Monday, February 16, 2009

IDiots and the Genetic Fallacy.

The term Genetic Fallacy is used to describe fallacious arguments that attack an idea based on its origins (genesis) and not its current validity.

The most common (but not the only) examples are attempts to discredit someone's idea by impugning the character of the person who originated the idea. For example, you could try to cast doubt on Thomas Jefferson's views about freedom by attacking his morality. Same with Benjamin Franklin, who, we all know, wasn't a very nice person. That has no bearing on the truth of his ideas or his work on electricity.

In the battle between rationalism and superstition, we can always count on the Intelligent Design Creationists to give us examples of every single logical fallacy. They are very good at irrational thinking.

Here's the latest from Denyse O'Leary: If you accept the argument in Descent of Man, you accept a racist argument. Some of her arguments against science are so classic I wouldn't be surprised if they enter the philosophy textbooks as examples of the important logical fallacies.
Quite honestly, I find current Darwinist efforts to get the old Brit toff off the hook for racism embarrassing. Far from differing from his generation's racist beliefs, Darwin wanted to provide solid scientific support for them. And to the extent that anyone accepts the argument in Descent of Man, they accept a racist argument.

Has anyone noticed how Darwinists carefully protect themselves from having the issue framed bluntly in those terms?

[Image Credit:]


  1. It's also amusing that Denyse (accent on the "Deny") would rail against Darwin's supposed racism while employing a stereotype like "old Brit toff."

  2. O'Leary is not even subtle about it. She frequently calls Darwin an 'old Brit toff', as if it is somehow Darwin's fault that he was born in a particular time and place. It's almost as if she has a personal hatred not just of Darwinism but of Darwin the man. It actually comes across as really rather childish - and certainly not what I would expect from a so-called award-winning journalist. I can almost imagine in her office gnashing her teeth in anger over this person who has been dead over 125 years. I suspect her cognitive dissonance is so strong she's not able to see how weird it appears to outsiders.

    But on the other hand I can think of a no better spokesperson for the ID movement than Denyse. The quality of her writing and thought is exactly what the movement deserves!

  3. Somebody at Uncommon Descent posted a comment to this piece about the fact that the Catholic church and also been supportive of slavery in times past. In response another person posted this:

    "What does bringing up Catholic Church history have to do with anything? The church was not founded on a racist agenda, but rather the life and death of the Son of God. Do mistakes and sin of church leaders and members over the centuries undermine its pillar (Jesus Christ)?"

    My ironymeter just went off the scale!!!!

  4. Isn't that also called "ad hominem" or "straw man argument" sometimes?

  5. It is an Ad Hominem (attack the man) yes. Ad Hominem is a type of genetic fallacy (when Bill O'Reilly dismisses and idea because it seems 'French' that is still the Genetic Fallacy, as you are attacking the origin, but it is not an ad hominem, as it isn't a person who is attack).

    A strawman is different entirely though. In a strawman, you create a weakened position similar to the one you are arguing against, and work to disprove it, but pretend you are disproving the most sophisticated version.

  6. O'Leary describes herself as a "Toronto-based journalist; grandmother; Roman Catholic Christian"

    What is really upsetting is grandma O'Leary is most likely infecting her grandchildren with her racism and teaching them how to use the genetic fallacy. At the risk of using an ad hominem argument myself, I can't resist the comment that "Roman Catholic Christian" is an oxymoron.

    I'd say all of the above to O'Leary on her blog, but she doesn't allow comments.

    To paraphrase O'Leary

    "Has anyone noticed how [some members of the ID movement] carefully protect themselves from [blunt comments and criticism on their blogs]?"

  7. But sometimes ad hominem can also be a straw man in which you divert attention from the real issue by commenting on the person's character which may or may not be a legitimate point. For example, the accusation that Noam Chomsky's writings are senseless because he has a trust fund for his grandchildren is both an ad hominem attack and a straw man

  8. I posted two different comments in response to Uncommon Descent's article "Darwin’s “Sacred” Cause: How Opposing Slavery Could Still Enslave" at 3:03 and 3:16 today. My comments are still "awaiting moderation." Other comments are getting through, so I guess the moderators don't like my comments.

  9. Vronvron said "My comments are still "awaiting moderation." Other comments are getting through, so I guess the moderators don't like my comments."

    Try including a couple of references to Bible verses, that usually does the trick.

  10. KTaylor.

    Thanks for the advice. I think the reason why Uncommon Descent won't print my response is because I used an email address that does not include my real name.

    PS. Check the 16 February post, "United Church of Canada celebrates Darwin - en route to oblivion," at Uncommon Descent where O'Leary cites an article by Robert Fulford to support her argument. Of course, If you read Fulfords article (there is a link in O'Leary's article) you discover that Fulford's article does not support O'Leary's argument.

  11. For example, the accusation that Noam Chomsky's writings are senseless because he has a trust fund for his grandchildren is both an ad hominem attack and a straw man.

    How is this a straw man?