Showing posts with label Bulverism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bulverism. Show all posts

Monday, June 5, 2023

It’s Iimi! A Final Exam

It’s the last day of finals, and Iimi is giving her Oral Logic Presentation on the topic of boycotts. But Ms. Baculum, having some plans of her own, decides to turn it into a discussion that catches Iimi unaware. 


Possible trigger warning: Two panels in this comic (pages 16 + 17) involve blood and injury and might trouble sensitive viewers.

Post-Comic Notes:

Regarding the last panel, I myself have lost a leg, though under different circumstances (gangrene, not an accident). Ms. Baculum’s dealing with it will be informed by my own experiences. 

As for recusancy, To learn the basics, see this ARTICLE.

A paywall-free article on the report Iimi references can be found HERE.

The text of Queen Elizabeth I in enacting the law of recusancy can be found HERE.


The Washington Post article Iimi refers to on attitudes towards transgenderism is locked behind a paywall. But the information from the poll can be found HERE.


Let’s talk further about the legality of recordings in the story.


Until it became national news (the referenced story is here), I had no idea that the girls recording the teachers in class was illegal. RESEARCH confirmed that it’s a misdemeanor for non-students and a disciplinary act for students in California. Because Anne Baculum was created as a character with moral integrity, I’d probably have written the story differently rather than portray her as doing something unethical. Thus, it became so rarely enforced that older teachers forgot it, and newer ones didn’t know it.


Likewise, Iimi’s parents would have given her other advice than they did. So, the TL:DR of it is, they didn’t do wrong. I just messed up in portraying what was permissible.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

It’s Iimi! “Because X. Therefore, You’re Scum!”

We've reached a state where we've become so polarized that we believe anyone who reaches a conclusion that is different from ours must be done from willful malice. Sometimes, that can be

true. But not always. We can't forget that some can be mistaken about the facts. Some can have a different but valid view that goes against ours.


If we would avoid rash judgment or calumny, we need to ask whether our views are true before we say that our opponents are guilty of knowingly siding with evil. Otherwise, we are to blame for the mutual hatred that divides us. Above all, we must reject the bulverism that claims one holds their position BECAUSE X. THEREFORE, YOU’RE SCUM.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quick Quips: Rush to Judgment Edition

Claiming a person chose wrong and chose so out of malice is a strong accusation. We must prove the accusation is true before we look for motives why the person acted in a certain way. If we don’t give proof, then our charge is not proven and all our speculation on motive is meaningless. This is why so many news articles and blogs aggravate me. People assume wrongdoing, then make wild accusations over why wrongdoing occurred. Here are some examples from the past week.

Struggling to Pull Defeat Out of the Jaws of Victory

The Vatican released Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Lætitia, today. From what I have read so far (about halfway through), it is an excellent document which explores the meaning of marriage and family before considering the cases of people at odds with the Church teaching. The secular media is remarkably subdued, mostly keeping quiet about it. The text contradicts the predictions or accusations made about “opening doors” to changed Church teaching. Even one of the most notorious anti-Francis Catholic blogs posted a relatively subdued article about this Exhortation.

Even so, certain Catholics, unwilling to surrender their preconceived views have tried to portray this as leaving doors open to error—only disagreeing on whether this was good or bad. Despite the fact that there are no soundbites which sound shocking when taken out of context, some try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by saying certain concepts might be interpreted as leniency and saying “It’s not the fault” of those who are at odds with the Church. That’s a far cry from the cheers or wailing over the synod critics who were certain the Pope would open doors to “same sex marriage” and “Communion for the divorced and remarried,” but they’ll take what they can get.

I must ask: At what point do such people realize they have seized their position so irrationally that they can no longer see reality? If they assume a claim is true and then impute bad will to the Pope, they do wrong in not investigating the truth of the matter.

The Papal Invitation that Wasn't

Perhaps because the media and dissident Catholics can’t spin Amoris Lætitia into screaming “POPE CHANGES CHURCH TEACHING” headlines, they latched on to another headline. Now we see the media talking about the Pope “inviting” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to the Vatican. The Facebook Catholics started arguing about the fact that Senator Sanders is pro-abortion, pro-same sex “marriage,” and pro-socialism and whether it was an endorsement of his politics.

