Saturday, January 7, 2012

No true Scotsman.

The most common type of argument that I tend to encounter when talking about the inherent fallacies of religious systems is the 'No true Scotsman' argument. Firstly,let me define what this is : Wikipedia describes it as such -

'No true Scotsman is an informal logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule.'.

Let me transcribe a conversation that I sometimes am a part of, that also serves to make clear what fallacy that I'm talking about -

Me: I do not self-identify as a Hindu,but rather as a non-religious person. Other Person: Why? Me: Hinduism ,as a religion,has certain things that I don't agree with,including the caste system Other Person: But,the caste system is not part of True Hinduism.

Essentially,what is happening here is that the other person agrees that the subject (In this case,Hinduism)'s negative trait (In this case,the caste system) being pointed out is indeed negative,but argues for the subject by indicating that 'True Hinduism' does not include the caste system.

As an ex-Hindu,most of my attempts at demystifying religion tend to involve Hindus , and so,I described a conversation referencing Hinduism, but indeed,this logical fallacy is quite common by people of any other religion ,as well.

An important thing about the scientific method is that it does not support the 'No true Scotsman' logical fallacy - a counterexample to an existing notion simply results in the rejection of the existing notion,to make way for a new notion.Thus,in my opinion,the scientific method is the more reliable way to contemplate the cosmos.

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