Monday, June 11, 2007

Virtue and Valid Reasoning

Tristero, at Hullabaloo, complained in a Quote of the Day about a statement from Nancy Pelosi where she said:

Science is a gift of God to all of us and science has taken us to a place that is biblical in its power to cure,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, arguing for the bill’s passage. “And that is the embryonic stem cell research


Against this, Tristero says:

One: This is a gratuitous insult to all thinking persons. Science is a process of inquiry that has enabled us to understand something about the nature of physical reality in a detailed fashion. It has taken centuries of hard, meticulous, and often backbreaking work to acquire this knowledge; the history of science is filled with failure, frustration, and fragmentary, provisional understandings. The relatively rare breakthroughs - Newton's laws, Darwin's natural selection, Einstein's theory of relativity - are achieved only through enormous effort, not miracles. This is no gift from God but a quintessentially human endeavor.


This is not an insult to thinking persons, because it says nothing about, and attributes no characteristics to, thinking persons.

Tristero seems to have confused the proposition, "Science is a gift of God" with "Knowledge of science propositions is a gift of God," and, in condemning the latter, falsely beliefs that this is a condemnation of the former.


Secondly, the kind of pandering, meaningless bullshit Pelosi mouthed will convince no one. But it does make clear how little a leading Democrat understands religious tropes in a modern political context. The rightwing retort is obvious: "God nowhere demands the sacrifice of human children for research. That's the ethics of Mengele, not Jesus." And from there, the "conversation" devolves quickly into idiotic arguments about when a fertilized egg becomes a human life. And the importance of the research, its potential benefits that are needed now, are forgotten.

Again, this is poor reasoning.

Tristero asserts the proposition, "There are no persons who will be convinced by this," but offers an argument that only defends the proposition, "There are some persons who will not be convinced by this."

Yes, it is true that some will give the resonse that Tristero provides. Yet, at the same time, there will be others who will accept the position that God gave us stem cell research as a way of curing disease. The proposition that nobody can be convinced to believe such a thing is unfounded.

The Virtue of Logical Reasoning

It is interesting that Tristero later comments, "The following discussion is not about the quality of the actual ideas, but their presentation."

Indeed, the above quotes suggests that Tristero has no interest in making accurate statements, only in making effective statements.

Quite independent of one's agreement or disagreement with Tristero's conclusions, the arguments are invalid. If a fondness for valid arguments and an aversion to invalid rhetoric are a virtue, then that virtue is lacking in this post.

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