of ad homs is wrong, and here’s why….”, since I think I proved THAT.

    But however you cut it, Matt, you’re still a farkin’ idiot in my eyes, no matter what anyone else says, so take THAT and nanner-nanner!

    ;)

    Agape,

    Adam

  5. Monocle Smile says

    Thus, personal insults are ALWAYS considered as ‘ad homs (abusive)’, where the conclusion always is ‘baked into the cake’ that the audience should reject their position.

    You consistently get this wrong, adam. You’ve been corrected on this countless times. When an insult is hurled, there IS NO automatic implication that the “audience” should reject their argument (or all of their arguments), ESPECIALLY when the rational explanation for why their argument fails follows.

    So please stop being dishonest about this. Not that you actually will.

  6. says

    Hi, I’m the original first caller. I understood when Matt said that it’s important for the audience to hear and empathetically react to a person being called an idiot. However, I also agree with Matt when he said it’s not necessarily the preferred method. It’s just one man’s opinion, but I still think the downside is greater than the upside. You don’t want the audience thinking you’re not skilled or knowledgeable enough to keep pushing forward in the argument. Then again, I didn’t think there was any upside at all until Matt explained it. So at least there’s that.

  7. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    But however you cut it, Matt, you’re still a farkin’ idiot in my eyes, no matter what anyone else says, so take THAT and nanner-nanner!

    Hypocrite to boot. This is basically naked trolling.

  8. adamah says

    MS’ silly attempts at ‘well-poisoning’ snipped out (ironic to have to do that, esp on this topic, no?).

    MS said-

    When an insult is hurled, there IS NO automatic implication that the “audience” should reject their argument (or all of their arguments), ESPECIALLY when the rational explanation for why their argument fails follows.

    So how would you suggest it be rephrased? I’m open to suggestions….

    Let’s back up and ask a few questions.

    1) MS, what IS the purpose of a debate?

    2) What purpose does a moderator serve in a formal debate?

    3) In a debate competition, what role do the judges serve?

    4) Why are insults ALWAYS considered as ad hom attacks, and should be dismissed as “fouls”?

    5) Is the purpose of a debate simply to serve as a platform for two teams to hurl personal insults at one other?

    Maybe that flies if you participated on the debating team at ‘Jerry Springer University’ (Trenton, NJ), but it doesn’t fly in formal debates, esp if the team wants to win gold trophies!

    Think for a moment, MS:

    A person wouldn’t hurl an ad hom at an opponent (“you’re an idiot!”) and then finish it off with, “therefore we should ACCEPT his position!”

    That’s preposterous.

    That’s WHY the implication is baked in, and insults are disallowed.

    If a quick insult slips out, it certainly doesn’t earn any points with judges, since as I said above, separate claims require supportive evidence OF THEIR OWN.

    Granted, to treat an insult (“you’re an idiot!”) as if it were a factual claim (when it’s CLEARLY an insult) is absurd: that’s why it’s disallowed and considered as a ad hom fallacy (whether committing it, or accepting it).

    My point was to demonstrate that IT COULD be taken seriously, but the moderator wouldn’t allow an irrelevancy to bog the debate down so it’s often dismissed as irrelevant to the ACTUAL TOPIC UNDER DEBATE.

    MS, I’m not going to publicly humiliate you by asking if you’ve EVER debated on a team, much less served as an adjudicator in a scholastic competition.

    Have you even SEEN a ‘debate scoring rubric/sheet’ before? If you’d actually have debated on a team, you’d likely understand the criteria your performance was graded upon.

    Here’s only one example:

    http://course1.winona.edu/shatfield/air/classdebate.pdf

    In this particular scoring system, the first category you’re graded on is “Respect for Other Team”, based on respect of statements, body language. A score of 3 is given for one sarcastic remark, and 2 for “some”. Abusive ad homs will earn the entire team a score of 1, even if only one member of the team is guilty.

    Other grading sheets have a category for “respect shown throughout the debate for the opposing team (no name calling, interruptions, etc).”

    MS, why are you even trying to defend the indefensible, as if you’re looking for excuses to insult others, and I’m spoiling your good fun?

    Adam

  9. Monocle Smile says

    For the record, there’s been perhaps TWO “debates” on AXP, and my comment wasn’t about debate. I really don’t give a shit about debates or debate etiquette. Neither are relevant. But of course, in typical adam fashion, you need to spin wildly off into irrelevancy because you’re desperate to be “right,” even if it’s in your own fucked-up mind. For now, I’m merely humoring you because I’m interested in how fractally wrong you can get.

    1) MS, what IS the purpose of a debate?

    Ego-stroking, mostly. I guess it can serve as a vehicle to broadcast ideas.

    2) What purpose does a moderator serve in a formal debate?

    To look pretty? I’ve never seen a moderator do anything of substance before. They don’t call fouls on blatant lies, so they’re mostly useless statues.

    3) In a debate competition, what role do the judges serve?

    Ego-stroking by proxy.

    4) Why are insults ALWAYS considered as ad hom attacks, and should be dismissed as “fouls”?

    To maintain a false sense of “decorum.” It’s the same reason the religious prize “politeness” over honesty or integrity.

    5) Is the purpose of a debate simply to serve as a platform for two teams to hurl personal insults at one other?

    Yes, though in rich-white-guy fashion where nobody comes out and just flat-out insults someone.

    MS, I’m not going to publicly humiliate you by asking if you’ve EVER debated on a team, much less served as an adjudicator in a scholastic competition.

    And I’m not going to humiliate you by asking if your dissertation is about the multiple methods of underwater basket-weaving, because we both know the answer to that.

    Do you EVER tire of being a pompous asshole for no particular reason?

