Re: "Cloning Breakthrough" not one

From: Mark Walker (
Date: Thu Nov 29 2001 - 11:38:07 MST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Lorrey" <>

> It is disengenuous to expand the definition of ad hominem to attacks on
> an entire profession, for there are many circumstances that anyone can
> think of where such attacks are entirely warranted and are supported by
> the facts. For example:
> "I have never, absolutely never, heard a politician say anything that is
> not either a) a lie, or b) bloody obvious."
I don't see your point. The fallacy of an ad hominem argument is not an
injunction against making personal attacks per se. The following is a good
argument which is also a personal attack:
All Nazi leaders are assholes.
Hilter was a Nazi leader.
Therefore, Hitler is an asshole.

The following is an ad hominem argument

Hitler is a jerk
Hitler says 170,141,183,460.469,231,731,687,303,715,884,727 is a prime
Therefore, it is not a prime number.

The fact that Hitler is a jerk is irrevelant to the question of whether this
is a prime number or not.

Now compare this to what John said. His claim is that the level of virtue of
medical ethicists some how is supposed to be support for the claim that what
they say is either bloody obvious or false. Generally I would say that
John's claim is irrelevant (and thus an ad hominem) because good people can
write bad ethical theory and bad people can write good ethical theory. If
one thinks otherwise then the burden of proof is on them, given that they
are making the personal attack. Specifically, we are talking about medical
ethicists. Their speciality is (roughly) about the duties and obligation
between patients and caregivers. Why can't they be experts about these
matters at the office and yet at home be a bunch of puppy-kickking bastards?
In any event, the point is not that it is impossible to provide evidence
that connects the character of medical ethicists to John's claim about what
they say, but that no evidence _was_ provided. Think how my example of an ad
hominem argument my be saved: if I could add a premise (like some wishful
Platonist) which demonstrates only good people (nonjerks) have accessed to
higher mathematical truths like prime numbers. Since John did not provide
such a bridge premise his argument was ad hominem.

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