Dialogue: Racism, Republicans, Logic, and Liberals

Dialogue: Racism, Republicans, Logic, and Liberals May 16, 2019

This is a follow-up discussion, from yesterday’s Dialogue: Pro-Life White Guys & Anti-Southern Prejudice. That dialogue continued further on Facebook (minus my own participation). Deacon Steven D. Greydanus‘ words will be in blue.


There has to be a certain willingness to dialogue and subject one’s own views to scrutiny. I don’t think the good Deacon was willing to do that here: as proven by his utter refusal to answer Mike’s basic question to him, that I repeatedly pressed upon him.

I am a great admirer of his theological thinking, as I have stated many times: often characterizing it as “brilliant” and suchlike. But his political views leave much to be desired, from where I sit. In this particular discussion, I think he is profoundly influenced by liberal / secularist thinking, whether he is aware of it or not.

Having been of that mind myself, I can spot it a mile away. I often note how my college education in sociology and psychology taught me how the secular mind approaches life, and how this has been invaluable as an aid to my apologetics for now 38 years. College was the height of my own liberal thinking. It was in the year of my graduation (1982) that I became pro-life and started reading conservative writers and doing my own thinking, rather than accepting liberal pablum as Gospel Truth, as I had been doing.

It’s very difficult to critique liberal thinking and be heard, because those who are enthralled with it are much like a fish in a fish tank that is blissfully unaware that it inhabits a certain “world” or that there are any other worlds besides its own.

Again, I note that I am not saying that Deacon Steve is a liberal (I regard him as a third-party moderate). I’m saying that with regard to this particular issue of racism and its intersection with politics, he thinks like a thoroughgoing liberal. And so he is fundamentally wrong. I found your own analyses far more compelling and thought-provoking, and in line with my sociological thinking in this area: now modified and developed by 37 years of conservatism.

(You clearly don’t understand my position, Dave, or you wouldn’t keep complaining about my “non-answer” of a question that is exactly like “Have you stopped beating your wife?” But it’s very funny to me that you think you do. Carry on.)

Glad you’re amused. My urging you to answer the rhetorical question was purely a question of logical thinking (specifically, the reductio ad absurdum, which is routinely misunderstood by lots and lots of folks, who fail to apprehend its very nature, as well as its fundamental seriousness). Thus, I conclude that you are lacking in your understanding of how logic works (at least in this particular respect): or else you would have eagerly taken up the challenge.

I would have loved such a challenge, were I arguing for your position, and someone asked me this. But the difference between us is that I would have recognized my stated argument as absurd as a result, and would have conceded and modified it; whereas you fight on interminably, and give this sort of “answer” which continues to entirely miss the point.

This reply is not intended as a rank insult at all. Many people fall into the trap of being insufficiently logical. That’s why it is a course in college that everyone ought to take. I did, along with many other courses in philosophy.

As I said, I understand perfectly where you are coming from because I used to think almost exactly the same way back in my liberal days (just as I have a firsthand knowledge of Protestantism, having been a very zealous Protestant, and an apologist for that position as well).

But if it comforts you to think otherwise, feel free. I can’t puncture that bubble.

I understood that it was an attempted reductio. So is “What would it take for you to cut back to beating your wife only once a month? Once every six months? Once a year?” 

Being an attempted reductio doesn’t make a complex question fallacy any less fallacious. 


Mike’s question was predicated on an assumption I explicitly rejected: that my problem was based on the skin color of the 25 lawmakers in question. 

Since that was not my objection, and since I explicitly stated it was not my objection, a thought experiment modifying the race of the lawmakers did not go to my objection, and my inability to put a number to how many lawmaker skins we would have to change said nothing about anything except Mike’s failure (and yours, evidently) to understand my objection.

It’s not the same as that (the “beating your wife” question) at all (at least in how I was employing it). I made no judgment on your character. The reductio, rightly understood, is an attempt to persuade a person, precisely because it is assumed that he is not of bad character, and can be made to see the error of his premises, which lead to bad and absurd consequences.
In this way, it is completely different from the idiotic “how often do you beat your wife” (which is not a reductio, but simply a cynical, slanderous fallacy). It’s the fallacy, of course, of the loaded question.
I was sincerely attempting to understand why you think in the way you do about this issue, and what would be required for you to see that you have false premises in play that soil your thought.
“Judgment of character” is a red herring. Logically, the problem with “Have you stopped beating your wife?” is that it’s a complex question. The emotional and moral particulars are irrelevant to the logic; that just makes it a humorously memorable example. And I believe you’re not trying to be condescending, but since you’re the one who’s confused…
Are you familiar with the fallacy of the complex question?
Yes, but that’s not the logic I was employing, as I have been explaining. That’s completely different from a proper reductio, which is part of socratic method: which I have been enthralled with and have employed for now 42 years in my dialogues: since my first course in philosophy.
And that would be a false dichotomy. As I’ve already illustrated, a reductio can also be a complex question — they aren’t mutually exclusive — and this one was.
It was not at all, but obviously we are at an impasse. You’re not willing to closely examine your own thinking in this area. Again, most folks are the same way, in matters political. That’s why most political discussions (like the one we have just engaged in) go nowhere, if there are existing profound differences at the level of presuppositions.
Mike’s question would absolutely have been a proper reductio IF MY OBJECTION WERE TO THE NUMBER OF WHITE PEOPLE. Since my objection WAS NOT TO THE NUMBER OF WHITE PEOPLE, the reductio failed.
We’ve been through all that discussion. I’m not gonna revisit it again. All we can do is let readers decide: which I’m always very content and happy to do.
Mike’s confusion doesn’t interest me. Yours, frankly, baffles me. But such is life.
I’m not baffled by your shoddy thought at all, because I think I know where it comes from (liberal thinking and the myriad logical fallacies and falsehoods therein). As usual, the conservative is pilloried as heartless, whereas our critique of liberalism is that it is insufficiently logical and is shallow thinking about very complex issues.

