William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

The Unknown Fallacy: Inflicting Your Views On Me

So a guy with a paper bag on his head, two holes cut for eyes and one for his pie hole, walks on stage, begins pumping his arms like a choo-choo, and says:

A man walks into a talent agency and says he has a talking dog. The talent agent is skeptical but the man says he’ll prove it.

Man: How does sandpaper feel?
Dog: Rough

Man: What’s on the top of the building?
Dog: Roof

Man: Who is the greatest baseball player of all-time
Dog: Ruth

The talent agent kicks the man and dog out of his office. When they get into the hall, the dog turns to the man and asks, “Do you think I should have said Willie Mays?”

A panelist sitting to his left, unable to appreciate the delicate humor of this anecdote, stands and whacks a massive brass gong. And the Unknown Comic, for this is the paper-bag man’s name, has failed to be funny. This was on The Gong Show, hosted by self-professed super-spy and CIA assassin Chuck Barris. Idea was to put people with mostly lousy abilities in front of a camera and see how long they could get through an act before a panel of judges gave them the hook.

After the The Gong Show dried up, the Unknown Comic took to Twitter, where he offered the entry given above in response to the Kim Davis affair. If you can’t see the tweet, it reads “In America all are entitled to their religious beliefs. They are Not entitled to inflict their beliefs on those who don’t share their beliefs.”

The great Unknown’s quip is surprisingly common; dozens of variants flourish. And each time one is offered it receives sage nods. “That’s right. People can’t force some Bible verse on us,” “Religion has no place in the law,” “The government should be free on religion,” Etc.

What a dismal fallacy. The refutation is so obvious that it can scarcely be credited that the fallacy has any life at all. I wielded the hammer—GONG!
in a reply to Unknown which ran, “You just inflicted your belief on others. I’ll let you punish yourself.”

We’ll dub this the Unknown Fallacy, which is a flavor of the Genetic Fallacy, the false belief that the origin of an argument is sufficient reason to reject it. It is a schoolyard fallacy and evidence of reaction and not reasoned thought.

Faithful Christians1 say that marriage is the holy union between one man, one woman ’til death do them part. Non-Christians say gmarriage is anything the government wants it to be: the willful, temporary abiding of two men, two women, a man and woman attempting unions beyond their first while their spouses still live, and almost surely many more “experiments in living” to come.

Christians reason in two ways: that both the natural law and scripture define holy matrimony (Dale Ahlquist reminds us of the emphasis of this term). To be faithful means accepting these two arguments. Revelation provides the scriptural argument, and it is understood by Christians that non-Christians might not cotton to revelation. But there is still the scientific, natural law argument, which is available to all via reason, and which ought to be accepted by all who value rational thought. The natural law conclusion also corresponds to the view mankind has held for thousands of years—up until a short while ago.

Non-Christians are more variable, but generally agree that might makes right, which is why the government can define gmarriage in whatever way is fashionable. Gmarriage is pure emotion. This is why “love wins.” Might makes right is why some countries actually put the question of marriage definition to vote: the majority (the might) decides truth.

The two positions conflict; it is obvious that both cannot be correct. Non-Christians are the majority and at the least strongly dislike, but more often hate, the Christian view. Christians are in the minority and ask to be left out of acknowledging as true what they know is false. Non-Christians are in general not willing to tolerate public active disagreement. They want to compel Christians photographers, for instance, to film gmarriage ceremonies, for Christians judges to preside over gmarriages, and so on and so on.

Thus non-Christians want to “inflict their beliefs on those who don’t share their beliefs.” Observations have proven this is a true statement. But by itself that truth does not prove the non-Christians are wrong to hold their view about marriage. (Non-Christians are wrong because of the other reasons, given above.)

Anybody who uses the Unknown Fallacy, a.k.a. the Inflicting-Your-View-On-Me Fallacy, is cheating, trying to avoid the hard work of refuting (if it is even possible) his opponent’s argument.

Note: Don’t let’s argue gmarriage, which will come to no end. Instead, do some real homework and find other instances of the Unknown Fallacy—and not just on gmarriage. I’ve seen it used in abortion, euthanasia, and in many other places.

—————————————————-

1And others similar to them; I’m using “Christians” and “non-Christians” in a broad sense, as shorthand. You get the idea. Update Or rather, you don’t. See my first comment. Those who accept the traditional view on marriage, which includes those matters of divorce and regmmariage, are called here, merely for shorthand, “Faithful Christians.” I admit the dichotomy “Faithful Christians” and “Heretics” would have been better.

55 Comments

  1. You’re arguing against a fallacy, with an argument rife with fallacies. Why would you do that? Christians are in the minority? On what do you base this on? You’re also incorrect on what you assert ‘non-Christians’ [far too generalizing for your intellectual pedigree] claim marriage to be.

    To rebut, if I may on behalf of the demographic you label as ‘non-Christian’…….they want public servants to abide by and enforce the secular, civil law which guides our system of jurisprudence and bureaucracy….as opposed to using government as a venue to promote their belief system, and a pursuit to obtain [or maintain] special privileges based on that same belief system.

  2. Briggs

    September 7, 2015 at 9:11 am

    CI,

    As I stated, in a footnote you missed, the labels are broad generalities. “Faithful Christians” was shortened to Christians and was defined as those who believe revelation and natural law about marriage. These folks are in the minority. Non-Christians were those who do not believe either (I believe you missed the part about divorce and remarriage). Some people who call themselves Christians obviously fall into the non-Christian camp. I could have used heretics, I suppose, which would have been more accurate.

    Your second paragraph is confused. We are not asking here about whether gmarriage is legal, for it is (and clearly you missed The Week in Doom entry on the Nuremberg Laws: The Law of the Land!). Why is the government seeking to inflict its views on Christians! We are asking about the Unknown Fallacy. Have you any examples?

    Apropos: When does your religion legally excuse you from doing part of your job? “5. The rule rejects the ‘you don’t like the job requirements, so quit the job’ argument,” etc.

