What is this, a zen koan? October 4, 2005 10:55 PM   Subscribe

Why does flabdablet not take the ad hominem fallacy seriously?
posted by flabdablet to Etiquette/Policy at 10:55 PM (35 comments total)

What is this, a zen koan?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:57 PM on October 4, 2005


This the first time I ever posted to MeTa, so please feel free to point out the inevitable noob boobs. I was about to dump it all in the AskMe thread concerned but it struck me as a bit of a derail.

namespan: I used to believe sincerely that the world could be made a better place by means of civil, carefully reasoned and fallacy-free argument on Internet discussion fora; that in the light of the widespread dissemination of such carefully reasoned argument, truths would emerge and eventually become apparent to all.

I no longer believe that; I now take the view that those people who are capable of being swayed by rational argument on Internet discussion fora are the same people who will be tracking down such factual material as they need in order to come to their own well-informed opinions.

The problem that error-free argument in places like this is never going to solve is the problem of people like Heminator, who comes to this discussion with a stack of self-comforting prejudices "actually ... all just off the top of my head", quotes the opinions of a lassez-faire economist on ecology, finishes them off with a vague appeal to "human nature" and an admission that the whole thing is constructed to let him "sleep at night and feel just fine about one day having kids, thank you very much"; in other words, people who would rather insulate themselves from hard questions than confront them.

I don't usually bother making much of a fuss about this kind of thing, but this particular discussion's topic is "why does nobody take population growth seriously" not "is population growth actually a problem worth trying to solve"; it seemed to me fair and reasonable to use Heminator as an example of somebody who apparently doesn't take population growth seriously, and illustrate how his all-too-predictable points fit into the answer I believe is the right one.

Londonmark asked (a) why there is so little recognition of a problem, and I believe that my points 1 through 5 speak to that; and (b) what he could do about it, beyond not reproducing, and I believe that my suggestions about raising foster kids and supporting refugee immigration speak to that.

Frankly, I have no reason to believe that anything I say here is going to sway any reader who hasn't already figured out that global humanity is now at plague proportions and that this is screwing things up, and I have no wish to waste time preaching to the choir.

I am not out to convince you, or Heminator, or anybody else that population overgrowth is something to be concerned about; rather, I'm using this opportunity to share, with people who already are concerned, some of the ways I personally use to cope with that concern that don't involve retreating back into what I consider to be comfortable denial.

That much, at least, I still believe places like this are good for.
posted by flabdablet at 10:58 PM on October 4, 2005


This should go well.
posted by LarryC at 11:03 PM on October 4, 2005


Sorry, I should have guessed there'd be a gargantuan [more inside], even if you didn't say so.

Carry on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:03 PM on October 4, 2005


Uh, what? Is there, like, a link to whatever the heck you're talking about? Or should we just guess?
posted by dersins at 11:09 PM on October 4, 2005


Thank you, School Bully :-)
posted by flabdablet at 11:10 PM on October 4, 2005


Frankly, I have no reason to believe that anything I say here is going to sway any reader who hasn't already figured out that global humanity is now at plague proportions and that this is screwing things up

Let's see: what number or name shall we give to the argument that anyone who doesn't already believe the obvious proposition you're arguing for is incapable of understanding the topic?

the ad hominem fallacy

Close. There is an element of that, but it just doesn't capture the extra special punchy flavor.

I am not out to convince you, or Heminator, or anybody else that population overgrowth is something to be concerned about

Good. Because characterizing and numbering Heminator's arguments didn't seem to constitute a refutation. All it seemed to me that you were doing was saying "I've heard this before." That was the beginning and end of my point, and if you have responses to that, I'd be happy to read them in that thread.
posted by namespan at 11:10 PM on October 4, 2005


linkie

flabdablet, whatever your goals were, I felt you came across as condescending and dismissive in that thread.
posted by smackfu at 11:10 PM on October 4, 2005


Gah. Linked from there to here, didn't link from here to there.
posted by flabdablet at 11:12 PM on October 4, 2005


As for noob boobs, you could link to the thread(s) and comment(s) you are talking about, so we have more information to understand the problem - a new Metafilter feature called linking would also allow you to write shorter comments, since the context would be already there.
posted by nkyad at 11:13 PM on October 4, 2005


namespan: that would be because I have heard this before - ad nauseam - which is how I came to recognize the patterns I quoted as answers to the original question. And I'm glad I did venture into MeTa for this, now, because refutations of Heminator's points are irrelevant to the question, posed as it so clearly was by somebody who does think overgrowth is an issue and is therefore more than capable of generating his own answers to those points.

smackfu: dismissive - certainly; I'll cop to that; dismissing nonsense is something I think it's fine to do. Sorry about the condescension. Whoops, I did it again :-)
posted by flabdablet at 11:19 PM on October 4, 2005


because refutations of Heminator's points are irrelevant to the question

Ah. That's why you left the refutations out, then.
posted by namespan at 11:23 PM on October 4, 2005


Noob Boob (is that really a thing people say?) #2: write your [more inside] out in a text editor before you start the thread, then once you do immediately paste your [mi] into the comment box. By doing so, you will insure that you are comment #1.