As it turns out, Sanders wasn’t invited to speak at the Vatican and he wasn’t invited by the Pope. One Bishop Sorondo invited him to a conference at the Vatican on the 25th anniversary of the Papal encyclical Centesimus annus. Sanders may or may not meet the Pope while there, but he wasn’t invited for the purpose of meeting or speaking before the Pope. In fact, there’s some question about whether he should have been invited. In other words, the things that would have made the story newsworthy did not happen.

Religious Freedom is Slavery

Earlier this week, while driving to work, I listened to NPR on the radio. In this segment, they interviewed a self-identified “Christian baker” from Mississippi about the just signed religious freedom law. This baker said he didn’t feel threatened by lawsuits and prosecutions aimed at Christians. He said he saw his job as “baking cakes” and not judging who was "worthy to buy” them.

That’s not even remotely the problem here. Christians who feel the need for religious freedom laws don’t want laws giving them excuses to arbitrarily shun people. They want protection from forced participation in something their religion calls morally wrong. The past seven years gave us growing encroachment on religious freedom. People have lost their jobs for supporting the traditional understanding of marriage.

Business owners involved in weddings get sued, fined and prosecuted for refusing to take part in “same sex weddings” or hire a person openly flaunting their contempt for the religious teachings of the denomination they work for. The Supreme Court refused to hear cases about this. Christians who believe they would do wrong by participating want protection from unjust legal action.

To call this concern “homophobia” or “intolerance” is an ad hominem attack against these people. The accusations do not refute these conscientious objections. They merely assume they are wrong and then impute a “motive” for why the person holds them. CS Lewis once spoke about assuming a person was wrong and then jumping to the argument of why the person went wrong.

The problem is that before you can psychoanalyze why a person went wrong, you have to show where he is wrong. In other words, holding that a person is a  homophobe because of his holding position X is jumping the gun—first you have to show that the person is wrong about position X before using terms like “homophobe” to explain why he holds a “wrong" view.


People must investigate whether a claim is false before speculating over why a person holds a false position. Speculation over why the Pope is changing Church teaching, the motive for Bernie Sanders' invitation to the Vatican, or why people in Mississippi are bigots, is pointless if the Pope didn’t change Church teaching, if Sanders’ invitation was wrongly given or if religious freedom supporters aren’t bigots.

Avoiding false witness or rash judgment means we investigate what is true before falsely accusing people of bad will. Investigating first means we just might have meaningful discourse over right and wrong instead of wrongly accusing people of wrongdoing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What If The Media Has It Backwards About Intolerance?

What If Christianophobic

Oh the whole I like British detective series on TV… it’s a lot more difficult to guess who is guilty right off the bat. But today I saw one that was rather heavy-handed in the attempt to tie Christian opposition towards same sex acts as being homophobic. It was full of bible quoting bigots and main characters alluding to Christian teaching as being hateful—even groups trying to lead Christians with same sex attraction to a life of chastity were labeled as hate groups. It’s as if the producers decided that if they repeat something long enough, people will accept it as true.

That’s about par for TV nowadays. Whatever the genre, the assumption is made that opposition to same-sex acts are rooted in intolerance, and there is no distinguishing between one group and another. Catholic Bishops are put on the same level as the Westboro Baptists. When Pope Francis defended marriage as being between one man and one woman, the media scrambled for a reason to come up for the “rollback” in his views. It’s got to be hard. When you’ve defined Christian teaching on same sex attraction as “hateful,” and you’ve defined the Pope as a wonderful, tolerant guy, it becomes hard to reconcile these portrayals with his teaching reaffirming Catholic teaching.

The dilemma is, they can either:

  • Recognize that Christians can oppose things as morally wrong without being intolerant, or…
  • They can conclude that Pope Francis is as hateful as the Westboro Baptists.

I predict that Pope Francis will be thrown to the wolves by the media when it becomes clear they cannot reconcile their distorted version with what he actually says and does.

