Abuse of the Ad Hoc ‘Fallacy’

By domain definition, something which is critical path in argument can never be fallaciously ad hoc, even if not readily addressable by evidence. Beware of those who do not get this. The sad reality is that, contrary to their memorized talking points, social skeptics exercise an implicit definition of ad hoc fallacy which is – ‘a bucket in which I place every counter explanation, evidence or claim which defends a subject I do not like’. Ironically exposing the fake skeptic’s inability to handle critical path logic in the first place.

I just finished reading a series of articles by various social skeptics, purporting to explain the ‘ad hoc‘ rescue or ‘ad hoc‘ fallacy as it is sometimes called. The various definitions tendered include a variety of spins on the concept of basically arguing through Making Shit Up (MSU). This comes close enough I suppose, but for me, being a philosopher and having struggled through the prosecution of real scientific questions and real patents, much unlike our cabal of social skeptics, I demand a bit more rigor in my Wittgenstein. Let’s examine one of those purported definitions of the ad hoc rescue:

I need to spend a few minutes explaining an extremely common logical fallacy among flat earthers (and creationists, anti-vaccers, etc.). This is what is known as an ad hoc fallacy. Unlike most fallacies, this does not occur as part of an argument, but rather as part of a counterargument. It arises when someone is faced with evidence that contradicts their view, and they respond by inventing a solution for which there is no evidence. In other words, they invent a response that you would never accept unless you were already convinced of their view. It also often has the property of being unfalsifiable. In other words, it is something that cannot actually be tested and must be accepted on faith.1

Before we begin, let me make a couple things clear. I am not a flat Earther, nor a creationist, nor am I anti-vaccine (although in full disclosure I do have a child permanent encephalopathy-disabled by the pertussis vaccine – fake skeptics you can stop reading here and continue to cocoon inside your self-aggrandizing ignorance). So my purpose is not to defend those movements in this blog article. Fake skeptics will spin any word of caution as ‘anti-ism’ (itself a failure of critical path logic), and that is simply a social foible which the rest of humanity has learned to expect from them. But I do bristle at the ways in which social skeptics go about bucket condemning subjects and abusing philosophy in the process, and in support of their political goals. Where else will these false philosophies and methods be applied, in order to condemn a subject which does bear merit?

The author above (his identity is not my focus here, I am sure he is a fine person) begins his blog title with the incorrect but trendy technique of not capitalizing the title of the article; a fad introduced by persons wishing to appear as if they were publishing a scientific study (a style used by some journals). The pretense includes his failure to capitalize the word ‘Earth’ at all (as in ‘The Earth’ and not ‘dirt’).2 Aside from this, the author tenders a half-correct framing of the principle of ad hoc response; moreover one which constitutes also a Bridgman reduction and permissive argument framing. A very common technique in most social-political circles. The reconstruction of a principle into a version which is ‘simple’, such that sycophants can understand it, but the crafting of which also mis-defines and encourages abuse or misapplication of the principle itself. In other words a political ‘fallacy’, and not one of science nor skepticism.

Where the author is correct

An ad hoc rescue is a defensive response to a challenge in argument or evidence, which is ignoratio elenchi and serves to divert or distract a discussion into a domain inside which claims can no longer be discriminated. This much of his definition is true.

“John still loves me, I just know it.”

“But John is living with Lisa now, and has been for months!”

“He is just doing that to make me jealous.” <– the ad hoc rescue (litmus: non-critical path and cannot be differentiated from something just made up)

But he is failing to discriminate important principles with regard to the nature of non-ad hoc assertions, exhibited thusly:

“John said he is sending me a note, and wants to meet for dinner next Thursday.” <– this is not ad hoc (she might be mistaken in conclusion, but she poses a testable and more importantly, critical path – one which cannot be readily proved out, nor falsified in the now)

The discerning issue is not one of falsifiability, as most inferences cannot be prosecuted by falsification alone, but rather whether or not the contention is critical path. Whether or not it serves to introduce and attempts to answer the next question in the logical prosecution of the idea at hand. Just because one cannot immediately test that answer, does not serve to make the counter-argument therefore, ad hoc. In the example cited above, the person possibly could also be mistaken or lying, however the response does not constitute an ad hoc rescue.