You will also have some time to think about whether or not your callout is really nescessary.
posted by ChasFile at 11:49 PM on October 4, 2005


Thanks, Chas. In fact I had my comment in the clipboard all ready to go, and it was only the lack of [mi] notification and Stavros's astounding click-fu that let him win.

Also, I didn't really think of this as a glove-across-the-face kind of call-out; I just had stuff to say to namespan that I thought might provoke more discussion, didn't want to lock it up in email and didn't want to derail the thread any more. Is this the wrong place for that?
posted by flabdablet at 12:03 AM on October 5, 2005


Let me hijack the inevitable jpeg flameout to point to a couple of excellent papers that address your comments on the ad hominem fallacy. If you're trying to decide whether the ad hominem fallacy is an actual fallacy or is a justifiable mode of argumentation, check out this essay by Peter Suber on "Logical Rudeness." It's very enlightening. Also see his paper on Fichte's ad hominem arguments.
posted by painquale at 12:38 AM on October 5, 2005


This was an AskMe question, therefore not a place for discussion, flabdablet. Answers only, please.
If you would like a discussion/argument/flame war, marshal your facts and make an FPP to the blue.
posted by Joeforking at 12:59 AM on October 5, 2005


Joeforking, the blue is for links to the best of the web. MetaTalk is the perfect place for this discussion. I also disagree that there is no room for discussion in Ask.Me threads.

FWIW, I think flabdablet makes good points. I guess the thing I've noticed most about internet (and real life) arguments is that neither party is willing to sway from their point-of-view, no matter what compelling evidence is presented. It's rare to find someone who will actually change his mind in the face of new information. This is partly why I think human mortality is good, because eventually stubborn and backwards ideas die off.
posted by knave at 3:00 AM on October 5, 2005


This is partly why I think human mortality is good, because eventually stubborn and backwards ideas die off.

I like this idea, but on the grand evolutionary timescale it's hard to say that's right or wrong. There's lots of ways this could be circumvented: reproduction and indoctrination comes to mind.
posted by gsb at 4:58 AM on October 5, 2005


knave, when I said marshal your facts, I thought that clearly meant gather links to "the best of the web" to stimulate a discussion.
Great, if you want a discussion Mefi is the place for this.
What is the utility of AskMe if instead of answers it is just another soapbox for people not "willing to sway from their point-of-view"? There is absolutely no call for that crap on the green, you would have it be another bitch-fight like the blue?
posted by Joeforking at 5:02 AM on October 5, 2005


Also, I didn't really think of this as a glove-across-the-face kind of call-out; I just had stuff to say to namespan that I thought might provoke more discussion, didn't want to lock it up in email and didn't want to derail the thread any more. Is this the wrong place for that?

Yes, and don't hide behind this "noob" stuff. You've been here for close to a year, and have certainly participated enough to know what's what.

Is there any point to this post, other than "look at me while I navel gaze"? Look, it's a big playground here. Lots of people aren't going to agree with your method, let alone your POV.

Personally, I found your in-thread finger pointing every bit as condescending and dismissive as smackfu does, and this overblown reaction to the most innocuous of slights by namespan has driven me to campaign for reassignment of MeFi's most notorious title.

Stop being such a Drama Queen.
posted by mkultra at 7:17 AM on October 5, 2005


painquale-The Suber links are really good, thanks. The one on Logical Rudeness is especially something I've been needing.
posted by OmieWise at 7:24 AM on October 5, 2005


Ditto on the value of the Logical Rudeness article. This, along with a few others I've collected, should go into a packet I am considering distributing to anyone I know who starts acting in a profane manner about what should be enlightening discourse.
posted by mystyk at 8:20 AM on October 5, 2005


The fallacy of boredom: Your argument is too long for me to stay awake through, therefore it is wrong.
posted by nomad at 9:24 AM on October 5, 2005


anyone I know who starts acting in a profane manner about what should be enlightening discourse.

that sounded like an eriko snark.

flabdablet:

what I'm not getting is this idea that silly and or irrelevant nonsense arguments against your position are worth replying to. If it's not worth being civil or at least refraining from condescension about, why is it worth replying to at all?

and I agree that using n00b as a shield is not only weak, but inapplicable in your case.
posted by shmegegge at 9:45 AM on October 5, 2005


didn't want to lock it up in email

Why is that, exactly?
posted by cortex at 10:42 AM on October 5, 2005


I don't usually bother making much of a fuss about this kind of thing, but this particular discussion's topic is "why does nobody take population growth seriously" not "is population growth actually a problem worth trying to solve"; it seemed to me fair and reasonable to use Heminator as an example of somebody who apparently doesn't take population growth seriously, and illustrate how his all-too-predictable points fit into the answer I believe is the right one.

