Tag Archives: Ad Hominem Attacks

Logical Gal challenges ‘experts’

25 Apr

More and more we are being subjected to a one-line argument called ‘settled science’ as announced by those advocating drastic counter-measures in view of what they perceive as ‘human-induced’ climate harm.

Settled Science & Al Gore

 

This way of arguing is actually a fallacy.  It’s the opposite of the Ad Hominem attack.  That particular fallacy bypasses  all the reasons supporting a claim to attack the nature  or character of the one advancing the argument.

In contrast, the fallacy I want to address today is the tactic whereby one skips reasons and plays on the credentials of the proponents.  This fallacy is called the Argument from Authority.  We see this often in commercials for toothpaste (‘Brand X is the one favored by more dentists in America’) or for peanut butter (‘Choosy moms choose Jif!’)

Choosy moms choose Jif

As you probably have noticed, this appeal to an authority takes the place of an appeal to REASON!

So, too, with the climate change issue.  Those who clamor for countries to DO SOMETHING have demonized those who push back and ask for supporting evidence.  Appealing to the authority and intelligence of a group of scientists does not satisfy for 2 reasons:

  • Scientists are known to have been wrong in the past  (think of the Flat Earth view or the Earth as the center of the solar system)
  • If the case for anthropogenic climate change (brought on by humans) is so strong, scientists or policy-makers should not  be afraid to provide the evidence APART from computer models of what MIGHT happen

Finally, here is a caveat to those who by nature are skeptical and question authority (nothing wrong with that!), don’t yourselves either appeal to or attack the character of the one making the argument.   Be considerate and calm when you push back gently, requesting proof, evidence and reasons.

Remember, the burden of proof is on those who advance a position.  All YOU have to do is ask the WHY questions. But do so with gentleness and respect!

Kind rather than Right

Question:  Where do you encounter these Appeals to Authority?

 

Logical Gal – When someone changes the subject

24 Mar

Change subject - Jedi Mind Trick

Many people you talk with do not employ Jedi finesse.  They abruptly change the subject from the issue at hand, often to an ad hominem attack.

Let’s imagine a conversation about how best to address recent changes in global temperatures. The discussion débuts well, terms are clarified. When positions begin to be articulated, the going gets clouded by a sudden attack on a different issue, to wit:

Global Warming ‘Fear-Monger’: You only advocate a ‘wait-and-see’ approach because you’re one of those Christian fundamentalist, head-in-the-sand deniers!

Global Warming ‘Denier’: Whoa…wait a second!  You just changed the subject from what to do about elevated temperatures to WHY I might advocate a position.  Can we go back to the original argument? I’d like to present my reasons for my position.  And I would like to hear yours! How does that sound?

It is EASY to get drawn down a different path.  With such an insult to one’s character, I have often succumbed to the temptation to defend WHY I believe something.  However, the BEST move is to shift the conversation back to where it was.  There was a single issue and either you or he were attempting to defend a course of action with REASONS.

Changing the subject

Why might someone want to play ‘switch-a-roo’ with you?  It could be that they have NOT thought about their position and have no reasons to back up their assertion.  It takes time to study issues.  We live in a culture enamored with and satisfied by shallow 140-character sound bytes.  That allows NO time for developing a case.  But quick pointed jabs might be enough to send one’s opponents packing.

Quid faciam?  What to do?

Be kind but direct.  Try at least twice to move the conversation back on track, to the topic at hand.  If after the second time, your interlocutor purposefully shifts again, then gently terminate the discussion.  It’s a waste of your time and his.

You might not gain ground with this person, but your refusal to take the bait will make an impression on him.  It might actually get him to study the facts for himself!

Back on Track