Interesting Carrol. Here i am on vacation far from my library, but
still willing to break this down a bit w/out reference. The concerns
here are two: the validity of an argument and the civility of the
discourse. What, i believe is inappropriate, given that we are supposed
to be rational scientists is to dismiss arguments not by systematically
countering the proposition but by (1) not addressing it at all by
attacking the arguer, (2) discrediting the arguer by reference to the
arguer's stand on other issues or even similar issues, or (3) defaming
the arguer. I'll leave it to you to construct the appropriate
syllogisms. Fallacy #2 is quite common on this list, oftentimes from
persons with whose stand i agree. All 3 however are fallacious in that
they do not attempt to refute the argument. #3 is unambiguously
uncivil. #1 is often uncivil. It is not fallacious to call into
question the validity of data from a proven questionable source of data;
but that cannot be the basis for resolving a question unless the critic
has contrary supportable data. If i recall correctly countering an
argument by calling into question the truthfulness or reliability of the
arguer is called "poisoning the well."
It is unreasonable to ask any moderator to subject every submission to
the rigors of proper logic. It is, however, reasonable to hold
submitters to a standard of civility. That includes restraining those
whose submission is entirely a personal attack or who deliberately
announce their role to be a provocateur. That a post of a few weeks ago
referred to the manner in which Venezuelan police handled a pair of
Human Rights investigators is inappropriate for this list to begin with,
not being relevant to Science and its relationship to People, is not
that unusual. But that it was openly described by its submitter as an
attempt to provoke a response from those with whom the submitter
disagreed is deeply offensive and destructive of the integrity of the
list. It would be wonderful if this list became a forum for addressing
the wholesale misuse of science and technology today where we could send
persons who are concerned with the issue, and where a reasonably
sensitive and non aggressive person would feel comfortable.
Carrol Cox wrote:
> A footnote. It seems in some of these posts "ad hominem" and "personal
> attack" have been used interchangeably. It is true that often the two
> coincide, and sometimes the line between them is thin, but they are
> radically distinct. This is clear in their usage. One can speak of an
> "ad hominem argument," but no one would write, a "personal attack
> Personal Attack:
> P is false.
> James believes in P.
> Therefore James is a prick.
> (Notice that here the falsity of P is assumed or demonstrated in
> Ad Hominen Argument:
> James is a prick.
> James belives in P.
> Therefore P is false.
> Ad hominem arguments are a type of logical fallacy. Personal attacks are
> .... personal attacks. Often or usually objectionable on a maillist but
> they do not in themselves confuse the argument. Notice also that ad
> hominems usually have a personal attack as their initial premise.