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Memories of the 28th Century

Using poor Logic

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I have decried logical fallacies more times than I should have, but I still see people trying to win arguments with fallacies. I didn't learn logic in elementary school, only grammar, which is the logical structure of language, but I got the basics in high school, and I got even more in college, but I made the mistake of not taking a course in logic; I took Ethics instead, and it was amusing.

This isn't my favorite topic, but it can be useful, and today I shot down comments by an acquaintance because of his logical fallacies. It reminded me how easy it can be to slip into fallacies in an attempt to support a pet idea.

Maybe the problem starts at the top. Maybe Trump's avoidance of facts and logic has spilled over onto the rest of Americans. Maybe people feel so pressed for immediate action that they don't bother to sit back, close their eyes, and concentrate on how or whether things fit together.

A thread on Facebook got started this line of thought today. It was about Thomas Jefferson, and there was a mention of Sally Hemings and the assertion that Jefferson fathered children by her. Anyone who saw the alleged evidence that Jefferson was the father of any of Sally's children should wonder what he was doing then and what his wife thought about it. The only remaining evidence is that there are dark skinned men who have the same Y chromosome as Thomas Jefferson had. There are many other people with that same chromosome, but no one asserted that Thomas Jefferson made merry with ancestors of all of them.

Similar lapses of logic occur every day on TV news programs and in newspapers. I do not claim that there ever was a time when people thought completely logically, but a few decades ago there was news reported that was in accord with actual facts. It wasn't ;long ago when Huntley and Brinkley reported news dispassionately, simply as facts. They weren't always right, but that wasn't deliberate. But these days news outlets knowingly dispense lies.

It is literally and truly impossible to build a logical argument from lies. Lies are dandy false premises. When starting from false premises, one can build whatever argument one wishes, but it is by definition false. And starting from a false premise is one of Donald Trump's favorite games. It allows him to shoot from the hip on any issue, but the barrel is twisted, so he never hits where he thinks he wants to hit.

Whoever determines the premises controls the discussion, regardless of the validity of the premise. For example, the Black Lives Matter campaign is based on the matter of more Black people being killed by police than other people being killed by police. So far, that is true, but it brings up the question of why the police did anything. In most cases there were good reasons. Unfortunately, there were too many cases, when a Black person tried to escape or otherwise failed to follow directions and that led to dire consequences. Putting a hand in a pocket after being told by a police office to keep your hands up or in sight is asking for trouble. Similarly, running when told to stand still is not a good idea. By concentrating of the unfortunate end and ignoring why that resulted changes the discussion dramatically. While Black lives do matter, if you get caught doing something suspicious, then it is a good idea to obey the police when they are looking for you. That is not to say that there have not been cases of police acting badly, and The cop who knelt on George Floyd's neck for eight minutes was far out of bounds.


I had originally gone into other matters, but this is enough for now. Basing an argument on half truths, errors, and lies can get you wherever you want to go, but they don't produce valid arguments, so you can expect to be refuted. For example, Trump has taken to claiming vote rigging is going on; he has no evidence; it is just noise, but he will try to make something of it.