We think liberalism is well-intentioned but poorly reasoned. Liberals (and moderates, as it were), think that conservatism comes from bad intentions and is also poorly reasoned. But the attribution of ill will is fundamental to it. Thus, we see the centrality of the personal attack and assumption of evil intent (racism, sexism, anti-poor, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-homosexual, etc. ad nauseam) and ill will in Democrat rhetoric (and now, Never Trumper rhetoric, that you fall into), for these past 50 years: exponentially increased since Bork was borked in 1986.

You cannot “hear” this critique at this present time. Perhaps one day you will be able to. People can and do change, but it’s usually a slow geological process.

As usual, the conservative is pilloried as heartless . . .
Nope. See, you can’t say one true thing about my actual position.
I was speaking broadly and generally about how both “sides” usually view each other.

I have stated that you are unduly influenced by liberal thinking in this area. It doesn’t follow that every single particular would be present in your thinking. You may (and I think, do) believe that Mike and I are not “heartless” but you think we are unduly influenced by that which you are critiquing in the Alabama pro-life scene,

Nothing I said constitutes a critique of “the Alabama pro-life scene.” 
which goes back to the larger picture of historic racism, etc.
Nothing I said indicates that I think you (singular or plural) are unduly influenced by historic racism. As I said earlier, racism affects us all. 

Several comments of yours subtly imply that we are insufficiently in-tune with the needs and situation of minorities.

I’m not aware of saying anything that implies that about the “we” in question.
Is that so? So you see nothing critical or objectionable at all in the outrageously acerbic and cynical opening salvo that you lobbed in the dialogue?:
An agnostic friend of mine shares the article below with the comments: “To my religious friends, the ones who have sacrificed every ounce of their morality and reason for this one moment: I hope it was all worth it. The family separations, the hate crimes, the rejection of science and scholarship, the vile rhetoric, your disgusting, gibbering Mammon in power over all.” This is what we have done to the pro-life movement. [links to Guardian article about 25 white male pro-lifers — all pictured — in Alabama]
Readers note: the final sentence is the Deacon’s own words: “This is what we have done to the pro-life movement.”

But now he says: “Nothing I said constitutes a critique of ‘the Alabama pro-life scene.'”

What gives?

Dave, not one of the specific critiques in my friend’s comment — “The family separations, the hate crimes, the rejection of science and scholarship, the vile rhetoric, your disgusting, gibbering Mammon in power over all” — was specific to Alabama. 

They are all aimed at the excesses of the Trump administration and many of its supporters on the national stage. 

The pro-life moment nationally has been morally undermined by acquiescing — if not enthusiastically supporting — family separations. Not every pro-lifer, obviously, but moment leaders and the rank and file have supported the president and in many cases supported this specific policy. 

I know that you have been critical of specific stories about family separations, and I give you credit for that. I also know that if I held forth on the evils of family separations on your wall — or, heck, on my wall — a parade of pro-lifers would show up to support the policy. 

This is to our shame. It has nothing to do with Alabama in particular.

 I don’t see how you can deny any connection, seeing that this agnostic critic “share[d] the article below with the comments . . .”

The article was specifically about the 25 white guys in Alabama who voted for a pro-life bill. How can one share an article specifically about Alabama pro-lifers, complete with cynical comments about pro-lifers (and Trumpers, as you say), and this tidbit of wisdom was shared by you in this discussion, yet now you claim, “It has nothing to do with Alabama in particular.”

That just doesn’t add up; sorry. It was clearly the association made. If not, then the two things: the statement and the article, shouldn’t have been in conjunction at all: connected by your friend, and in effect, endorsed by yourself too.

This looks to me like it is now an attempted (almost bizarre and surreal) revisionist history of what went down in our vexed discussion.

You’ve evidently badly misunderstood my friend’s comment. Let me translate: “Well, here in Alabama you’ve finally gotten your reward for all the havoc you’ve been a party to on the national stage. For the sake of a SCOTUS that may uphold this Alabama law and maybe overturn Roe, you’ve embraced family separations, etc. I hope it was worth it.”

That you regard this as “attempted (almost bizarre and surreal) revisionist history” is par for the course for your level of misunderstanding. Why do I get the feeling you’ll now stick to your guns and insist that your original misunderstanding was correct? I hope I’m wrong, but…

You can have the last word.
Mike Johnson and Deacon Steven continue on again in a second Facebook combox.
Photo credit: herbert2512 (10-20-18) [PixabayPixabay License]

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