That’s the problem with the accusation that Christian teaching on sexuality is hate based, whether homophobic or misogynistic. It’s an argument that refuses to consider whether an argument one disagrees with has a valid reason to justify it. It just argues in a circle:

Person 1: Christians are hateful!
Person 2: Why do you say they are hateful? 
Person 1: Because they say homosexuality is morally wrong!
Person 2: Why is it wrong to say that?
Person 1: Because it is hateful!

It’s simply repeating the same phrase over and over again ad infinitum regardless of the question. It assumes Christianity must be motivated by hatred because they hold this position. There’s never an answer to the “why?” It just is, and if you disagree, you must be motivated by hatred. 

So one wonders if the media might be looking in the wrong direction. What if it isn’t the Christians who hate supporters of so-called same sex marriage . . .

. . . What if it’s the supporters of so-called same sex marriage who hate Christians?

If someone accepts the current argument that Christians are homophobic, they can’t escape the reverse accusation, that opponents are Christianophobic. Either abandon the argument or recognize it can be used against the accusers as well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

All, None and Some: On How the Failure to Distinguish Can Distort Truth

One of the things which irritates me is how the English language gets abused in the pursuit of rhetoric, especially when one seeks to claim a person holds a position he does not.  This all too common.  An individual makes a claim about what Catholics believe.  Someone who is actually a Catholic offers an objection, saying that what is claimed is actually false.  The accuser then makes a rhetorical appeal to indicate the one who is objecting is actually ignorant on what they believe.

Let's look at the root of confusion in some of these errors.

Confusing All, None, Some

One of the common rhetorical statements is that ALL [people of a group] hold [X].  For example, all [pre-reformation clergy] are [corrupt].  The objection is that this claim is not true.  The attacker then accuses the person who objects of holding the opposite: that NO [pre-reformation clergy] are [corrupt].  The attacker then goes on to point out examples which support his case and then claim his opponent is refuted.

There is a problem with that technique.  ALL and NO are contrary to each other, but what contradicts the claim of the accuser is not No [pre-reformation clergy] are [corrupt] but rather SOME [pre-reformation clergy] are NOT [corrupt]

Unfortunately, this tactic is often used.  A universal statement is made.  When the objection is raised to the universality of the claim, the one who objects is accused of being in denial over the fact that in some cases, the case is true.  However, the accuser didn't say SOME.  He said ALL.

How This is Used in Attacks on the Church

Generally speaking this error will take a real problem which was or is present in some parts of the Church.  The Church can be accused of corruption, liberalism, rigidness and so on.  The example of some individuals who behave in this way is then represented to be the view of the entirety whether by action or failure to act.

It overlooks however that in order to be a problem of the Church it needs to be shown that it is one which is held by those who are speaking in the role of authority of the Church, and not an individual within the Church who speaks on his own.

There are unfortunately many who dissent from the teachings of the Church.  However, if they dissent, it indicates there is a teaching which they disagree with.  If they are dissenting from the teaching of the Church, then it is unreasonable to claim ALL of [the Church] holds [the dissenting view].

What the Individual Usually Means

What it usually comes down to is the individual who accuses does not approve of the behavior of SOME within the Church, and uses the rhetoric ALL as an embellishment.  He would be wiser to say "I don't approve of the behavior of what seems to be held by a certain portion of those within the Church."  In such a case then it would need to be determined whether the behavior of that portion was compatible with what the Church teaches or not.

The Part Stands In For the Whole

Another common error which relates to ALL, SOME and NONE is the claim that the part represents the whole.  So, if an atheist argues that because some Christians behave in an ignorant way, it is representative of the whole, this confuses the difference between some and all.  What is the evidence that this is representative?

Usually, the claim is based on the belief that the believers must be ignorant because they believe, which argues in a circle.  Why do Christians believe?  Because they are ignorant.  Why are Christians ignorant?  Because they believe.  One could easily reword this to the following: Why don't atheists believe?  Because they are ignorant.  Why are atheists ignorant?  Because they don't believe.  Same error, different target.

The Hidden Assumption: This belief is correct.  If you disagree you are ignorant.