    MS, why are you even trying to defend the indefensible

    It’s not indefensible. Notice the amount of mental gymnastics you had to pull to make yourself appear “right.” This is the equivalent of me returning a hard shove in the bar with a jab to the face, then you screaming “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH THAT’S NOT ALLOWED IN FOOTBALL” and declaring me wrong because of it.

  10. adamah says

    Ooohhh, that gratuitous use of sarcasm is defo going to earn your team a score of 1. ;)

    That reminds me: was it you who mentioned going to a school where your fellow alums were Anne Coulter, the Unibomber, and Rush Limbaugh?

    Wouldn’t THAT make the “dream team” of debating, where MS could let the insults and expletives fly, and the Unibomber could detonate a package as the closing statement. ;)

  11. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Adam
    Ooh, ooh, I can play this game. I was on my school’s debate team for 4 years, president my senior year. I have participated in many policy debates and judged many policy debates. You are wrong about the definition and usage of ad hominem. The rules of a formal policy debate have nothing to do with real-world etiquette.

    Also, coming as someone who was a serious scholastic debater for years, it’s fucking stupid shit. I quit for a reason. Scholastic debate has nothing to do with learning, improving yourself, honesty, or truth. Instead, it’s a game. It’s a game about scoring points, looking good, ego-wanking, and winning. Truth does not come into it.

    So, you can take your formal policy debate, and shove it up your arse.

  12. Mas says

    “Why can’t we just let people believe what they want to believe?”

    I’ve only listened to this episode once, but as I heard the response, I felt that Matt erroneously took her question to mean “why have an anti-theist talk show?” when she really meant “why do other people care so much about my non-belief?” in her military context.
    Doesn’t matter much, but the latter question is less common than the first one, which has been asked and answered dozens of times over the years.

    PS give Adam what he wants, i.e., a banning.

  13. Oz 3 says

    She also repeated an oft cited, and incorrect meme about Atheism, implying that they ‘don’t believe in anything’, which Matt and John let go, I think deliberately to allow the conversation to progress.

  14. says

    I kind of go back and forth on it… I’ve met many atheists who think “belief” is equivalent to “faith”… they’ll say, “I don’t BELIEVE that evolution is true… I accept that it’s true.“, even though the two statements are technically synonyms.

    So when they say “Atheists don’t believe in anything”, they could be saying “Atheists have no faith”, which I’d agree with… or they could be just sloppily saying “Atheists don’t believe in anything supernatural“, which I’d agree with.

    My only concern is that with enough of this sloppy language, that becomes fodder for theists to claim that we’re nihilists, based on incorrect interpretation of what these people are saying.

    … but I don’t think people like the caller are literally saying that atheists don’t accept any claims as true… because that’d be a silly position to have.

  15. says

    Correction – I think they’d say “I don’t believe THAT evolution…” instead of “I don’t believe IN evolution”… as subtle a difference as it is.

  16. Mas says

    When an atheist uses the phrase “don’t believe in anything,” it’s safe to say she means “don’t believe in metaphysical bullshit.” The caller identified as atheist.

  17. adamah says

    EL said-

    Hypocrite to boot. This is basically naked trolling.

    Note the smiley: it’s there precisely to indicate my awareness of the apparent hypocrisy (just like Matt called the caller an idiot; it’s called “humor”).

    At any rate, EL, thank you for volunteering to confirm my point, since apparently you agree insulting others constitutes ‘trolling’ (i.e. seeking to elicit an emotional response from others).

    That’s quite a dilemma you now find yourself in, huh?

    Which is more important: accusing me of trolling and hence agreeing with me that insults are verboten, or retracting your accusation so you can agree with Matt’s position that it’s OK to insult?

    Anyway, insulting (and trolling) are anathema to rationalists, since they both rely on a fallacious ‘appeal to emotion’, not reason and logic.

    They’re verboten, NOT because they’re rude, impolite, etc, but they’re ‘appeals to emotions': also, such personal comments commit the ‘fallacy of irrelevancy’.

    Oh, I see you added this:

    Also, coming as someone who was a serious scholastic debater for years, it’s fucking stupid shit. I quit for a reason. Scholastic debate has nothing to do with learning, improving yourself, honesty, or truth. Instead, it’s a game. It’s a game about scoring points, looking good, ego-wanking, and winning. Truth does not come into it.

    So, you can take your formal policy debate, and shove it up your arse.

    Make up your mind, EL.

    In your 1st post you accuse me of trolling by insulting Matt, hence relying on definitions of fallacies accepted in debating.

    But in your 2nd post, you deprecate the same principles you relied upon in your 1st post to accuse me of trolling by insulting Matt.

    So which it: your position in post 1, or post 2?

    I’m beginning to suspect a likely reason why you weren’t exactly cut out for debating: your seeming inability to develop a consistent argument.

    And with that comment, you NOW can justly accuse me of being a hypocrite: whether it’s factually-true or not, I directed my comments against YOU, and NOT your ARGUMENT.

    See the difference?

    Some might now even conclude that you ARE an idiot, on the basis of what you said. I wouldn’t go THAT far: I’d need to see some IQ test results before making that assessment.

    ;)

    Adam

  18. Monocle Smile says

    Fuck, adam. It’s like you WANT someone to put you out of your misery. You’ve become steadily more unraveled with each thread (pun partially intended).

