Logic Matters

Recently O'Reilly had Richard Dawkins on to discuss his new book which is about evolution. Now, I don't normally watch O'Reilly but this clip is amazing in the illogic O'Reilly uses to debate . I am posting the clip here because I think it provides an excellent example of why logic should be taught in the schools. It is important for people to learn how to discern between valid and invalid arguments because otherwise there is no good way to determine truth. And if you can't determine who is telling the truth, then you are a sucker just waiting to be taken advantage of. Anyway - here is the clip.

What is amazing about this clip is that O'Reilly doesn't say a single logical thing. NONE of his arguments follow standard rules of logic. NONE! Mostly, he uses what is called a non-sequitor. (A=C so therefore unrelated X is somehow true) In this instance, Science doesn't have the answers to everything (a=c) so therefore there must be a flying spaghetti monster or god (X= true). He uses the same structure to argue for teaching creationism in the schools.

O'Reilly also uses some informal colloquial fallacies. And really, these are his unique variations on established fallacies. The first is anonymous authority. Some really smart people (unnamed) agree with him, so he must be right. He also uses what can only be called a reverse dogmatic fallacy, which I think should be called "the O'Reilly fallacy" in honor of his repeated use of this form. Basically, a dogmatic fallacy is to arbitrarily exclude evidence in favor of X from the universe of discouse. In the O'Reilly fallacy or reverse dogmatic fallacy the refusal to allow X into the universe of discourse because X isn't logical or factually true is evidence of facism on the part of your debate opponent. I particularly like that one.

But my favorite part of this clip is when he argues by choir - essentially saying that more people believe as he does then don't so he must be correct. This is akin to saying 50,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong (even though they can). Argument by choir is totally irrelevant to whether any of the statements are true or logical.

So, to sum up O'Reillys illogic. Science can't explain everything, therefore the theory of biological evolution has gaps. Those gaps can only be filled by the flying spaghetti monster. If you don't allow this random and arbitrary conclusion to be taught to school children in a science class simply because it doesn't meet the minimal scientific standards for evidence or logic you are clearly a fascist and by the way 50,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong. Dawkins was right to shake his head and point out that this was a truly remarkable peice of illogic.

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