Saturday, November 19, 2005

Critical thinking 101: In which we give "Awawiye" a lesson in simple logic.

I don't mind wankers leaving dissenting comments on my precious blog. I do mind when those comments show a singular lack of anything remotely resembling critical thought or logical coherency. Back here in the comments section, we find newcomer "Awawiye," apparently (and mistakenly) impressed with his rhetorical skills when, after I make the sweeping generalization:

The Bush administration has, for years, argued that all of the evidence they received pointed to Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction.

Awawiye replied (thinking himself quite clever, I presume):

If that's true, you should have no problem finding citations covering "years" in which it was claimed that "all" the evidence etc. Waiting...

Let me explain how this works. With rabbits.

Imagine that I, making yet another universally-sweeping generalization, claim that all rabbits have two ears (accident-related incidents notwithstanding). Further imagine that wanker Awawiye disagress. How to best resolve this discrepancy? If I read him(?) correctly, Awawiye thinks that the burden of proof is on me to, somehow, produce evidence of my claim. But how exactly does he propose I do that?

Well, I could start bringing him rabbits -- dozens, hundreds, thousands of rabbits, all with two ears, but what good would that do? Regardless of the number of two-eared rabbits I produced, Awawiye could simply suggest that I haven't produced all of them, and that a non-two-eared rabbit is still out there somewhere. In short, it doesn't matter how much supporting evidence I produced, I could technically never prove my case.

On the other hand, there is a simple way to prove me wrong: Awawiye could simply show me a non-two-eared rabbit. That would be a clear and convincing counter-example to my claim, at which point I would have absolutely no choice but to retract it and admit I was wrong. Case closed, end of discussion.

See how that works? If Awawiye doesn't believe my claim, then it's his job to prove me wrong with a single counter-example. If I take the (perhaps unwise) position that every claim the Bush administration made with respect to Iraq's WMDs was that Iraq absolutely, positively, without any doubt had those WMDs, all Awawiye needs to do is produce a single statement from the administration in which they expressed some degree of caution or qualification about their claims.

Under the circumstances, then, it's Awawiye's job to disprove my claim. And if he can't, then he has no right to dispute it and he should shut the hell up. Well, Awawiye? I'm waiting ...

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