What You Should Think About the Categorical Syllogism

“One swallow does not make a summer.”


Many aspects of American education are “hit or miss” in terms of producing positive results. One area especially likely to slip through cracks in our various systems is logic. Though it is no more complex at its core than algebra, symbolic logic is often regarded as a high level discipline reserved only for electronic engineers (as it explains the fundamentals of circuit design for information technology applications) and a particularly rigorous subset of philosophers. Though it also is a vital skill applied to the reading of non-fiction, it is rarely given any place at all in coursework intended to cultivate verbal skills.

Actually, logic has useful applications in almost any discipline. It goes to the heart of sound methodology in science. It yields tremendous dividends of insight when applied coldly to questions of civics, economics, foreign relations, etc. It can even inform efforts based on any systematic approach to creative arts. Yet in being vital to so many basic human pursuits, it seems to have been excluded from training for almost all of them. It is as if the “somebody else’s problem” phenomenon has educators of all specialties convinced that it would be a distraction from their mission to give students a proper education in logical deduction.

I was fortunate enough to be exposed to the works of Aristotle, and the significance of the categorical syllogism, in a high school course on adversarial debate. Though I continued readings on logic out of my own interest in philosophy, it would not be until my final semester of college, sharing a small class with a few math-focused engineering students, that the subject would be revisited in any formal way. In my own informal way, here’s the phenomenon in a nutshell.

Many forms of reasoning can produce novel error. By that I mean that normal methods of inference and argumentation tend to be complex processes that do not involve verifying every new thought follows with certainty from prior givens. The categorical syllogism is the fundamental unit of deductive reasoning. Following the proper form, deductive reasoning is a “garbage in, garbage out” process. What this means is that falsehoods can still be deduced, but only if falsehoods are included in the assumptions made at the start of the process. If only true statements serve as the premises for a categorical syllogism, then it will produce a new true statement as its conclusion.

Take the classic example . . .

All men are mortal.

Socrates is a man.

Therefore Socrates is mortal.

If everyone agrees with the first two statements, the third becomes an inescapable logical conclusion. It simply must be true if the premises on which it rests are also true. The mechanism for this involves categories, though in modern parlance “sets and subsets” may have more resonance. Thus the abstract form is . . .

All As are Bs.

All Bs are Cs.

Therefore all As are Cs.

In terms of the example with Socrates, the man himself becomes a category of one. Socrates is a subset of “men.” Thus the form remains valid when applied to individual subjects of study as well as groups.

Some people find it helpful to diagram this sort of logical relationship. Others may reduce things to the most succinct meaningful symbols. That may open up an entire realm of computational logic in which complex forms may still benefit from the absolute reliability of pure deduction. That sort of thing is crucial to understanding how computing technology works at its most basic level, though in a modern context it is a fairly esoteric speciality.

By contrast, basic logic is a vital tool in both reading comprehension and structured argumentation. Most people, most of the time, do not think in purely logical forms. Yet understanding purely logical forms provides a method through which the messy complexities of real world discourse can be broken down into basic units. Sometimes sensible advocacy is simply a matter of being able to go further toward the goal of distilling reason from argument than contrary advocates do. Of course, this is only an avenue worth pursuing if your overall reasoning is sound to begin with. Then again, if you raise your voice in support of unsound reasoning, just what could you hope to accomplish in the first place?

Those who champion unpopular causes are often right to point out the flaws of inductive reasoning. This is a fallible process by which conclusions are reached based on a preponderance of evidence. Yet dwelling on such flaws can create problems of its own. Scholars discussing the philosophy of science may refer to “black swans.” Centuries upon centuries of familiarity with swans led to the widespread belief that mature unpainted swans could not be black. Thus it was surprising when naturally occurring black swans were discovered in Australia. The story of the black swan illustrates the dangers of reasoning by means of sampling.

Yet in some ways this can be a powerfully misleading argument. Given the definition of swans along with what is known about biology and evolution, it is a reasonable assertion to claim that there are no swans with the natural ability to fire deadly laser beams from their eyes. A victim of what I call “the skeptics’ infinite regress” might argue that this assertion cannot be accepted as factual until each and every swan in the universe has been observed with enough detail to verify that its gaze could never produce a lethal concentration of coherent light. Personally, I believe that the black swan tale illustrates an excessively narrow definition of swans existed prior to the 17th century, but in doing so it does not render any efforts to define swans as futile. To the contrary, the term retains meaning and value even if it defines laser-blasting swans as an implausibility unworthy of consideration.

This is an important concern even with deductive logic, because ultimately anything useful and practical we might say about the world must go beyond work with purely abstract terms. To reach concrete conclusions, we must work with concrete premises. Those can only be obtained through observation and induction (at least, to the degree they are not a function of speculation or outright fabrication.) Thus, no matter how well-deduced your own conclusions might be, convincing others to follow your train of thought must begin by getting those others to accept your initial point of departure.

This explains much of why the application of reason has been so problematic in modern political discussions. Our culture abounds with false narratives popularized by appeals to the worst in human nature. Demonizing political adversaries, discrediting large groups by focus on the worst individuals within, substituting catchy sloganeering for substantive analysis — it all serves to establish a strong foundation of lies on which great structures of misinformation can be constructed.