  3. This line of reasoning is terribly incoherent and self refuting. If you’re invoking scripture and its variation Natural Law, which is a projection of moral values on nature, then you are unavoidably arguing (actually you have not mustered even an argument here, it is more like a complaint) that people who don’t believe what you believe are wrong because they refuse to believe what you believe. You’ve refuted your own argument. Scientific inquiry does not presuppose moral values. To posit an argument that same sex marriage is against science is beyond silly. Science has nothing to say about moral choices. What you’re invoking here is Scientism.

    Of course the fact that this argument is so tortured doesn’t mean the position is necessarily wrong. I think a better approach would be to separate out the religious freedom argument from the “non believers shouldn’t do what I don’t believe” complaint, as the two are separate issues. Obviously the first position is far easier to defend than will be the second.

  4. Briggs

    September 7, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Will,

    I’m surprised you have missed the point, which is unlike you. Did you really think my two paragraph summary of marriage and gmarriage was meant to be a complete dissertation on the topic? And you missed the point where I said let’s don’t argue gmarriage, which isn’t the point.

    Have you anything relevant to say on the point of this article? I.e. about the Unknown fallacy?

  5. While It wasn’t a Complete dissertation but it was largely what the article discussed. If you’re inclined for me to work out in more detail the specific problem with your fallacy, It is that it doesn’t fairly represent the point of contention. The non Christian doesn’t recognise the other’s position as rational, because it’s based on scriptural teachings and/or philosophical claims that the other side has been offered no (non faith based) reason to accept. Tossing in an argument from authority is not going to help either, especially if the authority has no standing for the other side. One side says “don’t do X” and the other sides response will be “why shouldn’t I do X if it does no harm?” I don’t see the debate being about any sort of fallacy. One side needs to argue that society will be harmed and the other will try to counter this. Again to repeat, there is no argument to address hence no fallacy about the arguments not being addressed. One side is talking past the other here.

  6. The grammatical errors and odd punctuation I attribute to the tortuous exercise of tapping on an Ipad which seems to insist on miscorrecting my typing and even flipping my words around for no reason. Even the last sentence I just tapped changed flipping to gripping and words for fords for no logical reason, however it seems not to bother to correct actual spelling mistakes either….

  7. Briggs

    September 7, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Will,

    “The non Christian doesn’t recognise the other’s position as rational, because it’s based on scriptural teachings and/or philosophical claims that the other side has been offered no (non faith based) reason to accept… ”

    This is mere restatement.

    The Unknown Comic was, tacitly as is obvious, trying to inflict his views (about gmarriage) on others. Just as Faithful Christians once tried to do on the same subject. We are not arguing gmarriage here, but the fallacy. The Unknown Comic does not recognize he is not arguing for his position. He is blustering and bullying.

  8. What about the atheists and homosexuals who try to inflict their views on others?
    The argument can go two ways, so I would much rather that those who do not like to carry out a governmentally enforced edict resign their jobs, rather than those engaged in private pursuits be forced to follow rules and practices that conflict with their religious and moral beliefs.

    Better that Kim Davis resign her job than a baker be forced to bake a cake (with appropriate mottoes and figures) for a homosexual wedding or that a priest be forced to participate in a homosexual wedding.

    In other words, if a government issues licenses for something, that’s the affair of the government. But let not the government intrude its notion of correct practices, other than those involving public safety, into private affairs.

  9. Briggs, I didn’t miss your footnotes, I asked you a couple of pointed questions regarding the premise of your assertions.

  10. Briggs,

    Your inconsistencies are showing. On one hand you argue there is Law (i.e. God’s law, which I subscribe to as well), while on the other hand you flip and flop over law (i.e. man’s law, which is ethically and morally invalid when in opposition to Law).

    The WP article is an analysis of law. It is one mans’ view of law, nothing else.

    I say test the clerk’s case in the courts, all the way to the US Supreme Court. Any bet on the outcome?

    So there is law — useless.

    Yet you appeal to law when it suits your argument, even when refuting law.

    My questions to you have never been on law, since no one knows what a ruling in that regard will be (e.g. Obamacare is a tax and not a tax in the same breath).

    I want to hear your system of ethics with regard to the question at hand, plus the consequences that can be derived from your system.

    So, please do not hide behind law, since you and I both agree (at least I believe we do) that law is meaningless when it does not comport with Law, and it is a meaningless redundancy when it does comport.

    (Note: Read Lysander Spooner to understand that man, in essence, cannot create law to define right and wrong — those definitions are long established. So do not appeal to law — or one man’s interpretation thereof — when you believe it is in your favor.)

  11. I reckon the error in just about every attempt at a rational view of this is in thinking that making records defines the event. Marriage is one of the three events in a person’s life that have been for ages recognised as *vital events*. They’re milestones marking a person’s transition moments as they pass by it. The moments are less significant than the span of their life that follows the event. Birth marks the coming into existence of a person. After it occurs the state and/or religion makes notes about it. Ditto for death – it marks the transition to a changed and continuing status. And ditto for coupling that isn’t in essence sterile. Neither the state nor religion, in making records and partaking in ritual *owns* or defines any of these three vital events. That’s another way to begin a conversation about it.

    Marriage isn’t a contract between two people. It’s an elusive agreement between two people as one party, and their prior and subsequent generations, and their community and mishpocha (a bit wider than ‘relatives’) as other parties to the complex multilayered agreement. A non-sterile couple doesn’t need to make a formal contract with a third person in order to fulfil their agreement with their prior and subsequent generations. Bringing that third person into it requires a formal contract that grants the state a role in defining how three, not two, people relate to the other parties of their marriage agreement. It downgrades the concept of marriage in handing control of one of the three major vital events to the arbitrary temporal and fickle decision making aparatus of politics and democratic whimsy. It makes the vital event subservient to records on pieces of paper.

    The direction the dispute has taken has made religious persons address the vital landmarks in terms that apply to state control, so naturally they lose the argument. Instead, view it afresh as the three vital events, not in terms of who has given themselves a right to record them.

