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Old 2nd February 2019, 06:59 AM   #41
Robin
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
You're talking about two different situations.
I have been explicitly talking about two situations from the OP:

1. Evaluating arguments on their own merits, insulated from context and;

2. Examining the place of certain academic arguments or kinds of arguments on the basis of their place in a socio-political context.

Two different projects. I have never suggested that the context affected the merits of the argument.
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In an academic work, personal prejudices are irrelevant to assessing the value of a thesis.
And I have never suggested that personal prejudices are relevant to assessing the value of a work, other than that when there is limited time to follow up all citations, we might, for example, take it that a person in the pay of a large oil company who cites research that purports to refute the thesis that there is anthropogenic climate change, might not have been rigorously unbiased in quoting research.

But the second kind of analysis is hardly uncommon. We commonly examine the political or moral opinions of Aristotle in context of the wider Greek society of the time.

People examine Logical-Positivism in terms of the rise of Materialist political ideologies, examine the Post Modernist movements link to political Marxism or the place of Gender and Queer Studies in the context of LGBT activism.

So why would people be so shocked that I might consider the academic works of Christian onservatives in the context of Christian conservative activism?

Do you think, for example, William Lane Craig never engages in political activism? Or do you think that he is zealous in keeping his activism and his academic writing separate?
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Old 2nd February 2019, 07:31 AM   #42
David Mo
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I have been explicitly talking about two situations from the OP:

1. Evaluating arguments on their own merits, insulated from context and;

2. Examining the place of certain academic arguments or kinds of arguments on the basis of their place in a socio-political context.

Two different projects. I have never suggested that the context affected the merits of the argument.

And I have never suggested that personal prejudices are relevant to assessing the value of a work, other than that when there is limited time to follow up all citations, we might, for example, take it that a person in the pay of a large oil company who cites research that purports to refute the thesis that there is anthropogenic climate change, might not have been rigorously unbiased in quoting research.

But the second kind of analysis is hardly uncommon. We commonly examine the political or moral opinions of Aristotle in context of the wider Greek society of the time.

People examine Logical-Positivism in terms of the rise of Materialist political ideologies, examine the Post Modernist movements link to political Marxism or the place of Gender and Queer Studies in the context of LGBT activism.

So why would people be so shocked that I might consider the academic works of Christian onservatives in the context of Christian conservative activism?

Do you think, for example, William Lane Craig never engages in political activism? Or do you think that he is zealous in keeping his activism and his academic writing separate?
Then we agree on the fundamentals. We have to be careful to separate the context of truth from the context of external implications, be they historical, political or otherwise.

I am not familiar with Craig's biography. I think conservative ideology in theology has some links to political beliefs in both senses. But even if this is true in general, there might be some particular exceptions. Therefore, we have to be careful in promoting particular statements based on general trends. That's why I don't know if Craig has ever manifested himself as a conservative in politics. Is that the case?
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Old 2nd February 2019, 07:36 AM   #43
Robin
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William Lane Craig has made very pointed criticisms of the SCOTUS over the marriage equality decision. Before that decision he was telling Christians to pray to God to kill a liberal member of the SCOTUS.

There is a keen interest among evangelicals about the political balance of the SCOTUS.

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Old 2nd February 2019, 09:48 AM   #44
David Mo
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
William Lane Craig has made very pointed criticisms of the SCOTUS over the marriage equality decision. Before that decision he was telling Christians to pray to God to kill a liberal member of the SCOTUS.

There is a keen interest among evangelicals about the political balance of the SCOTUS.

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Wow, what a savage! In Spain we also have some bishops who are furious about this topic but to ask someone to be killed by God is amazing. In Spain there would be an immediate trial for a crime of incitement to hatred against a minority. And we are not a particularly liberal country in many respects.
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Old 3rd February 2019, 10:58 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
That might be true of a mathematical argument. But it would be a rare paper in philosophy which does not rely at least in part on some empirical matter of fact. Both the papers I mention in my OP do.
Okay, that's fair. To the extent that an argument is based on empirical evidence which the person making that argument has access to but which you do not, it may make sense to question his motives. It would probably make more sense to try to replicate that data, though. (or look through his citations).