With many sources of “news and information” neglecting much of what is newsworthy while freely echoing popular misinformation, many people with the best of intentions still find themselves standing firmly in the wrong. The quagmire traps of the propaganda past have given way to rock solid bulwarks from which powerful bursts of reason can be resisted. This makes it all the more important to become versed in logical forms so as to better isolate and undermine the bedrock of nonsense propping up legions of the happily misinformed. Until common ground, ideally constrained by underlying factually accurate claims, can be achieved; any clash of ideas, no matter how formal or thoughtful, is unlikely to lead to common conclusions.


39 Responses to What You Should Think About the Categorical Syllogism

  1. horatiox says:

    Obviously Frege and Russell updated Aristotle’s logic based on categorical syllogisms. The traditional logic still has its uses (and is often overlooked), but predicate logic with quantifiers quite more precise, both in terms of deductive and inductive arguments. But the main problem with logic, traditional or symbolic, is not with the forms but establishing the truth of premises. Anything can and does follow from bad premises.

    Your point on induction is somewhat interesting, and related to the premise issue. Skepticism can go too far, but the black swan problem shows that hasty generalizations made before all the facts are in often leads to bad science, or unconfirmed statements/hypotheses offered as truths when they are merely estimations or probabilities. And that is the issue with global warming. The facts are not “in” in regards to the chemistry: the process of man-made CO2 resulting in higher temperatures has not been established but estimated and inferred.

    Lab results have not confirmed the IPCC claims. It could be as the IPCC claims, but that has hardly been proven. Moreover, there are questions about the data itself (like temperatures). The real inductivist is always concerned with accuracy of data, right? So before deciding that the global warming hypothesis is correct, one has to confirm whether the data, like temperature readings, is even reliable; and at that point, statistics enters the picture: the data sample usually has a margin of error. And that is the case with temp. readings being used by GW advocates. Whether the supposed temp. fluctuations are significant (overcoming the margin of error) remains to be settled.

    Which is to say, induction (as the GW hypothesis is induction) quickly becomes a matter of stats and number crunching; moreover (as Popper or Kuhn realized) the supposed “truth” of hypotheses in the physical sciences may be modified down the road as more info. comes in –as Einstein modified Newtonian mechanics.

  2. Demonweed says:

    In my experience I’ve only ever seen two contexts in which people claim there is no uncertainty related to climate forecasting. In one of these contexts, a zealous political conservative will assert that global warming related to industrial emissions is flatly impossible. In the other, a zealous political conservative will assert that global warming alarmists have denied any prospect of uncertainty, then that straw man is subject to vigorous attack. When it comes to people who are not zealous political conservatives, the idea that the future of global climate is not perfectly certain is non-controversial. In their own words, neither Gore nor anyone else I’m familiar with has let concern about global warming rest on some assertion of metaphysical perfection in climate forecasting.

    That said, I continue to see broad agreement about key points. There is a consistency that produces credibility if those concerned about the problem are judged by their actual language, as opposed to letting hostile pundits put falsehoods into their mouths, then reacting to that. “Skeptics” tend to come at this thing with all the sense of Creationists discussing natural history. You’ve got people arguing there is no such thing atmospheric greenhouse effect, people arguing that it exists but is not significantly influenced by carbon dioxide, and then people grasping at every conceivable straw, from solar variation to the procession of the Earth’s axis. Rather than show sensible restraint and wait for some sort of credible evidence to support these notions, barely a whisper of innuendo is required to create a surge of bandwagon support for anything that might explain observable phenomena (vanishing glaciers, rising sea levels, etc.)

    To say that “lab results have not confirmed IPCC findings” sounds like the words of a political partisan rather than a scientific thinker. There are efforts ongoing in labs to dispute IPCC findings. Perhaps not all of these are ridiculous efforts to cloud the debate with pure nonsense. However, even the most ridiculous stuff still gets tremendous traction, not because of scientific merit, but because of how eagerly global warming skeptics seem ready to embrace even the flimsiest work in the name of validating their passionate political convictions about a scientific question.

    I had a bizarre experience with that load of crap Mr. Edelman contributed to a global warming denial blog, and I’m pretty sure there was nothing atypical about that experience. Stuff that was full of internal contradictions and blatant factual untruths was taken to be unassailable truth by a mob of unthinking rabble. Perhaps one or two voices in the chorus seemed interested in a real exchange of ideas, but it was mostly a place for people to engage in one-upping each other in efforts to see how much they could villainize Al Gore.

    I’m interested in seeing alternative points of view, but not when the entire point is to validate mindless political hate. Perhaps this is a question of “considering the source,” but as with Creationism, sometimes it is just not practical to evaluate every claim of fact made by some ideologically-motivated hack when the entire movement can be incriminated by its own stink. If in fact uncertainties about global warming go beyond the unknowns in forecasting that concerned environmentalists freely acknowledge, then it should be possible to express them without also immediately grasping at every straw that could possibly be contorted into a natural explanation for the warming trend (never mind actually denying that a warming trend is underway.)

