A Dialogue in Rhetoric

The rhetorician spends more time invested in Nelsonian ‘not understanding’, clouding with non-sequitur, and shifting the topic at hand to ‘you’, than they do actually studying the subject.
Structurally, these are all actual garbage arguments which I face each day on Twitter.

Rhetty: “Your contention is conspiracy theory babble, and purposely confusing. I am trying to understand it, but cannot. Can you re-state it in English please.”

TES: “2 + 2 = 4”

Rhetty: “Your words are purposely confusing. Your graph is nonsense and babble. If you cannot put this in everyday English, then you do not understand it.”

TES: “OK, if I take two of something, and add two more of that same something to the set, then I have four of that something in the final set.”

Rhetty: “You are purposely using overly complex words to confuse. You must be hiding an agenda. ‘Something’ of what? Beans, balls, pencils? The term ‘set’ only means something to you. The word means to ‘put something down onto a surface.'”

TES: “Set of anything. What ‘something’ is, is not material to the argument at hand. ‘Set’ is the correct term here.”

Rhetty: “Of course it is material. Why didn’t you label what ‘something’ was? And of course you, as always, failed to cite your recitation source. Plus you flowed your math to the right, when you should have had it flow downwards and put a line under the second ‘2’. And then you did not label the number 2 with the word ‘two’ on your graph, so that we could know what it was. By being enigmatic with your words you are being purposely deceptive.”

TES: “It is not a ‘graph’, it is a chart. I’m not in high school. There is no single ‘recitation source’ – this is a derivation of my own work, through standard math practice. Math is only required to flow ‘down to a bottom line’ in accounting and the third grade. We are at the Bridgman Point here, this cannot be simplified any lower.

Rhetty: “None of the axes are even labeled. What is the x-axis? Is it time? And there is no zero on it. Are you claiming that zero does not exist? What is the y-axis? Without these things the graph is totally nonsense.”

TES: “The entire description of the chart is in the title “Adding 2 (two) and 2 (two) to get 4 (four) – How to Add Numbers Along an X-Axis”. Did you even read it? No, the x-axis is the counting numbers. That is where the math occurs. Zero was just unnecessary on this simple a chart. There is no y-axis. Again, this is a chart, and not a graph.

Nevertheless, why don’t we do this. Why don’t you explain the equation back to me, in your own words. Just to see if we are talking about the same thing.”

Rhetty: “I can’t repeat back babble. These made up words only mean something to you. Plus you didn’t label the x-axis. Where do I even find it?”

TES: “No, the replies indicate that over 100 people understood the entire chart, and responded to it by asking the logical next question. Perhaps you should actually read down in the thread where I answered intelligent and honest questions about the chart. That might help.”

Rhetty: “You did not explain (every single thing about) this chart (and its implications in one single 280-character tweet). I don’t need to read further because I stopped at ‘no y-axis’ and said ‘this is bullshit’ (and because stopping with one tweet was advantageous to my argument, because my argument gets stronger the less information I have).

Anyway, here are my questions, which you abjectly refuse to even answer. There is no proof that 2, even multiple 2’s, is actually 4. And your use of confusing graphs and fancy diagrams no one can interpret shows that you are trying to spin conspiracy theory.”

TES: “So now we are shifting into refutation and delivery? I thought you said that you did not understand it?”

Rhetty: “I understand that this supposed math is an assumption on your part.”

TES: “No it isn’t. It is based upon well-vetted tenets of maths, numerals and addition. 2 + 2 = 4. It is inference, not assumption.”

Rhetty: “‘Well-vetted’ bunk. You made the claim. You have the burden of proof. Prove it.”

TES: “2 added to another 2, is 4.”

Rhetty: “I need a peer reviewed study with a retrospective meta-synthesis, a meta-cohort analysis, and a confident interval with lots of Cochrane p-values, forest plops, and such – or you are full of shit.”

TES: “OK, the primary, but not only, resource I used for my work is at the link here. The work is mostly deduction and merely one calculation, so it does not require any of those trappings. In fact, knowing when you don’t need these things is a measure of competency… hint, hint.”

Rhetty: “Well someone is wearing the tin-foil hat now. That’s old and debunked information. Everyone knows that JoHaG is no longer a credible scientific journal (I read this in an online forum of my ‘friends’). Scientists have raised doubt about this ‘extra twos’ business and the consensus is that it’s a conspiracy theory.”