The problem of course is the establishment of proof that to believe in God is ignorant.  Because science deals only with the natural order, it is completely unable to assess whether or not the supernatural exists.  Yet many seek to invoke Science with a capital 'S' as having disproved religion… invoking the claim that knowledge of science has shown that miracles can't happen and claiming that those who believed in miracles could not know how the natural world really worked.  This continues to make the error of confusing SOME, ALL, and NONE.

CS Lewis once pointed out that Matthew 1:19 shows the flaw in that assumption (He discusses this in God in the Dock which makes good reading).  If St. Joseph had been ignorant about how children come to be, he would not have been considering the quiet divorce of Mary.  Indeed, to believe in miracles, one has to accept that the universe does function in a set way, and the miraculous departs from the normal.

The False Analogy of the Ancient Pagans: We're back to All, None and Some

A false analogy is one where one points to two situations with some similarities while ignoring the differences which make the two situations different.  For example, because ancient Greeks employed the myth that the sun was Helios who travelled across the sky in a fiery chariot to explain sunrise and sunset, Christian belief in God, the Eucharist and the Virgin Birth are also the same type of myth.

The problem of course is that there is no linkage.  The fact that some religious beliefs of pagans were myths, does not mean ALL religious beliefs are.  The claim that science "disproves" religion is not justified, and the attributing the cause of belief in a religion as superstition is a Bulverism.

"No Swans are Black?" Falsifiability and Assertions

The belief that all swans are white (once a belief in the European world which had never seen a black swan… indeed, Europeans only became aware of them in 1697) was extrapolated from the following observations:

  1. All swans I have seen are white
  2. It is most probable then that all swans are white

Now it may be impractical to observe every swan, but if we should ever observe a black swan, we do show the "probable" claim to be a false claim.  The observance of any number of white swans does not prove the universality of the claim, but the observance of one black swan disproves it.  Thus it is not reasonable to conclude a universal solely on the grounds of an observed group.

Yet, the confusing of SOME with ALL or NONE continues in almost every aspect of life.  Stereotypes are based on it ("all of ethnic group X are dishonest".)  Polemics against a different creed makes use of it ("no religious believer is reasonable").  Advocacy of a preferred policy makes use of it ("whoever opposes my plan doesn't care about X").

And of course the Catholic Church is a constant victim of it.  All one needs do is to point to the presence of a thing one dislikes or the absence of a thing one likes within a certain sample of Catholics, then make a claim that ALL Catholics do [the thing disliked] or NO Catholics do [the thing liked] as a reason for rejecting the Church as a whole (in the case of those outside the Church opposed to religion in general or Catholicism in particular,  or in part (in the case of those within the Church, commonly in an area one disagrees with).

When Does Some Speak for All?  Does the Part Represent the Whole?

However, before one can make such a claim, one needs to see whether such a group one uses as a representative sample is in fact representative of the whole.  For example, in America, there are people who are deeply patriotic and people who are deeply opposed to the actions of their nation.  There are people authorized to act in the name of the nation and those who are not.  Now, let us suppose some subgroup in America does something which causes harm to another nation.  Is it just to say "America did this?"

It could be.  In the case of the nation going to war, the lawfully elected leader would have the authority to carry out a policy, and one could correctly say "America went to war with X" even if some individuals in America oppose the policy.  The groups in opposition would be Americans but would not represent the actual policy of America.

Likewise, if a naturalized US citizen and former CIA operative fired a bazooka at a Polish freighter in Miami harbor in 1968 (to use a bizarre real life example), that is not an action of "America" even if American courts give the individual in question a sentence lighter than they ought.


Now, how do we apply this principle to the Catholic Church?

Before saying "All clergy are corrupt" or "The Catholic Church permits abuse" or "The Church is anti-woman" or any number of similar accusations from Left or Right, one needs to ask some questions, such as:

  1. Does the part act as the official representation of the whole?
  2. Do their actions reflect the official position?
  3. Am I rightly assessing what the official position IS?
  4. Am I drawing the right conclusion?
  5. Does my statement reflect what is? 

There are of course more to ask, but if one can't answer "Yes" to these questions and demonstrate the basis for the claim, such an individual is confusing ALL/NONE with SOME.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010



Ever notice how intolerant people are when they accuse someone else of being intolerant or pushing their views onto others?  Ever notice how it is assumed that the Christian must be wrong because of some condition which causes them to be intolerant or unable to think for themselves, otherwise they wouldn't think this way?