Most commonly, the ad hoc fallacy accusation is misapplied to the equivalent of the last sentence in this example. The author of the definition above has hinted that he has not grappled with this fallacy inside an actual complex argument of plurality, say like in a professional lab setting; as opposed to an argument of political symbology like flat Earth, vaccine risk or Bigfoot ‘skepticism’. As a side note, I am not entirely convinced that real flat Earth believers even exist – rather they are simply applying akratic trolling, purposely irritating skeptics by using the very methods (methodical cynicism) taught by their Cabal.  Ironically demonstrating that such sciencey-sounding protocols can and do lead to very errant socialized conclusions. Flat Earther’s are following the Carl Sagan Baloney Detection Kit, step by step fake skeptics. Get used to it. These are the eggs you laid in the 60’s and 70’s, and the chickens are just now starting to come home to roost. When you use Bridgman Reduction to craft methods which can be used to debunk anything, expect anything to be debunked by those same methods. Even your pet ideas. Skeptics, you need to up your game, if we are all to prevent such deleterious uses of your protocols. This is one reason why your movement is disintegrating – you do not really understand the principles which you employ in your high-caliber doctrine rifles. This is a very hilarious play to us philosophers.

Your methods and you yourself social skeptic, are being mocked by flat Earthers and you fail to even realize it.

The above definition itself however looks and sounds alright, does it not? But the trained discriminating eye of the philosopher is needed here in order to distinguish its ad hoc social and political demagoguery from real science. The author is indeed incorrect with the remainder of his definition.

Where the author is incorrect

1.  Ad hoc rescue conjectures involve responses wherein the defensive counter being made, involves a principle of non-falsifiability –  and not ‘unfalsifiability‘ as he has used. (See English Language & Usage: When is the prefix non- used versus un-).3

un – as in the ‘opposite of’ (i.e. ‘inductively/deductively true’)

non – as in ‘outside the domain of applicability’

This mistake is not a triviality of substitution – as the difference between ‘non-‘ and ‘un-‘ here relates to a principle called critical path logic. The inability to handle critical path logic such as the hyperbolic or inappropriate use of the ‘un-‘ prefix stands as a stark warning flag in a skeptic.  It is much akin to one’s claiming to be an expert in ‘Kwantum Mechanics’, – this type of mistake is not just a misspelling and does NOT constitute a trivial error. In fact, one’s skill in discerning critical path logic, determines whether or not one can even correctly discern a condition of ad hoc fallacy response to begin with (see below).

2.  An ad hoc fallacious response cannot be addressed in the here and now (not simply ‘cannot actually be tested‘), and therefore cannot realistically be differentiated from something just made up.

3.  An ad hoc fallacy does not involve something which ‘must be accepted on faith‘ by someone ‘already convinced of their view‘ – as this simply constitutes prejudicial wording which will be familiar and therefore granted automatic favor by his apothegm-trained audience. The critical principle resides in two elements:

i.  a distraction into the non-critical path (ignoratio elenchi), and

ii.  the inability to differentiate what was said, from something just made up as a response artifice or as misinformation.

This is more often the action of one who could care less about studying the issue at hand, than it is an action of a ‘true believer’. One’s acting as the sponsor of an idea is never the single qualification as to an ad hoc fallacy. This is one litmus you can use for detecting a fake skeptic. A sponsor who goes and looks is NEVER ad hoc arguing.

4.  An ad hoc fallacy is not actually a ‘fallacy of logic‘ (a fallacy in critical path logic is called a formal fallacy) – rather is an informal fallacy called ignoratio elenchi. It is a fallacy outside of logic. Some day it might logically end up being true or false – we don’t know. But in the now, it constitutes a diversion into a realm of the non-critical path. Poetically, this understanding is absolutely essential (critical path) to the principle of usage of the term ad hoc in the first place. By definition, something critical path can NEVER be ad hoc, even if currently non-addressable by study. Beware of those who do not get this – and more importantly do not get the fact that citing an informal fallacy does not stand as a disproof of an opponent’s claim nor logic.

5.  Based upon these principles alone, bucket characterizing flat Earth, creationist and vaccine injury risk proponent arguments is lazy, convenient and constitutes a false equivalence. I can probably list the other ‘ad hoc fallacy’ subjects this person would include in this bucket as well. Social skeptics bear very predictable mindsets. They carry an a priori laundry list of things they despise, and they all carry the same list. An ad hoc fallacy is not a fallacy committed by ‘anyone promoting anything which has been debunked or my club and I do not like’. As that basis is rather ad hoc in itself.

