Friday links! Awesome power of logic edition

Deductive reasoning isn’t just a tool for curing polio and making accurate models of the solar system; it’s also a great way to alienate yourself from like half the population. One can only imagine the joy of the first caveman who combined two truthful propositions to synthesize a third, and the disappointment/rock impact he felt when he tried to explain it to somebody else. The problem with logic is that it works best on those people who are most likely to arrive at valid conclusions themselves. Its effectiveness diminishes as you deal with unprincipled or prejudiced people—sorry, “common sense” people—and drops to near zero when you get to people who prefer standing outside and yelling stuff. Basically, logic convinces least where you need it most, like if Raid killed bugs in direct proportion to their intelligence. This week’s link roundup starts out with some sweet victories for logic, then watches logic return to its role as depressingly aging gatekeeper. It’s also got Glenn Beck telling us which major religion the Antichrist will probably belong to so, you know, look out for that.

First, the good news: thanks to A) the efforts of folks like my friend and B) our turning out to actually live in a decent society with reasonable laws, the mass copyright lawsuit filed against 6,374 anonymous defendants by Larry Flynt Productions has been dismissed. A district judge in North Texas—with the extremely Texas judge name of Royal Fergesun—dismissed the defendants for reasons of joinder, a common legal concept understood by no one in the Combat! offices at all. Fortunately, the ruling from a similar case in West Virginia offers a ready explanation: “merely committing the same type of violation in the same way does not link defendants together for purposes of joinder.” Good point, similar case in West Virginia; just because people stand accused of the same thing doesn’t mean that they did that thing together, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they should be found innocent or guilty en masse. Also, Larry Flynt Productions fired Evan Stone. Eat it, predatory lawyer without clients Evan Stone.

If you liked hearing about an opportunistic litigator felled by his incomplete understanding of the law, you’ll love this philosophical defense of abortion by Judith Jarvis Thomson.* I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I will introduce it to you exactly as it was introduced to me: imagine that you wake up in the hospital attached to an unconscious concert violinist, whose kidneys have failed and who needs to share your circulatory system with you for the next nine months. “To unplug you would be to kill him,” the doctors explain. “But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.” Suddenly, the question of everyone’s right to a life seems more nuanced. This little thought experiment is seriously the best argument for abortion I’ve ever seen.

Wait, no—I forgot about Bill O’Reilly. Apparently ours were not the only senses of intellectual decency outraged by his “tide goes in, tide comes out—you can’t explain that” proof of the existence of god. O’Reilly’s inability to explain things has become an internet meme. Like any good meme, the template for this one is simple yet unfolds to probing analysis. There’s something about O’Reilly’s disembodied bust floating before a red and blue pinwheel that captures his particular mental isolation, and the prolixity of phrases like “dollar goes in, soda comes out” and “put garbage at end of driveway, gone when I get home,” invites the viewer to imagine his daily life in satisfying ways. The world must be an unending wondershow to Bill O’Reilly—either that or a grotesque nightmare of lies and regret from which he cannot awake.

I suppose it could be both. God doesn’t close a door without opening a window, and he apparently also doesn’t create an ignorant prick without also making a raving moron to improve him by comparison. I was going to embed this video in which Glenn Beck alternates between nonsense and libel by urging us to “look into” possible cooperation between our totalitarian government and Google, but then Ben al-Fowlkes sent me something better. Glenn Beck is not saying that the Antichrist is coming. He is also not saying that when he gets here, he will be Muslim. But he is saying that many Muslims have plans to worship him, and also that he hopes this inquiry will begin “a long journey of learning…for you.” We can only hope:


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  1. I think Violent J and Bill O’Reilly have more in common than either of them would like to believe.

    Also, I read Judith Jarvis Thomson’s whole argument, and I have to agree it is a strong one in cases of rape or life endangerment to the mother. However, in my opinion the moral obligations to carry a child to birth are evident in nearly every other case, and much stronger than her article seems to imply. It is below the standard of “minimally decent samaritan” to abort a child in every case, unless it is a situation of rape or potential loss of life. The comparison to “people-seeds” that embed themselves in our carpets doesn’t hold water because, quite honestly, it doesn’t require a huge sacrifice to abstain from sex if you are unwilling to accept the risk of costs and responsibility associated with a pregnancy.

    Of course, all of this makes no difference to the people who are actually against abortion, since their argument is that it is part of God’s plan when a woman is raped and has a child. Therefore, we shouldn’t interfere. Although I don’t see how the interference of the rapist to begin with is considered to be sanctified in some way.

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