Unfortunately this is a common tactic on the Internet.  It is not a new one however.  CS Lewis wrote about it in 1941, and noted it was old then.  It is the assumption that a person is wrong and seeks to provide a motive for why he is wrong… but never in fact PROVES the person is in fact wrong.

What Is A Bulverism?

CS Lewis spoke of Bulverism as follows:

You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it "Bulverism". Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — "Oh you say that because you are a man." "At that moment", E. Bulver assures us, "there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall." That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.

—CS Lewis.  God In the Dock, page 273

CS Lewis wrote about this phenomenon in 1941, but it seems to be a common thing today.

The Logical Error of the Bulverism

The logical form of a Bulverism is:

  1. You claim that A is true.
  2. Because of B, you want A to be true.
  3. Therefore, A is false.

In other words, the argument of a Bulverism assumes the opponent is wrong in holding position [A] because of condition [B].  Thus we see Christians defamed because they are assumed wrong.  The attacker then goes on to give a reason for why the Christian holds A.  What is never proven however is that the Christian is wrong for holding position A.

It's a form of non sequitur.  The conclusion does not follow from the premise.  It also begs the question, that [A] is false when that needs to be proven

Lewis uses an analogy to illustrate the point:

Suppose I think, after doing my accounts, that I have a large balance at the bank. And suppose you want to find out whether this belief of mine is “wishful thinking.” You can never come to any conclusion by examining my psychological condition. Your only chance of finding out is to sit down and work through the sum yourself. When you have checked my figures, then, and then only, will you know whether I have that balance or not. If you find my arithmetic correct, then no amount of vapouring about my psychological condition can be anything but a waste of time. If you find my arithmetic wrong, then it may be relevant to explain psychologically how I came to be so bad at my arithmetic, and the doctrine of the concealed wish will become relevant - but only after you have yourself done the sum and discovered me to be wrong on purely arithmetical grounds. It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, go on and discover the psychological causes of the error. [Emphasis added]

The Common Attack

This often comes into play in the most crude attack against the Christian.  We hear that if we would think for ourselves, we would realize we are blindly following the error of Christianity [I'm putting this far more charitably than the anti-Christian would do].  This assumes:

  1. Christians claim [Certain moral behavior] are correct
  2. Because Christians [do not think for themselves], they think [certain moral behaviors] are correct
  3. Therefore Christians are wrong in thinking [certain moral behaviors] are correct.

We could apply the "Christians are homophobic" argument here as well… and certain anti-Christians do this as well.

The Overlooked Flaws With Using the Bulverism

The problem is, of course, that if one can use this argument against the Christian, the Christian can use the argument against their attacker.  We can merely substitute "Christian" with "Atheist" or "Muslim" or "Liberal" or "Conservative" and plug it in, and we can sling it back at you.

Of course you haven't proven your point and neither have I.

The use of the Bulverism is in essence sawing off the branch you are sitting on.  If one employs it against an opponent, the opponent can point it right back at the person making the attack.  If one refuses to apply it to their own argument, they cannot apply it to the opponent without being a hypocrite.

First Prove Your Point.  Then You Can Psychoanalyze

What is overlooked in the Internet debate today is that there is only one reason for rejecting something as false… and that is demonstrating that it is false.  All the reasons for trying to explain why something is false is meaningless if the thing is in fact true.

Yet instead, we see appeals to false analogy, appeals to numbers, appeals to age or newness… all of which are logical fallacies which do not prove the point one which one wishes to make.

Advice for the Christian

The Christian should be watchful for the Bulverism… first of all to avoid making the error yourself.  We who believe Jesus is the Truth should first of all demonstrate that the opponent's view IS false before trying to delve into motives why they are wrong.

Second of all to make sure you are not tricked by it.  It becomes easy to get caught up in challenging the reason the opponent provides for why we are wrong, completely overlooking the fact that first the opponent needs to prove we are wrong.

So don't get distracted.  One needs to stick to the point of insisting they prove their point.  Otherwise it will be treated as if they are right