  12. This is off the point, but one would think that in a pluralistic society that a solution can be agreed to (a compromise) that would allow a county clerk to keep her job, have marriage licenses be issued, and give churches the berth to recognize/not recognize instances of holy matrimony according to the tenets of the individual religions.

    Part of the problem is that people with little or no faith don’t quite understand what it means to have true religious conviction–they labor under the delusion that having faith is just another (meaningless) “choice” or “preference”–like Coke over Pepsi. The simple solution for the not-religious is just to change the tenets of belief: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417448/hillary-clinton-religious-beliefs-have-be-changed-accommodate-abortion-joel-gehrke

    The Democratic candidate is talking about abortion in this case, but the sentiments can be expanded to include same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

  13. Faithful Christians1 say that marriage is the holy union between one man, one woman ’til death do them part.

    So, is Kim Davis a faithful Christian? No, not an argument.

    Is it possible that both Chrisitians and non-Christians understand the difference between the marriage blessed by the church and the one recognized by the government?

    A post that I actually learn something from –
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/09/04/when-does-your-religion-legally-excuse-you-from-doing-part-of-your-job/

    Oh, also please check out Chrisitian P. Robert’s blog.

  14. Oh, also please check out Chrisitian P. Robert’s blog.

    A message for Mr. Briggs only.

  15. Briggs,

    All of these are true:

    “That’s right. People can’t force some Bible verse on us,” “Religion has no place in the law,” “The government should be free on religion,” Etc.

    Individual right are not limitless but limited by the right to others, I.e. Your individual freedom ends where the individual freedom starts. If not someone could claim is religious to kill others and avoid jail.

    While a religious person cannot be denied work for the State that person has to be subservient of the law of the state when working for the State because a secular State recognizes the freedom of everyone.

    This means that the State cannot force someone to get married, but the State also has the obligation to recognize the difference of belief between to individual.

    In the case of Davis who chose to present herself to be elected at the county office, she put her hands on the bible and swore to upheld the law of the State which include federal laws. When she works for the county she has to apply the law regardless of her religious beliefs, because she doesn’t represent herself but the State.

    There are ways she could have acted that would not have affected her religious belief. She could have ask someone else to issue the licence to the couple. But she never ask anyone or offer any other options to the couple. If there is no one else’s there that can do her job, her only choices were to either give the license or resign.

    In refusing to give the licence to the gay couple, her representing the State denied their religious freedom to the couple. Many States passed RFRA law to make sure such situation doesn’t happen. In this case it was a Christian denying religious rights to others.

    It seems that for you only people that agree with you have religious rights.

  16. Mr. Briggs, I pity you. You run a fine blog with good articles, but often your combox is a quagmire where all rational thought breaks down. I have never seen better evidence of our modern educational system’s complete failure to teach people how to think… for here, I often see people with obvious raw intelligence, who nevertheless cannot think. They can only assert their prejudices, and only bother to muster a pretense of logic for the purpose of reviling your views. I don’t know how you have the patience to rebut people who seem uninterested even in self-criticism, let alone receiving criticism from such a man as yourself. I am stupendously bored by reading them, so I can only imagine how you feel.

    Since you asked for people to focus on the fallacy of “don’t inflict your views on me,” rather than to respond to the gmarriage issue, I’ll do that – despite the fact that some of the commenters could benefit from a clearer debate on that issue.

    Still, leaving it aside, I’ll point out that you’ve hit upon the central problem of modernity. Modernism is based upon the incoherent and irrational effort to accord rights to error, based on an incorrect valuation and application of the good of tolerance. This began with Protestantism, which as Don Felix Sardana y Salvany said, “begets by nature tolerance of error.” Because men are supposed to be entitled to their opinions, and to act in accord with their conscience on these opinions, we start hedging off little corners of “freedom,” where people are “free” to act as they think best, as long as they “don’t harm/inflict themselves on anybody else.”

    But we are trying to live together in a society. Any view that we attempt to enshrine as the societal ideal is automatically and inevitably going to inflict itself upon everybody in that society, to some extent. Why, even to advocate that one should not inflict his moral views on someone else, is to attempt to inflict one’s moral views on someone else. I, for example, believe it is absolutely right and just and salutary, for myself and other faithful Catholics to inflict our moral views on others, and to compel them to conform to our social doctrine in most points, albeit our social doctrine allows for some tolerance, within reason, in the name of the greater good. I believe this, because I believe that the Church is infallible, pure and taught of God, and that, in addition to all of her divine dogma being inerrant, her social doctrine is pristine and coherent, the most precise and perfect embodiment of truth in the social order that it is possible to have. I have divine Faith in our Lord and His Church. Obviously, believing this, I believe that their principles should reign supreme, since, being True, our Lord and His Church teach me that they should reign supreme.

    Now, when others in society advocate for a form of specious relativism (which is actually an ideological totalitarianism in favour of degradation), they are inflicting their moral view upon me. They are attempting to limit the scope of my social and moral action, to make me conform to their appeal to the mob, to the moral drift and societal decline of a state piloted by the demagogued masses. They are denying my moral view that a just, rational and even divine social order should reign over society, and that, far from according “power to the people,” I should hold the uninformed dissent of infidels and fools in contempt, regarding this latter as the infallible source of civilizational decadence. If they succeed in preventing me from implementing my moral vision and living in the society I would form for myself, they have succeeded in inflicting their moral vision upon me. They have nullified my moral and social aspirations. They have compelled me to live in a State where a chimerical relativism bulldozes my sublimer views without scruple.

    This conflict is now splitting even Liberalism down the middle: on the one hand, you have neo-Liberals claiming that people have a right to goods and services such as healthcare, because you can’t exercise your other “right” or really be “free,” unless the government gives you a house, food, health care and Wi-Fi. They still pay lip service to the “your rights end where mine begin” view, but it’s obvious they now believe that anything that may be necessary to guarantee the more important rights, can plausibly be asserted as something to which one is entitled.