  19. Frank G. Turner says

    I kind of go back and forth on it… I’ve met many atheists who think “belief” is equivalent to “faith”… they’ll say, “I don’t BELIEVE that evolution is true… I accept that it’s true.“, even though the two statements are technically synonyms.
    .
    One of the difficulties here is something that Matt has talked about on TAE before. Language is not static, words have meaning by consensus. The word “belief” is a synonym for “faith” because they have similar meanings, but they do not have measurably identical meanings. Peter Boghossian in “A Manual for Creating Atheists” talks about the word “faith” as “pretending to know something that you don’t know.” We don’t need to pretend to know something when we have evidence of it, so in that regard we don’t need faith if we have evidence (a seed I have tried to plant in many a creationist’s mind). Yet many a creationist will remark that we have “faith” because we have “faith” that the sun will rise tomorrow, obviously NOT using the word “faith” in the sense that Boghossian proposes. What they really mean is we have “confidence” that the sun will rise tomorrow. I would propose that a lack of understanding that while “confidence” and “faith” are synonyms that they don’t have identical meanings is what leads to that type of reasoning.
    .
    Using the current Webster’s dictionary textbook definitions of “believe” and “accept,” I personally believe and accept that evolution occurred and is still occurring. Using Boghossian’s definition of “faith,” I do not have “faith” that evolution occurred because we actually have evidence of evolution occurring, so I have no need of pretending to know something that I don’t know. I admit that I don’t know everything about evolution as I am not a paleontologist or an evolutionary biologist, I am a chemist. However, I do have enough knowledge and training in biology to make what I think to be an informed statement.
    .
    If language WERE static and words did maintain a perfectly uniform meaning without changing over time, we could get a WHOLE LOT of things cleared up quickly. Tone would not be an issue, context would not be an issue, etc. There would be no such thing as “sloppy language” or subjectivity to interpretation. I have met PLENTY of people who fail to see how language and its usage change over time, these are not surprisingly often creationists who fail to see how evolution changes things over time. Of course as evolution might suggest there are also varying degrees of capacity to recognize how language changes over time (“drift” so to speak).

  20. adamah says

    Andy said-

    Hi, I’m the original first caller. I understood when Matt said that it’s important for the audience to hear and empathetically react to a person being called an idiot. However, I also agree with Matt when he said it’s not necessarily the preferred method. It’s just one man’s opinion, but I still think the downside is greater than the upside. You don’t want the audience thinking you’re not skilled or knowledgeable enough to keep pushing forward in the argument. Then again, I didn’t think there was any upside at all until Matt explained it. So at least there’s that.

    Andy, welcome aboard! Thanks for bringing the topic up with your call.

    Even setting aside the first hurdle (i.e. a personal insult is by definition considered an ad hom, and is verboten whether called an argument or attack), how is Matt’s justification for insulting others any different from committing the fallacious ‘appeal to ridicule’, argumentum by bullying?

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_ridicule

    He said his purpose in mocking the person (and hence by extension, his argument) was to make an example out of him, intimidating others from daring to voice similar thoughts out of fear of being publicly humiliated (presumably by another ad hom-spouting atheist).

    Problem is, Matt’s dealt with enough believers to know about the notorious Xian ‘persecution complex’, an emotional defense-mechanism with a hair-trigger which turns off all rational thinking once it kicks in.

    If the purpose of insults is to drive the beliefs underground, it’s a great at way to do it. However, Matt knows history enough to know that religious beliefs FLOURISH under conditions of persecution; Xians are even willing to DIE for their faith, if given the opportunity!

    So if the purpose is to actually change viewers minds, raising the emotions on volume is shooting oneself in the foot by handing believers the very excuse they’re looking for to use it as a pretense to take offense (and it’s no pretense: an insult legitimately IS valid reason for people to tune us out).

    On the other hand, if one’s goal is to feed one’s own ego and tell ourselves how smart we are for being atheists, it’s pretty good for doing that!

    (It’s almost like some atheists have adopted their own rules, eg the ‘Dilahunty fallacy’, where the ‘winner’ feels entitled to a deliver ‘death blow ad hom’ after sufficiently weakening their opponent. is this a game of Mortal Kombat, where a disembodied voice appears to say, “Finish him off with a crushing insult to make an example of him to the others!!”?)

    As the Bible says, “Keep your eye on the prize”. And what’s the “prize” for atheists?

    If it’s promoting rational thought over faith, then only a fool would insist on their right to intentionally trigger believers’ faith-protecting defense mechanisms using ham-fisted insults, when believers are already on high-alert and scanning for any signs of eminent attack.

    We can (and should) be smarter, more strategic, than that.

    On the other hand, I also think there’s room for ‘variations on the theme’ when it comes to tactical implementation of strategy, and hence ‘it’s different strokes for different folks’.

    And in the end, it’s not like anyone can force even the most hard-core self-identified rationalist to see that what they do is irrational; it’s an exercise in futility to believe otherwise, since most people will only believe in what that WANT to believe, a will make many clever excuses fi defend their irrationality.

    BTW, here’s another person vehemently defending his right to insult others (and if you’re bored, count the # of times he says ‘fuck’ or ‘idiot’):

    http://physioprof.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/appeal-to-ridicule-and-ad-hominem/

    That’s hardly a compelling argument to anyone who’s persuaded by rational arguments, and not swayed by their own emotions and biases.

    Adam

  21. Conversion Tube says

    Yes they prepare a logical argument about space, time, before, after and argue like we may that since we know all this info about the big band and our existence being after that nothing existed. The spend lots of time explaining this point. Then they special plead a god right out their ass and say “Oh but this guy over here, he can exist. He gets to break all these logical rules we just explained because ……well, we say so, that’s why.

  22. adamah says

    Heicart said-

    MS: For a few months I thought it was just me. But I see others have observed this as well.

    Welcome back, Heicart.

    Would you care to actually challenge the substance of my argument, rather than simply relying on MS’s non-sequitorial comment which is speculative on motives?

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_motive

    Heicart, if you detect any fallacious or erroneous thinking in MY argument, then by all means, do us all a favor and please point them out.

