Happy Darwin/Lincoln Day!

A day to celebrate science and freedom!

The Collective Responsibility Fallacy

Note the collective "you".

I’ve noticed that a particularly nasty bit of insanity has been running rampant lately, “collective responsibility”. This is the “thinking” that if one or a few members of some group (racial, ethnic, religious etc.) commits some crime or other objectionable act then the whole group to which they belong somehow shares in their guilt.

The claims of collective responsibility have been flying lately from people involved on two somewhat related topics, the so called Ground-Zero mosque* and the threats by a few Christian preachers to burn copies of the Qur’an**.

The building of the mosque or “community center” or whatever, has brought out clear arguments for the collective responsibility of Muslims for the 9/11 attacks by those who oppose its construction. One need only to listen to a little talk radio or watch a few relevant YouTube videos to hear people say things like: “They attacked us on 9/11 and now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero”, as if we were attacked by all Muslims that day or that all Muslims approved of the attack.

Likewise the mere threat by cult leader Pastor Terry Jones (and a few other like “minded” preachers) to burn a Qur’an sparked often, violent protests, in Afghanistan where cries of “death to America” and “death to Christians” could be heard as if all Americans or all Christians were involved with or supported the idea of burning the Qur’an.

This is essentially the same logic used by racists and bigots that says a black/white/Hispanic (whatever) person stole from me therefor all blacks/whites/Hispanics are thieves.

In this case it is “A few Muslims attacked us on 9/11 and therefor all Muslims share blame for 9/11” and “A Christian (or American) preacher is going to burn the Qur’an, therefor all Christians are guilty of this blasphemous behavior.”

I am reminded of a great line in the movie Gettysburg when a fictional Union Sergeant (“Sgt. ‘Buster’ Kilrain” played by actor Kevin Conway), is asked by his commanding officer (the historical Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain played by Jeff Daniels) his opinion of black people:

You cannot judge a race. Any man who judges by the group is a pea wit. You take men one at a time.

Anyway I have no big answers or particularly insightful wisdom to impart on this. I just wanted to go on record with my opinion that collective responsibility, and it’s close intellectual cousin “guilt by association”, are stupid, lazy, fuzzy headed nonsense and if our species can’t wean itself from engaging in these fallacious forms of reasoning then I truly fear for our future.

[* I know I am coming late to the game on this but my two cents on the Ground Zero mosque are that the people behind it have just as much right to build it (assuming it is compatible with local zoning laws etc.) as a group of Christians would have to build a church or a corporation would have to build a strip joint. However, I do have to wonder what  the group wanting to build the mosque is hoping to accomplish. If it is to encourage feelings of good will towards Islam in the U.S. it is obviously doomed, rightly or wrongly, from a practical standpoint.

** As for the idea of burning the Qur’an, I think the idea of burning books, any book, is both base and stupid. But however stupid burning a Qur’an might be, this does not justify threats of violence in retaliation. Violence, or even the threat of violence in response to words or expressions of ideas (like book burning), however stupid or offensive is outside the bounds of civilized behavior and cannot be tolerated. ]


 

Qur’an

James – The Amazing – Randi comes out

Magician and skeptic James Randi, a long time hero of mine has, at 81, come out as a gay man. He has been ‘out’ to his friends and close colleagues forever, and I must admit to not being terribly surprised myself (I picked up on a few hints here and there that made me suspect that it might be the case).

He doesn’t want to make a big deal out it, and I don’t see why anyone else should.

As I said he has been a long time hero of mine in the fight against what he amusingly calls “woo-woo” (paranormal &  pseudoscientific claims) and his being gay does absolutely nothing to diminish my admiration for him and the work he has done.

For more on Randi and his work check out the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Happy Darwin/Lincoln day!

Happy Darwin/Lincoln day everyone!

 

Exactly!

F-ing A. What damn business is it of anyone besides the two consenting adults in question?

[Via Pharyngula]

Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Gay Marriage

This is via my friend Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Friday that the state must allow same-sex couples to get married. See full ruling here. Long excerpt from the ruling below the fold:

We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination.

We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law. Faithfulness to that duty requires us to hold Iowa’s marriage statute, Iowa Code section 595.2, violates the Iowa Constitution. To decide otherwise would be an abdication of our constitutional duty. If gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without an exceedingly persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of the principle of equal protection upon which the rule of law is founded. Iowa Code section 595.2 denies gay and lesbian people the equal protection of the law promised by the Iowa Constitution.

Bravo.

Bravo indeed.

And queue the shrill cries of “unelected judges” followed shortly by vague, unsubstantiated claims that Iowa families are somehow in danger because of this ruling in 3, 2, 1…