TES: “‘Scientists’, have not even spoken with you. You don’t know what they think. Can you falsify the mathematical formula? …and do you even understand it?”

Rhetty: “Here, I used multiple 2’s in a graph I drew and came up with 8 as the outcome. This is proof you are wrong. Another time I came up with 14. So, you have no basis to say that multiple 2’s result in only 4. That is stupid.”

TES: “Two ‘2’s’, not ‘multiple 2’s.”

Rhetty: “You are cherry picking.”

TES: “No I am not, the whole context of the argument is one specific circumstance to begin with. I am not cherry picking through a murder’s life by citing the days in which they did the murders. Besides, it would be special pleading, not ‘cherry picking’.”

Rhetty: “You are ignoring the entire realm of possibilities. You have not considered all the options. It could be 16, or 6 or 12.”

TES: “This is deduction, not induction. All the possibilities are already falsified, by the equation itself.”

Rhetty: “Show me the peer reviewed studies which falsify that a multiple set of twos can end in any even number. And there are an infinity of them, so the odds of the answer being just ‘4’ are very low.”

TES: “I don’t have to, because ‘other even numbers’ are not salient to the argument to begin with.”

Rhetty: “Look in the graph I produced (crayon drawing), most every combination of multiple 2’s ends in something other than 4. Therefore, 4 is merely an assumption and bias on your part.”

TES: “It is not an assumption, it is an inference. And your ‘analysis’ is orthogonal to my argument.”

Rhetty: “You claim that multiple 2’s are 4, and are avoiding my questions through lots of hand waving.”

TES: “That is a straw man. Why do you insist that I defend your made up version of my chart? I have sincerely answered every single question you have asked so far.

Tell you what, what is your argument then?”

Rhetty: “That you are ignorant and imbecilic, for missing that multiple ‘2’s’ can end up in multiple outcomes besides 4, and for avoiding my questions about bullshit graphs. Only a complete idiot thinks in conspiracy theories – and you are the biggest idiot I have seen lately.”

TES: “So your argument is that I am an ‘imbecilic idiot’? And ‘2 + 2 = 4’ being wrong, was merely your working example of that argument then?

Rhetty: “You are a working example of a conspiracy freak. Imbecile.”

TES: “OK, let’s sum up. You lied when you said that you needed this ‘stated in English’ and that you had ‘Questions’ – then you went personal. Maliciousness and dishonesty are not a great way to start a dialogue which is supposed to be about maths. Rather ironic in fact. This discussion is ended.”

TES: [Block]

Rhetty: “A block, of course! I triggered him! He refuses to answer my questions despite my repeated asking!”

The Ethical Skeptic, “A Dialogue in Rhetoric”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 14 Dec 2021; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=58559

How to Argue Like a Child

The following is the formula of discourse on the part of an arguing child. Their case is never about mere disagreement, dissent nor the material at hand. Their ‘disagreement’ is that you should not even be allowed a voice in the first place.

Those who are perpetually captive inside a child’s mind engage in debate by means of the following method; the method of the faking skeptic or immature arguer. The agency who patrols social discourse and seeks to derail any stakeholder discussion which might serve steer science or its social discourse into a direction they disfavor. This style of arguer does not discuss the material at hand; their concealed goal is habitually instead, to discuss you. Their goal is to shut you down, if you dare disagree or even ponder a different conclusion.

The following is the step by step method of an arguing child. Their case is never about mere disagreement or the material at hand. Their ‘disagreement’ is that you should not even be allowed a voice in the first place. When such is the case, their form of argument most often contains the following elements:​

      The Ten Characteristics of Arguing Like a Child

1.  nulla infantis – ‘nuh uhhh’ or ‘nuh uhhh, shut up.’ Fancy ways of simply issuing a baby’s ‘no’. A disputation or pleonasm which provides no actual counter-argument. Usually accompanied by a code-phrased demand that their opponent be silent.​

2.  Herculean Burden of Proof – exclaiming ‘prove it! prove it! Unsubstantiated claim!’ to all manner of philosophy, personal experience and things which are metaphysical in nature, impossible or would take a 1700 page treatise to prove.​

3.  Focused on Irrelevance – fails to grasp the difference between a point which is relevant, salient or critical path, from one which is not. Doesn’t care, just needed to feign subject competence.

