RE: Argument From Authority

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sun Aug 19 2001 - 01:24:59 MDT

Harvey Newstrom very constructively writes

> Lee Corbin wrote,
>> Good. Then we totally agree. All that remains is for you to explain
>> specifically what was in the article that you question---rather than
>> just the web site it came from or who the author is affiliated with.
> Please accept my sincerest apologies that I simply do not have time to
> research every point in this article or any of your other repeated articles.

No apology needed. Now if we could only buy time as easily as we buy books...

> I'm not even sure what specific points I could focus upon first to try to
> speed this debate up. In fact, I'm not even clear on what points you are
> trying to make with these articles.

Well, I didn't post either of the two articles that were causing so much
heat. In fact, I wouldn't have posted either of them; this last one, which
I guess we'll go into a little, was just a piece by conservatives for
conservatives; perhaps it was posted because of some of the accusations
against liberals that it contains. It was posted, I believe, at a point
when some liberals on this list were being criticized on their general
beliefs by conservatives, and vice-versa (not that there is anything
wrong with that).

> Are you trying to prove that blacks are inferior to whites, blacks have
> lower IQs than whites, and blacks commit more crimes than whites?

No. While these might indeed be factual (on some readings of those words),
the article that we were arguing about had nothing to do with that.

> Are you trying to prove that God has not been disproved, that this
> was always a Christian nation, that our laws are all based on the
> Bible, and that a specific religion is the best path to Truth?

Likewise no, no, no, and no.

> Are you trying to prove that conservatives have a longer history than
> liberals,

That article did touch on this. According to it, liberals (in the American
sense of someone who believes in having a large, powerful, and protective
government) try to trace their history back to Abraham Lincoln, and the
immensely larger government that arose during the civil war. The article
contends that instead, liberalism is properly viewed as arising only with
the New Deal. Now this is a claim that would be agreed to by many liberals;
many, in fact, see FDR and his administration as the first real "progressive"
government that the U.S. ever had.

> or a more valid history than liberals, or more of a claim to American
> history than liberals?

Certainly not! I wrote a personal essay under the thread "Origin of Beliefs"
where I explained how I was very lucky to have obtained at the age of twelve
an understanding of the symmetry of the political spectrum in a number of
ways. But if indeed conservatives were able to trace their history back farther,
it wouldn't mean any more than the fact that the Democratic Party has a
longer history than the Republican Party. In fact, for most of my life, the
liberals I knew would have keenly embraced the idea that they didn't have a
long history, mainly because they felt themselves to be very modern.

> Are you trying to prove that science is not the only or best way to
> truth,

Thanks for giving me a chance to explicitly deny that; I would say
that indeed "science" is the *only* way to objective truth. But I
must use the scare quotes, because I firmly believe that science
is nothing more than ordinary reasoning and common sense
methodically applied to certain areas of inquiry.

> and that nonscientific ways should be considered with equal
> authority as science?

Right: I completely repudiate the belief by some that there are
"other truths" or that the way that scientists (and detectives
and surgeons, etc.) go about finding what is true and what is false
is somehow limited. Although this might provoke a fight from
another quarter, there aren't any different approaches to discovering
reality besides those commonly used by conventional doctors trying
help people resist sickness, or detectives trying to solve cases, or
chess masters trying to discover winning combinations, or scientists
trying to formulate more correct theories, or any number of other
instances in which human beings are carefully and skeptically
working out their understanding of reality.

> Or were all of these side-issues unrelated to some other point
> that you were trying to make that got lost in the clutter?

yeah, my feathers get ruffled whenever someone is being denounced
for having said something, and yet the criticism isn't directed
towards what was said, but rather towards the person, or the general
class of people to whom the person belongs (it's a little bit like
ad hominem, IMO).

> If you could present your viewpoints in a more direct manner, I am sure you
> would find yourself receiving more direct responses. Try stating specific
> theories you propose or specific questions you would ask, without going
> through all of these supporting documents first. Otherwise, I can't afford
> the time to do all this research just in case you might have an idea that I
> would be interest in supporting or refuting.

Sure. Actually, it was you who was having the time to be quite scholarly
and research the bonafides of certain authors, who was financing them,
and the general world-view of their cronies and the websites hosting
their articles. (Also, I should add, I never meant to demean that effort.)

So I'll just reach into that article, and find the worst thing in it
that I think that you would object to.


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