“Whoever is not for us is against us” is not a logical principle

Fig 1: opponents of book learning

A handful of Christian Conservatives in Kansas want to stand in the way of uniform standards for science education.  Their argument, as reported by the AP:

The lawsuit argues that the new standards will cause Kansas public schools to promote a “non-theistic religious worldview” by allowing only “materialistic” or “atheistic” explanations to scientific questions, particularly about the origins of life and the universe. The suit further argues that state would be “indoctrinating” impressionable students in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s protections for religious freedom.

Apt commentary from an opponent of this kind of idiocy:

“They’re trying to say anything that’s not promoting their religion is promoting some other religion,” Rosenau said, dismissing the argument as “silly.”

It’s hard to improve on this remark, maybe: “whoever is not for us is against us” is not a principle of logic.

via Reddit and Forward Progressives.

Popular Science positively starves the trolls

Popular Science has completely shut off comments for their articles, citing trolling at their number one reason.  Given our interest here at the NS in the don’t feed the trolls maxim and our fixation on the Iron Man Fallacy, it’s worth a shot thinking this through.  I’ve got a defense of the decision over at WWA, especially against the Will Oremus charge that it’s a form of scientific dogmatism (or as he says: “Lazy and Wrong“).

See my post at WWA.  HERE.

Why We Argue Blog

wwa

My new book with Robert Talisse is Why We Argue (And How We Should).  It’s got a lot of the discussions you’ve seen here at the NS.  Our agreement with the publisher is that we keep a blog with substantive entries on argumentation and politics up and running for a few years.  So here’s my plan. I’ll still do short blogging here at the NS, but longer essay-type entries will be over at the WWA site.  I’ll have pointers here for the WWA articles and I’ll have pointers there for the NS articles.  For fans of the NS, the book will be some familiar territory, but some other new stuff – especially the requirements of good reasoning to keep Plato’s worries about democracy at bay.  You can find the WWA blog here.  And you can buy a copy of WWA here.

Jus ad argumentum

Classical just war theory’s jus ad bellum requirement of proportionality means that not every offense requires war.  There is an analogy to argument here, however imperfect: not every disagreement, moral or factual, requires that we argue.  I may be right about x, but I don’t have to argue with you about it.  This is especially the case when I will never convince you.

I think this capture’s the spirit of the Summus Pontifex’s recent remarks on the value of pushing the Catholic positions on abortion, contraception, and gay marriage.  Perhaps the Holy Father has noticed that, though the Universal Church’s view on gay marriage contains no admixture of error, the likelihood of its success with this argumentation is very low and the costs are very great:

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

This is not terribly unreasonable.  This is made somewhat easier by the fact that I don’t share any of his views.  Nonetheless, I have a lot of opinions that just do not deserve arguments–not the least because (1) I can only expect so much time, attention, and effort from people who disagree with me; (2) I only have so much time and energy to devote to convincing other people.  We expend resources when we argue; we ought to use them judiciously.

So it’s surprising to me to see behavior like this:

Providence College, a Roman Catholic school in Rhode Island, has canceled a lecture in support of same-sex marriage on Thursday by a gay philosophy professor, citing a church document that says that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

You get the idea from the Pope that they’re not that fundamental.  But in any case, the College has reversed itself, thankfully.

via Leiter.

My Godwin-Sense was tingling

CRUZ Budget_Battle-0a51e

In Godwin’s Law news (and another instantiation of the Ad TyrranemAd Hitlerem), Ted Cruz’s recent Senate speech has a classic:

I suspect those same pundits who say [defunding Obamacare] can’t be done, if it had been in the 1940s we would have been listening to them. . . .They would have been saying, ‘You cannot defeat the Germans

In this case, it’s not an argument that what’s being opposed is wrong, but that not actively opposing the thing is wrong.  I think, then we have two different forms of the ad Hitlerem.

Direct Ad Hitlerem:

You do X or propose X

Hitler did X or proposed X

Therefore, you’re like Hitler and X is wrong.

Here, I  think Cruz is making an indirect form of Ad Hitlerem.  It runs roughly:

He does X (and X is wrong)

We can stop him from doing X

His doing X is like Hitler’s doing Y

Therefore, he’s not only wrong to do X, but we’re wrong (read: appeasers) to not actively oppose and stop his doing X.

My view about Ad Hitlerem is that it’s a weak analogy, and that’s the case for both direct and indirect.  A further thing about the indirect form is that it depends on the direct form.  Essentially: This guy is like Hitler , so this guy is bad (Direct form); If you can stop a guy who’s bad like Hitler, you should as to fail to do so is appeasement (Indirect form).

Robert Benmosche, CEO of weak analogies

A victim of lynching fig. 1

From Salon, via Reddit, Robert Benmosche, CEO of taxpayer-rescued AIG, offers a completely failed analogy concerning executive bonuses:

The uproar over bonuses “was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that-sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”

Here, for your reference, is an actual picture of a deep south* lynching.

Fig. 2: An actual lynching

Note the difference.

