Critical Thinking and the UFO Hypothesis III: Ad Hominem Arguments

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posted on May, 16 2013 @ 11:51 PM
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It’s become common practice for the serial debunkers to employ ad hominem arguments on these forums.

An ad hominem argument is just a logical fallacy in which you attempt to discredit someone’s position by attacking their character instead of addressing the relevant claim being made.

An example would be: “So-and-so is lying about having seen a U.F.O. because they receive money from writing books, giving talks, producing documentaries, etc.” (I’m sure you’ve seen this one before.)

Why are such arguments weak? It’s because they’re drawing your attention away from the important, relevant, issue at hand (creating a red herring) and trying to get you to focus on something else. In the case above, they’re trying to get you to focus – typically without any adequate evidence – on a potential character flaw, in the hopes that you then make a couple of further false inferences – that (1) they probably do have that flaw (even if no sufficient evidence was presented for this) and (2) that you then make the further mistake of assuming that if they have that character flaw, then they must be unreliable in most everything else they say.

Another way of seeing how these arguments fail is to look for counterexamples. For example, medical doctors typically make well over six figures a year. And not only that, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be doing what they do if they were receiving $10 and hour. Yet even so, does this make them unreliable sources of information? Of course not! It’s simply human nature to prefer actions that are incentive-based. Yet that doesn’t at all mean that anyone who demands compensation for their work is automatically dishonest.

So it’s pretty clear that this kind of argument rests on shaky reasoning to say the least. It’s basically the kind of rhetoric employed every day by politicians, used car salesmen and those who simply don’t know how to reason correctly, or those who do and simply want to take advantage of your tendency to not carefully scrutinize what they’re saying.

Now if they’re such bad arguments, then why do people keep making them? Well, I think it’s because they’re effective at shifting your attention away from the actual issue. They tend to easily fool people, because they strike a chord with one’s emotions. And the people who make these arguments realize that, at least subconsciously. They’re hoping that you don’t see what they’re doing (basically leading you down a separate, irrelevant trail of reasoning). It typically also has to do with a lack of proper education, or in some cases a lack of morals.

One more thing – after you call someone out for simply making ad hominem arguments, ask them to provide undeniable, documented evidence of said character flaw (you’ll often see that the ‘evidence’ they present at this point is simply hearsay, their own subjective interpretation, or that it assumes what they’re trying to prove). And even if they can provide such evidence, further ask them if that necessarily means that this person is being dishonest with the other claims they are making. Then ask them to directly address the issue at hand. At this point, whatever they offer you, scrutinize it carefully for other errors in reasoning.

If they’re sloppy enough thinkers to employ ad hominem attacks in the first place, it’s often a safe bet they’re making some pretty egregious errors in their other arguments.




posted on May, 16 2013 @ 11:55 PM
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To the contrary, Most ad hominem attacks I have seen in UFO debates usually stem from the believer. Usually due to the fact that it is often the believer who is passionate about their belief and ends up getting emotionally charged, whereas the majority of the time, humorously, the 'skeptic' isn't really professional or anything as such, just someone who doesn't believe the other person.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:04 AM
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reply to post by Brighter
 


I see ad hominem attacks in alot alot of ufo threads on Ats. And your right in MOST cases the debunker is simply trying to shift the focus of examining the Ufo issue logically in a scientific manner, to an examination of someones character flaw. Where a Ufo proclaimer has a known history of scaming for money, e.g making promises ufo will land in 2012 for example and it doesnt happen, sure ok thats fine...there are examples in the Ufo world of the people who cried Wolf..however i see in most ufo cases people are simply reporting their experiences as they ecountered it. I find it disgraceful when debunkers rip into these people, and it why i will and do have ago back at them.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:07 AM
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reply to post by mr10k
 





To the contrary, Most ad hominem attacks I have seen in UFO debates usually stem from the believer. Usually due to the fact that it is often the believer who is passionate about their belief and ends up getting emotionally charged, whereas the majority of the time, humorously, the 'skeptic' isn't really professional or anything as such, just someone who doesn't believe the other person.


