The obvious conclusion to draw from a repeated stream of ad hominem attacks and observations against a person, group or perhaps even an idea, is that those casting the aspersions have little logic, theory or evidence to actually engage with the ideas (and people) that they seem to find so repulsive. We shall not go through the litany of illustrations here. For the sake of today’s post, I’d like to ask a question about the consistency of the ad homimen-ers.
While it may seem like an obvious “attack” to question the motivations and influences of people who make arguments you disagree with, why is it the case that “where do you get your money” takes center stage in the arguments over other plausible influences? We explored a few posts ago the obvious inconsistency of folks not questioning the major sources of funding for all of our livelihoods, and we know of course that few ad hominem-ers care enough to ask, “what research have you done and have you carefully considered the various logical and empirical arguments?”, no, I refer to something else. Why, for example, do we think that even large amounts of money are the primary motivators and shapers of the views we hold and make public? Are the ad hominer-ers so much on board with science denial that they forget the very deep impact that parental ideology has on child ideology? To keep this a little light, do we think that my daughter’s current passion for hockey emerged spontaneously after first a careful consideration of the benefits of athletic development versus a less active lifestyle and second after considering the benefits and costs (including injury risks, probability of making lifetime relationships, etc.) of playing hockey as opposed to some other sport? OK, so in the world of ad hominem attacks, why then do we privilege monetary influences over, say, parental influences?
As a teacher, and one who has been influenced (and repelled) by many a teacher myself, I can’t help by think that a more useful “attack” would be to ask, “what teachers did you have in high school and college?” Maybe you could even impugn the financial payments made to them too? Or perhaps a better ad hominem approach would be to ask, “what group of people are you trying to be friends with, find acceptance by, and curry favor with?” Surely the answers to those questions, while still being anti-reason and anti-science and dodging the real issues, have nonetheless more information in them than the, “you’re a paid shill of the Kochtopus, so we don’t have to consider anything you say?”
Finally, I’ll ask two rhetorical questions. First, how many of the views you hold (on all sides of the various spectra) are actually held after a careful, scientific examination of the ideas and arguments and studies that comprise the field? Second, how much evidence for competing ideas and views have you read? I suggest that a healthy exercise is not to get into Facebook or Twitter wars with people whom you disagree with, I do not think you will learn anything that way. No, I think the best course of action is to “put the little devil on your shoulder” and have a deep conversation with her or him. Test yourself, see if you would pass an ideological Turing Test, see what things you would want to know if you disagreed with the positions you currently hold, and then, on occassion, perhaps go public with your own skepticism of yourself. It is healthier and more productive.
Disclaimer: I was not paid, directly at least, to post this blog post.