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An Idealogue's Idea Log: Entry #6

As promised yesterday, here are five argumentation methods that are least likely to change my mind and which, in most cases, will result in an invitation to anatomical impossibility.

  1. Presenting falsehoods as facts — If your goal is to be instantly dismissed as a brainless sheep, then, by all means, assert the truth of something blatantly wrong. If, however, you really want to change my mind about something, then don't tell me something is true when it isn't. I'm not talking about opinions here, but facts. If you believe that the Earth is flat, or that the universe is 6,015 years old as of last Monday, or that the President is a Muslim, then I'm sorry, but I probably won't be inclined to believe anything that you claim is true without it being either blatantly obvious or immediately verifiable.

    Here are some things that people have actually said to me that fall into this category:

    "The Necronomicon is a real book that H.P. Lovecraft knew about and referenced in his stories." Except, of course, that Lovecraft himself said that he made it up.

    "The institution of marriage will be destroyed if we allow homosexuals to marry." Ya know, the same thing was said about whites marrying blacks only about 50 years ago. And yet, people are still getting married. Go figure.

    "The New Deal prolonged the Great Depression by ten years. What saved the economy was us going to war in 1941." Look at the GDP, unemployment rate, and average income for 1930 through 1941. 1930–1932, huge losses in all three areas. 1933–1941, huge gains in seven out of nine years. (Also, see point 3.)

  2. Presenting opinions as facts — It's fine to have an opinion. It's fine to assert that opinion. But if you claim that your opinion is a fact, I will probably conclude that you don't really understand what a fact is. This category also includes unfalsifiable assertions; that is, things that may or may not be true and that cannot be proven either true or false. Some opinions and unfalsifiable assertions that have been presented to me as facts include:

    "God exists." Whether or not any god or gods exist can neither be proved nor disproved. It's fine if you believe a deity, but if you're basing an argument on it, don't expect me to be persuaded.

    "The President is Kenyan." While I suppose it's remotely possible that there is a vast, international conspiracy to hide the President's true origins, there is an inherent flaw in all conspiracy theories of this kind: "Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead." —Benjamin Franklin. That is, the odds are vastly against this being true, just because of the sheer effort required on the part of so many over so long a time.

    "Star Wars is superior in every way to Star Trek." That may be true for you, but don't expect everyone to share your opinion. I sure as hell don't.

  3. Logical fallacies. There are a lot of these, and the linked site is a very handy and concise reference for the most prevalent ones. Some of them are tricky to spot, so just committing one doesn't necessarily nix your argument. However, refusing to accept that you've committed one after having it pointed out to you likely will. Some examples that have been used on me include:

    "If you understand how real estate works, you'll make a lot of money." Appeal to Consequences, conveniently leaving out such "irrelevant" considerations as market trends, interest rates, average rent vs. property cost, etc.

    "Al Gore says the environment must be preserved, but Al Gore lives in a 10,000 square foot mansion with no solar panels or wind turbines and drives an SUV. Don't believe Al Gore." Genetic Fallacy, a form of argumentum ad hominem. Al Gore may not practice what he preaches, but concluding that the message itself is therefore false doesn't follow.

    "The economy grew during the years 1933–1941. Increased government spending doesn't stimulate the economy to grow. Therefore, the economic growth from 1933–1941 was not due to increased government spending (i.e., most of the New Deal). Therefore, the assertion that government spending doesn't stimulate the economy to grow is not refuted." "No True Scotsman" Fallacy. Basically, by excluding all counter-examples as "irrelevant", the argument's proponents can continue to believe it.

  4. Sarcasm, insults, and personal attacks. This is the one that I, myself, am most guilty of, and it's something I am struggling mightily to overcome. Nevertheless, if your argument hints at a deficiency in my ability to understand, or presents a point in a caustically sarcastic fashion, or directly insults me or my beliefs, I am liable to respond by committing the logical fallacy of "This person's an asshole; therefore, this person is also wrong." Examples:

    "Waterboarding is not torture, and if you believe it is, you're just as stupid as all the other liberal freaks." (Actually, this is significantly cleaned up from what the person actually said . . .)

