Saturday, July 30, 2011

The "Idi Amin's a Scotsman Fallacy"

A lot of people on the secular left seem to want to blame Anders Behring Breivik's massacre on Christianity, as he called himself a Christian and associated his massacre with rebuilding Christian Europe.

Now, some, such as Bill O'Reilly, have tried to deny Breivik's Christianity through the "No True Scotsman" fallacy, that is, the fact he killed so many people means he isn't a true Christian. Essnetially, "No True Scotsman" is a way of begging the question.

While that is a ridiculous argument to use, there is, however, a genuine question as to what Breivik's actual beliefs were. In his manifesto, at one point he says:

"If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian."

In fact, he even refers to "Christian-agnostics" or "Christian-atheists."

Now, of course, some atheists are insisting that Breivik was a Christian, purely because he called himself one, and are defending their extremist nominalism by insisting that claiming that he wasn't is automatically the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.

Bollocks. Breivik is no Christian because he rejects Christian theology. Those who call him Christian simply because he identifies as one are engaging in extremist nominalism (that is, that words have no meaning other than denoting everything that is identified by that word - in other words, there is no definition of Christianity other than anyone who considers himself a Christian). I call this the "Idi Amin's a True Scotsman Fallacy," after Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, who referred to himself as the "last king of Scotland."

The "Idi Amin's a True Scotsman Fallacy" (i.e. the nominalist fallacy) is that by identifying with a group, you can be said to represent the group. For example, someone says that polygamy is an acceptable practice among Scotsman because the Last King of Scotland, Idi Amin, practiced polygamy. This is, of course, ridiculous, Idi Amin is neither from Scotland nor is there any evidence of significant Scottish blood as far as I know. His only claim to Scottishness is his decision to name himself the King of Scotland, which title, as far as I know, has not been recognized.

To deny that Idi Amin is a true Scotsman is not "no true Scotsman," it is maintaining a reasonable definition of Scotsman.

I should also point out that I doubt that most of those people arguing for Breivik's Christianity on nominalist groudns probably would not use the same argument if someone claimed allegiance to a group that they actually cared about. If Roissy called himself a feminist, or if David Duke called himself an anti-racist, I have a feeling that these people would pretty quickly start insisting on more formal definitions of these terms being used.

That is all.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mark Stroman and Jerome Ersland

I'm glad they executed him. Maybe he is changed, and I'm not going to argue against personal forgiveness such as that which surviving victim Rais Bhuiyan has granted him.

But law is about more than just vengeance. It is about justice, and about setting standards for a society.

When someone kills a bunch of innocent people as retaliation for a terrorist act committed by someone else, they deserve execution.

This is as opposed to a case such as the Jerome Ersland case (which I first heard about from Lawrence Auster). While I think that Ersland's act in killing a would-be robber long after subduing him was, indeed, murder, I think that it would have been much more fair to have lowered the charges to second degree murder rather than first; even if the later shots were not justifiable, the fact that the victim was part of an armed robbery attempt should mitigate the charges somewhat.

That is all.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thought for the Day

This post from "lying eyes" ziel got me to thinking:

The not-entirely articulated fear of the (white) American Middle Class, particularly those heading toward retirement, is that the GOP wants to take away their Social Security and cut their Medicare in order to give it to the wealthy, and that the Democrats want to cut their Medicare and take away their private earnings and savings to give it to minorities.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Minority Privilege

Appparently, the 14th amendment requires "Jim Snow" laws, according to a recent decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Just remember this the next time you are told about "white privilege."

That is all.
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