*actually Indiana.

UPDATE: Gawker has seven more links to various other weak analogizers.

Holy War

 

Cardinal Francis George

Recently the current Pontiff made some startling remarks about the Catholic Church Leadership’s intense focus on abortion, homosexuality, and contraception.  Here is what he said (in context):

We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.

The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent.The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.

This struck many as a breath of fresh air.  Others, not so much.  Chicago’s Cardinal Archbishop, Francis George, objected:

But George, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, warned that some had gone too far in seeing Pope Francis’ interview as a move away from long-held church teachings on homosexuality, abortion and contraception.

“Everybody is welcome,” George said, “but not everything we do can be acceptable. Not everything I do, and not everything anybody else does.”

Pope Francis said in the interview that the church “cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

When asked Sunday whether Catholics had become obsessed with the moral issues the pope named, George said the church was addressing society’s concerns.

“If the society is obsessed with those issues,” George said, “then the church will respond. If the society doesn’t bring them up, the church won’t respond.”

To be clear, the Pope actually didn’t say that “everything we do is acceptable.”  He said rather that not all of the Church’s moral positions deserve equal emphasis.  According to the Pope, abortion, gay marriage, and contraception don’t merit the kind of “obsessive” focus people such as George devote to it.

The Pope’s point is a fairly reasonable one, I think.  Time and space limit our ability to address every moral issue.  We have to make some choices.  We can choose well or choose badly.  The Church, in the PM’s* view, has chosen poorly, and Cardinal George’s response explains why: he’s not obsessed with gay marriage, you are.  Why do you keep bringing up gay marriage?

*Pontifex Maximus (how come we don’t have an acronym for the Pope like we do for the FLOTUS?)

Consistency checking

Fig. 1: Not an inconsistency

Those familiar with Reddit know that inconsistency memes are very popular.  This is because consistency checking is a dominant form of criticism.  You cannot, after all, be for one thing but against another similar thing.  It’s a contradiction.  A contradiction cannot be, and if you support the one but not the other, you’re a scumbag, or just daft.  So it does double duty: it challenges a view as untenable while characterizing the holder of the view as dishonest, or an idiot.

There is nothing wrong with that, of course.  Provided that the inconsistency is a real one.  So many inconsistencies aren’t.

Here, I think, is a real one:

This at least shows that the 2nd Amendment advocates featured have to show a difference between rights of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th amendment rights and 2nd Amendment rights. This probably isn’t impossible, but it’s not obvious either.

Fun with charts

Lots of arguments fail the freshness test; they’re fallacious for reasons any undergraduate can point out.  These are our focus here for the most part.

Other arguments, however, fail for slightly more sophisticated, but not less pernicious, reasons.  These cloak themselves in the sincerity of honest inquiry or grown up skepticism, but in reality they’re just mechanisms for refusing to engage with the claims of the opposition.  This chart, found at the Wonkblog (thanks Colin) identifies some common strategies:

Fun times.

Some beaches are illicit conversions

OK, so I’ve been watching football.  And there are occasions to think about logic.  During the beer commercials.  First, though, a quick tutorial on deductive semantic fallacies.  An argument is fallacious on deductive semantic grounds when the truth of the argument’s premise does not guarantee the truth of the argument’s conclusion (provided the proper analysis of the terms of the logic). A classic fallacious move to make inferences between two forms of statements in categorical A-Form.

All S are P, so All P are S

The pattern is conversion – you switch the subject and predicate term in the proposition form.  It’s valid for E- and I-Forms, so it’s fine for these:

No S are P, so No P are S

No cats are lizards, so No lizards are cats

Some S are P, so Some P are S

Some Texans are Republicans, so Some Republicans are Texans

The trouble is that with A-form propositions, conversion is fallacious.  So we can intuitively see the fallacy with the following conversion forms:

All triangles are polygons, so All polygons are triangles

All cats are mammals, so All mammals are cats

That’s fallacious, and since it’s a bad way to convert, we call it illicit conversion.  Now, to the commercials.  See the following Corona commercial, effectively playing during every timeout for every NFL game this weekend.  HERE.  Here’s the free association that stands in for reasoning:

Some beaches have sand; Some beaches are backyards; Some beaches inspire ideas; Some beaches have beats; Some beaches are better after sunset; Every beach is different, but All beaches have Corona

The commercial has scenes of beaches, bars, mixing rooms, back yards, concerts, campgrounds and so on. Each is some poignant scene, but not all have beers in them.  The inductive evidence presented is that, given their special definition of beach (effectively meaning ‘special place’), it’s not the presence of Corona that makes them that.  Rather, it, at best, is that the presence of Corona can contribute to a place being a beach.  Consequently, it isn’t that All beaches have Corona that they’ve shown.  It only takes the first scene (the sandy beach with no beers) to be a counter-example.  Instead, the best that the evidence could show is that All places where there are Coronas are beaches in the relevant sense.  Trouble is, they conclude with All beaches have Corona.  Illicit conversion off weak evidence for enumerative induction.