Im glad you used the phrase emotionally charged, and what you forgot to add in your nice description was that Skeptics get emotionally charged up with their beliefs as well. Therefore we have a situation where the Ufo phenomenon is being debated in an emotionally charged forum. Lets all step back and be respectful of eachothers views which includes accepting that we may be wrong ourselfs.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:08 AM
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Originally posted by mr10k
To the contrary, Most ad hominem attacks I have seen in UFO debates usually stem from the believer. Usually due to the fact that it is often the believer who is passionate about their belief and ends up getting emotionally charged, whereas the majority of the time, humorously, the 'skeptic' isn't really professional or anything as such, just someone who doesn't believe the other person.


I'd have to disagree.

Most of the ad hominem attacks that I see come from the debunkers.

Here are a few general ones that you see quite often:

1) So-and-so makes money on books/lectures/documentaries...

2) So-and-so is crazy, mentally unstable, etc. ...

3) So-and-so simply wants to believe...

4) So-and-so is only doing it for attention...

(That's all that comes to mind now.)

These arguments are made quite frequently, and none of them hold merit.

Actually, the fact that debunkers so frequently make such emotionally-charged attacks suggests to me that they themselves hold deeply held dogmatic beliefs, and have a tendency to lash out when said beliefs are challenged.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:10 AM
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Originally posted by mr10k
To the contrary, Most ad hominem attacks I have seen in UFO debates usually stem from the believer. Usually due to the fact that it is often the believer who is passionate about their belief and ends up getting emotionally charged, whereas the majority of the time, humorously, the 'skeptic' isn't really professional or anything as such, just someone who doesn't believe the other person.


I think it usually stems from people having blind-faith in anything. Whether its with Jesus, Allah or Aliens it solely based on blind subjective faith.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:13 AM
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Originally posted by Brighter
It’s become common practice for the serial debunkers to employ ad hominem arguments on these forums.

An ad hominem argument is just a logical fallacy in which you attempt to discredit someone’s position by attacking their character instead of addressing the relevant claim being made.

An example would be: “So-and-so is lying about having seen a U.F.O. because they receive money from writing books, giving talks, producing documentaries, etc.” (I’m sure you’ve seen this one before.)


[snip]

1. The logical fallacy in most UFO-theories is that they are statements that cannot be falsified as the claims are inherently not provable.
2. The logical fallacy in most UFO-theories is that "the government" is hiding things because otherwise everything would go crazy. "They can't talk about it, therefore they exist".
3. The theorists aren't being logical and are by definition either not very clever, or intentionally spread such information in order to gain something out of it (laughs, fame, money, for example).
4. Claiming #3 is just the truth, not an ad hominem attack, as it is not a logical fallacy.

edit on 17/5/2013 by Ayana because: Removed insults



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:15 AM
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Originally posted by AthlonSavage
reply to post by Brighter
 


I see ad hominem attacks in alot alot of ufo threads on Ats. And your right in MOST cases the debunker is simply trying to shift the focus of examining the Ufo issue logically in a scientific manner, to an examination of someones character flaw. Where a Ufo proclaimer has a known history of scaming for money, e.g making promises ufo will land in 2012 for example and it doesnt happen, sure ok thats fine...there are examples in the Ufo world of the people who cried Wolf..however i see in most ufo cases people are simply reporting their experiences as they ecountered it. I find it disgraceful when debunkers rip into these people, and it why i will and do have ago back at them.


That's a good point, and I also realize that there are some people who make outlandish promises.

But the debunker will want to move from "So-and-so makes outlandish promises and never follows through" (which may be true), to: "Therefore, anything and anyone associated with so-and-so is unreliable and should be ignored".

