Category Archives: Culture & Society

No, That’s Not An Argument…Really, It’s Not.

Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my acquaintances on social media had sent me to a link to an obviously (to me at any rate) ideologically partisan blog, that linking to an also obviously partisan interview on another blog, one with a climate change contrarian, in hopes, perhaps, of magically getting me to ‘see the Truth™’ and instantly transforming me into a climate change contrarian with a flash of mystic pixie dust, or the powder of Ibn Ghazi sprinkled ‘pon while making the Voorish sign…

Not that there’s anything bad about pixies, mind you…at least they’re a bit less antisocial than gremlins in those IT communities of make-believe.


Well, neither the blog nor interview was anything but pure politics and so hardly scientifically compelling, I posted a response to her via private message, with only minor edits [in brackets] for context in this blog entry:

“One thing I’ve learned about science over the last seven years is that no matter what you may personally believe, its results don’t depend on religion, politics, or ideology; they don’t depend on what you had for breakfast, what party you campaign for, or what you disapprove of; and they don’t depend on the agenda of an imaginary Evil Leftist (or Centrist, or Rightist) Conspiracy™.

Trying to debunk science with politics, or anything else [but science itself], shows a mistaken view of how science works, what it is, and what it’s for; Whatever you may think, science is an evidence-based enterprise, not “What do we want to vote on today?” or an electoral primary.

I have standards as to which arguments support the claims they are alleged to. None of these implies any need for perfect absolute proof, just minimum cogency:

1. They must be cast in the most neutral, objective language possible, avoiding ideological buzzwords and partisan slogans. This is simply known as writing professionally.

2. They must commit the fewest possible errors in reasoning, avoiding as many logical and rhetorical fallacies as can be managed. The argument’s conclusion must follow from the premises reasonably.

3. They must commit the fewest possible factual errors and inaccuracies. Any facts the premises are based on must really exist as claimed…out-of-context factoids and half-truths are not acceptable legal tender. Those damnable standards again.

Any argument failing even one of these tests has no leg to stand on, and cannot serve as reliable support for the claims it makes.

If offers a claim without the evidence it purports to, and so may be dismissed without evidence against it, as there is none for it [as per Christopher Hitchens’ Dictum].”

Whether the blog and interview it linked to that she sent me (I read both) was simply a quick attempt at ideological conversion, or an actual argument, is irrelevant.

The attempt in its own way was admirable: We all want others to accept the truth as we see it. The trouble is, however, that often what we consider to be true is frequently not. That’s the consequence of living in a universe with phenomena, like climate change, whose policy implications often run counter to what our political, religious, and economic or other ideologies tell us.

O, RLLY?? Not Using the “A” Word Means You’re Lying??

In a recent special on CNN, American Atheists president David Silverman made the statement that religious nonbelievers are “the most hated group in this country.”


It may be true that there’s active and ongoing discrimination in many parts of the world against religious nonbelievers, but no more so than religions against rival religions. We nonbelievers are not special, we are not enlightened, and we are not especially persecuted, more than some other minorities; to play the victim card like the Religious Right here in the States all too often does, and to exaggerate the facts in that manner strikes me as a little, oh, I don’t know… silly?

Hyperbole much?

There’s also his claim that religious nonbelievers who do not self-identify as atheists are lying. That’s just on-its-face foolishness.

I identify as a skeptic, not as an atheist, because the former best fits my methods and views.

I’m a skeptic to all sorts of claims, the only restriction being that they must be logically and empirically testable. “Atheist” just doesn’t cover as much ground, offer the mileage I need to make it work, doesn’t carry the freight it needs to. “Atheist” is too limited. It pertains and entails only skepticism to one sort of thing — the existence of a God or gods, so I rarely use it.

News flash — Not all skeptics are atheists — nor vice versa.

Two words to illustrate that would be useful here — Martin Gardner — he was a good skeptic and a self-described theist.

That’s the problem with labels. Skeptic, agnostic, atheist, humanist, nullifidian, freethinker, rationalist, infidel, heretic, etc…none of these words are synonyms, none of them say the same thing, none of them carry the same cargo, and using one or more of any of them does not make you a liar for not using any one or more of the others.

It’s simply absurd, though perhaps intended to rhetorically. Rallying people whose only shared trait, if even that, is not believing in someone’s god is a lot like herding cats. Good luck on that.

No one ought to call people liars for not using a particular label, to cajole people to flock to their banner like good little peas in a pod. It is a good way to discredit one’s own movement, though, and if that’s the goal, it succeeds wonderfully.

AronRa: On behalf of Deah, Yusor, and Razan

Yes, he puts it way better than I. What he said. Every word. The one who committed this crime needs to be put away for a long, long time.

“We do not promote hatred or violence. Even if I did become violent, it would never escalate to deadly force. When I say I am disgusted, I mean it.
The Foundation Beyond Belief has set up a donation page for the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation to benefit the region Barakat was trying to help.…