    On the other hand, the sorry few who still cling to Classical Liberalism are futilely trying to keep the barque of negative rights afloat. They will say, for instance, that you don’t have a right to free health care, because this means you have a right to compel others to provide you with a service. They take this as a general principle – you don’t have a right to make other people provide you with the substance of your rights; your rights end where the rights of others begin… but, unlike neo-Liberals, Classical Liberals “really mean it.”

    But I answer that this principle is also incorrect. I believe in the right to due process, for example, and this requires that the State provide competent law enforcement, a judiciary, equitable processes for jury selection and compensation, etc., etc. I believe that the King(/State) has a duty to provide just laws and to govern justly. It is NOT a universal rule that I have no right to receive provision of goods or services from the State; the reason I am not entitled to free health care, is because it does not belong to the State to provide my health care, and I do not have the right to privately compel the forfeiture of goods or the rendering of services from others for a matter which is not of their responsibility. The lesson to be drawn, is that the real essence of justice does not rest in some principle that is devised merely to effect an (impossible) neutrality or compromise between “equal yet opposite,” mutually valid worldviews. It is rooted in what is Right, and in that alone.

    Anyway, that’s really the essence of all this. Since we no longer believe that people only have rights to what is Right, and since we no longer teach people how to think clearly and correctly so as to aim for what is Right (allowing them to simply assert their feelings and impulses and half-baked ideas as something to which they have a “right”), and since we have founded a society based on the irrational attempt to accord rights to this tangled abyss of inevitable error, we are doomed to play out this disingenuous conflict – the conflict wherein we pretend that we are not inflicting ourselves on each other, despite it being the purpose of society/the State to enforce a certain kind of order on all the citizenry – to the bitter, bitter, bitterest end.

    I used to think people would wake up. If people still don’t get this, despite the obvious clash of mutual moral inflictions which, after five centuries, has now entered the critical stage (because, having moved on from disagreement about less obvious points, sane people are now being asked to acquiesce even to palpably absurd ideas – collusion in sodomy = holy matrimony; Bruce Jenner = woman; up = down; square = circle), then I can’t conceive of what would help them to understand it.

  17. Mr. CuiPertinebit, thank you, that was beautiful.

  18. Politics is nothing but one group inflicting its beliefs on everyone else. In a democracy, the group that does the inflicting is called the majority, and the majority grounds its beliefs on anything it likes–on television, tweets, or the gags of over-the-hill comedians. The notion that politics can be separated from inflicting beliefs is one form of the Unknown Fallacy. This Fallacy is common among people who are accustomed to being in the majority, and so are not daily vexed by stupid laws grounded in other people’s nutty beliefs.

    The second form of the Unknown Fallacy accepts that politics is nothing but one group inflicting its beliefs on everyone else, but finds this infliction onerous and intolerable when those beliefs are “religious.” I don’t know why uncongenial religious beliefs should be more irritating than uncongenial aesthetic or ethical beliefs, but the point of the Fallacy is to avoid making this argument. As it stands, it is illegitimate for a man to act upon beliefs formed upon reading the Bible, but legitimate for a man to act upon beliefs formed upon reading a comic book, cereal box, or blog comment.

    So the Unknown Fallacy takes two forms, one rooted in political ignorance and the other rooted in epistemological ignorance. It is what a political and epistemological ignoramus says when he is vexed by a public policy that is grounded in beliefs he does not share and that he attempts to discredit with the label “religious.”

  19. Sander van der Wal

    September 7, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Christians are of course completely unfamiliar with inflicting their beliefs on non-Christians. Never done such a thing at all, no Sir.

  20. JH,

    In your provided article I see a lot of argument I’ve made when trying to explain the legal process, albeit that the explanation are clearer than I can provide in a second language.

    The thing with the Kim Davis’s case is that she hasn’t seem to work at all with the county to try to find a solution.

  21. We are quite familiar with inflicting our beliefs on non-Christians. God willing, we will do so again one day.

  22. Dean, you have been since day one…..you haven’t stopped, regardless of professions of support for Liberty.

  23. Mr. Erickson,

    I thank you for the kind words. Anything beautiful in what I said, was given to me by the Holy Catholic Church.

    Anything squalid, I will attribute to my education in public schools!

  24. Recording that something that’s legally called a marriage does not determine the nature of a real marriage that’s lived by a couple. Davis should acknowledge that the paper shuffling job she took on has been substantially altered, that it’s been rendered into meaningless rubbish that revolts her, and resign. Instead her stance shows she thinks the state actually defines what marriage is by issuing a bit of paper, at the same time that she insists that the state can’t define it. No-one has forced her to go against her religious beliefs – she can resign. If she wants to fight against a state decree, that’s a separate matter that she should move to the usual arena – public lobbying.

  25. Mr. CuiPertinebit,

    A very strange and revealing slip of the tongue that you credit the Holy Catholic Church instead of God. It is revealing that the religious organizations is in fact bigger than God for devout Catholic.

  26. Out of curiosity and not being familiar with the details of the US situation, are there any rights denied a civil union (or whatever the previous form of recognised union was over there) that are unique to traditional marriage, other than those pertaining to the religious elements? If no, then what is the fuss about? If yes, then why can’t that be legislated without impinging on religious beliefs? Surely it isn’t that difficult to keep church and state seperated? Equally why is it necessary to insist any servant of the Government perform ceremonies that conflict with personal beliefs? Is there a shortage of agnostic civil celebrants? It bemuses me that so much consternation is possible over an issue that ought to be a non-issue if legislated sensibly.

  27. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 7, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Tossing in an argument from authority is not going to help

    Such as “it’s the law of the land!” The argument from authority is generally rejected only when one rejects the authority. This seems to be a form of the Unknown Fallacy.

    The religious beliefs of others are forced upon us all the time. For example, the medieval Christians devised a distinction between combatants and non-combatants that we observed (by and large) up to WW2, when we started bombing and incinerating civilians by the city-load.