    If you believed John Kerry was a coward and George W. Bush was a war hero during the Viet Nam era, then of course you can submit to any upside-down view of the world. On the other hand, if you are interested in getting at some sort of objective view on a subject, it is best not to rush headlong into the embrace of every crazy assertion that supports your predisposition. I see almost exclusively that mode of behavior driving the thinking of global warming skeptics. Because every anomalous episode of solar activity or every half-baked “critique” of mainstream climate science is so zealously and uncritically embraced by a coherent political movement, it is difficult to identify any valid arguments in with that mix of nonsense. On the other hand, when going by their actual words and not the lies placed in their mouths by manipulative pundits, I find people concerned about global warming tend to exercise due caution and base their remarks on much stronger substance. That does not mean I ignore the particulars of new argument coming from any front, but hopefully it also explains why I do not embark of a frenzy of trumpeting nonsense every time some new data point emerges that deniers instantly distort into a comprehensive case for their pet cause.

  3. horatiox says:

    What? Huh? Your usual trivial rhetorical evasions. You seem somewhat aware of inductive logic issues: remember verification? The GW claims have not been verified, at least to the degreee that Gore suggested. Now , if you think asking for verification is itself political, you have entered the realm of ideology. That’s how totalitarians and dogmatists operate: merely to question the dogma of Catholicism (or Islam, Marxism, fascism, etc.) and demand facts was considered a crime until 1700s or so (and still is in some areas).

    Obviously confirming (verifying) the global warming hypothesis requires proving whether certain fact-claims are true: such as whether temp. rises are statistically significant, or whether experiments can establish that man-made C02 leads to warming . Or do you think I am lying? I am not. Some evidence exists suggesting that the supposed CO2 to warming phenomena does not operate as the IPCC claimed.

    Here’s one such study: http://www.john-daly.com/artifact.htm

    Of course, a lab does not equal the atmosphere, but Hug’s tests are certainly relevant evidence (and in fact IPCC also performs such experiments, and sort of avoid discussing their experimental findings, since that sort of ruins their groovy models and simulations).

    However it’s not obvious whether Hug votes GOP or not. He may even eat burgers, and that could call his entire programme into question! Zut.

  4. Demonweed says:

    This is precisely the problem . . . Dr. Hug’s work has yet to undergo any sort of peer review that I am aware of, and elsewhere in expounding on this “finding” of his he wildly distorts the substance of IPCC findings. To hear him tell it, the IPCC works with models that do not even allow for the possibility rain might ever fall from the sky! The man may or may not be a partisan, but he is a liar, and not a subtle one at that. If you read the work with an open mind, rather than a passionate wish to find it full of pure insight, you would probably see the same flaws. His observations are slightly intriguing, and his methods could be duplicated elsewhere. If someone with more integrity were to come to the same conclusion, this might be worth half the attention it gets from cloisters of passionate global warming skeptics. As it stands, I put this in the same category as a 6,000 year old dinosaur footprint — “evidence” produced by someone much more intent on propping up a personal belief than uncovering any sort of objective truth.

  5. bharath says:

    very nice article. If someone undertook a study of the interactions on the level of political and religious groups in the middle east. Heads will start to swirl. 🙂 starting with Saudi support of wahabi sect and teaching in schools to north west frontier of pakistan becoming the now taliban territory beyong musharaf’s reach to defeat in the ’05 election of mullahs in Iran to support of hezbollah and iranian guard by russians 🙂 If you start tying them together it would make one helluva story. btw none of it is rumor. only have to read the local newspapers.

    about global warming: the consensus is that it is due to carbon excess. there is a good chance that it is man made. the downside of waiting to fully determine would be, that when we do resolve the question definitively we may be looking for another planet. The reason for acting now would be to waste money on a possibly inaccurate analysis (although the odds are GW is to significant degree man made). Also this might lead to a spurt in knowledge economy in the US which can get it out of the problem of outsourcing jobs, and poor investment in education. Given the best way to manage an energy economy is to be decentralized, it seems to support smaller entrepreneurs and is likely to create enough employment opportunities.

  6. horatiox says:

    Wait a second, Mr. Logic: first you assert that “Hug’s work has not been peer reviewed” (a fact claim, and I do not think it is correct: look at John Daly’s site, and the rather extensive bibliography attached to Dr. Hug’s article). Then you make a rather egregious and unsupported inference, and call him a liar. You have enough chem. skills to disprove his findings? I sort of doubt that, DW. You more or less violated your own inductive criteria.

    First off, that a scientist or researcher has had articles subjected to peer review does not mean that something is correct or incorrect. It just means more people have looked at the research. Moreover, the “peer review” that the IPCC values (climatologist peer review) does NOT equal peer review by chemists, physicists or atmospheric scientists. IPCC people are mostly (not all) modellers and climatologists; they are not primarily chemists or physicists, a point made rather forcefully even by Dr. Crichton a few years ago (Crichton, Harvard grad., and MD, at least has respectable academic credentials as well, unlike Gore, Mr. Dixie Green Jeans) .

    Einstein actually had articles rejected by “peer reviewed” journals, though his theories turned out to be correct. But that’s a moot point anyway: first off, I strongly suspect Dr. Hug has had research peer reviewed (though perhaps not by IPCC apparatchiks), and so have other GW skeptics.