    As a rationalist, I don’t want to be wrong any longer than necessary, and don’t want to propagate such errors in logic to others.

  23. Monocle Smile says

    Narf was right the first time. Now I feel dumb for not taking the “fuck this” route along with him.

    adam, you’re not a rationalist. You exhibit narcissistic tendencies, you’re excessively melodramatic, and you’re a giant douche. It’s gotten worse and worse since you started posting. I don’t even know how to deal with your inanity anymore, since you’ll just fly into an Oscar-worthy performance of mock indignation at the drop of a hat and refuse to have a real discussion.

  24. Conversion Tube says

    One point Matt and John did not bring up with her that I know they would have said or have said in other arguments. Her fiance wants her to change her dof tag and she doesn’t see why it’s important.

    If she died and a priest was required to do duties and a religious funeral occurred it means she is accepting or supporting their religion and dogma. Others who come to the funeral need to submit their time listening to the priest speak about bullshit. It reinforces their ideology as acceptable in society, if not only passively.

    The very least you should do as an Atheist is to ensure at your funeral that no religious bullshit is spoken. My father in law quoted the bible for a good 10 minutes during his speech at my wedding. If I die young, he will not be doing it at my funeral.

  25. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    At any rate, EL, thank you for volunteering to confirm my point, since apparently you agree insulting others constitutes ‘trolling’ (i.e. seeking to elicit an emotional response from others).

    Uh, no. I said that being nakedly hypocritical is a good indicator of trolling.

  26. Frank G. Turner says

    Oh what a paradise it would be if we could just turn off the more extreme attributes of our emotions and just leave them off, with a bit of programming left in to keep us from going bonkers with each other (i.e.: leave the secular morality on, just leave feelings out of it).
    .
    Adam I would really like to make a comment about the substance of your argument, but I am not even sure what the argument is anymore. Could I request that you filter emotion out of it because I can’t filter out the substance of the argument.
    .
    To make an analogy, this is kind of like listening to Craig and all of his lofty language and use of buzz words, except that afterwards I can filter through some of his crap (at least in written form) and figure out that he has basically said nothing and is just trying to appeal to emotion.
    .
    I get that you are not just trying to appeal to emotion, but I need some of the passion filtered out of what you are saying and the technicalities left behind. I can’t get to the meat of what you are saying. I can’t see past the passion to understand the technicalities. I would really like to. Unlike the others I don’t consider the passion rude or insulting, I just can’t see past it.
    .
    And why didn’t you respond to my comments on the other board?

  27. says

    Thanks for the analysis of person who was being called “mean” by commenters. As you said, “he won”. I’ve had that happen in face to face discussions and I always react to it, which is just playing into their hand. Seems obvious now that sticking to your logic and staying focused on the discussion is a much better strategy. It’s basically a reason for the entire development of the scientific method. We don’t need to get emotional and rely on unsubstantiated facts about ancient scriptures. We can look at the problem rationally and acknowledge each other’s strengths weaknesses. When you stop doing that, you lose.

  28. adamah says

    EL said-

    Uh, no. I said that being nakedly hypocritical is a good indicator of trolling.

    Uh, nope, unless one is prone to excluding all other alternatives.

    So even if someone were to ignore the clues I gave pointing to attempted humor (e.g. the winkie, ‘agape’ sign-off), you’re still miles away from being able to conclude that it’s evidence of hypocrisy (much less “naked hypocrisy”, whatever THAT means).

    Why not?

    For one, the person would have to be ignorant that the ‘appearance of hypocrisy’ actually IS a valid strategy used when presenting arguments. In fact, it’s the very basis for ‘Euthyphro Dilemma’, the strategy where a debater tentatively-accepts their opponent’s position which they don’t agree with (in this case, Matt’s claim that insults are not fallacies) in order to demonstrate the logical inconsistencies and undesirable outcome of adopting such a position.

    So damned straight, I used an ‘ad hom (personal attack)’ within my post to accentuate the irrational nature of Matt’s position.

    But even if we put that one aside, you’d still need to explain how my valid use of ‘apparent hypocrisy’ constitutes me attempting the ACTUAL fallacy of hypocrisy, the ‘appeal to hypocrisy’ (AKA tu quoque):

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque

    Read carefully, as you committed the fallacy by pointing out what you thought was MY hypocrisy.

    As the article explains:

    “It is a special case of ad hominem fallacy, which is a category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of fact about the person presenting or supporting the claim or argument.[3] To clarify, although the person being attacked might indeed be acting inconsistently or hypocritically, such behavior does not invalidate the position presented.”

    Your hypocrisy accusation thus fails, and ironically backfires: you committed it, not me….

    And for the record, you’re still light-years away from proving your “trolling” accusation (which smells ALOT like project, at this point).

    Must I point out that insulting others wouldn’t even be an offense in your book of misconstrued fallacies, since aren’t you the one arguing for the right to deliver needlessly-inflammatory insults to others to elicit an emotional response, aka trolling?

    Please get the oh-so-many logical inconsistencies worked out of your position, since as if stands, it’s a Gordian Knot in need of serious over-haul and untangling.

  29. Frank G. Turner says

    Ok adam, I looked at what you read a bit and read some of your subsequent post and I think that you are starting to at least get through to me. I can understand others not egtting it though as this does sound emotional and while I don’t want to tone troll, it is obvious that without emotional filters that others are not getting it (including me). I think that I am starting to understand your argument, a bit. I have some questions though.
    .
    While I agree that this is meant to be about getting a point across and not tone trolling, isn’t audience consideration suppossed to be taken into account? If your audience is struggling to understand due to emotional overtone, wouldn’t it make sense ot be more cautious about tone in order to help them to understand?
    .
    I can tell you right now it took me a lot of patience reading through your posts everal times to get what you are saying. This is patience that a lof of people would not have. I basically agree with you and think that you have something valuable to say, but it takes a LOT of sifting through what you have to say to understand it.
    .
    For example, Thus, personal insults are ALWAYS considered as ‘ad homs (abusive)’, where the conclusion always is ‘baked into the cake’ that the audience should reject their position.

