Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One last time

The National Center for Science Education's Josh Rosenau has a bad habit of stepping into it whenever he tries to score a logical point, and he has not disappointed us once again in his latest attempt. After I had mocked the propensity of Global Warming alarmists to take every warm weather event as evidence for Global Warming (as well as predicting lower rates of snowfall as a result of Global Warming) by taking note of record snowfalls, he characterized my argument as an example of the tu quoque ("you too'') fallacy.

I answered that remark in a previous post, but not apparently in terms that prevented him from saying that I was "admitting ... using a tu quoque." That I did the exact opposite apparently had some role in confusing him. I'll just have to conclude that he has apparently never encountered a reductio ad absurdum in his reading, and just didn't know what to do with it. He may want to add that to his list of things he needs to study up on.

He apparently tried to study up on another logical process, without much success:
[H]e deepens his obvious lack of training in logic by offering as the first line of a syllogism: "If individual warm weather events are confirming evidence for Global Warming, then individual cool weather events are disconfirming evidence for Global Warming."

This, to those who've studied logic, is known as the formal logical fallacy of denying the antecedent.

It is fortunate that I am experienced in correcting the logical errors of first-time logic students because it allows me to quickly spot and point out the fundamental error made in this argument; namely, that statements cannot be fallacious. Only arguments can be fallacious, not statements. In fact this is covered in the very first chapter of my Traditional Logic, Book I, and is probably missing in the Wikipedia articles from which Rosenau seems to have derived his knowledge of logic.

To say that the conditional statement above is an example of a fallacy is the kind of error that is literally covered in the first week of a typical course in logic, where students are told that statements can be true and false, but not valid or invalid. If Rosenau wants to argue that the statement is false, that's fine. But it cannot possibly be an example of the Fallacy of Denying the Antecedent. In fact, he took the statement from an argument which I not only laid out clearly, but highlighted, in bullet points, in which it serves as the major premise in an argument which denies the consequent, making it a legitimate Modus Tollens.

Maybe this is why Rosenau doesn't even provide a link in the entire post back to my post where that would have been evident.

And while we're talking about logical fallacies, Rosenau might want to revisit his argument that a group I have worked for, The Family Foundation of Kentucky is "affiliated with Focus on the Family," a charge which, if true, really wouldn't matter, but which, even after I have pointed out was false, he continues to repeat. He defends himself by saying that other groups in other states similar to The Family Foundation sometimes work in conjunction with Focus on the Family--and by providing links to various policy groups in other states, none of which is a link to The
Family Foundation itself.

Has Rosenau ever written a post in response to one of mine which he doesn't assert guilt by association? Josh, just admit your charge is false and you can't justify it for crying out loud.

I actually enjoy the give and take of debate, but in order to enjoy it, the person you are debating can't be constantly intent on name-calling, imparting false motive, and trying to score cheap debating points (and wreaking logical havoc in the process). Nobody is immune to these things (including myself), but when it becomes the rule rather than the exception, you just have to throw up your hands and ignore it--which, unless I have a compelling reason, I think is what I am going to do from here on out.

This stuff is just a function, I think, of intellectual maturity. Maybe, when Josh grows up, we can have a civil conversation. In the meantime, if I were the National Center for Science Education, I'd be more discriminating in who I let put my name on their blog.

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