    I do read with an open-mind, and I also avoid the sort of milquetoast liberalism which says, even if Gore/AIT is not all correct , some good might come from AIT. That’s somewhat unprovable, and neither here nor there: misrepresenting scientific claims for political purposes seems fairly unethical really.

    I think you are reading with a closed mind, and with certain biases already in place: one, that anyone who challenges Gore/AIT is rightist (not correct). Moreover, it is the Goreans who are the dogmatists, and more like creationists. I am quite sure GW skeptics like Hug, Rancourt, Cockburn, or even Dr. Crichton firmly believe in Darwinist evolution, so that is a typical PC red herring.

  7. Demonweed says:

    I sort of assumed you were one of the crowd steered here from the Edelman critique. Apparently this is not the case, so perhaps it bears repeating that I’ve never actually seen Gore’s documentary, nor given any of his books a deeper reading than skimming haphazardly during idle moments while visiting friends. My understanding comes from following up on apolitical sources. Given the number and enthusiasm of noise sources in this area, I suppose it is hard to satisfy some people’s definition of “apolitical” (for example, some people would have us believe the IPCC itself is a sinister conspiracy.) Mostly what I know of Gore’s claims of fact comes from their repetition in other media.

    While Mr. Edelman’s critique was particularly fraught with misinformation, it was hardly exceptional in this regard. Sometimes I’m surprised people don’t just write “Al Gore iz poo” one hundred times then wait for the sycophantic adoration of their “brilliant analysis” to follow. The fact that Dr. Hug’s paper has a bibliography is evidence that he cited sources, not evidence that anyone with any sort of credibility has analyzed the work citing those sources. On top of that, he does make ridiculous assertions, the easiest for non-scientists to grasp being the notion that IPCC values for the role of carbon dioxide in the greenhouse effect are so extreme that they would dictate models in which rain could not fall. That is a huge, and presumably deliberate, distortion of what those values actually mean. As a way of pandering to ideologues eager to see mainstream climate science slandered, it is effective language. As an analysis of any claims actually made by the IPCC, it is error too extreme and without basis to be anything other than a willful lie.

    It is no surprise that there is a continuous parade of misinformation feeding into this peculiar demand by people eager to be misinformed. Being consistently wrong about all manner of meaningful predictions does not prevent people from listening to hatemongers like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly. Of course, so long as there is a market for lies about climate science, there will continue to be a procession of vehement liars. To tune them all out may leave one open to the prospect of missing some skeptics’ insight. On the other hand, the lack of actual insight in skepticism to date leads me to think I have already done far too much to humor this community of dupes and scoundrels.

    I don’t need to read every crazy assertion religious fundamentalists make about natural history to be secure in my belief that humanity evolved in a manner largely consistent with natural selection and mutation. Likewise, I’m not sure how deep one has to go down the climate change denial rabbit hole to be secure in a belief that observable changes are broadly consistent with an explanation that involves a major role for industrial emission of atmospheric carbon. I realize some people could never possibly be satisfied with any amount of rigor here, because seeking validation for political hate outweighs the importance of seeking truth. As for me though, I found humoring climate change skeptics largely a waste of time to the degree it was not amusing. Even when one or two actually do engage on the level of ideas, the chorus of willful ignorance will tend to drown out any clear and useful conversation.

  8. horatiox says:

    You’re obfuscating the entire issue with ideology. You don’t care for what Hug says, so you insult him and insinuate Hug is a rightist. I sort of doubt that, nor does it matter. He doesn’t make any “strong” claims: read the report of the experiment. He does his research, and then speculates, compares to other studies, points out how the results conflict with the IPCC claims. Not merely about the “works cited,” of course, but the article was formatted for publication.

    “”””Heinz Hug, Chemische Rundschau, 20. Febr., p. 9 (1998) “””””

    Rundschau = something like “review”. That’s published, and peer reviewed. So you are mistaken there. But I doubt you would ever admit that.

  9. Demonweed says:

    I don’t have trouble admitting to being mistaken on that point. On the other hand, you still seem so enamored with this flimsy validation that you are unwilling to acknowledge points like Dr. Hug’s outrageous claim that the IPCC values would completely inhibit any sort of rainfall. I do care about what he says . . . up until the point he disqualifies himself from credible evaluation by taking a position so thoroughly bizarre as to invalidate his work on its face. The thing is, one guy’s pseudoscience from 1998 is not the alpha and omega of work on carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect. If it were a more worthy challenge to the work of others, I might give it more weight.

    As it is, I prefer not to hang my hat on whatever the looney of the day has to say that might mesh with my preconceptions. I take a broader view. If climate skeptics did likewise, they might be less traitors to the nation, and the species for that matter, by substituting all this noise in place of real dialog. Then again, if they took that approach, I’m inclined to believe their skepticism would start being applied in equal measure to frauds like Hug, and in the process this debate might shift from the gutter of deception propping up global warming denials and into the more useful realm of how to respond to what is actually happening in the world.

  10. horatiox says:

    That’s not accurate. I’m not a conservative, first off. I don’t care for the foxnews sort of GW naysayers, though I admit the one GW skeptics Milloy has done his homework, even if one doesn’t care for his approach.

    I try to avoid the ideology game: besides, Gore’s own political record leaves much to be desired.