    So there’s no distinction between a personal insult vs an ‘ad hom’ argument.

    .
    Is the conclusion always baked into the cake that the audience shoudl reject the position after a personal insult? Is that something that you are saying happens in general or can you think of no way in which this is not the case?
    .
    Honestly I have read you through a few times and I still just don’t get you in general. I get a few points. It is not that I don’t understand the words I just don’t understand how you are putting your ideas together. I am trying I really am. I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt but it sounds like a lot of people are not.
    .
    Some of your points do make sense.

  30. adamah says

    Frank, I agree, my post could use some editing, since I didn’t organize it as well as I probably should’ve, leaving some details out by assuming readers had familiarity with the subject.

    I clearly needed to provide a bit more background information to show why the claim “insults are not fallacies” is itself fallacious, for a number of different reasons.

    I wrote this before I saw your message, but please try the following explanation on for size, pointing out any logical inconsistencies or factual errors you see.

    ####

    First off, it’s no accident that the word ‘FALLACY’ and ‘FALSE’ are similar, since both are derived from the same Latin root, suggesting any factor that contributes to making a possible error in REASONING (vs relying on bad FACTS, i.e. faulty premises) to arrive at a wrong conclusion.

    http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/fallacy/fallacy.php

    Fallacies (errors in reasoning) can be committed by the speaker, the listener, or BOTH.

    The wise Homer Simpson actually put it well, using lies as his subject:

    “It takes two people to lie: one person to tell it, and the other to believe it.”

    Similarly, it takes two people to commit an ‘ad hom fallacy': one to tell it (whether they believe it or not is irrelevant), and the other to accept it. Both are guilty of fallacious reasoning.

    A personal insult is ALWAYS considered as an ‘ad hom (abusive)’ fallacy, a comment directed against the PERSON, and not their position or argument. A personal insult is synonymous with ‘ad hom ATTACK’.

    Such comments constitute a potential source of fallacious reasoning and are verboten, as are all other fallacies, constituting violations of the principles of critical thinking.

    As a premise, personal insults are flawed from the start, being a disputable OPINION, and not a factually-true FACT.

    And it’s NOT because such comments are rude (using words Ms. Manners wouldn’t approve of), or might hurt the opponents peelings, etc, but because ad homs commit multiple logical fallacies, including:

    1) ‘fallacy of relevance’, being information that’s irrelevant to the topic under discussion (note that special exceptions exist, eg when a lawyer is cross-examining a witness who gives testimony, etc).

    2) ‘appeal to emotions’ (a problem which should be self-evident, esp in light of RD’s series of tweets which demonstrated the deleterious effects of emotions on rational thinking).

    (There’s many more applicable possible fallacies, depending on the insult.)

    And if a personal insult is dressed up in the form of an ARGUMENT (where the insult serves as the questionable premise), then it’s transformed into a fallacious ‘ad hom ARGUMENT’.

    There’s a persistent urban-legend found online (perpetuated by AXP and FTB blogger named ‘Lousy Canuck’) that only ‘ad hom ARGUMENTS’ rise to the level of constituting fallacies, where straight insults are A-OK, just as long as a conclusion isn’t explicitly stated.

    There’s TWO MAJOR problems with that line of reasoning:

    1) As explained above, the category of fallacies is much broader than just ‘ad hom ARGUMENTS'; there’s ‘ad hom (abusive)’, too, which is just as fallacious as when constructed into an argument to hurl.

    And even if one dogmatically rejects that point by insisting that an ad hom MUST be in the form of an argument to be considered as a fallacy, they’re forgetting that MANY arguments have conclusions that are implied, i.e. already baked in, yet these statements are STILL considered to be arguments, nevertheless.

    (I’m actually more at home with this topic of informal logic, since it applies to real life; there’s many-more examples of both ‘hidden premises’ and ‘implied conclusions’ to be found in the ‘real World’, since they’re commonly used in advertising claims, politicians speeches, religious tracts, etc.)

    The persuasive power of an implied argument derives from the listener being allowed to make the intended inference for themselves, following the premises to their logical conclusion, which needn’t be stated: it’s apparent from the premises.

    As one example, consider the bumper-sticker:

    “If Guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns.”/B>

    Even overlooking the obvious ‘equivocation fallacy’ (centered on the word, ‘outlaw’), there’s no conclusion to be found anywhere. Yet it’s still a statement in support of NRA and pro-gun rights. How can that be considered an argument, if there’s no conclusion?

    It’s IMPLIED, being something like:

    “Don’t vote to outlaw guns, since we need good guys with guns to counter outlaws with guns.”

    Note how stating the conclusion often exposes the flaws in reasoning; in this case, the “good guys with guns” sounds an awful lot like the Police Dept., the “good guys with guns” who’s sworn duty is to apprehend “outlaws with guns” (that’s the fallacy of ‘exclusion of valid alternatives’, which is hidden by the implied conclusion).

    Here’s a few more statements offered as examples of ‘fallacious arguments’ from around the web, which, despite not technically being in the form of an argument, are nevertheless offered as examples of ‘fallacious arguments':

    “Well, Isaac Newton believed in alchemy: do you think you know more than him?”

    That’s obviously a fallacious ‘appeal to authority’ argument, but where did the conclusion go?

    Once again, the conclusion is implied (being something like, “You should believe in alchemy, too, since Newton did.”).