    The Jesuit program of “Social Justice” is being pushed and imposed (albeit in a bastardized argument-from-state-authority form) without many objections that religious beliefs are being imposed.

    Ditto for just war theory: the prince cannot simply declare war will-he, nill-he. Or at least not until recently.

    The idea that the universe is rationally ordered and that order is accessible to human reason was also a religious belief that permeated Western Society, to little objection.

    Of course, in some cases, these religious beliefs have been imposed on society for so long that many people think they are actually facts of nature, or can devise ex post facto non-religious rationalizations. (One may, for example, devise a Darwinian argument against gmarriage.)

    There is also the problem of the loaded term “impose,” which is often used to mean “an argument with which I don’t agree.”

  28. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 7, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    If you’re invoking scripture and its variation Natural Law

    But the natural law is not a variation of scripture, nor is it entirely clear what scripture you suppose Aristotle to have followed.

  29. An argument from authority takes the form of:

    “John says it’s true because John is very smart. Check out his SAT scores!”

    This is not an argument from authority:

    “Obey the authorities, i.e., pay your taxes, because they tell you to.” [Because otherwise you will be put in jail.]

    If you find the use of the word scripture confusing, replace it with doctrine. Although fussing about such distinctions is akin to arguing over how many angles can fit on the head of a pin.

  30. “The Unknown Comic was, tacitly as is obvious, trying to inflict his views (about gmarriage) on others. Just as Faithful Christians once tried to do on the same subject. We are not arguing gmarriage here, but the fallacy. The Unknown Comic does not recognize he is not arguing for his position. He is blustering and bullying.”

    Not at all the case. There are multiple principles at work here. One is the general humanist one, largely (although not entirely) accepted by all players in the debate. This is: don’t harm others. If one party seeks to do X, and he is denied because his action harms others, then all parties (generally speaking) will concede he is not entitled to that action. On the other had, if one party seeks to do X, and he is stopped from doing X on ideological grounds alone… that is to say, based on a contentious or hypothetical harm, then that person should not, in an ideal world, be stopped from doing X. This is because other parties don’t agree that action X is or is not harmful.

    Examples:

    I will not let you marry because God will be unhappy.
    I will not let you eat pork, because God will be unhappy.
    I will not let you drive that car or heat your home in that way, because Gaia will be unhappy.

    If you’re able to muster good objective evidence for actual harm, then you’re operating from a position of neutrality. Or in other words, a *reasoned* position. Otherwise you’re operating from an ideological position. The slight of hand here is your assertion that *all* claims must be ideological. This is untrue. I may eat pork because I am unconvinced by the claims that I will offend God by doing so. Obviously, others may be offended when they see me eat pork, or when I attempt to purchase pork. My position would only cease to be neutral if I then attempted to force everyone to eat pork, because I concluded that God would be unhappy if everyone didn’t eat pork. Now in this situation I am attempting to force people to do X or not do X, based on a belief, not a reasoned position.

  31. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 8, 2015 at 8:30 am

    An argument from authority takes the form of:
    “John says it’s true because John is very smart. Check out his SAT scores!”

    Actually, something more like:
    “X is true because John says it’s true and John is very smart!”

    For example, “Statement X about relativity theory is very likely true because Einstein said it and he is an authority on relativity.”

    How about:
    “Gmarriage is marriage because the government says it is, and the government is the authority.”

    That’s why the argument from authority is a material fallacy, not a formal fallacy, a point often missed by those who fail to distinguish form from matter.

    This is not an argument from authority:
    “Obey the authorities, i.e., pay your taxes, because they tell you to.” [Because otherwise you will be put in jail.]

    This is authority, but not an argument. The argument that gmarriage is marriage because five supreme court justices said so would be an argument from authority.

    If you find the use of the word scripture confusing, replace it with doctrine.

    OK. Which “doctrine” was Aristotle following?

    Although fussing about such distinctions is akin to arguing over how many angles can fit on the head of a pin.

    No, because a) the answer to that student exercise is obvious and b) the answer does not depend on drawing fine distinctions.

    “Drawing distinctions” is sometimes called “defining terms.” Otherwise, when talking about orbits we might confuse the revolution of Mars about the sun or the circuit of bone around the eye.

  32. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 8, 2015 at 8:35 am

    I will not let you marry because God will be unhappy.

    How about:
    “You cannot marry because that is not a marriage.”
    (That’s “cannot” (physically impossible), not “may not” (forbidden to).

  33. Nice post Briggs and great comment CuiPertinebit! I have actually quit reading many of the comments also, I see such and such name, skip! CuiPertinebit you nailed it, they argue from their own prejudice and seemingly often totally miss the point Briggs is trying to make. I quite often sit here shaking my head asking, did they even read the article? This seems to happen more often now than before(?) or perhaps as I get older I get tired of the incoherent nonsense and don’t want to waste my time trying to figure out if the commenter has something of value somewhere in there.

    Oh well, keep up the good work Briggs.

  34. Actually, it makes perfect sense that the tolerant are the least tolerant. Black is white, white is black. Rich is poor, poor is rich. If you never think, it makes perfect sense.

    Tolerance is actually about keeping people free of religious influences and only under the influence of the non-religious, the only actual reason for its existence is to destroy religion. People want to rid themselves of rules, without that pesky reality stepping in and giving them AIDS, kids in gangs because no one was raising them except the gangs, etc. If people do complain, it’s just words and no action unless religion can be further smashed. If it weren’t for religion, there would be no AIDS, no gangs. We’d be living in a paradise of sharing and caring. (I have some beachfront property in Idaho for those of you who believe this statement.)

    I recommend dropping the believers into North Korea or maybe rural China. Religion isn’t a problem there and the government rules are written in stone and promptly enforced. Why keep these people from their utopia? Freedom from nasty religious people who who only want to ruin their fun.

  35. “How about:
    “You cannot marry because that is not a marriage.””

    As long as you clarify it like so:

    “You cannot marry because that is not a marriage [in the eyes of God, which would therefore make him unhappy].””