    Most of the people Cockburn refers to are legitimate scientists, though perhaps not at high-powered universities. Hug’s no looney. Even Crichton’s points were not lunacy. So there is an issue regarding the politics of science as well. Cockburn in fact has made some interesting points in regards to the “politics of GW,” and he referred to Hug’s research, and to other studies, such as Rancourt/Noble.

    “””””Hug and Barrett consider that the spectral overlap, ignored by the IPCC, is the reason for the sensitivity being exaggerated by the IPCC and that the real value is considerably less that that accepted by the IPCC. If Hug and Barrett are correct, the effects of doubling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere seem to be minimal and are no cause for alarm and the extensive alteration of national economies.””””


  11. Demonweed says:

    As an addendum though, I shouldn’t admit to being mistaken when I’m not. The archetypical talk radio sock puppetry we see from horatiox should not have fooled me on even one point of fact, yet it seems as if it has. I was mistaken to imply I might have been mistaken about this piece. Written in July of 1998, it cites a February 1998 publication of a piece by Dr. Hug that presumably was subject to reputable editorial oversight. I’m not sure why that would lead horatiox to insist so vehemently that the July piece at issue was also peer reviewed, but then again it already seems evident he is the sort of fellow who would never let the facts get in the way of a strong assertion.

  12. horatiox says:

    That’s a good one. I refer to Kuhn, verification, probability, Hug’s spectra analysis, etc. and you mention talk radio. I’ll be posting some things on your nearly stalinist-like deception on MY blog, shortly. Hug’s published all over, in peer review journals. You were mistaken. He personally caused the IPCC to revise some of their claims, and that revision continues. It could result in a near complete refutation.

    You’re no logician, just as I suspected. Nor a scientist. But you do produce a nice “This I believe” PC pep rally speech.

  13. maxwyvern says:

    I would be very afraid if I were you, DW. I am familiar with HIS blog and it is a formidable platform indeed from which your credibility will be shattered into little tiny pieces… shortly. There is an impressive staff of essayists and commenters at the aforementioned site, many of which seem to share the same tendency to fly off the handle in a huff when challenged, use clever spelling mistakes, nicknames etc. In fact, the most impressive aspect of their collaborative power is that they all seem to be horatiox in disguise. You are most certainly doomed.

  14. Demonweed says:

    Well, I suppose I should be glad for the name I selected here. Some say that no traffic is bad traffic, but I’m inclined to differ with that view. I do find it amusing though that horatiox gets so hot and bothered at the notion I might be in error, yet I easily conceded an error I didn’t even make. In the mean time, I imagine his record of admitted mistakes is somewhere in the same league as that of our nation’s President. I just hope the rabble doesn’t debase themselves too much as this buffoon whips them into a frenzy of playground invective. I mean, there’s a clear line between funny and sad, and when the dust clears I don’t want to wind up pitying the fool.

  15. horatiox says:

    Ah you have a fellow irrationalist here, DW! Which is to say another milquetoast liberal, who doesn’t know Hug from H20, Kuhn from his cannabis. Check the facts, ie, the data of GW/IPCC. Then start over.

    As far as blogging goes, yes Max’s blog gets slightly bit more than mine, since one or two of his pseudo-liberal cronies have seizures when someone asks them to prove something, and then start foaming at the keyboard.

    Even your attempts at ideology are failing, DW. Gore’s politics are about the same as Hillary, possibly more conservative. Anyone who mistakes Al the Green Clown as a leftist obviously doesn’t know jack about American progressive politics (Gore: harvard flunkie, pal of Armand Hammer/Occi. Petrol, Lierberman, a planner of Kosovo/Iraq bombings, anti-abortion (initially), proNRA, etc., ).

  16. Demonweed says:

    Umm . . . I’ve backed Gore where and how? You’re welcome to continue being as much a pest as you’d like. Personally, I’d prefer that you spent 1/10th as much time reading what sensible people have written as you dedicate to your own senseless ravings here. There are people who can spell this out for you without being associated with whatever political identities you’ve been conditioned to attack on sight. I realize it takes a measure of humility to learn something, especially in an area where you imagine yourself to be some sort of expert.

    Yet I have hope for you, hoartiox. Muster that humility now and read something that doesn’t have a strong stench of right wing nut job oozing prolifically from it, and then you might also be able to express yourself without introducing the same odor to the room. It may be tough. At times, depending on how traumatizing your educational years were, it may not even be enjoyable. Yet at the end you can emerge with the information you need to understand that global warming science is not the product of a Vast Left Wing ConspiracyTM. In all earnestness I am certain that would be a much better use of your time than blundering along the present course.

    If you didn’t like science class . . . http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/cc.html

    If you did like science class . . . http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html

    The EPA is still a bit off the mark, but I’d rather see you in reasonable proximity to scientific fact than wandering around with political schizophrenia on display for all to see.

  17. horatiox says:

    Rather ironic you would mention Aristotle as well. Aristotle, however primitive and prone to errors, was all about induction and proper classification, even sort of an early biologist. And alas not PC at all: in fact quite the opposite: a slaveowner. Nasty old greek general. (how unPC of you ! In France they would be calling you a petit-bourgeois rat for even mentioning Aristotle).

