Logic: What’s Missing from Public Discourse

What often passes for public discourse in contemporary society is really just a simulacrum, an imitation, of real “discourse” in the sense of a “reasoned exchange of ideas.”  One realizes before long how much we are suffering from the current lack of that key ingredient within all older forms of liberal arts education: namely, logic.

Some people think of logic as the sort of things computers do—cold, calculating, and unemotional—and reject it for that reason.  But computers in and of themselves aren’t “logical” at all any more than a train switching station is “logical” in and of itself.  Computers (when they’re at their best) do what they’re told to do, no more, no less.  Someone has to build whatever “logic” they have into them.  Usually the sort of thing you can get into a computer is essentially mathematical—which is to say, if you can’t reduce the thing in question to some sort of mathematical equation, you can’t get it into the computer at all—and math, as we all know, is cold and calculating.  Printed circuits are not “cold,” but they can under the right circumstances “calculate,” and they are absolutely unemotional.

Logic, on the other hand, is the glue that holds human discourse together.  Logic is what keeps us “on track” in a conversation and helps us to keep checking back to make sure both of us are talking about the same thing in the same respect.

So, for example, when two people are arguing about whether something is “fair” or “unfair,” and by “fair” one person means “getting to keep what I earn” and the other person means “everyone getting the same,” these two people aren’t really arguing at all; they’re simply talking past one another. The one might as well be speaking Chinese and the other German.

We all know that if one man is chattering away in Chinese and the other in German, and neither understands the other, it may look from a distance as though they’re having a very intense discussion, but they’re not really.  Theirs is merely a simulacrum of a discussion.  And so with two people who are using the same word but in two different senses: they’re “equivocating,” and equivocal use of a key term is one of the best ways of fooling yourself into thinking a discussion is taking place when in fact none is.

Logic also bids us to respect one another by establishing certain “rules of etiquette” or “rules of conversation” that help us to know when one of us has seemingly “scored a point” (in debaters terms) but has done so improperly, “against the rules,” so to speak.  You’ve sneaked up to the goal and kicked the ball in during the time out; or you’ve picked up the ball with your hands and thrown it in, which just isn’t what you agreed to when you and your friends chose to play soccer.

We’ve all seen games of soccer or basketball break up when one person or another decides to dispense with “the rules” and foul indiscriminately, carry the ball without dribbling, or throw the ball in the soccer net.  To the uninitiated, it may look as though the game had been going on as usual, when inexplicably a fight broke out, and everyone went home.  But the problem started before the fight, when what seemed like “the game as usual” was going on, but in fact, was not.  Fights break out precisely when “the game” has broken down.  And “the game” breaks down when one side or the other decides that achieving what they want is so important and will be so much easier if they simply dispense with all the bothersome “rules.”  What in fact was going on before the fight broke out wasn’t really basketball or soccer, it was only a simulacrum of basketball or soccer—just as a man who picks up his golf ball and drops it in the cup isn’t really playing “golf.”  He may be amusing himself, but no one who understands golf would call what he was doing “golfing.”

So too, to people who are aware of what real arguments should be like—people like Fr. James Schall who have spent their lives reading the dialogues of Plato, the logical works of Aristotle, and the disputed questions of Aquinas—they look upon what most of the rest of us call “arguments” and say: They’re fighting, not arguing.  Or else: That person may be amusing himself, but you could hardly call what he is doing “arguing.”

It’s not just politicians who have lost the ability to argue, rather than just fight (I’m surprised there aren’t fist-fights on the floor of the Congress every day, given how they talk to one another); it’s a general malaise of the country’s intellect and spirit.  A quick glance at the “comments” section of any on-line site will quickly reveal the severity of the problem.  Most people just don’t know how to make arguments.  They seem to think that merely disagreeing (and sounding disagreeable) is the same as arguing, but it’s not, any more than throwing a soccer ball at someone’s head is the same as playing soccer.

Let’s say that I write an article (which I did) suggesting that, given how many annulment cases are filed in the United States every year and how long it often takes to adjudicate them, and given that recent popes back to the beginning of the twentieth century have insisted that such decisions should be carried out “swiftly and fairly,” therefore we need more people trained in canon law to be tribunal judges and more staff for the diocesan tribunals in this country.

Now the first thing to say about this position is that it’s certainly open to critique in any number of ways.  But many people seem to suffer from the mistaken belief that mere counter assertion—saying bluntly “You’re wrong,” or “No we don’t”—is sufficient.  It’s not, any more than two children shouting “Yes it is,” “No, it isn’t,” “Yes, it is” at each other is a meaningful discussion.

Nor is it entirely fair to shift the ground of argument, such as when a person replies: “There are too many annulments in this country.”  There might be too many annulments (but one would have to prove that by specifying what “too many” means), but that’s not exactly an argument against my position.  If we have too many fights in un-officiated soccer games, that isn’t usually taken as a sign that we need fewer soccer referees.