The jist of Heminator's answer to the loaded question "Why does nobody take population growth seriously?" was "Because it's not worth taking seriously." If your fourth talking point to anyone who disagrees with you about the seriousness of the rate of population growth is going to be "You are in denial", then there's no reason to even bother posting.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:26 AM on October 5, 2005


What is the utility of AskMe if instead of answers it is just another soapbox for people not "willing to sway from their point-of-view"? There is absolutely no call for that crap on the green, you would have it be another bitch-fight like the blue?

What's supposed to happen when someone posts an answer that someone else, right or wrong, thinks is incorrect? There have been innumerable MeTa threads about how people post without knowing what they are talking about, so it is kind of impractical to assume that this won't happen. Even if askme is only for the answers, very few questions seem to have anything like a clear-cut answer, and I think this goes well beyond "chatfilter" questions. How can this do anything but lead to discussion (and how is discussion about vagueness or incorrectness in answers possibly bad)?
posted by advil at 11:26 AM on October 5, 2005


[much deletia]
Londonmark asked (a) why there is so little recognition of a problem, and I believe that my points 1 through 5 speak to that; and (b) what he could do about it, beyond not reproducing, and I believe that my suggestions about raising foster kids and supporting refugee immigration speak to that.
[yet more deletia]

Wouldn't "boo hoo, my answer wasn't given the weight and respect I would like" be quicker for us all to read? Seriously, that exchange warranted a metatalk about it? You're seeming a little unnecessarily delicate here.
posted by phearlez at 11:55 AM on October 5, 2005


Flabdablet: There are a number of sites on the internet where you can establish your own journal to publish your daily opinions. I like LiveJournal.

The advantage of doing this is that your audience will be people who actually give a flying fuck about what you think, a number in which I, for one, could not be counted at the present moment.

Carry on.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:22 PM on October 5, 2005


""..discussion about vagueness or incorrectness in answers.."" is a long way from "..neither party is willing to sway from their point-of-view, no matter what compelling evidence is presented. It's rare to find someone who will actually change his mind in the face of new information."
posted by Joeforking at 3:51 PM on October 5, 2005


*stares at monitor with confusled look*
posted by dg at 4:39 PM on October 5, 2005


I hear you, mate. I'm confusled too. Disgruntled and confusled.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:55 PM on October 5, 2005


painquale: Thanks very much for the Suber links; on scan, they look like stuff I want to think about.

mkultra: I have indeed been a MeFi member for almost a year, but have spent almost no time on MeTa; I am indeed a MeTa noob. The point of this post was to provoke some helpful discussion without derailing the original AskMe thread. So far, it seems to be working.

shmegegge, 23skidoo: You're probably right about not saying anything at all if there's nothing nice to say. As for using noob status as some kind of shield, that was not my intent; I actually do feel like a noob in the grey, and was simply inviting people to point out my blunders, which they have, which is good.

cortex: because locking this up in email would have prompted a far less diverse set of responding opinions.

ikkyu2: thanks for the link to LiveJournal, but a place to talk is not really what I'm after. I like MetaFilter because it's such a good place to listen.
posted by flabdablet at 6:10 PM on October 5, 2005


knave: I've noticed the same thing about refusal to change POV in an argument, and it seems to me that the longer the argument runs, the more polarized people seem to get.

The flip side of that is that if an argument is cut short after the opposing points have all been raised, changes in POV do sometimes occur - maybe two weeks later.

It's much easier to change a POV if you're not constantly feeling under pressure to defend the bloody thing.
posted by flabdablet at 6:27 PM on October 5, 2005


flabdablet: I ask because your MeTa post is (including your first in-thread comment) very long and focuses on the details of your personal disagreement with a couple of posters over an issue not related to the site. That is pretty explicitly not what MeTa is for.

I imagine you've sort of gotten the message from others in the thread by now, but a personal argument should absolutely be kept to a private channel like email. Your desire for a "diverse set of responding opinions" is not good enough -- I'd love a diverse set of responding opinions to my every whim and query, but I don't feel that gives me license to hoist my whims and queries upon any large crowd I come across.

Insofar as you are seeking feedback on MeTa-n00bish foibles, I would say that your whole post is itself a serious faux pas, and that spending some serious time lurking MeTa specifically is (and was) called for -- if you are feeling that n00bish, best practice is to study until the feeling subsides for the most part.
posted by cortex at 11:31 AM on October 6, 2005


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