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But even for mathematical papers, if you have a mathematical argument by William Dembski, wouldn't context and motivation be pertinent? What if you were trying to convince a lay audience that he was wrong, and they can't tell the difference between his arguments and yours?
If they can't tell the difference between his argument and mine, then I've done a poor job.

But I think I see what you are getting at: motivations can give us some information about the likely direction in which someone's errors will be biased. So if you're not able to follow the argument to the conclusion you can still make a guess about it's validity based on the possible biases of the person making the argument.

That's certainly true, but if you have access to the argument itself (and the ability to understand it), you will be even more accurate by just looking at it, independent of the motivations of the person making the argument.

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Incidentally, I am not questioning anyone's honesty, nor even their general competence. One can be honest and competent and still allow oneself to be fooled by biases.
Sure, that's fair. I think in the general case though those two things also apply.
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Old 10th February 2019, 09:55 PM   #46
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
Okay, that's fair. To the extent that an argument is based on empirical evidence which the person making that argument has access to but which you do not, it may make sense to question his motives. It would probably make more sense to try to replicate that data, though. (or look through his citations).
Actually even then, no, it does not make any sense to go into motives or any other informal logic shortcuts, ESPECIALLY if the conclusion can already be established as right or wrong otherwise.

There is a reason why informal logic shortcuts are fallible. And it's actually been known since ancient times. No, literally. Here's an actual joke from a 4th century CE manuscript, albeit probably mangled a bit by my fallible memory:

Two guys meet up and the following conversation takes place:
"Wait, you're still walking around? I was told you were dead."
"Wait, what? Obviously I'm still alive."
"Nah, I dunno, I still think you're dead."
"Are you crazy? Isn't me talking to you enough proof that I'm alive?"
"I dunno, man, the guy who told me you were dead is a much more reputable source than you ever were."

That's the problem with going by someone's reputation, supposed biases, etc, to determine if they're right.

And that's also why basically why you should leave that kind of stuff out, when the argument is whether they're right or wrong. You can use such heuristics to provisionally decide which sources to use, but if the whole argument is whether they're right or wrong, ad hominem arguments are 100% worthless.

And in fact Robin gave the perfect argument against such arguments in this very thread, and why in fact it goes both ways: I think Hawking is a very reputable source, and I don't think anyone can support the idea that he has a bone to pick with Aristotle or anything. Yet he gives a wrong quote from Aristotle. Being unbiased doesn't prevent him from being wrong. And conversely being more biased doesn't prevent someone else from being right.

The same goes for even more blatant motivations. Nazi prison doctors for example were clearly biased, and among some of the most evil people who've ever lived. Their motivations included proving racial pseudo-science, as well as some outright woowoo, like, say, Mengele's obsession with twins. Yet they have actually discovered medical stuff that is correct.


But basically if, as Robin says, the conclusion can already be attacked otherwise, then going into motivations, reputation, association with questionable organizations, etc, is AT BEST a textbook example of a red herring. As in, the only thing it can "contribute" to a debate (and imagine me doing very conspicuous air quotes around "contribute") is to derail it into debating stuff that is actually irrelevant to the conclusion.

And in fact that seems to be what Robin is decrying: omg, they're not allowed to derail the debate with a red herring.
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Old 11th February 2019, 08:36 AM   #47
Robin
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
You can use such heuristics to provisionally decide which sources to use, but if the whole argument is whether they're right or wrong, ad hominem arguments are 100% worthless.
But I am clearly not talking about ad hominem arguments.

It is ad hominem if you use some personal characteristic to attack the argument.

I have explicitly said the argument should be dealt with in its own right. And I have explicitly said that any examination of the political/sociological context of an argument is not relevant to whether or not the argument is sound.