4.  Fail to Recognize Their Own Argument – when their argument is given back to them verbatim and by quote (without straw man), they do not recognize it, or accuse you of crafting a straw man.

5.  Canned Apothegm/Simpleton Theory – lead in is often first accompanied by an authoritative claim to simplicity or other canned catch-phrase they were taught by a club inside which they are attempting to increase their rank. Fail to recognize that what is expressed simply, often only fascinates simpletons.

6.  Lazy/Silver Platter – typically know very little about the topic and then want you to do their research for them; like a bad lab partner or project worker.​

7.  Threatened by Competence – they grow angry if their opponent incidentally cites personal professional or life experience in the subject – the inappropriate response often revealing an inner wound for which they are covering.​

8.  Insulting & Demeaning (The Actual Goal) – their cleverness is invested into a campaign of insulting or demeaning you, woven into the fabric of put-down humor or their informal argument. They will usually begin the insults on the third exchange. They will float their ‘PhD’ or other comparative appeal to authority in some manner. They think they are too smart for you to detect this.​ As they age in cynical behavior, the insults will come earlier and earlier in the discussion process.

9.  non tu es – ‘no, you are…’. Whatever you offer them in terms of critique they throw back in your face with a childish ‘No, you are…’; however often wrapped up in a pretentious pleonasm in actual personal attack form, usually non-sequitur or straw man – and not an informal critique of method.

10.  Slam Condemnation – they want to end the conversation with a coup de grâce not related to the critical path argument at hand – something to show how superior they are to you and how unacceptable you are, with your ‘opinions’.

One may notice that this process is devoid of anything which pertains to the critical path of argument at all – save for possibly step 5. However, I have found that arguers who conduct their discourse in this manner, do not grasp the critical path well enough to know whether or not their canned apothegm actually is salient in the first place. So most often not even step 5 in this arguing method applies to the subject at hand.

As an ethical skeptic, when you point out this set of methodological errors on their part, you are not committing an ad hominem informal fallacy. You are simply citing that their method of arguing has weakened the ability for anyone to conduct sufficient or scientific discourse. You are asking them to stop, and reengage under protocols of normal human respect. This is a valid topic of meta-discussion and is in no way tantamount to a critique of them personally (even though they may perceive it as such).

The Ethical Skeptic, “How to Argue Like a Child”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 10 Nov 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-aJa

The Plural of Anecdote is Data

A single observation does not necessarily constitute an instance of the pejorative descriptive ‘anecdote’. Not only do anecdotes constitute data, but one anecdote can serve to falsify the null hypothesis and settle a scientific question in short order. Such is the power of a single observation. Such is the power of wielding skillfully, scientific inference. Fake skeptics seek to emasculate the power of the falsifying observation, at all costs.

It is incumbent upon the ethical skeptic, those of us who are researchers if you will – those who venerate science both as an objective set of methods as well as their underlying philosophy – incumbent that we understand the nature of anecdote and how the tool is correctly applied inside scientific inference. Anecdotes are not ‘Woo’, as most fake skeptics will imply through a couple of notorious memorized one-liners. Never mind what they say, nor might claim as straw man of their intent, and watch instead how they apply their supposed wisdom. You will observe such abuse of the concept to be most often the case. We must insist upon the theist and nihilist religious community of deniers, that inside the context of falsification/deduction in particular, a single observation does not constitute an instance of ‘anecdote’ (in the pejorative). Not only do anecdotes constitute data, but one anecdote can serve to falsify the Null (or even null hypothesis) and settle the question in short order. Such is the power of a single observation.

See ‘Anecdote’ – The Cry of the Pseudo-Skeptic

To an ethical skeptic, inductive anecdotes may prove to be informative in nature if one gives structure to and catalogs them over time. Anecdotes which are falsifying/deductive in nature are not only immediately informative, but moreover they are even more importantly, probative. Probative with respect to the null. I call the inferential mode modus absens the ‘null’ because usually in non-Bayesian styled deliberation, the null hypothesis, the notion that something is absent, is not actually a hypothesis at all. Rather, this species of idea constitutes simply a placeholder – the idea that something is not, until proved to be. And while this is a good common sense structure for the resolution of a casual argument, it does not mean that one should therefore believe or accept the null, as merely outcome of this artifice in common sense. In a way, deflecting observations by calling them ‘anecdote’ is a method of believing the null, and not in actuality conducting science nor critical thinking. However, this is the reality we face with unethical skeptics today. The tyranny of the religious default Null.