Then again, there’s the ubiquitous:  “The Church has gone off the rails since Vatican II.”  Perhaps it has—in certain ways—perhaps not. But again, the claim doesn’t speak directly to the question of whether we need more tribunal officials.  The answer to every question is not: “The Church has gone off the rails since Vatican II.”  In fact, I would suggest that that particular comment is the answer to exactly nothing.

Citing one or two examples of bad behavior since Vatican II would also not suffice to “prove” that “The Church has gone off the rails since Vatican II” any more than one or two examples of bad behavior among Wall Street financiers would suffice to “prove” that “Americans have all become too greedy.”

Indeed, it is very risky to make universal claims one way or the other—“all Americans are greedy” or “no woman would lie about rape” or “husbands never do their fair share of housework”—because all it takes to disprove a universal claim is one, lone counter-example.  By the same token, when a speaker has made a general, but not a universal claim (“many college students drink too much”), it is not sufficient (although many people seem to think it is) to cite one or two counter-examples.

So, for example, if a person argues that “it has taken way too long for too many people to sign up for government health insurance,” it’s not really a sufficient reply to say: “I have a friend who signed up, and he didn’t have any trouble at all.”  Sadly, that last comment is likely in our current cultural climate to produce another reply along the lines of: “You’re lying.  I knew somebody who tried, and it took months.”  But there’s really no point in charging a person with lying.  He or she may be telling the God’s honest truth.  It just isn’t a reply to the argument, since one or two or even ten people might have signed up without trouble. The argument is about the general case.  But since people untrained in logic think that by the reply the person has scored a debater’s “point,” the only response they have is to claim “cheating.”

There are many sorts of logical fallacies, and we’d all benefit from remembering them when we read or listen to the news.  There is the famous fallacy known as “affirming the consequent,” for example, for which a good illustration can be found in an episode of The Simpsons. A bear wanders into Springfield, something which has never happened before, but the townspeople are frightened, so they cry out for a “bear patrol” to “protect the children” from any future bears. And so Springfield gets a regular “bear patrol.”  “Ah,” says Homer to his daughter Lisa soon after, “the bear patrol is working.  There are no bears.”  To which his daughter replies: “Dad, that’s a logical fallacy.  I could say that this rock keeps away tigers.  You don’t see any tigers, do you?  So the rock must be working.”  At which point Homer offers to buy the rock.

We say: “If it is raining, the ground will get wet.”  Now someone points out: “the ground is wet.”  Does it follow that it must be raining?  No, of course not.  Many things might be responsible for getting the ground wet.  I might be watering my lawn.  So too, in politics:  If the Affordable Care Act is working, it is claimed, then many people will sign up for plans on the government exchange.  People have signed up for plans on the government exchange.  Therefore, the plan worked?  That simply doesn’t follow, especially if those people were required by law to sign up or if those people lost their previous insurance due to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  The Affordable Care Act may in fact be working.  But you can’t argue that it is when you’re simply affirming the consequent.  Arguments of that form are never real arguments; they’re just propositions masquerading as an argument.

These are technical logical fallacies, of which there are many.  But there are other sorts of errors one can commit as well.  One common one is to mistake wit for argument, and then to mistake snarkiness for wit.  So, for example, when a friend writes: “The United Nations Committee on Climate Change predicts that the deserts will soon be expanding rapidly; the good news is that at least climate change deniers will have sand to bury their heads in,” I hope he realizes that’s not an argument. So too, when an atheist puts on his tombstone: “All dressed up with no place to go,” and when C. S. Lewis walks by and says: “I bet he wishes that were true,” neither of those comments constitute arguments.  The problem in all three cases is that, to be in on “the joke,” you have to presuppose the conclusion.  In the first case, you have to accept that man-made global climate change is an unquestionable fact; in the second, that there is no heaven or hell; and in the third, that there is a heaven and hell and that people who deny it may experience some, let us say, difficulty later on.  Proper arguments don’t begin with the conclusion they seek to establish.  To begin with the conclusion is called “circular reasoning.”

One of the problems in America today is that everyone thinks he’s a wit, and that wittiness is a fit substitute for logic.  It’s not.  If you doubt it, try watching John Stewart or Stephen Colbert for a week.  What these two men repeatedly prove is that any and every thoughtful person in America can be made to look stupid by a person who sets out to make him or her look stupid.  The post-modern conceit is that they’re “just pretending” and that none of what they do is “serious,” when we all know that they’re not pretending at all, and that they’re trying to convince young people of certain positions, not by logic, but just by making other people look “uncool.”  It’s high school all over again, only this time with more at stake than who gets to sit at what lunch table.

