Re: Ad hominem? I think not.

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Tue Nov 20 2001 - 16:27:03 MST

John Clark wrote:
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky <> Wrote:
> > My personal opinion at this point, for whatever it's worth, is that John
> > Clark has lost the current argument between himself and Samantha, having
> > resorted to ad homonym arguments without provocation.
> Ok Eliezer, it's time to put your money where your mouth is. I want
> to see you say with a straight face that
[thirty lines of strawman arguments]
> So Eliezer pick one of the above statement, I don't care which one, and
> defend it. I dare you!

Some non-strawman arguments - which I may not defend myself, but which I
offer up in the interest of showing those points that you might have dared
me to defend if you were being a little more rational about all this - are

1) The US intervention in Afghanistan is doing more harm than good.
2) A superior strategy for the US would have been to turn the other
cheek, thus gaining moral superiority and showing the world that we don't
always bomb people we don't like.
3) The number of dead Afghan civilians has vastly exceeded the number of
dead American civilians, and this puts the US in the wrong.
4) What happened to the US was directly caused by the US carrying out an
inconsistent and immoral strategy in foreign relations over the past fifty
5) The US is currently in the grip of a fever of destructive hatred and
this hatred is both morally wrong and strategically counterproductive,
regardless of all other moral issues involved.
6) Bin Laden may not have had just cause to blow up the World Trade
Center, but a lot of Middle East citizens have reason to be pretty annoyed
at the US - perhaps more reason to be annoyed at the US than the US has
reason to be annoyed at Bin Laden.
7) It would be wrong to impose US culture on Afghanistan as retaliation
for the World Trade Center Attack. (I do *not* believe this; see below.)
8) Technology, science, and the Internet are mere artifacts of Western
culture which don't belong to the ancient Afghan traditions - rather than
being the products of intelligence itself and therefore the universal
heritage of every human on the planet, regardless of what the Taliban
believes about the "Westernness" of technology, as the result of temporary
differentials in technological advancement that happen to be correlated
with different cultures. (I believe the latter.)

Regardless of whether they are *right* or *wrong*, the above propositions
are not *idiotic*, and your use of the term "idiot" is therefore purely ad
hominem. Samantha attacked your ideas; she didn't attack you. You should
have launched a counterattack on her ideas, not attacked her personally.

My own beliefs center mostly around the belief that "cultures" exist
mostly in the imaginations of Western academia. I'm sorry if the Afghans
have a rich cultural tradition that is hundreds of years old; their
government harbored a terrorist organization trying to get nuclear
weapons, and that takes precedence. So, yes, I think Samantha Atkins and
Amara Graps are wrong. But I don't think they're stupid and I AM TIRED OF
than this.

> This is not a case of disagreeing with a colleague, this crap is brain dead dumb, on a pare
> with flying saucers, perpetual motion machines and the lost city of Atlantis.
> Forget about
> the Singularity, if the bilge Samantha Atkins spews out were
> to be adopted you and I and
> everybody we know would be dead in less than a decade.

I most strongly doubt it.

> Of course it's possible that you're right and I have lost this argument, if so it's because I'm
> a poor debater not because I'm wrong.

If the world really is at stake, then you are obliged to be a good debater
*in addition to* being correct. But then that's a side issue; I think
you're wrong.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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