6.  Simply citing a response concern for which there currently ‘is no evidence‘, is NOT the qualification of an ad hoc fallacy. Plenty of arguments have not been studied at all. This in no way serves to make them fallaciously ‘ad hoc‘.

7.  An ad hoc fallacy is used to disqualify or warn on a particular point inside a context of dialectic or debate – and cannot be employed to condemn entire subjects inside a polemic, as the author of this mis-definition has done above (which is itself, fallaciously ad hoc). The “extremely common logical fallacy among flat earthers (sic) (and creationists, anti-vaccers, etc.” quip is a prejudicial framing without qualification merit – in other words, pseudoscience. I do not even belong to these groups, but this definition is so inexpertly wielded, with such shortcut bandwagon-esque vitriol, that my hackles begin to raise. Who is the next victim in this lazy hack job? My field of study? My company? My home and kids? Oh, that is right… clowns like this have already attacked my family and kids, I forgot. Mistakes like these are the signature traits committed by unaccountable idiots.

You will find that the ‘skeptic’ community never polices their own, nor provides any ethical peer review of its members’ drivel nor horrid actions. Any jerk or malevolent actor can become a skeptic, as long as they spout the familiar sounding jargon. Skeptics are never held accountable for anything they say and do.

This is why skeptics are losing the battle for the American mind. Americans are a sincere and open minded people for the most part – and they learn about people from their actions, and not their words.

8.  Finally, this fallacy is not ‘extremely common‘ as the author cites, without evidence. Rather it is a recourse of common use on the part of people who do not grasp elements 1 through 7 above.

The actual incidence of the ad hoc fallacy is not as great as is the instance of its unqualified accusation.

Below you will see examples as to when and why the above definition is wrong. But first, let’s examine the ad hoc fallacy itself.

ad hoc fallacy

/philosophy : rhetoric : pseudo-theory : ignoratio elenchi/ : an ignoratio elenchi response to an argument or evidence, which seeks to exploit ambiguity or non-accountability as a domain in which to craft a defense which cannot be readily distinguished from something made up. Invention of an explanation which distracts attention away from critical path logic, and/or for which evidence to the pro and con cannot be derived in the now, and/or falsification is unapproachable. A tactic of pseudo-theory and a form of rhetoric.

Despite often getting the definition right, social skeptics even more commonly fail to relate correct examples in its application. More often they extrapolate the fallacy to condemn whole subjects, and appeals on the part of those people they do not like. However, when you see these same bad philosophers exercise their skill in applying their understanding or grasp of the ad hoc fallacy (as above) – inevitably it simply comes down to the real discriminating definition that the ad hoc fallacy is

ad hoc fallacy – any counter explanation, evidence or claim which appears to defend an idea I do not like.

When ad hoc Fallacy Does Not Apply

There are several circumstances in which the ad hoc fallacy is accused, however which are not a fit – in fact, circumstances in which the claim of ad hoc pseudo-theory is just flatly wrong; flagging a condition of incompetence on the part of the contending skeptic:

A.  When the claimant is raising plurality with sufficient Ockham’s Razor basis (not ‘Occam’s Razor’).

The faking skeptic may mistakenly straw man this species of assertion as, ‘just asking the question’ on the part of the claimant. Demanding that h. pylori be studied as the potential cause of ulcers (plurality had been introduced), was not an ad hoc claim that ‘some mysterious pathogen was to blame’, as skeptics had employed in order to block science for 30 years on this issue. Evidence which inductively pointed to h. pylori‘s role in ulcers had existed for 30 years prior to science eventually dropping this idea as being ‘ad hoc‘.

B.  When the claimant is raising plurality as a stakeholder under risk.

Asking that long term cohort (to age 14 and multifaceted expression) studies be conducted on both specific vaccines and the 43+ event vaccine schedule as a whole, is not a case of ad hoc fallacy. It is otherwise normal, ethical and critical path science. Such studies are critical to the issue and have not been attempted. Such appeals for study are not ‘made up’ nor do they appeal to a domain of non-measurability. This is study we can perform as a reasonable body of science, but yet we refuse to allow or execute because of oppressive non-science political influences (such as the pretend science article from which the above definition of ad hoc fallacy originated). Understanding this is part of a skill set in critical path logic. To equate vaccine-risk study requests to flat Earth theory or creationism is simply a malevolent and lazy lie, on the part of someone who does not care about science nor humanity – only their own celebrity and club ranking. Watch this type of person to observe if they ever visibly step out of line with their club’s doctrine. Then you will witness their supposed courage and conviction of science.

