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The lost art of logic

Updated on November 6, 2009

The right says... The left says...

History will repeat itself

There have been many rulers who have used the emotions of their people to incite them to do terrible things to themselves and to their fellow humans. It seems to be a cycle we continue to repeat and have never learned to break away from. In 1095 CE, Pope Urban II told Christians that they were of the noble race of the Franks and that they must remove the Muslims from Jerusalem. Sound familar? This same type of argument will be used time and again throughout history by the powerful to increase their power and influence. Pope Innocent III will use this argument in 1207 CE in his papal bull, Cum ex officii nostri. He will make heresy akin to a treasonous crime against the state, which eventually led to the torture and brutal murders, which we so lightly call the Inquisition. We see this same insanity repeated in Colonial Imperialism (1500 - 1800), Manifest Destiny in America (late 1830's - present), Hitler's naziism (1933-1945), and a great many radical leaders of modern time. It is time we embark into a new era of rationalism and logic instead of being slaves to every emotional whim.

Common fallacies

My last trip through the blogosphere showed me nothing but arguments that were not based in any kind of logical reasoning, but rely almost completely on what are known as fallacies of logic (See http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/fallacies.html for a complete list). We all have been guilty at one point or another of using these incorrect yet persuasive statements. Look again to where this has led us. Entire cultures have been destroyed due to our lack of logical reasoning. Our collective ignorance keeps us bound to this cycle of sacrifice.

Argumentum ad numerum

Mark Twain stated, "There are three types of lies; lies, damn lies and statistics." Statistics can be deceiving and have often been used to incorrectly prove something is true. Just because 98% of the people believe something is true does not make it true. Just look back in history to all the things that have been considered common knowledge that have later been proven to not be correct. If everyone else jumps off a bridge, would you? Argumentum ad populum is very similar as it is basically an appeal to what is popular. In Germany, during WW2, it was popular to hate all non-Arians, this does not mean that it is right. Be wary of statistics and do not be persuaded by what is popular opinion, instead think for yourself.

Argumentum ad hominem

This has to be one of the most frequently used fallacies. Many times people do not even listen to an arguement if they believe that the person making the argument is somehow inferior to themselves. This fallacy is an attack against the person. The utter mental blindness required to commit this fallacy drives much of American politics. Just watch some political ads around election time. Mudslinging influences many voters, but rarely has anything to do with the current issues.

The Red Herring

It is easier to misdirect someone then it is to argue the issue. By using the red herring, this is exactly what someone is trying to do. They will bring up some completely irrelevant issue in order to distract you from your argument and into some other argument. While you may be able to refute the new issue, this is only a false victory, as you have already been diverted from your true argument. Bloggers use this quite frequently and with a great degree of success.

Blissfully loud and ignorant

 It does not matter if you write your statement in all caps, put way too many exclamation points after it, or completely insult the other writers, none of this makes your point any more valid or correct. Try listening for once, as it is the most important element of communications. If both sides continue to just scream at each other without actually taking a moment to hear what the opposition is saying and why, then both sides have failed to communicate and there is no debate, just two self absorbed people shouting into space to inflate their egos. Aristotle put it best when he said, "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."

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