    "You want the system to actually change? How about world peace and a billion dollars while you're at it?"

    "No, you don't understand; let me explain it again." (Said in response to my offering a counter-argument.)

  5. Interpreting a question or counter-argument as an attack. When someone makes a bold statement, even if I'm inclined to believe it, I usually will ask for supporting evidence. If you interpret this request as a judgment upon your integrity, I will dismiss your argument and, likely, your person—because if even a simple question puts you on the defensive, you probably don't really believe what you're saying. Statements that give this insecurity away are quite easy to spot:

    "Don't argue with me! I have this straight from the experts."

    "Shut the hell up! You don't know what you're talking about."

    "Are you calling me a liar?"

So, there you have it. Five effective ways of arguing with me, and five decidedly non-productive ways of arguing with me. Thanks for reading.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
I support equality for Star Wars and Star Trek. Since I've pre-ordered SWTOR, and want some new Star Trek ship Heroclix. :P

One question about 4 (c): "No, you don't understand; let me explain it again."

Can you clarify some more details about including this under the personal attack category? I wasn't sure after reading your section 4 description how this fit in with your other examples.

Especially on the Internet, there is often difficulty communicating context properly...I could imagine someone writing this because their statement was misunderstood without hostility. But it sounds like there might be some additional details that I didn't pick up on?
Oct. 27th, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)
In that particular example, the tone of the statement was one of "Boy, are you stupid. How many times do I have to explain this before you get it?" when I had understood perfectly and was trying to offer a counter-argument to his point.

Certainly, if I seem to have misunderstood something, it makes perfect sense for someone to try to correct the misunderstanding, but usually that takes the form of "Oh, whoops, I see where I was unclear/ambiguous/etc., please let me try to clarify what I meant." (And this very example seems to be one of those times. ;-] )

And I totally agree with you, Star Wars and Star Trek are equally awesome, in very different ways. :)
Oct. 26th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you, for making this very clear for me to remember :)

That said, I hope that I don't get into an argument with you; I don't do well with arguments. Also, I am younger than you are and not as knowledgeable about some subjects so I'd be more likely to shut my mouth before things got heated.

(on a completely different note: perhaps when I am able to game again, I might be able to run around in City on a team with you; don't think I've had that chance yet)
Oct. 27th, 2011 11:56 am (UTC)
Oh, don't worry. Honest ignorance I have no problem with. It's willful ignorance that gets under my skin. Really, all of the things I talked about above boil down to someone trying to bamboozle me or intimidate me into agreeing with them. An honest mistake doesn't bother me. Especially since I make them myself all the time. ;-)

And yes, I'd love to team with you in CoH some time. I'm mostly playing on Virtue and Exalted server these days, but I also have toons on Virtue, Justice, and Pinnacle.
Oct. 27th, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
Give me a time-frame in which you prefer to play and I'll see if I can at least log in to chat, if not play :) I'll likely end up having to set to follow at some points for the sake of resting my arm (having my dominant hand/arm become inoperable is a pain, to say the least) but that's better than not being able to play at all.
Oct. 27th, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
Well, my play schedule is erratic, but I'll probably get in a good amount of CoH time during the Halloween event (i.e., this weekend). However, with your arm the way it is, maybe waiting to play again would be a good idea. How long do you think it will be before you're fully healed?
Oct. 27th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, timing; I won't be home this weekend--going off with sig other to see some of his family. I'll likely be back Sunday evening (AZ is still on Pacific time, if that helps)

Insofar as the healing goes... Pharmacist at the hospital pointed out that it can take 6-8 months for even a small clot to really fully heal. The vein takes quite a beating and it's very slow to recover. In my case, since I caught the frakking thing early-ish, I'll have a better chance of recovering faster. So long as I pay attention to my pain levels, I'll be able to play for an hour or two at a time come next week.
Oct. 27th, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
That's good. Next week sounds fine. They don't usually end the Halloween event before November 8th anyway.
Oct. 27th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
And I finally have Vent fixed too! so I can at least talk :P
Oct. 27th, 2011 09:04 pm (UTC)
Ah, but I don't have Ventrillo. It bogs my system down, alas.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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