Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ad hominem - That Analogy Doesn't Count

Has this ever happened to you?

You're attempting to explain something to someone, and your apt analogy is blanket-dismissed because, without any further explanation provided, the person declares that it's "different."

For example:
Anyway the analogy with the dinosaur is wrong, because of the different nature of the things compared and many other things. I don't go deeper on this now.

I love analogies, and employ them often. They are great for explaining things the person doesn't understand, based on a "language" of things they do understand.

What's a canal? Well, it's basically a river, but made by people. BAM! Done. The person gets it. Perhaps this is better described as a "simile" or "metaphor", but that's missing the forest for the trees.

This is how that particular sub-discussion started, by a response from someone else, emphasis mine.
This is not an argument from ignorance. It isn't saying that stuff I don't know about can be dismissed. It is saying that if one doesn't back up their claim with evidence, it can be dismissed without evidence. This is about the burden of proof. The one making the claim must provide the evidence. Failure to do so is grounds for ignoring the claim until evidence is provided.
If I say that I've got a living dinosaur as a pet, people can dismiss my claim at will.
Apologist responded, as though he kind of gets the point, but is more confused with the atheist position:
Of course I can ignore your affirmation, because of lack of evidence, but I can't say "I am sure you don't have a dinosaur". That would require proof as well. Neither can I bring false or speculative arguments (as it is the case with Atwill) to demonstrate you don't have a dinosaur.
Anyway the analogy with the dinosaur is wrong, because of the different nature of the things compared and many other things. I don't go deeper on this now.
I burst through the door, having an opinion that direly needed relaying:
I don't think you can go deeper. Your dismissal of the analogy here is borderline ad hominem - dismissing it based on non-relevant reasons. Analogies can only be dismissed, on the grounds that they're dissimilar, if the dissimilarities matter to the point of comparison.
If one is comparing apples and oranges under the basis of whether they're edible, saying "Yeah, but apples aren't the color orange, so we can't compare them.", would just be silly.
In this case, we're comparing claims about the existence of two different things without evidence. The fact that one was a well-supported land creature from long ago, and the other is an invisible universe-creating sky wizard, doesn't affect this comparison. Both require evidence, as even you admit. If the comparison is whether something can be demonstrated to be true to the point of being rational to believe, there's no incompatibility between comparing the two.
This makes total sense to me, yes?

  • If we're drawing similarities based on climbing ability, comparing between a monkey and a boat is invalid. 
  • If we're drawing similarities based on whether they're matter, it's not invalid.
  • If we're drawing similarities based on mental capacity, it's not valid.

When it comes to the claim that one owns a dinosaur, or that a god exists, the analogy comparing the two is completely valid, if we're talking about "extraordinary claims that require evidence to rationally believe".

I followed up with my standard offer:
If you think there's an alternative epistemology to empirical reductionist materialism, feel free to define it well, and demonstrate it works well. I'll then use it.
Until then, while I'm using my hammer to build a house, you appear to be upset that I'm not using your invisible magical saw that you can't demonstrate even exists, let alone works.
I had thought my explanation about dismissing an argument for non-relevant reasons was well-explained, but apparently not.
You analogy with the house is, again, false, because the discussion is in a completely different field.
Naturally, he didn't bother to explain how the comparison was invalid. I'm saying epistemology is a tool, and if he wants me to use an alternative tool for investigating reality, he needs to show that it exists, and that it works. A valid point, I think... but no, dismissed because something, I don't understand what he even is referring to, is different.

I've ran into this phenomenon a for a long time, but I only recently put my finger on what's wrong with it. Typically, when I point out that a comparison is invalid, I can get exhaustively verbose about every single atom of what's wrong with it. I wish they'd do the same.

Instead, it's a tactic to supposedly invalidate an argument, such that it doesn't actually have to be addressed, with no effort.

Just say "they're different" - and BAM! Argument destroyed.

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