When you begin a post with an ad hominem attack on another poster ...
Back from long weekend…so nice to get away. Not much time spent online while I was away, but thrilled to find that this thread has yet another teachable moment!
I love teachable moments to offer insights…teachable moments can be fleeting and must be sensed and seized by the teacher, so I’m glad I returned in time to catch this thread before it disappeared.
Recapping…this thread already has had several valuable teachable moments. First
, the human biology 101 lesson that cancer cells don’t mutate; rather, genes mutate and cancer cells grow from gene mutations; plus the bonus discussion on causes of gene mutations which can cause prostate cancer. Second
, the important discussion about
personal data protection, and the internet, and the basis for rules at HW and elsewhere preventing solicitation of personal data. And now, third
a discussion of what constitutes an ad hominem attack
, which—I know I’ve gone over this numerous times before—bears periodic repeating when online emotions get out-of-line.
It may be best to start with a definition of what an ad hominem attack is. I’ve posted the definition at HW/PC several times because it appears some people are unfamiliar; most recently I posted it HERE in December
, where I wrote:
Attacking a person stating a personal position, rather than the position itself, when the attack on the person is completely irrelevant to the position the person is making. … Literally, ad hominem means “to the person” as in being “directed at the person.”As an descriptive example
A thread which culminates in an ad hominem attack often begins quite civilly as a healthy exchange of positions, or “points,” and counter-points on a particular topic, typically using facts or logic to support the perspectives. Sometimes, after a few exchanges it become apparent that one side of the discussion making points tends to have a stronger foundation of facts and logic, the basis of the counter-points tends to weaken and “crumble.” This juncture is a “fork-in-the-road” where the participant’s personal character (perhaps their upbringing, or possibly their belief system) comes into variable play. The well-grounded counter-pointer may “honor” the stronger position and may even “thank” the presenter for providing new insights into the topic which the counter-pointer did not previously see before moving-on. However—and here’s where the discussion goes sideways—other counter-pointers may choose the more dishonorable path of diverting the topic
away from the facts and logic by resorting to a personal attack upon the presenter (now renamed the “victim”) which has nothing to do with the presenter’s original position itself. Once sideways, the situation creates yet another “fork-in-the-road” where the victim of the initial attack may either lower themselves to counter-attack-the-attacker at a personal level, or take the high road and veer away from the dishonorable path by seeking to pull the conversation back to the topic-at-hand.
Sadly, the initial attacker is often “blinded” to the reality that they have relinquished credibility in the argument. Specifically, they display a belief that an attack against the source of an opposing argument constitutes as a valid attack against the opposing argument itself…which is know as a faulty premise. Therefore, ad hominem attacks are a type of informal logical fallacy, and unsound from a logical perspective. Usually, the attacker is blind to this while the victim and everyone else observing the argument sees this clearly. (Embarrassing for them!)
This is probably a great place to recall Michelle Obama’s famous quote which revealed a lot about
her personal character/upbringing/belief system: “When they go low, we go high.”
So reel this back into this thread. When a poster respectfully points out that trailguy “probably not intentionally
” gave what appears to be misleading information, this is out of initial respect for the best of trailguy’s intentions. This is clearly not an ad hominem attack, and is in fact aligned with proactively taking the “high road” by offering the benefit-of-the-doubt
So this thread has covered a lot of teachable moments/topics:
1) Biology 101
2) Personal data protection
3) Logical fallacies
As Jimmy Valvano famously said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you going to have something special.
Let’s see if we can pull the conversation back to the topic-at-hand. Meme.