    See if you can spot this one:

    Guy in record store: “Hmmm, this album must be pretty good, as it’s already sold 100 million copies!”

    That’s obviously a fallacious “appeal to popularity” argument, although once again, the conclusion is IMPLIED via innuendo.

    (And for practice, state the conclusion explicitly. Note that implied conclusions are used in many ads.)

    Despite the use of an implied conclusion, it’s also listed on sites as an example of a ‘fallacious argument': we don’t reject it as NOT being fallacious on the pedantic grounds that it doesn’t fit the textbook definition of an argument (with premises and conclusions both stated).

    That also counters those above who rejected my post I the grounds that the formal rules of debate don’t apply… The concept of ‘implied conclusions’ applies MORESO to informal uses of logic, since it’s a looser format than a formal debate.

    That’s why I said above that the conclusion of an ‘ad hom (abusive)’ is ALWAYS assumed to be implied: no one claims their opponent is an idiot, and therefore we should ACCEPT their position! No TV ad spends 30 secs bad-mouthing the competition and explaining why their product is better, only to conclude by telling the consumer to buy their competitors product.

    Demanding a conclusion be explicitly stated before it constitutes a fallacy is incredibly pedantic, as if the insult is not the fallacy, itself.

    Sure, a fast-talking debater may be able to slide an insult in, “bundling” it along with their refutation; however, it’s still WRONG, since each separate claim requires supportive evidence of it’s own.

    Matt knows this: he even allowed Sye to call him a liar and didn’t lose his cool, letting the insult roll off his back. He likely knew the insult made Sye look bad, not Matt…

  31. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @adamah:

    There’s a persistent urban-legend found online (perpetuated by AXP and FTB blogger named ‘Lousy Canuck’) that only ‘ad hom ARGUMENTS’ rise to the level of constituting fallacies, where straight insults are A-OK, just as long as a conclusion isn’t explicitly stated.

     
    Article: LousyCanuck – What is an ad hominem?

    One must make the insult as a PREMISE of the argument, rather than as part of the CONCLUSION. [...] Remember, folks, always formulate your arguments such that the idiocy of your opponent isn’t a premise in the core of your argument!

  32. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @adamah:

    A personal insult is ALWAYS considered as an ‘ad hom (abusive)’ fallacy, a comment directed against the PERSON, and not their position or argument.

    Article: FallacyFiles – Argumentum ad Hominem

    Abusive: An Abusive Ad Hominem occurs when an attack on the character or other irrelevant personal qualities of the opposition—such as appearance—is offered as evidence against their position. Such attacks are often effective distractions (“red herrings”), because the opponents feel it necessary to defend themselves, thus being distracted from the topic of the debate.

    Q: [...] My opponent claims that any personal attack during a debate that is not an attempt to discredit the opponent, but just rude, is an “ad hominem attack”, if not necessarily an “ad hominem argument”. [...] I argue that the personal insult is not an ad hominem because it is not an attempt to discredit the argument of the opponent, but is just rudeness. Can you please help?
    [...]
    A: I don’t think there’s a precise definition of “ad hominem attack”, but on the rare occasions when I’ve used the phrase it was as a synonym of “personal attack”. So, an ad hominem attack is not necessarily an argument, let alone an instance of the fallacy. However, every ad hominem argument is an ad hominem attack. Thus, ad hominem attack is a more general concept than ad hominem argument.

  33. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    “If Guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns.”

    Even overlooking the obvious ‘equivocation fallacy’ (centered on the word, ‘outlaw’), there’s no conclusion to be found anywhere. Yet it’s still a statement in support of NRA and pro-gun rights. How can that be considered an argument, if there’s no conclusion?

    It’s IMPLIED, being something like:

    “Don’t vote to outlaw guns, since we need good guys with guns to counter outlaws with guns.”

    I think you don’t know what equivocation is. There is no equivocation in that argument.

    When fleshed out a little more, the argument goes like:

    1- If you outlaw guns, law-abiding citizens will not have guns.
    2- If you outlaw guns, people who break the law will continue to have guns (outlaws).
    3- Thus, if you outlaw guns, only people who break the law will have guns (outlaws).

    I see absolutely no equivocation. I see a word being used in two distinct ways through, one as the act of making something illegal, and another as a person who does something illegal.

    I see possible problems with the argument such as what you identified (e.g. police, army, etc.). Depending on how you formalize it, it’s a reductio ad absurdum based on a strawman, or it’s invalid, or it’s unsound. (Of course, I think there’s a related argument which is valid and not based on a strawman. However, sound? We’d have to argue about that.)

    But there is no equivocation in that argument.

  34. adamah says

    Yup, Sky Capt, that’s the article. Thanks for posting the link.

    The article comes up near the top of Google hits when searching for “ad homs not a fallacy”, and Lousy Canuck invites readers to link to the article to serve as proof (although his article is more likely to serve as proof you can’t always trust everything you read on the internet, lol).

    Nice pickup on the apparent logical contradiction in his article, too.

    He also seems to have forgotten that premises are not to be populated with personal opinions, especially those held for the opponent (which is what declaring someone an idiot is: an opinion).

    Any way he tries to parse it with sophistry and hand-waving, he still can’t get past the basic definition of ad homs: comments that are directed against the person, when the focus needs to be on their argument and position.

    (Lousy Canuck never approved my comment challenging his claim: it’s still awaiting moderation after 6 wks. Oversight? Hmmm, who knows…)

    PS thanks for the other link, too. I ran across that article before, but most here would agree my posts are long enough, without me adding links at every step.

  35. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @adamah:

    he still can’t get past the basic definition of ad homs: comments that are directed against the person, when the focus needs to be on their argument and position.
    Lousy Canuck never approved my comment challenging his claim

    See the definition of the fallacy, quoted from Fallacy Files above.
     