And of course the quality of public discourse in this country would change radically—and I mean radically—if we could just convince people that ad hominem attacks are not really arguments at all.  I may be a greedy, heartless “conservative” or a godless heathen “liberal,” but the problem is, I might still be right on this particular point.  When a self-confessed liar tells you that “two plus two is four,” his being a liar doesn’t mean that two plus two isn’t four. To prove a liar is lying, you need to show that his statement is false, not merely call him a liar.  Bad people sometimes make perfectly valid arguments, just as bad people sometimes get their sums right.  I may be a greedy, self-involved jerk, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong about taxes being too high or highways being unsafe or the need for more investment in infrastructure.  I might be wrong in each case, but you can’t tell that merely from hearing someone call me a greedy, self-involved jerk.  So let’s get past all the mud-slinging, which tells us exactly nothing, and get to the real substance of the argument.

Moral integrity is important because it means you can depend upon a person’s actions, no matter what the circumstances.  So too logical integrity and consistency are important because it means you can depend upon a person’s statements no matter what the circumstances.  “Special pleading” is when a position is always wrong when the other guys are for it, but never wrong when one of our guys is for it.

The increasingly virulent sort of partisanship we’re experiencing in America has a lot to do with members of both sides thinking that dispensing with the rules of the game is the best way to play.  It should be no surprise, then, that both sides are increasingly unwilling to play; fights break out all the time; and everyone is tired and cynical at the prospect of going into the stadium again for what everyone is fairly sure will be another ugly, mostly boring match.

Editor’s note: The image above is a scene from “The Naked Time” episode of the original Star Trek television series. Here depicted is the ever-logical Mr. Spock who encounters a crew member infected by a virus that causes irrationality and eventual death.

Randall B. Smith


Randall B. Smith is Professor of Theology and current holder of the Scanlan Foundation Chair in Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He was also the 2011-12 Myser Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.

  • Siobhán

    Thank you for this article, it addresses a very common problem. Often, I find myself avoiding discussions about controversial issues because different parties are, as you say, arguing about completely different things. It’s exasperating, in that it only creates conflict but at the end of the conversation everyone leaves with the same opinions they came with.

    Could you recommend any relevant books that might helpful for the lay person?

  • FernieV

    Wonderful piece! Thank you. A common problem today, in my view, is that few read solid books, as they spend their time watching infotainment and sports on TV. Then, they hear about some convincing speech from a politician which is really sophistry with a lot of what you call “technical logical fallacies” and ad hominem attacks. But the guy is so convincing… that he has managed to carry everyone along and, in the process, strengthened the position of Sophistry in our minds. Solution: to go back to reading solid essays and to take a course on Aristotelic Logic. Or easier, to read Crisis often.

  • Vinnie

    Recently, I’m seeing that the Crisis Magazine editor is paring daily essays that support each other.


    In both of today’s essays what isn’t mentioned specifically is the preponderance of these comment boards which feed “boo-hurrah” and illogical discourse if those who comment aren’t careful.

    • Vinnie

      Oops, I meant, “pairing” (sp) and it makes a difference.

  • My conversion was intellectual, and so I value the role of reasoned arguments and logic in apologetics: “but human logic is fallacy in the presence of the counsels of God, and folly when it would cope with the wisdom of heaven; its thoughts are fettered by its limitations, its philosophy confined by the feebleness of natural reason. It must be foolish in its own eyes before it can be wise unto God; that is, it must learn the poverty of its own faculties and seek after Divine wisdom. It must become wise, not by the standard of human philosophy, but of that which mounts to God, before it can enter into His wisdom, and its eyes be opened to the folly of the world.” (St. Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 5, Chapter 1)

    I used to think that the truth was irresistible, but “it is manifest that there is nothing which men have ever said which is not liable to opposition. Where the will dissents the mind also dissents: under the bias of opposing judgment it joins battle, and denies the assertions to which it objects. Though every word we say be incontrovertible if gauged by the standard of truth, yet so long as men think or feel differently, the truth is always exposed to the cavils of opponents, because they attack, under the delusion of error or prejudice, the truth they misunderstand or dislike. For decisions once formed cling with excessive obstinacy: and the passion of controversy cannot be driven from the course it has taken, when the will is not subject to the reason. Enquiry after truth gives way to the search for proofs of what we wish to believe; desire is paramount over truth. Then the theories we concoct build themselves on names rather than things: the logic of truth gives place to the logic of prejudice: a logic which the will adjusts to defend its fancies, not one which stimulates the will through the understanding of truth by the reason. From these defects of partisan spirit arise all controversies between opposing theories. Then follows an obstinate battle between truth asserting itself, and prejudice defending itself: truth maintains its ground and prejudice resists. But if desire had not forestalled reason: if the understanding of the truth had moved us to desire what was true: instead of trying to set up our desires as doctrines, we should let our doctrines dictate our desires; there would be no contradiction of the truth, for every one would begin by desiring what was true, not by defending the truth of that which he desired.” (St. Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book 10, Chapter 1)

    Wisdom is good; but only by our love (of God and of neighbor for God’s sake) will they know we are disciples of Wisdom-Incarnate, disciples of Christ.

    God help us.