The least scientific thing a person can do, is to believe the null hypothesis.

Wolfinger’s Misquote

/philosophy : skepticism : pseudoscience : apothegm/ : you may have heard the phrase ‘the plural of anecdote is not data’. It turns out that this is a misquote. The original aphorism, by the political scientist Ray Wolfinger, was just the opposite: ‘The plural of anecdote is data’. The only thing worse than the surrendered value (as opposed to collected value, in science) of an anecdote is the incurred bias of ignoring anecdotes altogether. This is a method of pseudoscience.

Our opponents elevate the scientific status of a typical placeholder Null (such-and-such does not exist) and pretend that the idea, 1. actually possesses a scientific definition and 2. bears consensus acceptance among scientists. These constitute their first of many magician’s tricks, that those who do not understand the context of inference fall-for, over and over. Even scientists will fall for this ole’ one-two, so it is understandable as to why journalists and science communicators will as well. But anecdotes are science, when gathered under the disciplined structure of Observation (the first step of the scientific method). Below we differentiate four contexts of the single observation, in the sense of both two inductive and two deductive inference contexts, only one of which fits the semantics regarding ‘anecdote’ which is exploited by fake skeptics.

Inductive Anecdote

Inductive inference is the context wherein a supporting case or story can be purely anecdotal (The plural of anecdote is not data). This apothegm is not a logical truth, as it could apply to certain cases of induction, however does not apply universally.

Null:  Dimmer switches do not cause house fires to any greater degree than do normal On/Off flip switches.

Inference Context 1 – Inductive Data Anecdote:  My neighbor had dimmer switched lights and they caused a fire in his house.

Inference Context 2 – Mere Anecdote (Appeal to Ignorance):  My neighbor had dimmer switched lights and they never had a fire in their house.

Hence we have Wolfinger’s Inductive Paradox.

Wolfinger’s Inductive Paradox

/philosophy : science : data collection : agency/ : an ‘anecdote’ to the modus praesens (observation or case which supports an objective presence of a state or object) constitutes data, while an anecdote to the modus absens (observation supporting an appeal to ignorance claim that a state or object does not exist) is merely an anecdote. One’s refusal to collect or document the former, does not constitute skepticism. Relates to Hempel’s Paradox.

Finally, we have the instance wherein we step out of inductive inference, and into the stronger probative nature of deduction and falsification. In this context an anecdote is almost always probative. As in the case of Wolfinger’s Inductive Paradox above, one’s refusal to collect or document such data, does not constitute skepticism.

Deductive or Falsifying Anecdote

Deductive inference leading to also, falsification (The plural of anecdote is data). Even the singular of anecdote is data under the right condition of inference.

Null:  There is no such thing as a dimmer switch.

Inference Context 3 – Deductive Anecdote:  I saw a dimmer switch in the hardware store and took a picture of it.

Inference Context 4 – Falsifying Anecdote:  An electrician came and installed a dimmer switch into my house.

For example, what is occurring when one accepts materialism as an a priori truth pertains to those who insert that religious agency between steps 2 and 3 above. They contend that dimmer switches do not exist, so therefore any photo of one necessarily has to be false. And of course, at any given time, there is only one photo of one at all (all previous photos were dismissed earlier in similar exercises). Furthermore they then forbid any professional electrician from installing any dimmer switches (or they will be subject to losing their license). In this way – dimmer switches can never ‘exist’ and deniers endlessly can proclaim to non-electricians ‘you bear the burden of proof’ (see Proof Gaming). From then on, deeming all occurrences of step 2 to constitute lone cases of ‘anecdote’, while failing to distinguish between inductive and deductive contexts therein.

Our allies and co-observers as ethical skeptics need bear the knowledge of philosophy of science (skepticism) sufficient to stand up and and say, “No – this is wrong. What you are doing is pseudoscience”.

Hence, one of my reasons for creating The Map of Inference.

The Ethical Skeptic, “The Plural of Anecdote is Data”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 1 May 2019; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-9HJ