C.  When the claimant is addressing the critical path of study or logic.

If a researcher proposes an alternate natural physical explanation for observed phenomena we attribute to ‘dark matter’ – just because we cannot investigate its full set of founding assumptions in the now, nor test its predictive outcomes fully, does not serve to make the professional conjecture an ad hoc rescue. The researcher may still be addressing scientific and logical critical path. They may simply dissent or disagree – but still bearing just as much accountability or credibility as the null in this case. An example of ad hoc fallacy in this context would be ‘God hides the foundational elements of the physical universe from us, so that we may focus on spiritual development as our priority’.

D.  When the claimant is addressing the critical path of study and has simply made a mistake/misinterpretation.

If a flat Earther builds a rocket ship to go up and see for himself/herself, whether or not the Earth is round or flat. This is critical path. It is not ad hoc. They may be mistaken, but they are embarking upon the pathway which will help them answer the question at hand. This is by definition, not ad hoc. Beware of those who do not get this. Going into the field to study, or asking that such be done is NEVER fallaciously ad hoc.

E.  When the claimant (even an outsider) is citing that insufficient study has been conducted (praedicate evidentia, ignoro eventum or fallacy of relative privation).

The faking skeptic may mistakenly straw man this species of assertion as, ‘just asking the question’ on the part of the claimant. Any time a sponsor is requesting that further study be done, and for particular reasons – even if anecdotal and even if in unsophisticated language or philosophy – this is not a case of fallacious ad hoc appeal. Nor does it amount to a case of Dunning-Kruger.

Typically in such circumstances, you will see fake skeptics chime in with the claim that the sponsor has appealed to conspiracy. They are a conspiracy theorist! This is lazy and shallow accusation, the appeal to implicit conspiracy. This is the ultimate form of ad hoc fallacious accusation itself, the appeal to implied conspiracy (distraction from the critical path of the argument and an accusation which can always be made, yet can never be distinguished from just being made up):

Appeal to Implicit Conspiracy

/philosophy : pseudoscience : pseudo-skepticism : ad hoc framing/ : the default position taken by a pseudo-skeptic that in order for a counter-claimant to actively research or have confidence in their proposition, then quod erat demonstrandum they must therefore believe a conspiracy exists which is holding back their preferred alternative from being studied or accepted. This default ad hoc fallacy explanation can be accused of anyone, without discretion, distracts from the logic at hand, can never be verified and results in only finding what we already think we know, to therefore be true. A substitute form of science (pseudo-theory) issued in the form of pejorative ad hominem and straw man, all rolled up into one baseless and easy claim on the part of a pseudo-skeptic.

F.  When the person making the appeal to ad hoc fallacy, does not understand the context, playing field nor critical arguments entailed. Or thinks that the identification of the fallacy entails a disproof of the opponent’s assertion on their part. Or moreover uses a single point commentary or informal fallacy to condemn an entire group of people or field of research.

War is the ultimate form of ad hoc. Everything done in warfare is adopted as tactic or strategy in order to obtain a particular and many times emergent purpose. Just because a casual observer might fail to understand what is going on inside a theater of warfare, does not mean that the ad hoc actions therein constitute ad hoc fallacies. Much of warfare, science and life in general is ad hoc by its very nature. This does not also serve therefore to make it also then fallacious.

If one uses a fly swatter to kill a fly, the fly swatter is an ad hoc design. Just because one uses it, does not mean that its use is therefore an ad hoc fallacy. If one attempts to use a sledgehammer in order to kill flies on the other hand, and never seeks to craft a fly swatter for that purpose, then that is ad hoc fallacious.

Beware of those who do not grasp the above principles, who often make the accusation of conspiracy theory, or are unskilled and symbolically habituated in their application of the ad hoc fallacy. First-resort, inexpert and clumsy artifices, employed without necessary qualification. Ironically canned, memorized and inexpertly crafted to be knee-jerk employed for a single rhetorical purpose: to kill the inconvenient flies of the opposition. Sledgehammer means by definition.

The true philosopher of science, demands more than this charade of skepticism.

The Ethical Skeptic, “Abuse of the Ad Hoc ‘Fallacy’” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 19 Jul 2018; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-7Wv