And that's a false inference.
edit on 17-5-2013 by Brighter because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:16 AM
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reply to post by Eustace1
 





I think it usually stems from people having blind-faith in anything. Whether its with Jesus, Allah or Aliens it solely based on blind subjective faith.


So person walks out one night and encounters a Ufo in close promity and goes home and tells their experience on Ats. Ats says thats because it was your blind subjective faith. I hear your basic argument and yeh people can turn their Ufo belief into a religous faith. There are however people seeing ufos who dont have a faith bone in their bodies.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:25 AM
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Opening post is inaccurate and pretty darn funny.

First off, anyone who refers to people who use critical thinking and approach claims with logical skepticism as "debunkers", is showing their obvious bias & disdain for truth. You don't get to the truth by simply believing something. Credible and verifiable evidence is needed. Anything other than that is just hearsay and requires faith. It is in the same vein as religion and is not grounded or based in reality or truth.

To be clear, most people who question the laughable UFO claims on here, do not discount the possibility of life on other planets or that aliens can/will visit Earth. In fact, most welcome it and are genuinely interested in the topic. However, these same people choose to apply common sense and refuse to accept unreliable witness testimony or second or third person accounts of what someone thinks they saw, as proof. And why on earth should they?

What the opening post failed at realizing or tackling, is how erroneous it is to accept witness account as proof. How most UFO sighting/story threads here lack any kind of skepticism or honest attempt at getting to the truth (However boring or mundane that actual truth may be - e.g ...You saw a plane, not a UFO).

Humans are beings of bad perception who will experience and understand events differently than everyone else. This has been proven over and over and over again. People are NOT reliable witnesses when it comes to things they do not understand. The mind and the imagination heavily influences their perceived experience.

Anyway, nice try. Still no real proof of alien visitations to earth. When you find it, please do post it.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:28 AM
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Originally posted by Brighter
But the debunker will want to move from "So-and-so makes outlandish promises and never follows through" (which may be true), to: "Therefore, anything and anyone associated with so-and-so is unreliable and should be ignored".


No, there's no "want to move from".
Please understand that not a single case of paranormal activity or extra terrestrials have ever been proven.
There is, unfortunately, a common thread among all these claims and that is that they (too) cannot be falsified.
Scientifically speaking, it is therefore quite meaningless to discuss.

However, some are, while the strength is still there, willing to discuss the claims until a point is reached where the person with the claims really needs to put something proper on the table, but fails every single time.

There is a pink elephant-ghost living under your thumbnail, please prove me wrong.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:31 AM
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reply to post by WilliamOckham
 


Dude it not worth replying in detail to post as the underone of your reply is quite clear mocking people who claim to have had Ufo experiences. Your post is a good example of the Ad Hominem Arguments. Btw Skeptics show me proof Aliens/Ufos cant be here, create a thread titled this and lets have it out, we have all the time in the world to debate it bring it on.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:38 AM
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Originally posted by Nevertheless
Please understand that not a single case of paranormal activity or extra terrestrials have ever been proven.


Please understand that you're employing a conveniently over-simplified concept of 'proof'.

It's not as though we're doing abstract Euclidean proofs here. These investigations take place in the empirical world, where degrees evidence is the relevant concept. And evidence there is.



There is, unfortunately, a common thread among all these claims and that is that they (too) cannot be falsified.


That is false. Of course claims of UFO sightings can be falsified. They can be shown to be mundane or naturalistic phenomena. Unfortunately, the data from Project Blue Book and Special Report #14 indicate that a significant number of sightings (and especially those with the most amount of evidence) have no known mundane explanation.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:42 AM
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reply to post by WilliamOckham
 


Excellent reply, which I heartily support....with the greatest respect to the original poster.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:51 AM
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Speaking as someone who's occupied the ground on all sides, I think the ad-hom approach is used equally across the board. It's the perception that can lead us to believe that the other side is more guilty of insults than the side we're presently on.