  • Guest

    “Nor is it entirely fair to shift the ground of argument, such as when a
    person replies: “There are too many annulments in this country.” There might be too many annulments (but one would have to prove that by specifying what “too many” means), but that’s not exactly an argument against my position. If we have too many fights in un-officiated soccer games, that isn’t usually taken as a sign that we need fewer soccer referees.”

    Would it be logical to say that the issue is not fewer referees but better referees? As in referees that apply the rules as intended and not so loosely that anything goes?

  • Randall B. Smith

    The Author Replies:

    To “Guest”: Yes, quite so. A host of bad referees who make endless bad calls would not solve the problem of soccer games breaking out into fights (and thus becoming very dreary, except for those who enjoy fights).

    To Mr. Ross: I take it that St. Hilary is saying (quite rightly to my mind) that if one’s will is steadfastly opposed to the truth, then no arguments will convince one’s reason. That’s often true, but it doesn’t follow that we should eschew the use of logic, only that we should also understand its natural limitations. Along with a proper understanding of logic, we must also go on and study the proper modes of rhetoric — language that moves not only the mind but also the heart as well. And then we should pray. A lot.

    As for books, there are many decent introductions to logic. One merely has to find one that isn’t entirely devoted to what’s known as “formal logic” and that attempts instead to get at the logic of actual language. And of course tastes and tolerances for such matters vary. For some, Peter Kreeft’s “Socratic Logic” will do. For others, Deborah Bennett’s “Logic Made Easy” would be a nice first step. For the dedicated, Patrick J. Hurley’s “Concise Introduction to Logic” (in any of its many editions) is a standard text. Of particular interest would be the section on “Logical Fallacies.” But there are nearly as many logic textbooks as there are math textbooks. Both subjects are crucial, but usually only one of them gets any study.

  • jacobhalo

    As Voltaire said, “common sense isn’t so common.”

  • Watosh

    This article is quite apropos, and addresses the topic brilliantly. I used to believe that the truth, if it were circulated,would always win out over error and prevail over error, but I am older and wiser now.

    The thing is, there are a few times in my life when I was engaged in “real argument’ with someone well informed who understood and respected the rules of civil discourse and whose aim was, as was mine, to reach the truth, not primarily to win a debate. It is a rare treat to so engage. C. S. Lewis writings are an examples of “real argument,” as Lewis considers all arguments made on some issue and then carefully examines each, to arrive at the truth of the matter. In away, in the manner of St. Thomas Acquinas.

  • tamsin

    I’m an old math major, so my training was in seeking truth, not power.

    It has been really, really, really hard to come to grips with real life in which the goal is to win arguments by any means necessary (whether for sport, or in service to an end that will justify the means), rather than to advance together, step by true step, term by completely defined and universally understood term, towards truth.

    • Thomas

      People now square off on ideological terms. “He’s a conservative, or liberal,” and off you go. I’m guilty of this today. I don’t recall it always being like this. Did it begin when news reporting stopped being objective reporting (with a few facial innuendos by a Chancellor or Cronkite), to the type of “news” and commentary we see today?

      The way you and I learned math is different from how we are being asked to teach it today. “How does it make sense to you?” The grad school math education professor honestly believes there is nothing objective about the teaching and learning of mathematics.

      • Joseph

        I agree – it’s counterproductive to square off on these conservative/liberal ideological terms. We need to put the truth above our conservative or liberal affiliations, and work with all parties for truth, for justice, and for the common good.

    • Joseph

      I share your sentiments, and the sentiments of Thomas. I was trying to seek the truth, and I thought others were doing the same. Before our invasion of Iraq in 2003, I watched and re-watched 3 times the address of Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN, where he made the case that Iraq was a threat, because of the WMD, because of it’s atomic bomb program, and the terrorist connections. I believed what Mr. Powell said, and supported the war.

      Then, last year, I accidentally came across a youtube video, where a certain former CIA asset, Susan Lindauer, laid it out convincingly that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was totally cooperating with us on everything from WMD and atomic inspections to anti-terrorist intelligence sharing, and that the CIA did in fact work out, behind the scenes, a comprehensive peace accord with Iraq that made our war totally unnecessary. See video here: https://www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?v=G43zl4fzDQg . Apparently, Ms. Lindauer was jailed under the Patriot Act, and paid a high personal price, for contacting Congress members and trying to inform them about the truth regarding Iraq.

      Frankly, my world collapsed, and I can’t find peace ever since I saw this video. It looks like our leaders deliberately suppressed information and duped us into an unnecessary war – because they were interested in power, and they wanted their war, no matter what.

      I also don’t want to turn this into a Republican-bashing post. Susan Lindauer still has relevant and important information to share, as do the scientists who evaluated the extremely high-tech and sophisticated nano composite material in the WTC rubble (nano thermite, nano particles of aluminum and ferric oxide suspended in an organic polymer solid gel matrix – sorry for being so technical, I’m a PhD scientist with special expertise and interest in the relevant fields). But nobody wants to touch the subject – there’s a Democrat and Republican, bipartisan stonewalling going on, when it comes to what happened on 9/11, that we went into unjust/illegal wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, and the fact that we need to stop our unjust/illegal wars all over the globe.