It is not ad hominem to ask why people who are good scientists will completely abandon scientific principles when it comes to certain topics

You don't need a red herring or ad hominem to defeat the idea that Aristotle thought that a duck was an approximation of an ideal Platonic duck you just need to look at his works. The question is, why didn't Dawkins?

You don't need a red herring or ad hominem to defeat the idea that Aristotle thought that objects grew more jubilant as they approached their natural home, again, you just need to look at Aristotle's writings. Again, a separate question is, why didn't Mlodinov/Hawking or BF Skinner check this statement from the primary sources?

Why do scientists like this completely abandon scientific reasoning when it comes to speaking about old philosophers? They lecture us endlessly about checking the evidence and yet it didn't seem to occur to them that they should check the evidence about these subjects.

You say that Mlodiniv/Hawking had no beef with Aristotle, but the whole book begins with a claim that philosophy has failed and that science must pick up the torch.

So obviously an alleged example of a philosopher saying something silly plays well to this. So, yes, I think that there is prejudice here.

On the other hand, when Galileo misrepresented Aristotle we can conclude that it was quite inadvertant and not motivated by prejudice because he greatly admired Aristotle and there was quite a lot of confusion about what Aristotle wrote and what he didn't back then.
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And in fact that seems to be what Robin is decrying: omg, they're not allowed to derail the debate with a red herring.
Not sure what you mean by this. You are not bringing my personal motivations into it are you?
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Old 11th February 2019, 08:45 AM   #48
Robin
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In certain cases personal motivations do come into the argument.

For example a scientist puts out a meta study of experiments in a certain area and the meta study shows strong statistical significance for a particular hypothesis.

But the same statistical significance would be evident if some experiments which went against the hypothesis were ditched and therefore never made it to the meta study.

But you can't posit that as an alternative explanation of the results without an explanation of why experiments that went against the hypothesis were ditched more than others and you can't explain that without bringing experimenter bias into it.
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The non-theoretical character of metaphysics would not be in itself a defect; all arts have this non-theoretical character without thereby losing their high value for personal as well as for social life. The danger lies in the deceptive character of metaphysics; it gives the illusion of knowledge without actually giving any knowledge. This is the reason why we reject it. - Rudolf Carnap "Philosophy and Logical Syntax"

Last edited by Robin; 11th February 2019 at 08:46 AM.
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Old 11th February 2019, 03:55 PM   #49
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Not sure what you mean by this. You are not bringing my personal motivations into it are you?
No. Just stating what you are effectively arguing that you should be allowed to do: derail the debate with a red herring. WHY do you want to debate red herrings, I'm not even trying to guess.
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Old 11th February 2019, 04:11 PM   #50
HansMustermann
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
In certain cases personal motivations do come into the argument.

For example a scientist puts out a meta study of experiments in a certain area and the meta study shows strong statistical significance for a particular hypothesis.

But the same statistical significance would be evident if some experiments which went against the hypothesis were ditched and therefore never made it to the meta study.

But you can't posit that as an alternative explanation of the results without an explanation of why experiments that went against the hypothesis were ditched more than others and you can't explain that without bringing experimenter bias into it.
No. It still doesn't justify going into fantasy flights about personal motives. It's sufficient to show that the data sample is not, in fact, random.

Which in fact CAN be done quite easily if you know statistics. You can show that the distribution is not what you'd expect from a random sample. That kills it right there. Of course, then the relevant skill would be maths, not smack talking, but nobody said that everyone should have an equal chance at it.

(The same incidentally can be said about sociology, since you seem so dead set to bring that smack talking into stuff like society and gays. Sociology is actually a sub-discipline of statistics. So maybe leave it to someone who actually studied that branch of maths, if you find that your best contribution otherwise is confabulating about the guy who said this or that.)

Anyway, exactly what drove someone to remove some data points is fully irrelevant.
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