    If a Muslim officer from a health authority failed to issue a certificate of compliance to a farmer based on religious belief (produce is not Halal), that would cause a general uproar here, and the shaky arguments used here would be immediately flipped and bent to new purpose. If you can’t exercise your chosen role in good conscious then the morally correct action is to resign. There is hypocrisy in sticking to one’s conscious while being unwilling to accept negative consequences when they arise. It is no different from the Green voter who refuses to cut down on his or her high level of air travel, because it would be inconvenient to do so.

  36. YOS:
    “For example, “Statement X about relativity theory is very likely true because Einstein said it and he is an authority on relativity.”

    That is still an informal fallacy. “The uncertainty principle is untrue because Einstein did not believe it, and he is an authority on QM.”

    “That’s why the argument from authority is a material fallacy, not a formal fallacy, a point often missed by those who fail to distinguish form from matter.”

    The question is not what type of fallacy it is, but whether it’s a fallacy at all. You’re indulging in a common fallacy used here (unfortunately Dr Briggs tends to do it a lot on these subject matters), which is to beg the question.

    “This is not an argument from authority:
    “Obey the authorities, i.e., pay your taxes, because they tell you to.” [Because otherwise you will be put in jail.]”

    No it isn’t. Because the ruling has the force of law. You can debate whether the law is just or unjust. I would agree that the High Court had no jurisdiction to rule in the way it did, as it is not the purpose of the Court to make up new laws or invent new rights. Whether it’s an argument from authority or not, however, depends on how this statement of fact is used in an argument.

  37. “We’ll dub this the Unknown Fallacy, …, the false belief that the origin of an argument is sufficient reason to reject it. It is a schoolyard fallacy and evidence of reaction and not reasoned thought.”

    It’s so easy to ignore ample legal precedent – here’s some famous cases, old & recent, reasoned legal cases anyone can review:

    a) The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, Appeal to the Supreme Court of Tennessee, where rational arguments were rejected time & again to support creationism and muzzle the theory of evolution – on religious grounds. Ultimately the State dropped the case undecided. So fizzled the [in]famous “Monkey Trial” after the teacher was initially convicted FOR teaching evolution, though he wasn’t sure he actually did or not but took advantage of the situation to force a trial.

    b) Epperson v. Arkansas – made the teaching of evolution legal; made the Arkansas prohibition illegal on grounds that prohibition violated the Establishment Clause.

    c) Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District — made a mandate to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution illegal, in part because doing so violated the Establishment Clause.

    d) Bottom Line – Legal precedent remains for the source of an argument to justify the argument’s rejection when the source is religion and the domain is public policy.

    The fact that someone keeps resorting – simply cannot restrain themselves from invoking – religion to support a position highlights a fundamental conflict with the Establishment Clause.

    This becomes a harsher conflict now that [at least] the Episcopal Church—a “Christian” institution of a “Christian” religion—has formally endorsed gmarriage. To support the argument made the author has to resort to not only ‘gmarriage’ but then to bashing other forms of “Christianity”:

    “Those who accept the traditional view on marriage, which includes those matters of divorce and regmmariage, are called here, merely for shorthand, “Faithful Christians.” I admit the dichotomy “Faithful Christians” and “Heretics” would have been better.”

    To argue the case the author embarks on an obvious clash with the Establishment Clause on two normally unrelated fronts 1) ‘gmarriage,’ and 2) any Christian doctrine that disagrees with his religion’s doctrine. To make his [so-called] ‘logic’ work the author would now have the government not only hone to “Christian” doctrine, but hone to a particular sort of “Christian” doctrine in a way that would negate the ability of a differing “Christian” denomination from exercising its version of “Christianity.”

    Not only is ‘gmarriage’ under attack, but the battle line & confrontation is extending to a second front — against a differing “Christian” sect(s) that accepts what another has rejected.

    This is a nice case study on why the country was founded with a separation between State & religion. The moment religious issues come into play, the battles only worsen.

    That aside, the argument is beyond tiresome – If one has a religious view that can’t live with ‘gmarriage’ all one need do is say so & exercise their right to vote & lobby their elected representatives accordingly. Done. It’s just that simple.

    Concocting some lengthy religiously-based argument under the pretense that it’s not a religiously-based argument (while constantly resorting to citing one’s religious doctrine!) makes the same basic mistake in Kitzmiller v Dover…it doesn’t work and doesn’t fool anyone (though in Kitzmiller v Dover… they sensibly tried to conceal their religious motivations while trying, unsuccessfully anyway, to pretend some secular logic was all it was about).

  38. “That aside, the argument is beyond tiresome – If one has a religious view that can’t live with ‘gmarriage’ all one need do is say so & exercise their right to vote & lobby their elected representatives accordingly. Done. It’s just that simple.”

    That is clearly an idiotic statement as the unelected members of the Supreme Court overrode state legislatures on deciding this matter. Hardly a simple situation.

  39. Will,

    Following the Dred Scot decision by the Supreme Court people voted and congress passed the 13th amendment. Now the Supreme Court could not render the same decision they did in Dred Scot.

    So it looks likes Ken comment is not as idiotic as you claimed.

  40. Suggesting that the voting public “merely” amend the constitution involves a two-thirds vote of both the House of Representatives and Senate, and then ratification of three-fourths of all the state legislatures. “Voting and lobby their elected representatives accordingly. Done. It’s just that simple.” – is clearly a comment written by a dimwit and of course naturally endorsed by one.

  41. I would that a dimwit is the guy that complain about a court 9 non elected judges rendering a decision that was applauded by the vast majority of Americans.

    No one on the right complained that the same court gutted the voting right act permitting numerous state to pass restricting voting laws to reduce black ability to vote. The voting right act was a non controversial law where both republican an democrat voted for.

  42. Also noticed that you called Ken an idiot without any provocation from his part.

  43. Sylvain you are not very bright and also a liar. These statements might be considered ad hominems which in one sense they are, although strictly speaking they are not, because they are also factually correct. This is the one special case where what looks like an ad hominen is not in fact an ad hominen. Writing, “Pol Pot was a monster”, for example, is not an ad hominen in that sense.