      It looks like our leaders, both Democrat and Republican, are all interested in power at the expense of truth.

      • TheAbaum

        “Frankly, my world collapsed, and I can’t find peace ever since I saw this video.”

        Youtube also has videos maintaining that in 1943 a Navy destroyer called the Eldridge was sent through through space and time from Philadelphia to Montauk 1984 as a consequence of an experiment to render it invisible. When it returned, men were fused into the ship.

        Naval records don’t support the ship having been there, or that “Project Rainbow” ever occurred. There no physics that support the manipulation of matter through time, much less it’s return.

        The videos (and the 1984 movie “The Philadelphia Experiment”) are very convincing and no doubt cause a certain type of mind great distress as well.

        • Joseph

          Well, you do bring up an interesting topic, but in order for me to shed any light on it, I would need to study it in depth. I’m an old fashioned classically trained scientist, and the way we do science, is to read a lot of the literature available, before venturing to form a personal opinion. We do not rush to talk about things we are not sufficiently familiar with. Thus, at this point, I’m just not up to the challenge of adding a meaningful contribution to the debate of whether the laws of physics permit time travel. Moreover, I lack the special background in mathematics and physics for field theory, thus it would take me a long time to develop any meaningful expertise.

          Regarding 9/11 and our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Susan Lindauer talk was just the start of my research. I have been voraciously reading on this topic for some 8 months now. What piqued my interest was the “military grade incendiary nano thermite” forensic evidence, which she passingly mentioned in her talk.

          The forensic evidence at the WTC, proving that incendiary (nano thermite) and steel-cutting (thermate) charges had been used for controlled demolition, such as the evidence of molten/re-solidified iron microspheres, the nano thermite incendiary material, the pools of molten steel, the sulphidized steel beams, the barium residue found, and the utter inability of jet fuel and ordinary office fires to melt steel, these are the sorts of topics that I can easily tackle with my scientific background. I’ve read the scientific literature, and I understand what kind of incendiary and steel-cutting charges were used at the WTC.

          The sad thing is, an army of more than 2000 professionals, including architects, engineers, physicists, chemists, airline pilots, and military and intelligence experts have been pushing for years for a fair investigation of what happened, but totally in vain. It really makes me wonder: are members of Congress unable to grasp what these professionals are telling them, or are they grasping it just fine, meaning that most members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, are stonewalling and refusing to investigate the truth.

          Regarding the political, military, and intelligence aspects of what happened on 9/11, and why the USA invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, I’m not an expert in such fields as politics, military and strategic studies, or intelligence, but again, after first hearing Susan Lindauer’s lecture some 8 months ago, I read, and listened to, the opinions of many top experts in the field. See for example Major General Albert Stubblebine, U.S. Army (ret) – Former Commanding General of U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, Former head of Imagery Interpretation for Scientific and Technical Intelligence; Alan N. Sabrosky, PhD – Former Director of Studies, Strategic Studies Institute and holder of the General of the Army Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research, U.S. Army War College; Andreas von Buelow (former State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Defense of West Germany); Eckart Werthebach (former President, Germany’s domestic intelligence service); Francesco Cossiga (former President and Prime Minister of Italy); Roland Dumas (former Foreign Minister of France); Col. Pierre-Henri Bunel (weapons and explosives expert, French Army and NATO). See for example here: http://patriotsquestion911(dot)com/

          After educating myself, I finally understood some of the reasons why France and Germany refused to participate in our invasion of Iraq in 2003: they knew that Iraq was not a real threat to us, and that the official 9/11 story was a lie.

          Not only logic, but truth is also missing from our public discourse. I have been a prime example of a person too naive to suspect that we have been lied to, on a monumental scale. We hurt others and ourselves as well with our unnecessary wars, and I was supporting our wars, because I was misinformed.

          Lord, have mercy on us! Christ, grant us peace!

          • TheAbaum

            “. I’m an old fashioned classically trained scientist, and the way we do science, is to read a lot of the literature available, before venturing to form a personal opinion.”

            If you are not a physicist, your opinion is little better than mine, where my training is to find sufficient, persuasive, objective evidence (which means assessing credibility and reviewing that which is contraindicative) to support conclusions, always mindful that that is a chance one could be wrong.

            But you apparently don’t always follow this dictate, since you haven’t done that here. You viewed a youtube video (credibility is an issue, this isn’t subject to editorial or peer review), and without examining any counter claim.

            You went from one naive belief (everything the government claims is right) to another (everything the government claims is wrong).

            • Art Deco

              If you are not a physicist, your opinion is little better than mine,

              Structural engineering would be the salient discipline, I believe. Uncle Fetzer did find a nutty architect from the Bay Area to join his crew, and Stephen Jones actually is a physics professor (though I think trained as an electrochemist); among his earlier research projects was cold fusion. Another engineer associated with that crew is Judy Wood of Clemson; her research involves designing dentures. A more peripheral participant was Robert Bowman, an aerospace engineer who lost his marbles about 30 years ago.

