Friday, March 20, 2009

When Laughter, not Logic, is the Best Response

One of the most common argumentative gambits employed by promoters of crank science is the ad hominem gambit, where they claim any instance of name calling (you're an idiot!) or other deviation from solid logical discourse such as ridicule or laughter, as an ad hominem fallacy (you're an idiot, therefore you are wrong!) which fails to address the arguments made, and can be a tacit admission of defeat. It really shouldn't surprise us that cranks have developed this rhetorical weapon, since by their very nature they are going to be laughed at and called idiots a lot. The gambit is a survival technique for them, but unfortunately depends on a blatantly false assumption that rips the value out of it. I've never seen it explained more eloquently than this, by Prometheus in comment #10:

"There were these carnival chimpanzees who had been taught to smoke cigarettes so I had a little talk with them about causation, reproducible results and cited several surgeon general’s reports in support of my solid foundation of Aristotelean logic and when they realized I had no smokes or bananas they threw poop at me.

In case you had failed to notice, the appropriate response to absurdity is laughter. Not logic."

This conclusion follows from another little bit of wisdom:

"A man cannot be moved from a position by logic that he did not reach by logic"

Cranks did not reach their conclusions via logic. If they did they wouldn't be cranks, with their cherry picking, their conspiracy theories, and their unwillingness to accept they may have more to learn. All imply a mind that reached its conclusion a priori, and thus, it will be unmoved by logical evidenciary argumentation. When they toss their rhetorical poop at us, one effort of logical refutation is in order, at most. After that, ridicule them, its all they understand.

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