    He also seems to have forgotten that premises are not to be populated with personal opinions, especially those held for the opponent (which is what declaring someone an idiot is: an opinion).

    Shorter LousyCanuck excerpt:

    Their idiocy should, by rights, go either in the conclusion or in a parallel argument.

     

    PS thanks for the other link, too. I ran across that article before,

    Shorter Fallacy Files excerpt:

    So, an ad hominem attack [(personal attack)] is not necessarily an argument, let alone an instance of the fallacy.

     
    You have seen both articles, so you were either unable or unwilling to represent the authors accurately.

  36. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @adam

    I know this may seem hypocritical coming from me, but you also need to work on your brevity. It will help. Trust me.

    PS: Putting a smiley face or other disclaimer doesn’t automatically make it funny, and doesn’t automatically excuse you for it. Which should make sense to you, given your position that all name calling is fallacious.

  37. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PPS:
    I just noticed this from the very start of this thread.

    Quoting Adam:

    Matt, you’re an idiot, and here’s why:

    1) ad homs are all comments directed against the PERSON, and not addressing their ARGUMENT.

    Thus, personal insults are ALWAYS considered as ‘ad homs (abusive)’, where the conclusion always is ‘baked into the cake’ that the audience should reject their position.

    Specifically:

    Matt, you’re an idiot, and here’s why:

    And then he spends pages arguing that all name-calling is necessarily fallacious. That quote even comes from the post where he spends pages making the very argument that all name-calling is fallacious.

    So, is Adam a troll? Or the biggest idiot on the planet? You decide. I can’t. Poe’s law and all.

  38. adamah says

    Sky Capt,

    From the fallacy files link, the 2nd question asks about insults hurled during a DEBATE:

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adhomine.html

    Q: I am having a disagreement over the proper usage of the term “ad hominem”. My opponent claims that any personal attack during a debate that is not an attempt to discredit the opponent, but just rude, is an “ad hominem attack”, if not necessarily an “ad hominem argument”. I believe this is a false distinction, partially due to a misreading of your paragraph on misidentification of ad hominem arguments. I argue that the personal insult is not an ad hominem because it is not an attempt to discredit the argument of the opponent, but is just rudeness. Can you please help?―Jon

    A: I don’t think there’s a precise definition of “ad hominem attack”, but on the rare occasions when I’ve used the phrase it was as a synonym of “personal attack”. So, an ad hominem attack is not necessarily an argument, let alone an instance of the fallacy.

    The author is referring to “an instance of THE fallacy”, i.e. referring to the ‘ad hom ARGUMENT’ fallacy. It’s NOT the only form of ad hom that is fallacious.

    He’s stating what I wrote above, where one doesn’t need to make the mental effort of understanding what ‘implied conclusions’ are; a personal insult is deemed a fallacy, even if it’s not wrapped up into an argument since it’s considered to be an ‘ad hom (abusive)’.

    (Similarly, a bomb doesn’t have to be fitted into a weapons-delivery system where it serves as payload, in order to still be considered an ‘explosive device': it’s still an explosive device, all on it’s own.)

    Notice on the same page that ‘ad hom (abusive)’ is listed as a “sub-fallacy”: there’s all you need, since it’s ALWAYS fallacious to insult another person during a debate.

    But instead of answering the question directly, the author feels the need to first explain what constitutes an ‘ad hom attack’, where he even offers an example.

    BTW, Sky Capt, when you quoted him, why did you remove the sentence that contained an example of an ‘ad hom attack’?

    Worse, you failed to indicate your revision of his words, such that an unsuspecting reader is more likely to be misled. And it’s not like you don’t know HOW to indicate excised material when quoting, since you used brackets [...] in the prior paragraph.

    But you suddenly forget how, when it’s a sentence which undermines your claim?

    ‘Suppress evidence’ much?

    Don’t worry, though: I took the liberty of restoring the sentence into its original context in bold.

    Again, this is the author’s response to the question of an ‘ad hom attack’ delivered during a DEBATE:

    A: I don’t think there’s a precise definition of “ad hominem attack”, but on the rare occasions when I’ve used the phrase it was as a synonym of “personal attack”. So, an ad hominem attack is not necessarily an argument, let alone an instance of the fallacy. A lawyer attacking the credibility of a witness in a trial would be engaging in an “ad hominem attack”, but not necessarily a fallacious one.However, every ad hominem argument is an ad hominem attack. Thus, ad hominem attack is a more general concept than ad hominem argument.

    The author’s response is admittedly confusing, since he never directly answers the question, but suddenly changes the focus from the actual question asked (re: personal insults hurled during a DEBATE) to the standards used when trial lawyers are conducting cross-examination of a witness in a TRIAL. That’s a special case where ‘ad hom attacks’ ARE required, actually being critical elements of the trial process. But then he again switches focus, without any explanation.

    (I wouldn’t explain it that way, but then again, I’m not a philosophy professor.)

    At any rate, even in the special circumstances of a trial, the scope of an ‘ad hom attack’ is severely-constrained to challenging ONLY the CREDIBILITY of the witness in an attempt to discredit their TESTIMONY; lawyers are not allowed to insult them, or hurl insults at the opposing counsel.

    It’s actually more restrictive in a DEBATE setting, since one’s opponent is NOT offering TESTIMONY, but ARGUMENTS; thus the opponent’s credibility is largely irrelevant (with exceptions mentioned in my OP). Personal insults are ALWAYS fallacious, in a debate or a courtroom.