              • TheAbaum

                Structural engineering would be the salient discipline

                For the WTC stuff, I agree, but I was referencing The Philadelphia Experiment”.

                I don’t believe for a minute he’s a scientist. The dead give away was the “read a lot of the literature available” phrase-apparently a test he doesn’t apply to youtube videos.

                I smell a….troll.

          • RufusChoate

            France’s Jacque Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard Schroder refused to participate in Iraq because they had violated the arms embargo for most of the 1990’s in exchange for cheap oil and the utter corruption of the UN run Food for Oil program.

            Gerhard Schroder was notoriously corrupt and co-opt with a number of disreputable regimes in his history and now works for Putin’s Gas concern and Chirac had a long history of corrupt dealing with Libya, Iraq and Iran. He brokered the deal to sell Saddam Hussien the Osiriak nuclear reactor that Israel eventually destroyed.

            The problem with many of these claimed experts is there is never any verification of their qualifications or political interests. The Left has a history of creating myths and characters that serve their purpose for gaining power.

            The science you claims support them has no more validity than the glowing reports of the Soviet Five Year plans of the 1930’s. Everything can be fabricated in the service of those seeking power.

          • Art Deco

            The forensic evidence at the WTC, proving that incendiary (nano thermite)

            Nonsense promoted by Prof. Stephen Jones and discredited years ago, by, among others, the National Institute on Standards and Technology and ImplosionWorld. The social context in which that would have to occur – Larry Silverstein arranging for no known reason the destruction of the buildings he had just leased, arranging for a demolition crew that no one ever witnesses at work and of whom none have ever come forward, and murdering people in four digit job lots – beggars belief.

      • RufusChoate

        Really? Susan Lindauer was never a CIA asset. She was a staffer for a series of Democrat members of Congress. She is also certified as insane by a number of Psychiatrists before her trial and judge too impaired for prosecution. She worked with both the Iraqis and the Libyans.

        Here is some background. http://spectator.org/articles/46319/turncoat-or-straitjacket

        I would recommend avoiding YouTube as a source of anything aside entertainment and using a search engine to research people and their claim.

        A sibling worked for 25 years as a Telecommunication/Satellite/Electrical
        Engineer for that three letter agency that the moon bats and Leftists claim is behind every nefarious activity in the history and he is always highly amused by the claims of the many conspiracy theories assigned to them. He relates how he and a team of highly specialized engineers worked for 8 months to install a sophisticated telecommunication system in an embassy in notoriously unstable African country that had electricity for 20 minutes a day on average and required a massive diesel generator to run the Embassy.

        The project cost around $25 to $40 million dollars in equipment alone. They had to carry 5 gallon cans of diesel fuel every 20 minutes to the generator to keep the system up and running. The day before the turn over after weeks of tweaking and configuring, he requested from the Marine commander the people who would take over the maintenance and support of the state of the art listening and satellite communication system only to be told that once they were done they would close and padlock the gate because the Omniscient Agency, the Obama White House and Clinton’s State department decided 2 years before that they would close this Embassy because of threats from the locals. So the entire operation ran for 20 minutes and then sputtered to a halt.

        He saw pictures of the embassy later that had goats and pig rummaging around the rubble that he hoped the Marine made of the place and not the locals looting it.

        He usually comments that government is too stupid and lazy to plan anything requiring more than a 20 minutes of effort and a Conspiracy is just impossible to consider if they are going to beat the Beltway Traffic.

    • GaudeteMan

      I disagree that in real life it is common to find people that want to win arguments by any means necessary. Argumentation is a lost art and one which is greatly needed today. Those with whom we need to dialogue are usually not open to dialogue. The real issues are ignored and as this author reminds us the banter is too often illogical. Yes we need the clashing swords of good argumentation. It is in no way uncharitable – as GK said, its not the person we wish to defeat but rather his errant ideas.

      • tamsin

        I admire the talent and the stamina of those who can argue, whether or not I agree with their goals. I wish I could do it myself, but this old dog can’t learn new tricks.

  • Paul

    Blame it on our educational system, the fashion which we are educated nowadays does rarely allow for logic, rational or critical thinking. It’s all about pushing some illogical agenda and brainwashing people, and those who dare to question the going beliefs for the truth are too often vilified and castigated as “extremists”.

    • Thomas

      I hate to tell you this, but the Common Core advocates agree with you regarding the lack of logical, rational, critical thinking. Moreover, they believe Common Core will correct the deficiency.

      But, you are correct. We also need to teach content AND make the kids think. That’s a difficult task if they have little to nothing to draw from.

  • TheAbaum

    “What these two men repeatedly prove is that any and every thoughtful person in America can be made to look stupid by a person who sets out to make him or her look stupid.”

    Unfortunately, the loyal watchers make another error, that is that the ability to to make someone else look stupid makes you smart or right.

