September 12, 2020

The arrogance of intellectual idiotism

A recent addition to the “liberal” genre of “why don’t people think as correctly as I do and how can we help them see the light” is by one Rebecca Coffey: “Why people believe in genuinely fake news”. She argues with a sense of superior logic and respect for “truth” and science, but her two main examples are one a lie and the other a falsehood.

She begins with the example of Trump claiming to have signed “veterans choice”, except that she takes that as referring to the “Veterans Choice Act” (i.e., the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014), which was generally regarded to have been a failure. It was remedied by the “VA MISSION Act of 2018”, which created the permanent as well as more comprehensive Veterans Community Care program. Crucially, it’s apparently been successful. Trump signed it, and gave veterans choice.

So why does she believe otherwise?

Later she cites a Slovakian study showing that logic is not persuasive regarding abortion. The researchers established basic logical syllogism with the participants: if a = b and b = c, then a = c. The establishing example Coffey provides is, “All dogs are mammals. Some carnivores are dogs. Some carnivores are mammals.” (That’s actually a = b, c = a, c = b, but it still works, if a little messy, with a as the connector between b and c. In standard form: Some mammals are dogs, Dogs are carnivores, Some mammals are carnivores. It’s easy to overlook the sloppiness because each statement stands alone as an incontestable fact; none of them actually depends on the others for proof.)

The abortion example, however, utterly fails logically: “All human beings should be protected. Some foetuses should be protected. Some foetuses are human beings.” That’s a = b, c = b, c = a. The conclusion is presented as one of the premises! An elementary logical fallacy. As it is, “should be protected” (b) is a red herring. This syllogism is like, “Dogs are mammals, Bats are mammals, Bats are dogs.” And that makes it clear that the crux of the corrected syllogism – moving c = a back to the middle – depends on proving it as a second premise, which no effort is actually made to do. What is presented as the “logical” conclusion remains both untested and unproven: Bats are dogs.

Yet Coffey writes, “That logical conclusion is not, strictly speaking, an argument for or against abortion. Even so, the researchers ... couldn’t get a statistically significant number of [the participants] to acknowledge the neutral logic that the foetus sequence builds.”

Again, why does Coffey willfully ignore the obvious fallacy?