    What I wrote was:

    “That is clearly an idiotic statement…”

    You then claimed:

    “you called Ken an idiot”

    Saying a statement is idiotic or foolish only says that the statement or claim is stupid or foolish. Even very smart people can from time to time say really dumb things. That doesn’t make them idiots. It only means they wrote something foolish. It happens to the best of us. Now, when I called you a liar, as above, this is also strictly speaking, not an ad hominem, because your claim was a lie. You declared I called someone an idiot when in fact I did no such thing. You may have done this because you are a liar or, second possibility, you are indeed a fool, and therefore was unable to understand that you were lying. From the very limited readings I’ve made of your posts in the past, I am confident I can make a fact based case that you are both.

    Anyway, you go back on my ignore list, where you belong.

  44. It really takes a not so bright genius to not realize that the simple tone of what he writes spells idiot.

  45. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 9, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    How about:
    “You cannot marry because that is not a marriage.”

    As long as you clarify it like so:
    “You cannot marry because that is not a marriage [in the eyes of God, which would therefore make him unhappy].”

    No, I meant “that is not a marriage, period.” God has nothing to do with it. As in the old joke: “How many legs would a dog have if you called the tail a ‘leg’?” Ans.: “Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

    If a Muslim officer from a health authority failed to issue a certificate of compliance to a farmer based on religious belief (produce is not Halal),

    If the farmer wanted to pretend that it was halal when it really was not, then we would have a similar situation. The officer’s religious beliefs might make him sensitive to the deviation, but the issue would still be “You can’t call the pork chops ‘halal’ because they aren’t.

    The question is not what type of fallacy it is, but whether it’s a fallacy at all.

    However, a material fallacy may be true. Look at the references and footnotes in a scientific paper. All of them are authoritative. You may be mistaking a reference to an authority used as a shorthand for an argument make by another person versus a reference to an authority as an argument simpliciter. (In fact… what exactly was the argument from authority you are referring to?)

    the [in]famous “Monkey Trial”

    Was correctly decided. The State of Tennessee had a law and Scopes was found guilty of violating it and given a nominal fine. Whether the law itself was a wise one is a separate question. G.K.Chesterton, as usual, had the skinny. As a Catholic, he did not have a dog in the hunt and observed from the sidelines: The real issue was that the people of Tennessee were sick and tired of being pushed around by the One Percent and drew a line in the sand. (Recall, too, that the law and trial took place during what was called “the twilight of evolution.” The theory was fading in popularity, especially in France and other regions outside the Anglosphere and the idea that “it must be true because all these smart people say it’s true” was what Will would call an argument from authority. Once Mendel’s genetics was re-discovered, the theory had a more scientific basis and a new consensus was developed.)

    A friend of mine went to high school in Tennessee in the 50s, and his biology teacher told him. “By law, I cannot teach you the theory of evolution. So I will teach you what they say in Kentucky about the theory.” Of course, it was a Catholic school run by the Christian Brothers.

    Following the Dred Scot decision by the Supreme Court people voted and congress passed the 13th amendment.

    Actually, the “votes” were cast by the rifles of the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the Potomac. All to impose a religious belief (abolition) on the country.

  46. You,

    “No, I meant “that is not a marriage, period.”

    If it is not marriage then what is all the fuss about. Certainly God wouldn’t mind someone giving a non marriage, marriage license.

    “If the farmer wanted to pretend that it was halal when it really was not, then we would have a similar situation. The officer’s religious beliefs might make him sensitive to the deviation, but the issue would still be “You can’t call the pork chops ‘halal’ because they aren’t.”

    If a Muslim government representatives refused anything to an American Christian based on religious belief, you can be sure that the fury of Christian would be murderous. No matter if he was right or not.

  47. YOS,

    “No, I meant “that is not a marriage, period.” God has nothing to do with it. As in the old joke: “How many legs would a dog have if you called the tail a ‘leg’?” Ans.: “Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

    God has everything to do with it. You’re just being intellectually dishonest. Natural Law is an archaic metaphysic based on primitive animist conceptualizations. Whatever life it has, which is not much, is there only because of its long tradition of association with Christianity. The belief system, as often happens, blinds its followers to how dumb this philosophy is. Now, it wasn’t dumb 2000 years ago or even 1000 years ago. As intellectual thought has evolved, however, it’s become dumber with time–not as history of thought of course–but for the contention that it should be treated as modern philosophy. This is no different from Ptolemaic astronomy. It wasn’t dumb 2000 years ago. It was clever for its day. It became less clever after 1543. Anyone who takes Ptolemaic astronomy seriously today, however, is clearly a fool.

    If you continue to apply these concepts outside of your circle of followers you’re going to be laughed at. The same way you would be laughed at if you tried to invent a neo Ptolemaic astronomical theory. I would strongly urge a different tactic if you want to convince any group except your own. There is little point scratching your head wondering why nobody takes you seriously except for yourself.

  48. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 9, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    If it is not marriage then what is all the fuss about.

    See Orwell, 1984, for examples showing the effect of messing with terminology so that a word no longer means what it means.

    If a Muslim government representatives refused anything to an American Christian based on religious belief, you can be sure that the fury of Christian would be murderous.

    Murderous? That explains all the muslim bodies littering the Christian world.

    The example given was whether food was halal, and such a declaration is within the competency of qualified muslim officials, just as declarations of kosher is within the competency of rabbis.

  49. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 9, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    God has everything to do with it [the definition of marriage].

    Which god? Marriage has existed in every human society in history, long before any of the present religions have existed.

    You’re just being intellectually dishonest

    For the life of me, I cannot fathom why you insist on making such accusations against those with whom you disagree.

    Natural Law is an archaic metaphysic based on primitive animist conceptualizations.

    Which primitive animist conceptualizations are those?

    Ptolemaic astronomy … became less clever after 1543. Anyone who takes Ptolemaic astronomy seriously today, however, is clearly a fool.