    Of course if you know the Square of Opposition well (or the categorical forms) you know that in many cases the strength of an argument depends, indeed hinges on the truth —or probable truth— of premises. One can have a deductive argument which is formally valid, but with shaky premises. Like this:

    “Anyone who attended only two introductory science courses in college, and earned only D+s, should not be considered an authority on global warming.”

    AL Gore attended only two introductory science courses in college and earned only D+s.

    Thus, Al Gore should not be considered an authority on global warming.”

    Valid. But yes one could question the veracity of the first premise, like if one were really obsessed with defending a PC Green Hero. Or we can inductivize it, and put “probably” next to the “should not’s”. And then strongly cogent. ( I suspect Aristotle would agree).

  18. Demonweed says:

    Okay, I’ll type this really slow you you can follow along, horatiox. I’ve supported Al Gore when and how? Seriously, is your head so far up Karl Rove’s backside that you cannot discern between someone who believes the Earth is undergoing a warming trend from someone who is Al Gore’s svengali? I don’t believe this blog yet contains a single positive statement about the former Vice President. If you could separate how you feel about Al Gore from what you think about climate change, then you would be taking a huge leap toward actually being thoughtful about climate change.

    Also, why mention Aristotle when discussing the categorical syllogism? I can’t imagine anyone other than horatiox wouldn’t already know this. For the kid from the slow bus, my emphasis had to do with the fact that Aristotle was the first person in Western Civilization to write down some definition of the form. Proto-biologist he may have been, but the man also practically invented formal deductive reasoning. Before flaunting what you think you know, it is generally advisable to actually study something. I refer you again to the kids’ section of the EPA’s climate change site.

  19. horatiox says:

    We’re doing assessment now? You’ve already show you don’t really know what modern symbolic logic is; you don’t understand verification, or the Kuhnian point. I’ve done upper div. work in logic, some graduate phil., as well as course in Boolean , methodology etc. and I suspect you haven’t. You’re the primitive: the categorical syllogism itself pretty much useless except for simplistic reasoning. I doubt you know Modus ponens, Reductio ad absurdum, or Osiris Forbid, Russell’s definite descriptions, from the Al Gore fan site.

  20. horatiox says:

    How about this, Mr. Climatologist wannabe: refute Hug’s claims, instead of doing a Sally Field routine about what you take to be his politics. Of course you’ll have to go beyond the Wiki article on the periodic table, and put down the RF Kennedy for Dummies book.

    You don’t even understand the first stumbling block to GW: verifying (have you understood that word yet? Not from yr aristocrat hero Aristotle–more like Carnap) that the temperature samples used by all concerned are reliable. Then figuring out whether the temp. record overcomes the margin of error. Then dealing with the specific physico-chemical claims.

  21. bharath says:

    here is a good place to start reading before engaging in discussion: http://solar-center.stanford.edu/sun-on-earth/glob-warm.html
    or the National Academies Press Collection on the topic: http://www.nap.edu/collections/global_warming/index.html

    1. political actions have been taken based on perceived threat and how much people believe them to be true. take korean war, vietnam war, Iraq war, etc. so if such big decisions which are very expensive can be taken based on incomplete knowledge, so can the decision to climate change.

    2. The evidence that backed the cases for war were presented by government or government controlled agencies. So clearly none of the above cases were, to a large extent, independently reviewed. Nor was any data presented or gathered by independent sources. If you contrast it with Global Warming: all the studies have been done by independent groups and major scientific institutions that leave you with the reference to all their work, studies and evidence to make your own conclusions. And the evidence is much more affirmative than the cases for any of the wars.

    wars are only an example. you should be able to find other decisions based on perceived threats where no one waited for all the evidence to be in.

  22. Demonweed says:

    horatiox, you are so frightened of facing real information that you will not spend a few minutes to expose yourself to a child’s primer on global warming, yet I must labor away debunking a fraud to satisfy your peculiar sense of fairness? I am satisfied with my knowledge of the subject, and long ago had no trouble dismissing your perspective as the product of your own right-wing dyspepsia. The stumbling block here is getting you to engage with reality, not getting me to address Dr. Hug’s climatological snake oil. Besides, no matter how far I go with this desperate validation of climate change skepticism, I can be sure something similarly bogus will emerge to give denial nuts a new falsehood to prop up their beloved false narrative.

  23. horatiox says:

    Real information? Like what? Provide some. Dr. Hug’s not snake oil. IR Spectrography is modern physical science. And his point is quite understandable as well: cloud cover tends to reduce temperature. CO2 is not clouds/water vapor, but principle similar. There’s some evidence showing increases of C02 after volcanoes may correlate with lower temps. (moreover the temp. data itself suspect, a point you have yet to grasp, since your ideology can’t quite take the jolt)

    Dr Hansen is snake oil–not a physicist, but a modeller. Indeed his entire programme depended on showing that the 90s were the hottest decade of the 20th century, and then he was disproven (and forced by his NASA bosses to revise his claims). It was the 30s. In fact it appears the temp. data may have neen been manipulated. Whoa. You mean some scientists might in fact stage the evidence to get grants, funding ??? Hard to believe but that appears to be the case.

