Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Nonsense in arguments

Still irked by the line of reasoning that door-to-door evangelist gave a week or so ago where he argued that humans are not animals because we don't use the same name for vets and doctors. I know it shouldn't bother me so much because it's an argument without substance, and the fact that he kept going back to it was that I kept undercutting any of his arguments that had any coherent structure, while making sure to make enough positive (both value and fact) claims to threaten his base (too many people in arguments never do this, and that lacking is a failure).

I wonder if I'd do well to collect similarly-structured and obviously absurd side arguments; one doesn't immediately spring to mind for the name-essence confusion he had (which is surprisingly common; many people hold language too tightly), but an example of the kind of parallel I'm thinking of would be, if people make the argument about how masturbation is a subversion of natural processes, I could counter that a litterbox is a subversion of the desert-animal tendency cats to want to bury deficate in sand. Added bonus would be to quickly pull the conversation off into a discussion of how long humanity has been on the planet, on how selective pressures turned desert cats into housecats (and wolves into dogs), and so on; By playing "high school science teacher", tactically, I've generally made a lot of headway in dissolving evangelism; there's:

  • You can look this stuff up in a good high school textbook
  • Isn't science great? Look how far we've come in understanding things, and where we'll go (undermines past-centric notions of goodness)
  • Practical examples backed up by an easily understood story of primitive humans finding mutual advantage in association with predecessors of cats and dogs
  • Props (I have cats; I used to have Iguanas, which were even better props because their parietal eye demonstrated quite well that eyes are not irreducibly complex)
And so on. I want to find the right argument to cut down "Insane Troll Logic" type attacks. I held my own, but with a bit more prep I can make as much headway against that as I did against everything else he threw at me. All, of course, in a friendly tone; I made it clear that I didn't think he meant wrongly, and I did a friendly reframing of his assertion that religions have turned many lives around by setting religion in the context of broader comprehensive value-philosophies. Personal hostility would not have convinced him (plus it's not really in my nature), and in all likelihood he (and his quiet associate) actually is a generally nice guy who means well.

I don't think there's a general gamewinner solution to 「Insane Troll Logic」 arguments, but there should be specific counters to specific lines of arguments, and generally door-to-door preachers all get the same training pamphlets and videos on how to argue, so...


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