    It was no accident that when Hitler was gearing his “Reich” eight decades ago, he utilized ridicule as a tool. It’s also no accident that contemporary fascists disallow the use of ridicule.

    As they say any jack*ss can kick down a barn, but don’t expect them to build one.

    • John

      “As they say – any jack*ss can kick down a barn, but don’t expect them to build one.”

      Or we could call it art and consider it built.

      • TheAbaum

        Or give it a dip in urine, a government grant and call it “art”

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  • MarkRutledge

    I believe if one seeks the core reason behind the disappearance of logic (and reason) in public discourse, the finger can squarely be placed on the rise of relativism. In the mind of a relativist it truly is a fight, where the terms are “my truth” versus “your truth” and hence a battle of wills takes place rather than an examination and comparison of opposing ideas with the intention of identifying what aligns with objective truth. How could one possibly do so with another who does not accept the concept of objective truth to begin with?

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Logic has been described as a chain fastened to a ring painted on the wall. In other words, every chain of reasoning has to start from a premise both parties accept; but we cannot go on demonstrating our premises in a perpetual regress.

      Blaise Pascal, no mean logician, addressed this very well: “We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart, and it is in this last way that we know first principles; and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to impugn them. The sceptics, who have only this for their object, labour to no purpose. We know that we do not dream, and, however impossible it is for us to prove it by reason, this inability demonstrates only the weakness of our reason, but not, as they affirm, the uncertainty of all our knowledge. For the knowledge of first principles, as space, time, motion, number, is as sure as any of those which we get from reasoning. And reason must trust this knowledge of the heart and of instinct, and must base every argument on them. The heart senses that there are three dimensions in space and that the numbers are infinite, and reason then shows that there are no two square numbers one of which is double of the other. Principles are intuited, propositions are inferred, all with certainty, though in different ways.”

      • Tony

        Reminding me of one of my favorites among the Pensees: “Skeptic, for obstinate.”

  • John

    Almost every day of every year we are told about the sad state of discourse, it seems to be the sort of pornography of the American, and then we’re all made to cheer for those who take the bold stand of raising the level of discourse. I’m frankly sick of all of the talk of raising the level of discourse, and I’m sick of being made to applaud this sort of thing. I mean this in the nicest of ways, of course.
    And almost every day of every year we can listen to a Puritan such as Sam Harris telling us that a man does not have free will, so we must therefore have compassion for the man who murders and give him a slap on the wrist, since surely he had no say in the matter. But on those same days of every year we can also hear that same Puritan spitting on the Faithful, with no charity or compassion whatsoever, in the belief that he has free will, and so since the Faithful use their free will and remain Catholic, they then deserve uncharity and the harshest of harshest of treatments. You tell me if that makes any sense.

  • cestusdei

    Most when they say “fair” mean “what I like.”

  • JP

    “The increasingly virulent sort of partisanship we’re experiencing in
    America has a lot to do with members of both sides thinking that
    dispensing with the rules of the game is the best way to play. It
    should be no surprise, then, that both sides are increasingly unwilling
    to play; …”

    I think the author has a problem with his core thesis. The Progressives changed the terms of the debate some 4 decades ago. For the generation raised on, “Hey, Hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?”, the terms of the debate – namely civility went out decades ago. And as the medium evolved from the sound bites of television to the snark of Internet com-boxes, the Progressives fined tuned their methodology. On Capitol Hill, no one debates anymore. They haven’t for years. And if our lawmakers do feel the need to get out their message, well, that’s what spin doctors are for. Those spin doctors are deployed to the normal cable squak boxes, where they don’t debate, but offer up straw men and non-sequiturs – all designed to confuse and distract.

    On the web, Progressives have made an art form of deception and confusion. One sees this quite often in the so called Climate Debates. They are quite adept at turning the tables by questioning the credentials of the skeptics; informing the wider audience that the skeptics are funded by Big Oil (See Dr Mann); and posting as fact evidence (“studies”) that have failed verification (see the Hockey Stick or the IPCC temperature projections of a decade ago).

    On religious matters, I found that most theological debates usually are reduced to moral exhibitionism. This is when the opponent reminds the audience that he and his side work countless hours at food kitchens, nursing homes, on Habitat for Humanity projects, or Hospice Houses. This not only changes the subject, but it also in a not so subtle ways accuses those who take an opposing view of being indifferent (Hey, I’m just doing Christ’s real work while me opponent preens about obsessing over theological abstractions!!! While he splits hairs over abortafacient birth control I’m actually up to me neck in helping poor children). Progressives were quite adept in pushing the Seamless Garment in this fashion. The only problem is that most of their debating points were shallow and depended upon false constructs (the Seamless Garment), which made great PR, but created a false dichotomy, and a not so subtle accusation that orthodox Catholics hated the poor.

    • Carl

      Nailed it!

    • A big problem is that you see that a Progressive problem rather than something that is common to all strands of the political specturm.

