September 8, 2006

More logic:

A reader writes:

By the way, this "exception that proves the rule" discussion brings to mind something which is worth articulating explicitly.

That is...virtually every single leftist (and pseudo-rightist) argument re: race, religion, etcetera can be reduced to the following form:

A and B have some overlap, hence A and B are equal.

The argument is deployed virtually every time someone wants to cover up an inconvenient truth. It's so mind numbingly frequent that it's easy to miss it as *the* canonical show-stopper of modern discourse, even more so than the whole Nazi/racist/Godwin's Law thing, which is kind of domain specific. It's as slippery as "God did it" and has the advantage of being secular.

Some examples:

1) some women are better at math than some men, hence men and women have the same mathematical ability distribution.

2) Some whites commit more murders than some blacks, hence blacks and whites murder at the same rates.

3) Some fundamentalist Christians commit religious terrorism (e.g. bombing abortion clinics), hence fundamentalist Muslims and Christians commit terrorism at equal rates.

4) Some Christians are just as liberal as some Jews, hence Jews are no more liberal than Christians

5) Some wealthy people are lazy and dumb, hence the wealthy are just as likely to be lazy and dumb as the poor (and so postnatal luck rather than a heritable characteristic is the primary cause of wealth inequality).

...and on and on it goes.

With a few minutes of googling I could probably find explicit quotations for every single one. Usually they are justified in reference to some famous person -- a great example was that RedState thread a while back in which someone purported to refute your New Orleans article by saying that Maurice Ashley [the first African-American grandmaster] could crush you in a game of chess. [Which he could.]

I really can't think of any prominent leftist argument which doesn't fit this mold off the top of my head, though they're probably out there. By the by, it is an exercise for the reader to iterate through many neo-con arguments and see the same base-stealing at work.

Here's a classic one from Christopher Hitchens called "Armchair General: The ugly idea that non-soldiers have less right to argue for war" in Slate in late 2002 in arguing for the Iraq Attaq:

The first thing to notice about this propaganda is how archaic it is. The whole point of the present phase of conflict is that we are faced with tactics that are directed primarily at civilians. Thus, while I was traveling last year in Pakistan, on the Afghan border and in Kashmir, and this year in the gulf, my wife was fighting her way across D.C., with the Pentagon in flames, to try and collect our daughter from a suddenly closed school, was attempting to deal with anthrax in our mailbox, was reading up on the pros and cons of smallpox vaccinations, and was coping with the consequences of a Muslim copycat loony who'd tried his hand as a suburban sniper. Should things ever become any hotter, it would be far safer to be in uniform in Doha , Qatar, or Kandahar, Afghanistan, than to be in an open homeland city. It is amazing that this essential element of the crisis should have taken so long to sink into certain skulls.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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