    Edelman did a good job in describing that problem. He could wear a Waffen SS uniform and chant Mein Kampf, and love blood pudding, but Edelman was essentially correct in regards to the BS of Al the Inconvenient Flunkie’s PC powerpoint demonstration.

    You did some cool RF Kennedy imitations though. This I believe!

  24. Demonweed says:

    I’m not saying Edelman is a right wing nut. I’m saying he’s either an ignoramus or a liar or both. His “good job” was laced with internal contradictions. You don’t even need to be bright enough to pick up on the outright fabrications to see why it was full of wrongness from start to finish.

    I didn’t get that Dr. Hug was asserting that carbon dioxide has the cooling effect of clouds. If so, then he is more an imbecile than merely a fraud. The piece you referred me to suggests that carbon dioxide has about 1/80th of the effect on certain long wavelengths of light that IPCC models suggest that it does. Those models are not without their support from laboratory observations. I daresay they might have checked that fact more than once.

    However, if you took away from it that carbon dioxide casts shadows like clouds, then you really have had a break with reality. If elsewhere Hug argues that, then he is promoting such delusions. The physical behavior of atmospheric carbon is best compared with the physical behavior of water vapor when it is not collected into some unusual formation. “Water vapor is the biggest greenhouse gas, so we can ignore CO2, right?” is a dittohead talking point. So you should understand that water vapor, within a certain range of concentrations, does actually increase the greenhouse effect. As it happens, carbon dioxide is also a greenhouse gas, and the issue is that it has some small effect on the retention of energy from infrared light passing through the atmosphere. The lunacy of that paper is that it accused the IPCC estimates of being impossible in ways they were not, then offered up a bogus figure based on observations from a person who is clearly not trustworthy.

    If you want to know what’s happening, for a third time I say read this . . .


    If you want to keep pretending there is something brilliant about being a sock puppet for political hacks, I guess you can do that too. I just hope you understand, only a fringe of fools in this world would actually agree that sort of blundering is brilliant.

    Also, thanks to bharath for his remarks. I didn’t mean to leave him out of the clash, but I do not see anything in error, and horatiox gives so many errors to address I can only get at a small portion of them even with valiant efforts. Speaking of which, horatiox, what’s your grudge with Robert Kennedy? Is it that you see the name “Kennedy” and bells go off in your noggin, or are you part of the “Sirhan Sirhan was Framed” club?

  25. horatiox says:

    Point out an error, liar. You made the error, Pangloss. You said (without knowing jack about it ) that Dr. Hug’s articles were not peer-reviewed, when they were: and I provided proof of it. As law-boys say. that’s actionable. As is your refusal to address the problems with the temperature data, or Hansen’s documented error. If this were a court of law, you’d be coughing up some shekels for libel.

  26. Demonweed says:

    Umm, dude . . . your “evidence” was that in his bibliography he cited a previous article of his which was peer reviewed. You are welcome to bring action against me. I would enjoy watching, or perhaps even testifying at, the fitness hearing to determine if you belong on a witness stand or in a mental health facility. Perhaps you are simply so far beyond ordinary stupidity that you believe defending the proposition that the Earth is undergoing a warming trend is no different than being a supporter of Al Gore. Clearly you are so stupid that you cannot understand the contents of a perfectly ordinary bibliography. Rest assured, I will happily extend this inventory as your compulsive inability to hush provides myself and any onlookers with more stunning examples of mental malfunctioning.

  27. horatiox says:

    No, Hug’s experiment proved that increases in CO2 did not result in more radiation, and higher temps, but absorbed at much higher rates than IPCC claimed. The CO2 to global warming effect was 1/80th what the IPCC said, and 2 to 3 times the current atmos. level of CO2 had little effect. That has been confirmed in other studies, as Hug claimed. Water vapor does have a very critical role in all of this, except to some Goreans who now seem to think that the entire atmosphere is permeated with….the sinister, deadly Effervescence……..from the Evil Selzter Genies!

  28. horatiox says:

    You made a sweeping statement, not simply a point on one article, so you’re lying aagin, not surprisingly. You insisted he’s not peer reviewed, when he is.

    Hey people and animals breathe, and expend a great deal of CO2 too. Practical solution??? Eliminate the Lung-organisms! Ah yeah, fight the power: the non-PC Lung-creatures.

  29. Demonweed says:

    I’ll grant you this, when I wrote “Doctor Hug’s work” I can see how you might have taken it to mean “all the work he’s ever done” and not “the work we’re talking about.” For future reference though, there is this wonderful thing called context that can be helpful in understanding what other people mean. If you want to play “gotcha” based on the notion that I certainly must have meant the man’s entire body of work, so be it. Just don’t expect anyone else to be impressed.

  30. horatiox says:

    Hah hah. You actually botched Aristotle’s categorical form in your Logic Sermon as well, PaddyWeed.

    Ye olde classic categorical syllogism is NOT a hypothetical:

    All men are mortal

    Socrates is a man

    Socrates is mortal.

    That’s of the form of modus ponens, really:

    Px -> Qx


    IF x is a man, then x is mortal.

    An x named Socrates was a man.

    An x named Socrates was mortal.

    Valid form, of course, and sound (Socrates is included in the set of mortal beings)

    NOT a hypothetical, genius.