    The author actually clarifies this point in the first question he answered (my words appears in CAPS, to remove his ambiguity):

    Q&A:

    Q: Despite taking an introduction to logic course last semester, I still cannot differentiate between when it’s permissible to attack someone’s credibility and when it’s considered an ad hominem. Could you shed some light on this for me?―Paul Margiotis

    A: The main thing to keep in mind is the distinction between argumentation and testimony. The whole point of logic is to develop techniques for evaluating the cogency of arguments independently of the arguer’s identity.

    So, ask the question: is the person being criticized arguing or testifying? Are reasons being presented (I.E. ARE ARGUMENTS BEING PRESENTED, AS DURING A DEBATE), or must we take the person’s word for something (TESTIFYING, AS A WITNESS IN A TRIAL)?

    If the person is arguing (IN A DEBATE), the argument should be evaluated on its own merits; if testifying (AS A WITNESS IN A TRIAL), then credibility is important.

    The implication is that ‘ad hom attacks’ are always fallacious in a debate; in a trial, an ‘ad hom attack’ is not necessarily fallacious, as long as it’s limited to challenging the CREDIBILITY of a witness who’s presenting incriminating testimony.

    Remember: an ‘ad hom attack’ is much broader, and includes many MORE offenses than just hurling insults, but includes challenging ANY aspect of someone’s personality (e.g. their integrity, intelligence, mannerisms, credibility, etc) or personal appearance (color of skin, sex, manner of dress, etc).

    So looking at his original response again, that’s what he was suggesting when he said an ‘ad hom attack’ is “more general” than an ‘ad hom argument’.

    A trial lawyer is NOT given unlimited permission to insult witnesses during his cross-examination, unless he’s intentionally trying to get reprimanded by the judge for ‘badgering the witness’ (or ‘contempt of court’, if he doesn’t take the hint), as if it’s an opportunity for him to show the jury exactly what an arse he is, hell-bent on ‘throwing’ the case by offending the jury.

    So as unfortunate as it may be for those looking for contrived pretenses to insult others, the court system also has rules protecting witnesses undergoing an ‘ad hom attack’ during cross-examination from petty name-calling:

    From Cornell law school:

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/rule_611

    RULE 611. MODE AND ORDER OF EXAMINING WITNESSES AND PRESENTING EVIDENCE

    (a) Control by the Court; Purposes. The court should exercise reasonable control over the mode and order of examining witnesses and presenting evidence so as to:

    (1) make those procedures effective for determining the truth;

    (2) avoid wasting time; and

    (3) protect witnesses from harassment or undue embarrassment.

    (b) Scope of Cross-Examination. Cross-examination should not go beyond the subject matter of the direct examination and matters affecting the witness’s credibility.

    ‘Protect witnesses from harrassment and undue embarrassment’ pretty-much says it all, and that obviously would preclude lawyers from calling a witness an idiot, whether it was wrapped up in the form of a Jason’s ‘sub-premise’ or not.

    ;)

    The failure to properly differentiate and the terms, ‘ad hom (abuse)’, ‘ad hom attack’, and ‘ad hom fallacy’ is a likely cause for this persistent internet urban-legend, likely due to layperson’s misunderstanding of legal ‘terms of art’ which allows such ignorant shenanigans to continue.

    (I’ll address Lousy Canuck’s quixotic understanding of logic in a separate post.)

    So the evidence is presented: are you still going to deny the plainly-obvious facts, choosing instead to cling tenaciously to your cherished (but nevertheless incorrect) beliefs?

    So which do you value more: possessing actual facts to form true beliefs, or irrationally defending false beliefs in the face of disconfirmatory evidence, simply because the falsehood allows you to feel superior to others by calling them idiots?

    The latter sounds ALOT like false religious beliefs, as it certainly isn’t rational….

  39. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @adamah:

    I’m [...] an arse [...] looking for contrived pretenses to insult others [...] irrationally defending false beliefs in the face of disconfirmatory evidence [...] to feel superior

    :P

  40. adamah says

    EL said-

    I think you don’t know what equivocation is. There is no equivocation in that argument.

    You’ve been wrong on every other point you’ve called me out over, so why should you be correct now, as if suddenly turning over a new leaf? Did you stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night?

    ;)

    How about putting your $$$ where you mouth is? What say we put $20 on it (I take PayPal….)?

    Well, since no else has bothered to explain it to you, so what the hell…

    The NRA slogan is a textbook example of equivocation fallacy:

    From:

    http://markmcintire.com/phil/chapter2.html

    1. Equivocation: When the same word or phrase is used with two or more meanings, deliberately or accidentally, in the formulation of an argument.

    Example: If guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns.

    Now, see if you can figure out for yourself why it’s an example.

    (Here’s a BIG hint, AKA the answer:

    Note the changing definition of “outlaw” within the same sentence, where the population identified as “outlaws” is likely quite different before vs after guns are prohibited.

    While many equivocation fallacies rely on word-play (classic example being bank of a river, vs bank that holds money), in this case the meaning of ‘outlaw’ changes significantly with the passage of legislation where otherwise law-abiding gun owners are now considered as outlaws.)

    PS consider asking questions first if you don’t understand something, rather than simply declaring others are wrong, just because YOU don’t see something (one of the hosts did a prologue on the fallacy of appealing to personal experiences; it’s in the archives).

    BTW, here’s another explanation of the equivocation fallacy, a sub-set of fallacies of ambiguity:

    http://atheism.about.com/od/logicalfallacies/a/Fallacies-Ambiguity-Index.htm

    The fallacy of equivocation occurs when a term is used with two or more meanings in the same argument. For an argument to be valid, all of the key terms and concepts must be use in the same way and with the same definitions throughout.

  41. Tomato Fettuccini says

    Oddly enough, TAE skipped making a post here for episode #876.

    Did anyone notice that Jackson, the first caller of this episode, was MARK?

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