In essence, the ad-homs are just bickering between opposing viewpoints. In fact, if we could boil off the fancy words and sharp insults and see what we had left, wouldn't it sound like this?

Person A, "You are..."
Person B, "No, you are..."
Person A, "No I'm not. You're worse..."
Person B, "You are..."

If that's the case, it's just playground name-calling; fun if you like the sport, but a waste of energy really. When people try and frame this BS as a symptom of the craziness of ufology, they're not seeing the whole picture...or being selective. In reality, the political discussions follow the same path with some talking about issues and all the rest of the noise generated by the name-callers and squabblers.

I've long been familiar with that BS about who makes money off what and it's just more garbage. Every subject area has skivers, conmen and liars whether it be sport, politics or the world of literature. Even capital S Science has had a parade of wasters making money of BS.

The same applies when a 'skeptic' makes dollars of the skeptic circuit as when a 'ufologist' makes dollars off the UFO circuit. It doesn't have to mean either are crap humans or milking the gullible, but let's be honest and recognise that some skeptics are not skeptics and neither are all ufologists honest.

In my experience, there are scrupulous 'skeptics' and equally scrupulous 'believers.' Those are the people worth listening to and the endless name-calling or discussing name-calling is a distraction.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:53 AM
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Originally posted by Brighter

That is false. Of course claims of UFO sightings can be falsified. They can be shown to be mundane or naturalistic phenomena. Unfortunately, the data from Project Blue Book and Special Report #14 indicate that a significant number of sightings (and especially those with the most amount of evidence) have no known mundane explanation.


And even though all they are saying, is that those cases were unexplained, you (And most UFO "believers") choose to accept a less likely explanation and rule out the possibility that the government lists them as unexplained, due to the sensitive nature and secrecy of the actual truth....i.e, someone saw experimental military craft. They are not going to go out of their way to explain themselves...they will continue to let the crazies believe what they believe and keep perpetuating the myths.



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 12:55 AM
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reply to post by Kandinsky
 


The name calling can make the topic more interesting and make an otherwise repetitive subject more fun ;-). However.....actual evidence would be ideal and more entertaining. I patiently await.

edit on 17-5-2013 by WilliamOckham because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 01:14 AM
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Originally posted by Brighter

Originally posted by Nevertheless
Please understand that not a single case of paranormal activity or extra terrestrials have ever been proven.


Please understand that you're employing a conveniently over-simplified concept of 'proof'.

It's not as though we're doing abstract Euclidean proofs here. These investigations take place in the empirical world, where degrees evidence is the relevant concept. And evidence there is.

Something's either real or it isn't. It's that simple.




That is false. Of course claims of UFO sightings can be falsified. They can be shown to be mundane or naturalistic phenomena.

It sounds as if you are changing the subject here.
You created a thread about "Ad Hominem Arguments", more specifically, that "skeptics" attack the people who have ....unconventional... claims around UFO-sightings, such as them being extra-terrestrials.
It should be implicit to the conversation that the "skeptics" do not dismiss the existence of UFO-sightings.
I was talking about claims around these sightings, that should be very obvious.

Let's return to the real conversation instead.



Unfortunately, the data from Project Blue Book and Special Report #14 indicate that a significant number of sightings (and especially those with the most amount of evidence) have no known mundane explanation.

It is also true that not all sightings have been explained. That isn't an issue for the skeptics either. What is your point?

So, what we are left with after that are UFO-sightings that "have no known mundane explanation", after which a random guy states that they must be aircraft operated by a pink elephant.

Do you see the problem?



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 01:40 AM
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Originally posted by WilliamOckham
First off, anyone who refers to people who use critical thinking and approach claims with logical skepticism as "debunkers", is showing their obvious bias & disdain for truth.


I feel as though you've missed the entire point of my post. The point is that many debunkers make ad hominem attacks. This would clearly imply that they're *not* employing critical thinking, no?