  • John

    Furthermore, I’m concerned with leftist radicals at my local newspaper, as I’m sure many other Catholics are around the country, not out of their stances on taxes or roadways, but out of the general welfare of the community.
    I can give you a more recent example of the type of thing I’m referring to. My local paper has an extreme anti-police stance, a childish leftist contempt for authority, which makes them seek out any thug or criminal that they can use to try to make the police look bad, and make the thug and criminal look like a victim. So one of the more recent being a man who had no lights on his bicycle at night, which led to him almost being hit by a police car. The man was belligerent, and you know the rest of it. Anyhow, the local paper wrote that he was targeted because of his tattoos, had a follow-up article about the “oppression,” and continued with an editorial attacking the police department. I wrote to them and said the man was clearly mentally ill, which he certainly was, and really shouldn’t be given a platform to legitimize his delusions.
    Well, weeks later the man turned on the gas in his home and lit his house on fire, putting his neighbors and the police who had to get him out in danger. The man was in critical condition, not sure if he survived, but luckily no one else was seriously hurt.

    So it’s this, rather than a petty argument over taxes or whatever, that drives me to argue. We’re dealing with people who have no sense of responsibility, and no common sense, which I’m afraid will continue.

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  • Bedarz Iliaci

    The statements eg. “husbands never do their fair share of housework” or “woman would not lie about rape” can make sense if taken in categorical sense rather than universal sense.
    The categorical sense is perhaps the author here is calling as the general sense.

  • David Kenny

    Speaking as a retired gas turbine engineer, the jet fuel ( JP 4) consumed in the 9/11 tragedy is chemically akin to diesel or furnace oil and burns about 3500 deg. F., while high strength nickel alloy steel begin losing strength at 1100 deg. F and melts around 2000 deg. F. Structural steels have even lower temperature capability. I have seen combustion chamber walls fabricated from nickel alloys burn away completely in sections due to poorly designed wall cooling hole patterns. Of course the buildings in 9/11 lost their stability due to the collapse of the structural steel frame in the ensuing fuel fires.

    • Joseph

      Thanks for your informative post. The impressive burning temperature of 3500 F (1926 C) you are talking about, must be something specific to your profession, i.e. flame temperature in a gas turbine, and it doesn’t apply to the case of the WTC.

      The maximum flame temperature obtained with diesel oil in the enclosed space of ordinary water heaters is 1600 C (2912 F). An open flame of diesel oil burns even cooler, the max temperature being between 1000-1100 C (1832-2012 F), and this temperature can only be obtained when diesel oil is well mixed with air, in the correct proportion. The WTC had an open flame, not well mixed with air, and not in the right proportion – it was too rich in fuel, not enough air. Such flames burn with a temperature of 600 to 800 C (1112 to 1472 F). According to NIST’s own admission, the temperature of the jet fuel fire at the WTC never exceeded 1000 C (1832 F), and this fire was of a short duration (15 to 20 minutes). The office fires that followed burned even cooler, around 500 C (932 F), according to NIST’s official 9/11 report.

      A fire with a flame temperature not exceeding 1000 C, burning for a short duration of 15-20 min, will not heat the massive structural steel elements beyond 500-600 C (932-1112 F). No structural steel was ever heated higher than 600 C (1112 F) at the WTC, and even NIST admits that. Most of the steel elements only reached temperatures of 250-300 C (482-572 F).

      Next, the question is not whether structural steel looses its strength at temperatures of up to 600 C (1112 F).

      The real question is, how to explain the copious amounts of molten structural steel (the melting point of the structural steel used for the construction of the WTC is above 1500 C, 2732 F), the huge amounts (almost 6% per weight, in the WTC rubble’s dust component) of molten and re-solidified iron microspheres (melting point 1538 C, 2800 F), molten/re-solidified silicates (melting point 1450 C, 2642 F), vaporized lead (boiling point 1740 C, 3164 F), and even molten and re-solidified molybdenum (melting point 2623 C, 4753 F), in the WTC rubble.

      You see, the jet fuel and office fires at the WTC could never have produced molten steel, molten silicates, vaporized lead, and molten molybdenum.

      And that’s why NIST’s lead engineer denied that molten steel was present during the WTC collapse – but he is contradicted by eyewitness and video evidence – see here: https://www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?v=fs_ogSbQFbM

      Suggested further reading:




    • Joseph

      You may also want to watch this interview with a chemical engineer:


      • David Kenny


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  • Linda

    Interesting to have read this just after having read this thread over at the FishEaters discussion forum: http://catholicforum.fisheaters.com/index.php/topic,3464700.msg33969182.html#new Prepare to weep.

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  • happiernow

    I may be a bleeding-heart liberal/progressive who disagrees with many of the philosophical and theological premises that motivate the conservative/religious/political right-wing, but I am also an attorney who has been trained in the art of logical argument and a citizen who is disgusted with the lack of civility in our present political discourse, and I sincerely appreciate this post!