    Here’s the hypothetical form:

    A-> B
    B-> C
    A -> C

    If X fucks up with modus ponens, X doesn’t know jack about logic.
    If X doesn’t know jack about logic, X should be disregarded.
    THUS, If X fucks up with modus ponens, X should be disregarded.

    Valid ! and sound (at least strongly cogent)

    (the hypothetical form you listed incorrectly as a categorical form. Close, but not the same)

    Back to ye olde drawing board……………..

  31. maxwyvern says:

    If Z always comes across as an obnoxious raving lunatic, Z is very likely to be an obnoxious, raving lunatic. Perfecto! And I without any training in formal logic.

  32. horatiox says:

    You’re not witty enough to be obnoxious, nor interested in arguments, inductive or deductive; you’re just wrong. You’re the lunatic: in fact calling a valid argument lunacy sort of indicates your lunacy. Some of us actually value Reason, and object to those who advance their political agenda via lies and misrep.

  33. maxwyvern says:

    Some of us? So do I take it the entire Contingencies staff is not even in agreement? Aaron Burr is contemplating a duel with Perezoso, perhaps? Will the public be invited?

  34. Demonweed says:

    Yeah, I don’t think anyone actually need be told this, but just in case, everybody keep in mind that horatiox is a twitchy bundle of nerves that types at a much faster speed than he can think. As with global warming, he tosses around terms about logic as if to disagree and get a little jargon in the mix was all it took to accomplish something. He is disagreeable for disagreement’s sake, and along the way he reveals to all the emptiness of his hyperactive li’l noggin. Yet for some reason he comes back again and again and again as if the first ten displays of laughable ignorance were not enough to insure everyone knows what a colossal fool arrived at the party. The Socratic mortality example is the classic example of a categorical syllogism, and horoatiox is fast becoming the classic example of a town idiot.

  35. horatiox says:

    Care to wager on that liar? You made a great error, yet like a typical conservative won’t admit. I am going to find out who you are.

    I teach logic; I am in fact sending out your error. You posted a categorical syllogism, and then said it was a hypothetical, fool. “A -> B, A, then B” does NOT equal A -> B, and B -> C, then A -> C. Yr the town idiot fascist, but too stooopid to realize it.

    You’re a liar. That’s what you izz. But now have some assistance from another PC blogger liar, McMuffins!

  36. Demonweed says:

    At which mental health institution do you “teach” logic? I know higher education is quickly abandoning all semblance of standards, but I cannot imagine even the worst community college entrusting a classroom full of eager young minds to the likes of you. Either your online behavior is worlds apart from your demeanor in person, or this is just not a believable claim. In any case, if you teach logic, you would do well to open a textbook and reacquaint yourself with how it actually works. Imagine the mistakes to be made from someone who goes through life with no better grasp of the subject than you’ve displayed so far!

    Incidentally, seeing as this sentence is the first instance in which I’ve used “hypothetical” in the essay or subsequent comments, I cannot imagine where you got the idea I “said it was a hypothetical.” At times the whole “break with reality” thing was just a way of needling an asinine pest, but really man, you just had a break from reality. You honestly believe something that is wholly inconsistent with verifiable reality. Just look over the page and note the occurrences of the term “hypothetical.” It may be difficult to deal with, but you truly are functioning at a level in which reality and what goes on inside your head are not connecting in a healthy way.

  37. horatiox says:

    Even your analysis was lame. That Socrates is a “subset of men” is trivial (more like and x named Socrates is included in the class of male humans, presumably: you never met/saw him–oops Verification again! sure to bother your dogmatic self). The conclusion of the cat. syll. (which is form A in trad. Aristotelian terms) shows that Socrates, like all men, falls in the class of Mortal things. So is that necessary or sufficient, Logician? Er…Wiki time!

  38. horatiox says:

    Let’s bet moron. Lay your money down. You first listed a categorical syll. and then listed a different form, a hypothetical. But you don’t know what modus ponens
    is, so you don’t what logic is.

    A is B
    Socrates is an A
    Socrates is B


    A is B
    Socrates is a mammal (or if Soc is human, Soc is mammal)
    B is C

    mammals are animals

    (if soc is mammal, soc is animal.)

    A is C
    Socrates is an animal

    If Soc is human, Soc is animal.

    Not equal.

    Conditionals are a bit steep for you, poseur.

    try it with your baby Venn diagrams, clown.

  39. Demonweed says:

    I know enough about logic to know that only a child would say one logical statement “equals” another. “Is equivalent too” is the correct way to approach this, since equality implies similar substance, while logical equivalence only implies similar truth value. Again, your boast of being an educator is undermined by your failure to actually be educated. Also, why would anyone place a wager with someone who has, at every opportunity, displayed an incapacity to be honest? Wagering is for people with the integrity to make good on their bets. I’ve got toenail clippings with more integrity than I’ve seen from you so far.

    It is starting to sicken me that I’ve put so much time into discussions held at such a remedial level, and with such hostility to boot. Feel free to keep showing the world how little you know (and how poorly you express that scarce knowledge.) However, at some point I do think I’ll pull the plug. After all, if a relaxed fellow like me feels as if this is a waste of time, I shudder to think what a busy person who happened to be a visitor might think about reading through such garble.

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