    Perhaps a closer examination of history is called for. Why 1543, for example? Why not 1729? The three basic models for the motions of the heavens had been known since antiquity. To this day, NASA uses Ptolemaic mathematics for calculating the orbital motions of satellites.

    Although I am curious why you think there is any equivalence between Ptolemaic astronomy and natural law philosophy.

    The belief system, as often happens, blinds its followers to how dumb this philosophy [natural law] is.

    But as usual with no cited examples of dumb-itudity. But people you disagree with are blind and dumb. Got it. Golly, I miss the ages when arguments had to be logical.

    As intellectual thought has evolved

    A great big fat assumption there.

  50. YOS,

    “See Orwell, 1984, for examples showing the effect of messing with terminology so that a word no longer means what it means.”

    The meaning of words are in constant evolution. They are never static and the goes with languages over time they change.

    “Murderous? That explains all the muslim bodies littering the Christian world.”

    Just look at reaction there was to the rebuilding of a mosque near ground zero. Even though they were themselves a victim of 9/11 in having their mosque destroyed.

    There also have been numerous bombing and burning of mosque across the Christian world. And of course the U.S. Do not or did not drop bomb in at least 4-5 Middle Eastern countries, killing a lot more Muslim than Muslim have killed Christian since 9/11 and probably since they reconquered in the Middle East since the last crusade.

  51. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 9, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    “See Orwell, 1984, for examples showing the effect of messing with terminology so that a word no longer means what it means.”

    The meaning of words are in constant evolution. They are never static and the goes with languages over time they change.

    Yes, yes. And war is peace and we have always been at war with EastAsia. How about if we alter the meaning of “evolution” to include the intelligent design of kitchen mixers? Then we can alter “electron” to mean a canvassing for votes, as in “a presidential electron.”

    There is a difference between the natural evolution of a language and efforts to intelligently design it to conform to a political agenda. After all, “marriage” evolved from L. maritas (a husband, with the root meaning of one provided with a young woman, *mari, meaning a young woman in reconstructed Indo-European.)

    Changes that enable greater precision in discourse are to be welcomed, as when “artist” split off from “artisan” in the 19th century, or when “European” became a noun in the early 1500s to refer to an inhabitant of Europe. But when the changes obscure discourse and lump distinctions together, that should be resisted. Several times a week I hear on TV people saying “that begs the question…” when they actually mean “that raises the additional question…” Such a confusion makes it just a wee bit more difficult to discuss circular reasoning.

    “Murderous? That explains all the muslim bodies littering the Christian world.”

    Just look at reaction there was to the rebuilding of a mosque near ground zero.

    Who was murdered?

    There also have been numerous bombing and burning of mosque across the Christian world.

    Not as many as usually propagandized, and which were suitably denounced by Christian leaders. (Don’t forget, the West has been progressively secularized over the past couple centuries, and such acts as have happened were generally done in the name of outraged patriotism rather than religion.)

    And of course the U.S. Do not or did not drop bomb in at least 4-5 Middle Eastern countries, killing a lot more Muslim than Muslim have killed Christian since 9/11 and probably since they reconquered in the Middle East since the last crusade.

    Fishing, are we? What has this to do with using the word “marriage” to refer to relations that are not marriage?

  52. During the Hobby Lobby controversy, I criticized the Left for treating an arts-supply firm as though it were a government agency. In the current controversy, the Left is treating a government agency as though it were a government agency.

  53. Will Nitschke @ 10/9, 6:48.

    I don’t understand how you can reject natural law and at the same time deplore the recrudescence of what you regard as archaic beliefs. At heart, natural law proposes that things have proper ends, that it is right that they be permitted to achieve those ends, and that it is wrong that they be thwarted in this endeavor. You seem to believe that humanity has a proper end, which is a secular, scientific worldview, and that anything that thwarts humanity ‘s growth in this direction (e.g. YOS) is evil. Am I right? If so, how do you get to this conclusion without smuggling in something like natural law? I’m not baiting. This is a real question.

  54. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 10, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    …anything that thwarts humanity ‘s growth in this direction (e.g. YOS) is evil.

    I plan on forming the Evil League of Evil Philosophers. Wanna join?

  55. Sylvain, I know it was two weeks ago, but your comment deserved a response. You said:

    “A very strange and revealing slip of the tongue that you credit the Holy Catholic Church instead of God. It is revealing that the religious organizations is in fact bigger than God for devout Catholic.”

    You comment thus, because you do not have the mind of a Christian, and so you misinterpreted my statement through your own ideology. For a Christian (Catholics being the original and authentic claimants to the term), the Church is a part of God. The Church is identified with Christ our Lord and our God, because the Church is Christ’s Body. The Church is also identified with the Mother of God – daughter of the Father and Bride of the Holy Ghost – because through the fecundation of the Holy Ghost the Church continually gives birth to Christ Sacramentally, and in Her members. The Church, endowed with all the Sacraments, is suffused with Divine Grace, is peopled by those who are “partakers of the Divine nature” (to quote St. Peter), and is thus the community of those who are “gods by grace.” The Church is instituted by Christ, and endowed with His authority and mission (as St. Luke tells us at the end of his Gospel – that is the meaning of the term “entellomai” when Christ ascends and “deputizes” His apostles, making them stewards of His Mysteries). Finally, the Church is the Bride of Christ, the Bride of God.

    In other words, the Church is daughter of God, brother of God, Body of God, Bride of God, Authority of God, Voice of God, and Pillar and Foundation of the Truth, which is Christ, i.e., God.

    And so, for a Catholic to say that he attributes everything good in his thoughts and deeds to the Holy Catholic Church, is tantamount to attributing them to God. The point of phrasing it this way, is to acknowledge that one’s good ideas have come from the one, true God and Church, and to separate one’s self from all the heretics and pitiable infidels who, in thanking “God,” blasphemously attribute to Him whatever vain or even nefarious effluvia they wretchedly imbibed from their own perverse conventicles, heathen fanes and flim-flam boutiques.

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