I think many of them are good at giving a superficial semblance of critical thinking, but upon examination many of their explanations are woefully inadequate, which leads them to employ ad hominem attacks to bolster their position.


Originally posted by WilliamOckham
However, these same people choose to apply common sense and refuse to accept unreliable witness testimony or second or third person accounts of what someone thinks they saw, as proof. And why on earth should they?


You're misunderstanding the relevant concepts just like the other poster.

The nature of the subject matter implies that we're dealing with degrees of evidence, not searching for 'proof'.

But once we're clear that evidence is the correct concept, then we have to admit that there are varying degrees of evidence - from the wholly unreliable all the way to extremely reliable and everything in between.

There is unreliable evidence given by a single, intoxicated individual; there is pretty reliable evidence given by a single, sober individual; there is good evidence given by a group of sober individuals; there is even better evidence given by multiple groups of individuals; and there is overwhelming evidence given by multiple individuals and groups of individuals over a large span of time combined with physical trace evidence.

The more evidence that exists for something's existence, the more one is justified in their belief in it.

In fact, there seems to be a direct correlation between the level of education, thorough, objective and skeptical study of the UFO phenomenon, and the justified belief that there really is something significant to the subject: the astrophysicist J. Allen Hynek, physicist Dr. Peter Sturrock and physicist Dr. James E. McDonald. All of these individuals were thoroughly trained in scientific and skeptical methods and all of them reached the same conclusion - that UFOs are real.

I'd recommend reading one of their books on the subject to see how a scientist approaches the subject.

Furthermore, the studies that have been done on the psychological fitness of those claiming to have seen UFOs overwhelmingly indicate that such individuals are just as normal as the general population.

You also claim that "[c]redible and verifiable evidence is needed". And continue with: "[a]nything other than that is just hearsay and requires faith".

This itself is a logical fallacy - black and white thinking. As I've pointed out, there are varying degrees of evidence for various phenomena and therefore varying levels of justification for ones belief in those phenomena. This is reminiscent of your previous conceptual error and your insistence on 'proof'.



What the opening post failed at realizing or tackling, is how erroneous it is to accept witness account as proof.
...
Humans are beings of bad perception who will experience and understand events differently than everyone else.


For every one case of mistaken perception, I can point out ten thousand cases of veridical perception.

The fact is that humans are very good at perceiving - in fact, that combined with our superior higher-order interpretive abilities are what ensured that we evolved into the dominant species on Earth.

You also conveniently ignore the fact that many of these sightings are not by individuals, but by entire groups of individuals, all reporting roughly the same object. There are also many cases of physical trace evidence.



Still no real proof of alien visitations to earth.


Again, you're confusing basic concepts. UFOs and aliens are not necessarily connected (although one could make that case).



posted on May, 17 2013 @ 03:16 AM
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Originally posted by Brighter

Actually, the fact that debunkers so frequently make such emotionally-charged attacks suggests to me that they themselves hold deeply held dogmatic beliefs, and have a tendency to lash out when said beliefs are challenged.


Brighter great thread mate and it looks that way to me too - perhaps these debunkers, UFO cynics, pseudo-sceptics or whatever you want to call them have far more in common with people who believe everything is a UFO than they like to think (far more dogmatic than pragmatic and all that).

Thought Dr Bernard Haisch also made an interesting point below about many of them not being practicing scientists and there are plenty of other tactics employed here if you've not seen the list already.







"Their critiques virtually all consist of scoffing, ridicule, ad hominem attacks, and the amazing claim that their dogmatic beliefs that certain things are impossible necessarily constitute laws of nature. It is a modern replay of the cardinals refusing to look through Galileo's telescope because truth has already been revealed to them. Interestingly many of the vocal skeptics are not themselves practicing scientists."

Astrophysicist Dr Bernard Haisch, Ph.D.


UFO Sceptic


Cheers.





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